Almost every day, an Indian newspaper has articles about events in the United States.
During the first several weeks, the newspapers mainly focused upon newly inaugurated President Trump’s attitude toward immigration and student visas. The Hindu in its January 31st edition has this headline “White House plans to tighten the screws on H-1B visa, says report.” The article reports that President Trump plans to reduce the 85,000 yearly guest work visas. In The Hindustan Times, a similar article makes clear the importance of guest visas. Quotes from the draft executive ordered included passages rationalizing the action. “Visa programs for foreign workers…should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritises the protection of American workers – our forgotten working people – and the jobs they hold.” This language clearly makes the Indian IT sector nervous since “The Indian IT sector is heavily dependent on North America for its revenues. Around 60% of India’s software exports are made for North America.”
For many weeks, the Indian newspapers regularly report about the Kansas shooting. US navy veteran Adam Purinton, after drinking and yelling racial slurs at two Indians working for GPS maker Garman, is kicked out of the Kansas bar. Yelling ”get out of my country!” he returns, shoots, and kills Srinivas Kuchibhotla. When Purinton is finally captured after telling some another bartender that he had ”killed two Middle Eastern men,” the Indian newspapers wonder why Americans can’t distinguish between people of different countries and backgrounds. While many articles recall an average American, Ian Gulliot, trying to help in the situation, most articles seek to understand what caused this cruel and senseless act of violence.
As if that incident wasn’t enough, Indian newspapers report two other incidents in the United States. A Sikh man was shot and injured in his driveway in Kent, Washington, by a man yelling “go back to your country.” A local Sikh leader responded to the hate-crime by saying: “We’re all kind of at a loss in terms of what’s going on right now, this is just bringing it home. The climate of hate that has been created doesn’t distinguish between anyone (The Times of India, March 6th edition).” A video of an Indian-American family enjoying an outing at a park appears. The creator of the anti-immigrant video is heard saying: ” “The number of people from foreign countries blows my mind out here. You see this whole area is all Indian, amazing. It’s an amazing number of jobs have been taken away from Americans. The Indian crowd has ravished the Midwest. It’s a takeover (sic). ” He even goes on to describe the park as a ‘mini Mumbai.’” The Deccan Chronicle, March 6th edition.
In a March 15th edition of The Hindustan Times, an article entitled “New Horizons: Looking beyond the US and the UK” advises students to study in other countries. Although there are over 165,000 Indian students in US universities, potential study-abroad students should begin to look at other more welcoming countries. Apparently, many Indian students need to look beyond an unwelcoming United States.
Finally, many newspapers are following the saga of US attorney Preet Bharara. The March 14the edition of The Hindustan Times has an article “Critics Raise Questions over Firing of India-Born Attorney.” Suggesting that Trump initially planned on retaining Bharara, the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” the President dismissed Bharara as one of the 46 US attorneys dismissed. Bharara declares: “I did not resign; moments ago, I was fired.” This firing reinforces Indian attitudes that even successful and talented Indian-Americans are at risk.
Indian newspapers portray American attitudes towards Indians, from President Trump to ordinary Americans, as anti-Indian. From an Indian perspective, these attitudes are part of American xenophobia. In moments of soul-searching, writers recognize that American Indians could do more to counter the prejudice. A March14th Hindustan Times coolly states “In their rush to make money, settle down, send children to good schools, upgrade from one big car to another, from one big house to another, many immigrants said they overlooked trying to belong. ‘We have colonized ourselves here.’” To help fix this situation, the writer suggests that many Indian Americans feel as though an organization like the Jewish Anti-Defamation League or The Council on American-Islamic Relations be established. In other words, there is a need for “an apolitical, bipartisan organization in place that can step in at a moment’s notice, reach out to those affected, and open a dialogue with authorities.”
Indian newspapers portray Indian attitudes toward America as confused and uncertain. On the one hand, as the Amritsar hotel manager said to me: “My dream is to move to America.” Many Indians hopes and dreams are connected to a United States that offers opportunities. On the other hand, many Indians are frightened by the growth of anti-Indian sentiment. They want nothing to do with the United States.
How will citizens in the United States feel about Indians? How will Indians feel about the United States? While nobody knows how attitudes will evolve over the coming years, everybody will be affected.