Posted by Champaklal Dajibhai Mistry on February 13, 2003

The entire prajaapati community in the world and especially all the volunteers at Prajaapati Vishva Aashram Foundation (PVAF) should be very proud of themselves when they read the following extracted from a research paper done by  Chandrashekhar Bhat and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo of University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India titled "Diaspora to Transnational Networks: The Case of Indians in Canada:

"With a view to reach all Prajapatis around the world, Prajapati Samaj has established ‘Prajapati Vishva Ashram’ in 1998. The main aim of this Ashram is to enable all Prajapatis from different parts of the world to interact with each other. They have also established Internet websites to facilitate their communication and interaction on world-wide basis. The interactions could be at individual, group or community levels.

The Prajapati Vishva Ashram encourages all Prajapatis to volunteer to work for their Samaj wherever they reside. Based on the above philosophy some Prajapatis have initiated an Internet site under www.prajapati-samaj.ca. This web site was created in 1998 January to give all Prajapatis in the world the platform to meet anytime, at anyplace to promote the goals of Prajapati Vishva Ashram. Shree Bhavin Champaklal Mistry of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has spearheaded the initiative as webmaster.

It has raised funds from Canada and the USA for setting up of the computer Internet links with Gujarat.

Other programmes of this web site include funding education for employable skills, Learning Vedas, Prajapati encyclopaedia etc. "

The full research paper can be read at the web site: http://www.uohyd.ernet.in/sss/cinddiaspora/occ7.html ....or the paper can be read in this news item on this web site by clicking on the next line.....the write-up about prajaapati and PVAF is highlighted in bold and red.....

Occasional Paper –7

Diaspora to Transnational Networks: The Case of Indians in Canada


Chandrashekhar Bhat
Ajaya Kumar Sahoo

Centre for the Study of Indian Diaspora
University of Hyderabad
Hyderabad 500046

This paper examines the nature of Indian disaporic communities in the contemporary context of globalisation, especially with the advent of new technologies of transport, information and communication. After a brief note on the Indian Diaspora in Canada, the paper discusses the emergence of transnational networks, among the two of the most prominent communities, viz., Punjabis and Gujaratis.


The history of Indian emigration to Canada begins in the last decade of the 19th century. Indian immigrants started their settlements in Canada especially after the opening of the trans-Canada rail route to the eastern ports. The credit for initiating the process of Indian immigration to Canada goes the visit of a group of soldiers under Sardar [Major] Kadir Khan Bahadur to Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa, after attending the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1898 (Kurian 1993: 485). The first decade of the 20th century saw a steady growth of Indian immigration to Canada (Petros 1993: 475).

After World War II, the Canadian immigration restrictions were gradually loosened and immigration legislation in 1962 and 1967 substantially liberalised immigration. Prior to 1962, most of the immigrants from India were men mainly from the Punjab region, but thereafter the influx was more balanced between men and women. Besides the Sikhs from Punjab, Hindus from Gujarat, Bombay and Delhi, Christians from Kerala and Parsis from Bombay too immigrated to Canada. In the multi-cultural society of Canada, Indians constitute a significant proportion of the total immigrants and by 1990s Indians have emerged to be one of the most prosperous and well-educated ‘visible’ minority that enjoyed much higher level of acceptance than the other immigrants in Canada.

The Indo-Canadian population according to the 1991 census was 424,095 (including 157,015 Hindus and 147,440 Sikhs) constituting approximately 1.5% of the population of Canada (Petros ibid.: 477). Among the immigrants from South Asia, Indians – including the People of Indian Origin (PIO) from Fiji, Africa and the Caribbean – constitute around 62%. Most of the Indians who initially entered into Canada worked in the sawmill industry. They had gone with the hope of finding work with good wages so that they could improve their economic situation from what it was in Punjab. But on their arrival in Canada, they encountered numerous hardships and discrimination. Canadians felt that "…the growing number of Indians would take over their jobs in factories, mills and lumberyards. It was these insecurities which led British Columbia to pass stringent laws discouraging the immigration of Indians to Canada" (Sibia 2001: 1). In 1907 a bill was passed denying all Indians the right to vote. They were restricted from running any public office, serving on juries and were not even permitted to become accountants, lawyers or pharmacists. The Komagata Maru incident of 1914 was an outright challenge to these exclusionist laws (ibid.: 1-2).

What brings Indians together in Canada is their zeal to preserve and maintain their cultural identity and promotion of common interest in an alien society. Their cultural symbols include languages, religious beliefs, food, dress and art forms. The Indian dances, both classical and folk forms, are kept alive till this day. For example, classical Indian dances like Bharatanatyam and Kathak, folk dances like Bhangra and Dhandhya are received with great enthusiasm. Despite the distance, the age-old traditions such as rituals, customs, festivals, religion, cultural expressions and performing arts have remained central to the life and identity of Indian immigrants in Canada. They also exhibit a strong desire to pass on these values and culture to the next generation to make them appreciate their own cultural roots.

Canada offers its immigrants an environment to integrate with the socio-economic and political life through her much publicised state policy of multiculturalism. It may be mentioned here that the election of Ujjal Dosanjh as the Premier of the Canadian Province of British Columbia (B.C) is a landmark event for the Indian diaspora in Canada. Dosanjh’s victory at the leadership convention of the governing New Democratic Party (NDP) in B.C. also marked a triumph of the political efforts of the local Canadian Sikh community. Further, the political rise of Dosanjh is seen as an instance of the political potency of Indo-Canadians not only in B.C but across Canada as well. It is interesting to note that British Columbia has the largest number of successful Indo-Canadian politicians in the Canada.

A significant feature of the 1996 elections in ‘Ontario’ was the victory of 11 South Asians that included two Pakistanis, one Sri Lankan Tamil woman, and the rest (eight) Indo-Canadians. Today, Vancouver is the home of majority of Indian immigrants. Except from Vancouver Indians also found in large number in places such as British Columbia, Toronto, Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta etc.

The concept of Diaspora

It is a common knowledge that the concept of diaspora owes it origin to the Jewish context and acquired significance as an approach to the study of all migrants and settlers beyond the countries of their origin. Vertovec (1997: 277) finds the term today "…used to describe practically any population that is considered ‘deterritorialzed’ or ‘transnational’ – that is, which has originated in a land other than that in which it currently resides and whose social, economic and political networks cross the borders of nation-states or indeed span the globe". The High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora (2002), under the Chairmanship of Dr. L. M. Singhvi, M.P., employs this concept in a generic sense for "…communities of migrants living or settled permanently in other countries, aware of its origins and identity and maintaining varying degrees of linkages with mother country". Studies on diaspora communities often centred on the issues of emigration, processes of settlement, persistence of culture, the extent of assimilation or adaptation, socio-economic and political participation in the host society, etc. Also implicit in this approach is the assumption that the displaced or deterritorialized groups negotiate their life and culture with that of theirs hosts and other immigrants, with limited interaction with the motherland especially in the case of ‘old diaspora’. Interactions with the motherland were essentially imaginary since the immigrants lacked access to resources and modern technology.

Diasporic linkages or networks are centred around the ‘motherland’ and these linkages may be both imaginary and real. The intensity of these linkages vary based on the proximity or distance - geographical and cultural - between the ‘motherland’ and the ‘host society’. Closer the proximity of motherland from the host society greater is the intensity of networks between the diaspora and the motherland [Diasporic networking is illustrated in the Annexure 1, following the endnote].

The past decade has witnessed a phenomenal dynamism among the diaspora communities, made possible by the recent advancement in technologies for travel, transport and communications. Not only did these developments could bring the diaspora communities and their motherland closer but also has facilitated in bringing the members of their community dispersed around the world together. The emerging social formation, following the fusion of real and virtual community transcends the boundaries of all nation states. It is essentially transnational in nature.

Transnational Perspective

‘Transnational’ generally implies migration of people across the borders of one or more nations. It also refers to the deterritorialisation of population along with their material and non-material cultural commodities. The term came into prominent use for the first time in the study of international relations in the context of international organisations, relations between non-governmental bodies in particular (Vertovec 1999: xx). In fact, the terms ‘transnational network’, ‘transnational communities’ and ‘diaspora’ are often used interchangeably in many of the contemporary studies. Transnational networks form a precondition to the emergence of transnational communities and the process of this transformation is generally designated by ‘transnationalism’. An excellent analysis of this process is promoted by Portes (1997) in his paper on "Globalisation from Below: The Rise of Transnational Communities". He states, quoting Basch and others (1994), that transnationalism is "… a process by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement. We call these processes ‘trasnsnationalism’ (especially) to emphasise that many immigrants today build social fields that cross geographic, cultural and political borders". They actively engage in multiple spheres of life in host countries as well as in the countries of their origin. Such involvement is further extended to include other countries too, where members of their community are dispersed.

Portes (ibid.: 4) further makes three points in his analysis of transnationalism:

  1. That the emergence of transnational communities is tied to the logic of capitalism itself. They are brought to play by the interests and needs of investors and employers in the advanced countries.
  2. That these communities represent a distinct phenomenon at variance with traditional patterns of immigrant adaptation.
  3. That because the phenomenon is fuelled by the dynamics of globalisation itself, it has greater potential.

Peggy Levitt (1999: 4) has examined the significance of several factors that lead to the emergence of the transnational networks. These include a) easy travel and communication, b) the increasing role immigrants play in the countries of their origin to legitimise themselves by providing service to migrants and their children, c) the increased importance of the receiving country states in the economic and political futures of sending countries, d) the society and political marginalisation of migrants in their host countries, and e) migration takes place within an ideological climate that favours pluralism over the melting pot.

Besides the forces of globalisation, advancement in technologies of travel, transport and communication too play a key role in the emergence of transnational networks. Aeroplanes, telephones, televisions, electronic mail and the most versatile Internet with Online interaction compress space and time in a magnitude never ever anticipated.

Diaspora communities, like Chinese in China Towns or Indians in their ethnic enclaves of ‘Little India’ world over, built ‘home away from home’ but the transnational networks of contemporary times has facilitated members of these communities to be ‘here and there’. The above mentioned processes of globalisation and technological advancement have given rise to networking among the diaspora communities dispersed across the world. Hence, there is an urgent need to re-examine and capture the emerging phenomenon in the transnational space.

Transnational space or social field is constructed from the transnational networks, which in turn are built upon transnational family networks (interactions between members / kith and kin of a family living in different countries) as well as from the networking of community organisations (caste associations, religious institutions, for instance). Transnational networks are increasingly dense web of social contacts between places of origin and destinations spawned by migrant’s spatial displacement, that are sustained on the basis of social and kin relationship (Massay; quoted in Portes 1995). These networks enable immigrants to maintain simultaneous connection with two or more nation-states. Further these networks are intensified as a result of globalisation, deterritorialisation, continuous circulation of people (such as labour), money (especially the role of World Bank & International Monetary Fund [IMF] etc.), and information (through Internet and other faster means of communication) across the countries. Such intensified transnational networks constitute a single community with global spread.

The remittances / investments that flow between transnational migrants to their families back home as well as the socio-cultural networks with the motherland, as in the case of Jewish, Chinese and Indian diaspora, is also an interesting example of transnational networks. This sustained transnationalisation of migrant ties is currently on steep increase. Further, the global economy, along with international business operations, and provision of dual nationality by the homeland governments offer opportunities for promotion of transnational interactions. The modern modes of transportation and communication, in combination with new international institutions of economic activity following globalisation, have accelerated the immigrants involvement in the economic transactions that cross borders of the nation-states of their origin and also the countries of their settlement.

As mentioned earlier, revolutionary developments in the spheres of transport and communications during the past decade has introduced far reaching changes in all societies, including the diasporic communities dispersed in different countries away from their countries of origin. In so far as the diasporic communities are concerned, not only the ties with the motherland are reinforced and intensified but are extended to reach the members of their community settled in many other parts of the world. These networks are transnational in nature as they cut across not just the ‘motherland’ and the country of immigration but cover several nation states where members of the same diasporic community are dispersed [see Annexure 2, following the endnote].

The emerging trend from diaspora towards transnational networks is briefly examined below with the illustration of the transnational networks among the Punjabi and Gujarati diaspora in Canada. Among the Indians in Canada, Punjabis have the distinction of being numerically the largest group of immigrants besides their early presence. Gujaratis are another significant ‘visible minority’ who maintain an extensive transnational network.

Transnational Networks among the Punjabis

Punjabis in Canada (numbering nearly 201,785 forming 0.71% of Canada’s total population, as per Statistics Canada, 1996 Census) can be easily distinguished from other South Asians from their cultural specificity including the style of dress still retained. Besides being the first Indian immigrants to enter Canada, Punjabis enjoy a vibrant community life today when compared to other Indians in Canada. The Punjabi ethnic consciousness in Canada has two levels, viz. firstly, all Punjabis share common status of an immigrant community with other South Asians and secondly, it exhibits distinct behaviour patterns from others (Judge 1994: 137-38).

When the Punjabis first reached Canada at the turn of the 20th century, they went by see route and the only way to communicate with their relatives in Punjab was the surface mail. On an average, as observed by Leonard (1989), a Punjabi paid a visit to his family in Punjab after seven years if not more. But when the Punjabis immigrated to Canada in the 1960’s and early 1970’s - the 2nd wave of migration - they went by air and used airmail for communication. These new immigrants, owing to their skills and professional training, enjoyed good employment opportunities and maintained closer contact through frequent visits to their families. The satellite communication revolution and the popularisation of Public Call Offices in India during 1980s have made it possible for the quickest communication between Canada and India. This has facilitated further links of immigrants with the families back home in Punjab and their ties have been re-strengthened (Judge ibid.).

Most of the studies conducted on Punjabis abroad suggest that a majority of them belong to the Jat caste and were having a middle peasant status before their emigration (Mcleod 1987; Judge 1994). ‘Rural’, ‘Jat Sikh’, ‘middle peasant’ and ‘educated’ (‘educated’ is applicable especially to those who immigrated in 1960’s and 70’s) are the background characteristics common to a majority of the Punjabis now resident in Canada.

Most of the Punjabi immigrants in the Western countries have immense interest in the advancement of their kith and kin at their places of origin. They send remittances to the families back home to buy land and other properties. They also intervene in the decision making process of the family. They encourage children of their relatives to get higher education and also facilitate their immigration. Punjabis, like other South Asians, show a great degree of community cohesiveness. They visit each other, attend ceremonies, attend Gurdwara services and take community lunch programmes besides associations and organisations to promote the interest of community as a whole.

As compared to other European immigrants in Canada, the Punjabis form a distinctive ethnic group. In other words, they can be identified as different from the host population in terms of the colour of their skin and distinctive attire. An ethnic community with distinct relative consciousness in terms of class, race, language, religion and cultural practices faces numerous problems in integrating itself with the host population.

In 1971, Canada became the first Western country to adopt multiculturalism as official state policy. In the contemporary post-industrial world there is hardly a country where one finds an ethnically homogeneous population. The process of colonisation, displacement of population and subsequent creation of distinctive social identities, such as refugees, natives and immigrants from innumerable countries have often resulted in the emergence of ethnic diversities (Koushik 1996: 184).

Transnational Networks

Punjabis have maintained strong networks - socio-cultural, economic, religious and political - with their kith and kin around the world as well as with their relatives back home in Punjab. These networks are manifested through sending remittances to the families left behind in India, involvement in various national and international associations, visiting homeland for manifold reasons. Further the process of maintaining these networks is facilitated by the spectacular progress in global media, communication and transportation technology.

With the help of Internet, web and news groups, and the interactive communication through email, the diasporic Punjabis form today the ‘global Punjabi community’. The transnational networks among Punjabis can be discussed at two levels:

    1. the networks among Punjabis in Canada and their community, including relatives, back home in Punjab, and
    2. the transnational networks between Punjabis all over the globe.

Punjabi diaspora’s interrelationship with Punjab can be understood in terms of social, economic, religious and political linkages. These linkages are briefly illustrated in terms of their networks in the spheres of kinship and marriage, culture, politics, economy, religion and language.

Kinship and Marriage

Punjabis uphold their social networks through family ties and kinship obligations, marriage ceremonies and other ritual activities. The family is the basis of social organisation, providing its members with both identity and protection. Punjabis in Canada have retained their kinship relations through contact with the families back home in Punjab and also with kith and kin around the world.

Marriage is an important institution among Punjabis in sustaining the ethnic bond. One of its important roles is to create positive self-image through arranged marriages in which region, religion and caste identities are maintained and promoted. Punjabis choose their marriage partners not only in their respective places of residence but from the homeland and other countries around the world. As Roger Ballard (2000: 14) observes, "…most of the settlers abroad preferred to arrange a ‘Riste’ back home in Punjab, partly because of the very limited degree of choice available (given the restriction of marriage rules) within most localised ethnic colonies".

In comparison with the early period where marriage took place within the local context, it has now become global, reaching out to Singapore, Kenya, Hong Kong, U.K., and North America. Further, marriage has become truly transnational due to the status such marriages have acquired. Now marriage partners are increasingly chosen across the continent (Angelo 1997: 66). The matrimonial advertisements, which are available in newspapers and on the Internet, make further easier for searching the marriage partners. For example, ‘punjabimarriage.com’ is the web site, which provides a site for matrimonial ads for the Punjabi and Sikh community around the world. In choosing partners, consideration of castes still continues to play a significant role. Apart from these there are also several other matrimonial sites such as: www.sikhnet.com/Matrimonials and www.punjabimatrimony.com.


Culture is an abstract symbolic system, which is composed of values, meanings and beliefs. The rich cultural heritage, common language and a strong sense of being Punjabi bind the Punjabis together. For instance, ‘Bhangra’, which is a popular dance form of Punjab, is an important ethnic marker throughout the world inseparable from Punjabis.

As mentioned earlier, the transnational networks among Punjabis became strong with the development of media, Internet, television, audio, video, radio and other faster means of communication. Punjabi media consisting of weekly newspapers, monthly and quarterly magazines play an important role in informing overseas Sikhs about their homeland (Tatla 1999). The transnational television and radio channels also provide information and entertainment to the Punjabis around the globe. There are several transnational TV and Radio channels such as Punjabi Radio, Netguruindia, TV India, Live 365.com, Punjabi+many, AM1320 Vancouver, Multicultural Radio Punjabi Saturday, Montreal Canada, Radio Sikh-info Daily Kukamnama etc., provide information to Punjabis in the diaspora.

Recently Zee TV has lunched its ‘Zee Alpha TV’ Punjabi Channel for Punjabis living abroad. This is a 24-hour channel, which would use satellite AsiaSat3s and foot printers covering West Asia, Africa, and Australia apart from India. This channel would reach all Punjabis across the world. Another 24-hour exclusive Punjabi channel from Doordarshan has also been lunched in August 6th 2001. These satellite channels take images of Punjab and Punjabis to Punjabi diaspora spread over different parts of the world. Punjabi films, videos and magazines are now available in most of the Asian shops abroad, which further supplement the cultural environment of Punjabis.

Kabaddi’ sport is another marker item of Punjabi identity, which is now a transnational event. Kabaddi matches are not only organised in Punjab but also in far away countries such as North America, Canada and Britain where teams from Punjab, England, Canada, Pakistan etc. have taken part in the tournaments. The news regarding the international matches spreads through letters, Internet and newspapers across the frontier.


The political affinity of overseas Punjabis to the homeland has a long history. Tatla (1999: 85) observes that "…starting from the pre 1947 period, the Chief Khalsa Diwan had established direct links with several Sikh societies in the overseas countries". That is because of their history of discrimination. From the early period of the evolution of the religious ideology, Sikhs were facing the trauma of discrimination (both religious and ethnic) in the home country as well as in the diasporas. This ethnic discrimination in the diaspora and the religious fundamentalism in the home state have resulted in the formation of various national and international associations for maintaining the networks among the Sikhs around the globe.

The potential of Sikh diasporas to participate and intervene "…in the politics of the homeland has been greatly enhanced and facilitated by the spectacular development of global media and communication technologies" (Werbner 2000). For instance, soon after the attack on Golden Temple - the holiest Sikh Shrine - the news spread through the media reach all corners of the world to Sikhs. The Punjabi web sites featuring the Punjab riots aimed at raising the diaspora consciousness among the globally dispersed Sikhs. The picture and images of the incidence of communal violence, the picture of the Golden Temple before 1984 and after 1984 distributed via the Internet are seen by the relatives and friends in other countries and states contributed for the mobilisation of support. Such interactions have resulted, within a very short span of time, in the emergence of a self-conscious, ethno-national community, which staked out a claim for statehood. In this regard, the World Sikh Organisation and the International Sikh Youth Federation mobilised tens of thousands of Sikhs in peaceful demonstration for an independent Sikh state. The search for separate statehood [Khalistan] hastened the appearance of overseas Sikhs as a distinctive, visible and identifiable diaspora (Singh 2000: 3-4).


From economic point of view, Punjabis today remitted a high proportion of their earnings to support their families back home so also to improve the economy of the home state. They invested their remittances in the form of "…establishing industries, factories, and buying land and transport companies in most of the major towns in Punjab such as Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh and other towns" (Tatla ibid.: 63). They also contribute their remittances for the development of charities, hospitals and educational centres in Punjab.


Religion offers one of the most significant aspects of cohesion among the immigrants. Sikhism [the religion of Sikhs] provides a forum for the Sikhs in particular and Punjabis in general to live together in peace and harmony regardless of race, religion, culture and nationality. The Gurdwaras - the sacred place of their worship - is the best example of cohesiveness of the community. Wherever the Sikhs have migrated the first thing they did was to establish Gurdwaras in order to restore the community bond among the members. Today there are thousands of Gurdwaras around the world (approximately 75 Gurdwaras in Canada), which promote both religious and cultural life of Sikhs and maintain religious networks by organising functions and festivals. For instance, Khalsa Foundation organises seminars, quiz contests and other activities across the world, and invite participants from different countries to preserve and maintain networks among the Sikhs.


Language is an important vehicle for maintaining ethnic identity. It is an ethnic symbol, like dress or physical features, which distinguishes one group from other (Singh and Barrier 1999). The Punjabi language is a part of Sikh identity and the Sikhs take sufficient care to promote it among the younger generation. They publish the news regarding the socio-cultural, economic and political life in Punjab and in the diaspora in Punjabi. The diaspora Punjabi writers are encouraged to write on the history and the mystery of the long-standing vibrant culture. National and international conferences are organised for the purpose of reaching international community. There were three international conferences so far; first is the World Punjabi Writers Conference held in London in 1980; this was followed by the second one in Vancouver in 1987 and third in Hong Kong in 1991. In June another major international gathering of Punjabi writers took place at the Milwaukee campus of the University of Wisconsin. Recently the World Punjabi Congress (WPC) has decided to keep up the momentum of global Punjabi movement by holding eight conferences in different parts of the world within next four years.

Transnational Networks among the Gujaratis

Though migration of Gujaratis to Canada may be traced back to the end of 19th century and the early part of 20th century, it was only after independence that large-scale migration of Gujaratis to Canada took place. Most of them can be from upper caste and class backgrounds. In the multicultural society of Canada today, Gujaratis constitute around 45,185 (according to the 1996 statistics Canada: see Patel 2000). Today they are the most affluent people who have entered into every field of service, business and profession (though their first love is business).

The relation between the Gujaratis in Canada and their counterparts living around the world as well as relatives back home, was not only a matter of memories, but it has been an ongoing and continuous relationship. These transnational relations can be broadly divided into two categories, i.e., micro and macro linkages. Micro level linkages are more personalised and informal in nature. The Gujaratis continue to keep in touch with the friends and relatives in Gujarat and in other countries all over the world. Their personal linkages are maintained through telephone calls, letters, Internet and personal visits.

The micro level transnational networks among the Gujaratis can be analysed from two perspectives. First, the networks between the Gujaratis in Canada with their relatives back home, and secondly, the network between Gujaratis living all over the world. In contrast to the ex-indentured immigrants, Gujarati immigrants in the contemporary period have been able to maintain extensive ties both at social and economic level. These ties are manifested in the form of marriage arrangements, kinship networks, remittances and religious affiliation, etc.

The main method of overseas transportation during the 19th and early 20th centuries was ship where the emigrants were subjected to very long voyages at sea under exceedingly difficult conditions. During that period, the only contact with the homeland was through new arrivals and visitors such as Hindu and Christian Missionaries. But now there is considerable travel back and forth of Gujaratis to Gujarat and other parts of India, particularly from North America, U.K. and East Africa. The growing affluence among the Gujarati immigrants world over and the availability of affordable and faster means of travel have allowed intense contacts among the Gujaratis.

The second type of transnational linkages are the macro level linkages, which are promoted at the institutional level between diaspora and the mother country as well as among the diaspora community members from different countries. There are numerous socio-economic and political networks maintained between diaspora and Gujarat. Although the Gujaratis have been living in most parts of the world for the past 150 years, it is only recently that they closely interact among themselves and also with the mother country. For example, the government of Gujarat recently established Non Resident Gujarati Foundation (NRG) in 1998. It has following objectives:

  1. To help and care for Non-Resident Gujaratis (NRGs) on their short trip to India, in their investment matters, on establishing industries in Gujarat.
  2. To establish effective communication between NRGs and the foundation.
  3. To preserve the cultural heritage, e.g., to send experts for musical concerts, dance performance etc.
  4. To preserve the language.
  5. To maintain social ties, e.g., matrimonial services.
  6. To create unity among the Gujarati families in different parts of the world.
  7. To identify NRGs, who have gained special achievement in their respective fields and recognise them with awards (Nri-Gujarati.com - July 23, 2000).

The government is maintaining close contacts with Gujaratis living abroad not for just commercial reasons, but to establish a closer rapport with them so that they can remain in touch with their social and cultural heritage. The government of Gujarat has lunched many schemes for NRGs not only to attract investment in their home state but also to establish better communication with them. For instance, the World Gujarat Meet held at Vadodara on January 4th, 1999 had attracted NRGs from many parts of the world, such as Uganda, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, UAE, Australia and South Africa. The purpose of that meeting was to establish, not withstanding the name and fame acquired on foreign shores, a socio-cultural connection as distinct from a financial tie-up with the native land.

Some of the schemes initiated by the Government of Gujarat became very attractive in terms of their returns and the NRIs began to utilise them. They are investing either in NRI bank accounts or in real estate. They bought properties such as flats or houses, mostly in cities like Anand, Vidyanagar and Ahmedabad and other major cities. Very few of them have invested in business or industry.

Gujarati Associations

The role of international Gujarati associations and organisations is very significant in the promotion of transnational networks by bringing all Gujaratis together, work for Gujarat and to preserve the Gujarati culture, tradition and folklore. There are considerable number of Gujaratis living in the countries like USA, U.K., Canada and East Africa. They have formed their associations in order to look after their fellow Gujaratis in the local context and to pursue interactions with other Gujaratis all over the world. Whenever and wherever crisis takes place the Gujaratis come together for resolving the crisis. For example, the Holocaust and crisis in Uganda, Middle East and Fiji have engaged every Gujarati’s to concern for other. Another instance is that of the unprecedented earthquake of January 26, 2001 which has brought together Gujaratis from all over the world. They mobilised men and materials for immediate and long-term recovery from the massive damage. In order to rebuild the economy and infrastructure they have raised funds from personal to organisational levels.

Cultural Networks

Gujarat has a rich tradition of performing arts and customs. Dhandhya, a folk dance with sticks and Garba are popular among the Gujarati youths in India and abroad. Originally Dhandhya was performed by rural folk, but it is brought to urban environment by remixing the pulse of disco and Hindi film music. It is popularised further through Hindi films, played at wedding receptions, dance parties, and community celebrations. For instance, during ‘Navratri’ - a nine night religious ceremony to worship Goddess Durga - Dhandhya dance is a major attraction and people from all backgrounds dance together.

Satellite and cable televisions also play an important role in sustaining transnational linkages among the ethnic groups. For instance, a 24-hour Gujarati language TV channel is lunched by Zee Television Network under the name ‘Alpha TV Gujarati’. It presents a blend of entertainment, news and culture to ethnic Gujarati viewers across the world.

Religious Networks

Gujarat is known for the origin and development of two major sects among the Hindus. First, the followers of Swaminarayan, and secondly, the followers of Vallabhacharya, known as Pustimarg. A large proportion of Hindu emigrants from Gujarat has been involved in one or the other of these groups (Ballard ibid.: 165-66).

The followers of Swaminarayan come under the Swaminarayan Sampradaya sect. The Swaminarayan Sampradaya is a sect of Hinduism that has been established for approximately two centuries. The founder of this sect was Lord Shree Swaminarayan. Swaminarayan devotees are drawn from a wide range of castes such as Kanbis, Suthars, Rajputs, and Lohans. The sect has already made inroads in the world wide Gujarati diaspora and is now expanding rapidly. The followers of Swaminarayan have been divided into four main sub sects such as Brahmacharis, Sadhus, Palas and finally, the Satsangis.

In order to retain the religious practice and to guide the younger generation, Lord Swaminarayan followers established hotels and schools, hospitals and medical camps. They also provided aid in times of natural calamities, organised international festivals to preserve, protect and promote Gujarati culture, inter-faith harmony and universal brotherhood. The followers are peace-loving group of people wedded to a sincere discipline of vegetarian diet and moral purity insisting on no addictions, no stealing, and no illicit sex.

The followers of Vallabhacharya are called ‘Prajapatis’. Presently there are about 2.8 million Prajapatis in the world and they interacted with each other through newsletters and other modes of communication including Internet. The Prajapatis formed their community as early as the 6th century, though their community came into limelight only during the early 20th century. The Prajapatis are traditionally potters and became closely linked with two castes, the Mistrys and the Suthars. They formed only a small proportion of the population of rural Gujarat. Although they occupied the lowest position in the caste hierarchy, because of their lack of land and wealth, they are respected for their specialist occupation as they supplied the earthenware that is much needed in daily life. The Prajapatis are endogamous caste groups, hence their caste boundaries define their universe within which all meaningful social relationships are conducted.

With a view to reach all Prajapatis around the world, Prajapati Samaj has established ‘Prajapati Vishva Ashram’ in 1998. The main aim of this Ashram is to enable all Prajapatis from different parts of the world to interact with each other. They have also established Internet websites to facilitate their communication and interaction on world-wide basis. The interactions could be at individual, group or community levels. The Prajapati Vishva Ashram encourages all Prajapatis to volunteer to work for their Samaj wherever they reside. Based on the above philosophy some Prajapatis have initiated an Internet site under www.prajapati-samaj.ca. This web site was created in 1998 January to give all Prajapatis in the world the platform to meet anytime, at anyplace to promote the goals of Prajapati Vishva Ashram. Shree Bhavin Champaklal Mistry of Edmonton, Alborta, Canada, has spearheaded the initiative as webmaster. It has raised funds from Canada and the USA for setting up of the computer Internet links with Gujarat. Other programmes of this web site include funding education for employable skills, Learning Vedas, Prajapati encyclopaedia etc. There are several Prajapati associations and organisations located all around the world which have inter-linked with each other. These organisations include the Shree Prajapati Associations of U.K., Canada and South Africa. The associations were established in 1978 as national organisation in the respective countries.

The objectives of the Shree Prajapati Association include the advancement of the Hindu religion and culture and the relief of poverty and sickness among the Prajapati community. The Prajapatis in South Africa and Canada are on the same path to preserve their heritage and culture. The Prajapati community in South Africa and Canada strive to preserve their heritage and culture. As a joint venture the Prajapati community of South Africa and Canada are in the process of setting up an Internet website to provide a means of communication across the rest of the Prajapati community all around the world.

Internet Networks

The revolution in information and communication technology and its impact on immigrants is phenomenal over the past two decades. The world wide networks of online media allow much easier access, relatively at less cost, and above all, offer interactive opportunity to the dispersed people around the world. For example, the diasporic Gujarati web sites are creating global directories of individuals, community associations, and business organisations owned by members of the diasporas. The online media help the users to reconstitute pre-migration relationships, at least in cyberspace, as well as create virtual communities’ with ‘communal identities’. For instance, the Internet site "kemchoo.com" aims at bringing all the Gujaratis together and gives them the feel of the rich culture and tradition. Further, its aim is to provide a ‘virtual home’ for those who are out of touch with their culture and tradition or away from homes for long time. The site also focuses on Gujaratis around the world and provides services to the people of Gujarat. Another site, "evishwagujarati.net" provides the platform for the Gujarati diaspora to interact with each other and link their lives, strengthen their shared heritage, deal with the problems of living in foreign countries, conduct business together and maintain stronger links with Gujarat. The sites focus broadly on four categories; a roundup of events pertaining to Gujarat and Gujaratis worldwide, the Samaj’s formidable network spanning continents, culture and interaction and a Gujarat fact file.

Some Observations

Recent works on diaspora communities have shown that there is an exponential increase in social networks, both formal and informal, between the diaspora and motherland on the one hand and among the members of any diaspora community dispersed around the world on the other. Such a networking, cutting across the boundaries of several nation-states, is a foundation for the emergence of transnational communities and societies. We are familiar with some of the transnational formal organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, impinging on the national to a limited extent (for example, UN, World Bank, International Court, IMF and other world bodies, NGOs pursuing environmental issues, etc.). Emergence of transnational networks among the members of a diaspora community, scattered in several countries including the motherland, facilitates promotion of their interest in all spheres of life globally. The countries of their origin too reach out to their diasporic populations, seeking their participation in the development of the motherland. Nearly 80% of the investments in Mainland China, for instance come from the overseas Chinese. The Chinese Government had initiated a Ministry for the Overseas Chinese as early as 1920s. The Government of India has taken more than 50 years to constitute a High Level Committee in order to suggest policy measures to facilitate the participation of overseas Indians in India’s development. In other words, the governments of China and India pursue economic and political advantages from the presence of Indian and Chinese overseas. Individual and collective social networks have facilitated further emigration of kith and kin to different destinations. Patel and Rutten (2000) have come across several such instances where members of Gujarati families are dispersed among several countries. Family business, founded on the absolute confidence that unifies members of the same family, particularly among the Sikhs, sometimes assumes global dimensions (Helweg 1986).

The Punjabis and the Gujaratis in Canada are in the threshold of forming ‘transnational communities’ through their socio-economic, political and religious networks. Language, regional culture and religion offer the ideological base for their identities and bondage for fusion at the global level. The networks formed by the dispersed members of Punjabis and Gujaratis transcend the boundaries of the national states wherein they are currently situated but fall within the legislated norms of inter-national relations. The networking of these diasporic communities is mutually benefited to the communities and the countries of their origin as well as the countries of their settlement.




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