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Eminence

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Eminence

 

 

RECIPIENT OF THE PRAVASI BHARATIYA SAMMAN
IN THE YEAR 2011 MR. WAHID SALEH IS A
‘DISTINGUISHED SON OF ASSAM’. INDYANA PAINTS
HIS LIFE WHICH IS OF INSPIRATION TO ALL THOSE
WHO MIGRATES TO SETTLE ELSEWHERE

 

QWhen did you first come to the Netherlands
and what was the reason for your migration?
The Netherlands was not in my radar when I left
India for Europe. In order to answer that question I
have to go back to the period before I left India. I
went to study Aircraft Maintenance Engineering at
Southern College of Engineering and Technology
in Ernakulum in Kerala. The college selected me to
join BMW Triebwerkbau GmbH, in Munich,
Germany for higher training in Jet Engines. Before
I went to Germany, In November 1963, I left
Bombay by ship and after 14 day-long travel
reached Genoa in Italy. In Germany, I not only got
my training in Jet-engines but I also leant how to
survive in an alien environment, amidst a totally
different work culture and above all without
knowing the local language. Anyway I survived.
From Munich I went to Hamburg to work with the
Lufthansa German Airlines. In Germany I wanted
to change my profession from Aircraft Maintenance
Engineering to IT. But I could not get the residence
permit to work in the IT sector. So through a “Head
Hunter”, I applied for an IT job in the Netherlands
and moved to the Netherlands in 1968. Why
Netherlands? One of the reasons I applied for a job
in the Netherlands was that as a student from India
I was corresponding with a medical student from
the Netherlands and she wanted to continue her
study to become a medical specialist. Later I got
married to her.

 

QDutch Queen Beatrix has honoured you, a
prominent leader of the Indian community in
the Netherlands, with the prestigious ‘Ridder in
de Orde van Oranje-Nassau (Knighthood of the
Order of Orange-Nassau) in recognition of your
many contributions to the promotion of
Indo-Dutch ties and his efforts to encourage
mutli-cultural activities in the Netherlands. Tell
us in brief about your commitments so far.

There are several areas where I contributed in
re-establishing the cultural relationship between
Netherlands and India. For example:

Making NIA an active, representative and
lively organization:

I am a member of Netherlands-India Association
(NIA) since 1968 and was a Executive Board
Member from 1982 to 2002. In the period from
June, 1987 to June 2002 when I functioned as the
Secretary of NIA, I considerably broadened the
scope of its activities, increased its membership,
consisting of many Dutch and newly arrived
Indians as well as those already here.

Unique compiler of India related database:

For the first time I started collecting systematically
all data relating to India and Indians in the
Netherlands and using my own time and financial
resources to come out with a major compilation of
India related information Indiawijzer – India in the
Netherlands, first published in 1992. It is also to be
noted that Indiawijzer is freely available to all
concerned. It is also a source of all relevant
information on Dutch public, private and voluntary
organizations engaged in India related cultural,
development, trade and other activities.

A Bridge Between the Indian and Suriname
Hindustani Communities:

Through my activities as Secretary of NIA and also
in my personal capacity, I tried to bring the two
groups together, encouraged more contacts between
organizations of the two communities and
facilitated active interaction between individuals
and organizations for a common platform devoted
to India. I am Member of the Cultural Committee of the annual cultural gala of Surinamese Hindustanis
– the Milan Festival in the Hague.

 

Examples of my catalytic role in bilateral
relations in the area of nationality legislation.

The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is not a
dual nationality but a lifelong citizenship without
political rights but a lifelong visa pasted to a foreign
passport, and not to separate OCI card. For the
renewal of a foreign passport the OCI card holder
either has to pay extra to obtain a new OCI visa, or
has to carry the expired passport, along with the
new foreign passport and the OCI card. I requested
the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to issue OCI
visa pasted to the OCI booklet or a single document
like the PIO card valid for lifetime, but issued
separately. This has now been solved by merging
both the OCI and PIO card into a single document.

 

Encouraging Indian Diaspora from Assam in
service of the State:
Along with a few Assamese Friends in different
countries, I had set up a virtual organisation of
Assamese Diaspora called Friends of Assam and
Seven Sisters (FASS). I was one of the
International Directors of FASS and a driving force
of the organization. An eye catching example of this
is the spectacular long, live interactions of school
children from the North East (Assam, Meghalaya,
Manipur) with Space Astronauts from their shuttle,
particularly the live interaction with astronaut Mike
Fincke with different school and college students in
Assam and Meghalaya, who during his visit to
Assam laid the foundation stone of a guest house at
Parijat Academy near Guwahati. This was made
possible by the work of many volunteers of FASS
International.

 

QYour contributions towards paving a better
life to the Asamese people in India are known to
all… Your comments on the present day
political situaton of the country… Is it more of
politics than social welfare these days?
Mao once said “Politics is war without bloodshed
while war is politics with bloodshed”. In Assam we
are used to both the situations. According to the
South Asia Terrorism Portal there are more than 30
Terrorist/Insurgent Groups active in Assam
including one of the oldest insurgent groups in the
world the ULFA. There is a conflict of interest in
almost all areas where politics is involved be it land,
language, religion, corruption, economic
development, flood control, illegal immigrants, civil
unrest, bandhs (strikes), etc. On top of that there is
also cross boarder problems with the neighbouring
countries. In order to face these challenging
problems we need strong leadership. We need politicians
with vision and courage. We need politicians
with ideas, policies, motivation and action to set
right the flaws in Assam’s institutions of
governance. Unfortunately in Assam they are in
short supply.

 

QA few words to the expats of the Netherlands
about integration …How important it is for a
migrant and the country?
The expatriate Indians have mixed up loyalties – to
India and to their adopted country- the country of
residence. The question for even those with a Dutch
passport is: which is preferable – complete
acceptance of the new home by integration and
assimilation, or rather remain aloof and keep a
cautious distance? Should one enthusiastically
thrust oneself into the Dutch society? Or should one
remain a guest worker, who has the intention of
going back ‘home’? The Surinamese Indians don’t
have this problem. They know that their forefathers
left India and they belong to their present country of
residence. As India is the centre of their religion, for
the Surinamese Hindus, India has a special
meaning. It gives them a special identity. If one
speaks of an Indian Diaspora in the Netherlands, it
is because other forces have emerged to cement the
widely different elements from India into an
“Indian community”. This is a combination of
“nationalism” which can be translated as patriotism
combined with love for the country, its heritage and
its culture. They might be the holder of Dutch,
English or American passports; they are from the
first, second and third generation; but during the
flag hoisting ceremony at the Indian Embassy, they
all sing very proudly the India’s national anthem.
Indians in the Diaspora routinely mention Indian
civilization with self-assurance that would be both
ridiculed and challenged in India itself. It seems one
is more easily an Indian abroad than in India.
Neither language nor religion binds the Indian community
in the Netherlands together. No matter how
they dress or where they were educated or from
where they come from: the Tajmahal, the Indian
flag, Gandhi, Nehru – their icons – belong to them
all. One speaks Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, or any of the
Indian languages or one follows one’s own faith, but
still they preserve their “Indianness” – their
“Diasporic Identity”. In their heart they are still Indian.

  • 1 thought on “Eminence”

    1. Mr. Wahid Saleh is a very well known name in Assam. His helping hand has helped lot of people to avail opportunities they could not have hoped before. He has set an example for others like him, whose roots still rule their hearts.

 

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