a bimonthly publication of
progressive south asian politics

Volume 6: Number 1                    December 25, 1995
In this Issue...
Roots: A Manifesto For Overseas South Asians Vijay Prashad
Peelay Paiyon Ki Nayi Ummeed or Reshaping Immigrant Identity Politics Biju Mathew
Taxi-vala/ Auto-biography
Making Room for a Hybrid Space: Reconsidering Second-Generation Ethnic Identity Sunaina Maira
Look Ma! The Sangh Giroh's gone progressive! (and Newt's a Revolutionary!) Niraj Pant


Sanskriti is now six years old. Over the past three years, our issues have focused upon the dangerous trends of right-wing Hindu politics and economic liberalization. Prior to the December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid, we had two issues of continuous debate on the nature of Indian immigrant community in the U.S. In this issue we return to this theme - but, with a difference.

To begin, we must say that we will continue to oscillate between an engagement with politics in India and with politics within the immigrant community. The reason for this dual perspective is simple: we, the immigrants, are as much part of the violent politics of the sub- continent as those still resident in India. The mutual links between BJP/VHP in India and the VHP of America, and the Friends of BJP (U.S./England) makes us realize that the "here vs there", the "inside vs. outside" distinctions are of limited value. In addition, the strong pro-liberalization lobby in the U.S., and the location of the Bretton Woods institutions in the U.S., makes liberalization in India as much an Indian diasporic issue as any other -- the national is constantly overwritten in today's age by the global, and the forces of global capitalism include the NRI. If capital today connects the world together, (and flattens it out in the process), our writing cannot but connect events within the national space called _India_ with the politics of Indian diaspora.

In returning to the question of the Indian immigrant in this issue of Sanskriti, we wish to register a difference with the vast majority of writings on immigration, immigrant community and identity politics. Most writings, both fiction and non-fiction, have focused upon identity politics (including gender) without locating themselves within the racial politics of the U.S. Following from this, there has also been a sore neglect of class politics, even if only it were to be in reference to identity issues. This issue also marks a difference from earlier debates in Sanskriti on Indian immigrant issues which solely focused on the _professional middle class_ Indian. This, we note is changing. There are an increasing number of non-professional, working class (both within the organized and the unorganized sectors) Indians/South Asians in the U.S. today, than five years ago. Also, more visible are second- generation Indians who refuse to simply assume the priorities of the professional parent generation. It is the need to understand the politics in this changing environment that motivates this issue.

Further, the changing character of the Indian immigrant community coincides with the failure of the _purely_ middle class South Asian progressive organizations. One after another, the wave of middle class- based progressive organizations that were formed in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition have closed shop. This occurrence, along with the emergence of non-middle class formations, brings into question the very nature and meaning of middle class politics. This issue of Sanskriti focuses on such a theme - How can progressive immigrants provide an effective opposition to the current sexist, racist, classist and fascist trends within Indian immigrant politics in the U.S.? How can the progressive desi fight the hegemony of the large conservative Indian/South Asian immigrant community? Prashad, Maira and Mathew's articles all revolve around this theme. The exception - Pant's article - only affirms our position that Hindutva - whether in India or here - is a force to be battled with at every moment. Also, the call to sign up for FOIL is part of an explicit effort to push for a broad coalition of the Indian left in the U.S., Canada and England, with the aim of building a meaningful opposition to mainstream definitions of Indian immigrant politics and culture.

This issue was put together by Richard Baxstrom, Rahul De', Sangeeta Kamat, Phil Mabry, Biju Mathew, Gautam Premnath, and Rajagopal Vakulgharanam. Address all correspondence to: Sanskriti, c/o Biju Mathew, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648. Or by email to or This publication is partially funded by readers like you.