An estimated 28 million people of Indian origin (NRIs and PIOs) live outside India spanning several genera- tions to new migration. Many NRIs/PIOs have numerous achievements in their adopted homelands and have contributed significantly to their countries of birth, adoption or
domicile. They have also collectively contributed to India’s
transformation into a modern economy and assist in social
development. While PIOs and NRIs are domiciled in other
countries, they are inherently bonded to India by history, culture, heritage and emotion.
GOPIO was formed in 1989 at First Global Convention of
People of Indian Origin in New York from Aug. 27 - Sept. 3,
1989 to bring people of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) onto a single platform, to monitor
and address their interests and concerns, and to network the
globally spread Indian community spanning several generations ago to new migration. The convention was historical,
attracting over 3,000 people including representatives of
Indian communities from 22 countries. The stalwarts of overseas Indian community, Dr. Cheddi Jagan (subsequently
President) of Guyana, Basdeo Panday (subsequently Prime
Minister) of Trinidad and Tobago, Mahendra Chaudhry of
Fiji (subsequently Prime Minister), Minister Thondaman of
Sri Lanka and Minister Madhavrao Scindia of India, India’s
ambassador Dr Karan Singh and several other dignitaries
participated in the convention.
The major issue of concern was human rights violations of
Indians in Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Sri Lanka,
and the United Kingdom; even in USA where "Dot Buster"
was a major problem. GOPIO filed petitions at United
Nations and made concerted efforts fighting against human
rights violations. Since then, PIO dominated parties were
elected in Fiji, Guyana and Trinidad. Several PIOs have been
elected prime ministers, presidents, ministers and officials at
federal and state levels: Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad, UK,
Netherlands, Suriname, Malaysia, South Africa, USA, New
Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Puerto Rico and Canada.
GOPIO actively monitors issues of concern to the overseas
Indian community and is the established premiere global
advocacy organization of the Indian diaspora.
GOPIO regularly organizes conventions and conferences
globally, bringing the Indian Diaspora closer and strengthening the inherent bond with India. GOPIO’s volunteers regularly visit many countries and to start GOPIO chapters, solicit
life members and join GOPIO’s various councils for specific
concerns. GOPIO consistently seeks support for the rights,
issues and concerns of the global Indian community. During
the past three years, President Ashook Ramsaran has
appointed suitably qualified international and regional coordinators resulting in a tremendous surge of new chapters, life
members and council members in Africa, Caribbean,
Francophone countries, Europe, Oceania and USA - an
expanded GOPIO with new membership, activities and
progress at all levels.
GOPIO’S MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Some noteworthy achievements during the previous few
years include the following:
Dual Citizenship, OCI/PIO Cards, Ministry of
Overseas Indian Affairs: At GOPIO’s first convention in
1989, a resolution was unanimously approved demanding
dual citizenship. The demand has been met with grant of PIO
& OCI cards. GOPIO also campaigned for a separate ministry
for NRIs/PIOs and subsequently Ministry of Overseas
Indians Affairs (MOIA) was established. GOPIO was first to
take up NRI/PIO issues with Government of India by passing
resolutions and pursuing with various ministries.
Fiji Human Rights Issue: In 2000 Fiji’s first ethnic
Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry was illegally
ousted and replaced by indigenous Fijian Laisenia Qarase.
GOPIO petitioned United Nations Human Rights
Commission and assured help to Indo Fijian activists. GOPIO
became the beacon of hope and primary advocacy group for
Uniform Admission fee for Historical Monuments:
In February 2006 GOPIO achieved its pursuit of uniform
admission fee to NRIs/PIOs same as charged to people in
India to museums and historical monuments.
Trinidad & Tobago Trinity Awards: Award insignia
of Trinidad and Tobago (Tn T)’s Trinity Awards contained
"cross" symbol which Hindu and Muslim nominees were
reluctant to accept. GOPIO objected to "cross" symbol and
instituted a parallel award. Shortly thereafter, Tn T government formed a committee to design a new insignia without
Protest Rally at United Nations (UN): GOPIO held a
huge rally July 31, 2006 at United Nations New York to
protest arbitrary decision by Government of Trinidad &
Tobago (Tn T) to dismiss Justice Sharma without due process
and in violation of constitution. Encouraged by GOPIO’s successful protest rally, several groups joined together for subsequent protest marches in Tn T. The protests received tremendous local and international attention and Tn T Government
relented in its illegal pursuit.
Peace March in Germany: GOPIO Berlin held a silent
Peace March to protest physical attacks on Indians in
Germany on 18th/19th August 2007. GOPIO Berlin chapter
president Barjinder Sodhi presented a memorandum to
German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel: Demands included
prompt completion of investigation of the riots and punishing
the attackers, taking steps for safety of immigrants from
India. In February 2009, a German court convicted the
attackers for the assault.
US-India Civil Nuclear Deal: It was a major mobilization effort by Indian American community to convince the
US law makers to vote in favor of transfer of nuclear technology and material from US to India. GOPIO collaborated with
other NRI/PIO organizations and mobilized Indian American
communities, organized town hall meetings with US officials
in many constituencies. GOPIO Senior Vice President Dr.
Piyush Agrawal worked actively with pro-India members of
US Congress and Indian American community activists to
ensure passage of the landmark nuclear agreement.
NRI Voting Rights: GOPIO passed several resolutions
soliciting Government of India for NRI voting rights. The bill
to amend the People’s Representation Act was passed in
2010, another GOPIO achievement for millions of NRIs.
Diaspora Courses in India: GOPIO’s former Academic
Council Chair Dr. Jagat Motwani collaborated with North
Gujarat University to introduce MA and PhD programs on
Indian Diaspora studies. GOPIO collaborates with other universities in India and elsewhere to include Indian Diaspora
Retroactive Enforcement of New Visa Rules: On
May 23, 2010, GOPIO initiated on-line petition and appealed
to global overseas Indian community against undue burdens
of retroactive enforcement of new rules for "surrender" of
Indian Passport. GOPIO petitioned Prime Minister of India
with over 30,000 signatures supporting the petition. The
Government of India relented and reduced fee to $20 for
PIOs who had acquired foreign citizenship by May 31, 2010.
Kolkata Memorial: For descendants of indentured
Indian laborers who left India 1834 thru’ 1920 to various
remote British colonies, the Kolkata Memorial’s deserved
acknowledgement unveiled on 11th January, 2011. With support of India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA)
and West Bengal Government, GOPIO pioneered the effort
with initiative, determination and persistence of GOPIO president Ashook Ramsaran. It is on Kolkata’s Hugli River bank
where Indian indentured laborers were housed and
processed while awaiting the ships for plantations in West
Indies, Mauritius, Fiji, Africa and elsewhere.
Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago Indian Arrival
Memorials Patterned after Kolkata Memorial:
Indian Arrival monuments in Highbury & Georgetown in
Guyana were unveiled by Ashook Ramsaran on 5th May,
2012, the 175th anniversary of Indian arrival in Guyana.
There are other similar monuments such in Grenada and
Guadeloupe. Indian Arrival Monument at Waterloo-by-the-Sea was unveiled by Ramsaran and IHC G. Gupta on 30th
May, 2014, the 169th anniversary of Indian arrival in
Trinidad, an additional marker in recognition of Indians’ first
arrivals in Trinidad.
GADAR Centennial Commemoration: GOPIO initiated efforts to highlight extraordinary contributions of Gadar
heroes and commemorate Gadar Centennial as well deserved
tribute. GOPIO contributed to promotion and prominence of
Gadar Centennial events organized by GOPIO, other organizations, institutions and Government of India. GOPIO’s
Global Centennial Commemoration (GGCC) of Gadar
Movement is consistent with GOPIO’s continuing efforts to
preserve and promote Indian history, heritage and culture,
making significant contributions to the Indian Diaspora.
GOPIO’s journey of success and admiration
A global advocacy
platform to embrace,
engage and enhance
the Indian Diaspora
From left, GOPIO conventions in 1989 in New York and in 1999, also in New York.
...Continued on page 16
India Abroad September 2014 Response Feature S7