Earlier this month, the Indian actor and United Nations goodwill ambassador Priyanka Chopra expressed her support for Iranian women who have been removing their hijabs and chanting “death to the dictator” after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death over a dress code violation. Chopra, who now lives in the United States, said she was in “awe” of the women fighting their government. She was immediately criticised for her “selective outrage” and “double standards,” and her deafening silence about a similarly awe-inspiring resistance being waged by India’s Muslim women, who are facing moral-policing under the Narendra Modi government for wearing a hijab.
The incident is, no doubt, revealing of the actor’s politics of convenience, but the larger issue at hand is how they moved in parallel with the growth of her international stature. It is a glance into the psyche of the vast, powerful and wealthy Indian diaspora, which suffers from an intellectual malady: being double-dealing and phoney in India and champions of democratic values as soon as they board an international flight.
Over the past few years, the Indian diaspora has become political—while keeping a safe distance from the storm centre of the toxic right-wing politics it spews—and Chopra is simply the high priestess of the blinding bourgeois hypocrisy it has come to typify. Like Chopra, the larger community of Indian immigrants to the United States and the United Kingdom have been in the news for what they choose to endorse and ignore. Indian-Americans in New Jersey recently apologised after including a bulldozer—now a symbol of anti-Muslim hate—in a parade to celebrate 75 years of Indian independence. The New York Times noted that, “to those who understood its symbolism, it was a blunt and sinister taunt later likened to a noose or a burning cross at a Ku Klux Klan rally.” In September, the diaspora in Leicester and Birmingham went on an angry march, threatening Muslim residents in the area. Wherever the diaspora is concentrated, it is now flexing its muscles to threaten South Asian Muslims. The seeds of hate sown in India have spread like a metastasising cancer, infecting all corners of the world where Indians live.