The first half of the 20th century was not the best of times for those early immigrants from South Asia. In fact, it may have been the worst of times.
There were less than 5,000 South Asians in North America by 1910, but the process of political mobilization was already in full swing. In October 1907, Madame Cama reached New York and declared to journalists : “We are in slavery, and I am in America for the sole purpose of giving a thorough exposé of the British oppression (…) and to interest the warm-hearted citizens of this great Republic in our enfranchisement.”
Key activists such as Taraknath Das, Har Dayal and Lala Lajpat Rai would soon follow.
Scholars have suggested that a confluence of three factors prompted their political awakening: “Hostility and resentment against the white community for its prejudice and oppression, development of an ethnic identity, and nationalism directed against British colonialism in India.”
We know that the tragedy of Komagata Maru was a decisive factor. We know that the Ghadar revolutionaries played a key role. But there is much more to the story.
Who were the individuals behind this political awakening? What were the institutions they created? What was their modus operandi? How did they go about mobilizing and organizing a nascent community to fight for their civil rights even as the doors of justice were slammed in their faces? And how did it lead to President Truman’s signature on the Celler-Luce Bill on 3 July 1946, which ended four decades of what President Roosevelt called ‘statutory discrimination against the Indians’?
Harold Gould’s engrossing narrative “Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States, 1900-1946”, released September 2006 by Sage Publications, provides detailed answers. It is to the author’s credit that the contents of this impressive work is written in a manner that makes it accessible to both scholars as well as the general reader.
Let me state this at the very outset. This is a book for Desis, for all South Asians in America, to read and savor. It is their story. It is their history. It has never been told before - not so elaborately, so forcefully, or so compellingly. And that too, by a respected American academic who has had a long-term love affair with India.
Gould, a distinguished scholar of South Asian Studies, who has written extensively on Indian social history and politics, and has himself lobbied in the US Congress for funds to support South Asian Studies, reveals, with uncanny insight, how people from the Indian subcontinent breached the fortress of American racism and reached out for their civil rights. For its sheer depth and historical importance I would rank this book alongside Joan Jensen’s classic ‘Passage From India,’ published eighteen years ago.
In essence, Gould gives details of how “there gradually crystallized a mélange of dedicated and talented individuals from many backgrounds and walks of life who would have a significant impact at least on how some Americans in high places viewed India’s freedom struggle as well as the right of Indian migrants to the US to enjoy the same constitutional and human rights that Whites took for granted.”
According to Gould’s analysis, there were two separate streams of Indians who were arriving in the US around the turn of the 20th century: Jat Sikh laborers from Punjab who came via the West Coast, and Hindu students and intellectuals from Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra who came via Europe and the East Coast.
Gould masterfully maps the trajectory by which the efforts of those early South Asians jelled, resulting in the 1946 legislation that confirmed the citizenship rights of Indians resident in the U.S., gaining an immigration quota for their brethren who wished to migrate, and also made contributions to the achievement of Indian independence.
Indeed, all this is about how the early Indians evolved a kind of political consciousness in response to the shabby manner in which racist Canada and the Untied States had treated them. It is about the pioneers who paved the way for the multitudes who would follow. As for what Gould identifies as the “India Lobby” he explains that it had no formal charter or other organizational mechanism, but was a mélange of South Asians who had found their way to the United States by diverse routes.
Why did the South Asians migrate in the first place? Gould makes the important point that economic advantage, and not economic desperation, was the reason they sought to emigrate. He then reveals how increasing numbers of politically restive students, as well as more mature revolutionaries, were finding ways to emigrate to America, ostensibly in search of modern education and occupations but also in search of opportunities to pursue radical nationalism beyond the reach of the British fist. Gradually these nascent activists and revolutionaries linked up with the South Asian immigrant peasantry who were struggling for economic survival against racial bigotry and denial of their civil rights to ultimately make the “India lobby” possible.
The students who arrived in the early 1900s were already politically conscious when they left India. Most were educated, had came from urban communities and from middle-class families. For example, Sarangadhar Das, who declared that “the heart of Young India is throbbing with the passionate desire of service to the mother,” compiled a list of 46 of these students, which, as a committed activist, he had compiled from his vantage point at UC Berkeley.
Among the 34 for whom accurate regional identifications could be made, 22 were Bengalis, five were Punjabis, and one each was from the United Provinces, Bombay, Maharashtra and Madras. One was a female and two were Muslims. Nine had attended West Coast high schools before going on to college, 20 had attended UC Berkeley and one the University of Southern California. Three had attended Stanford. Seven had gone to the University of Washington, Seattle. Others had wandered farther afield: Two attended the University of Illinois, one the University of Wisconsin, one the University of Iowa, one Cornell University and one the University of Nebraska. Some had found their way to smaller, more specialized institutions such as Oregon State Agricultural College, Oakland Polytechnic, Washington State Agricultural College, and Utah State Agricultural College. All had arrived in the US between 1904 and 1910.
Then came the Komagata Maru incident which served as a bitter catalyzing force. The Sikhs were humiliated as a result of the imperial perfidy perpetrated against their brothers who arrived legally in the Pacific coast aboard the chartered Japanese ship. The realization dawned on them that the reason they were being humiliated in North America was because India was a colony of the British imperialists and not an independent nation.
There were other events too. In 1907 a mob of our to five hundred Whites raided an Indian enclave located on the outskirts of Bellingham in Washington. Many of the Sikhs were beaten up; many fled their homes wearing only their pajamas. Subsequently it was the Sikhs who were arrested by the local police, even as impromptu speakers incited citizens to help drive out the “rag heads” and their cheap labor. There were other ugly incidents of this kind throughout the Pacific coast where Sikhs labored.
Another turning point in the politicization of South Asians in America was the formation of the Ghadr Party in 1913 by Har Dayal and associates. “It was the first manifestation of politically institutionalized resistance to colonialism and indigenous racism emanating from overseas Indian immigrants,” opines Gould.
Gould not only establishes the links between the Sikh laborers, who supported the Ghadar movement, and the Hindu student activists, he goes even further by showing how the 18h century “Yankee traders” of the Eastern seaboard, as well as the swamis who came to spread Vedanta in the 19th century, played a significant role in the process.
Gould claims that the India trade of the 18th century was “crucially important in setting the stage for the subsequent diffusion of aspects of Indic civilization.” He claims that it led to the discovery of India by Americans and the discovery of America by Indians. He claims too that Raja Ramohan Roy was the single most important figure who enabled the entry of Hindu thought into the American blood stream via Unitarianism and Transcendentalism. The point that Gould makes is clear: the Indic world had struck roots in the intellectual, philosophical and theological world of the American literati. And apart from the general awareness of things Indian, the India trade also resulted in the emergence of serious scholarship on Indian society and civilization in many centers of learning, says the author.
Drawn with a sympathetic pen, Gould’s historical narrative focuses on certain individuals, because, “they are the ones who stood out, who tirelessly endeavored to light ideological fires under their diverse countrymen and eventually enabled significant numbers of South Asian immigrants and sympathetic Americans to actively support the freedom movement in India and Indian civil rights in America.”
On the first tier, are individuals such as Teja Singh, Har Dayal, Taraknath Das, Gobind Behari Lal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, and Agnes Smedley, while on the second tier are Sirdar Jagjit Singh, Krishnalal Shridharani, Anup Singh, and Haridas Mazumdar. And Lala Lajpat Rai is the father figure who straddles both groups.
Eventually, says Gould, all these individuals and the organizations they founded, would lead to three formations with a national/international reach promoting the South Asian cause by various means: Ghadar, Lajpat Rai’s ‘The India League of America,’ and the ‘Friends of Freedom for India,’ established by the Bengali activists.
Finally, according to Gould, the India Lobby jelled and reached its climax during the war years. That’s because by then Indians had learned how to work the system more effectively. They had worked hard at becoming media savvy and constructing political networks. Gould reminds us: “By today’s standards, of course their efforts and their accomplishments would appear to be modest in the extreme. But in the context of their time, and given the limited manpower and material resources available to them, their effort was remarkable; their accomplishments impressive.”
LALA LAJPAT RAI
The book shows how Lala Lajpat Rai, who spent five years (1914-1919) in the U.S., had organized the ‘Indian Home Rule League,’ established a monthly organ called ‘Young India’ and founded the ‘Indian Information Bureau’ at 1440 Broadway in New York City. The idea was “to furnish facts and reliable information about Indian affairs to editors of periodicals, writers, students and others…” According to Gould, this was the beginning of the “India Lobby.” This was when South Asians took the critical next step in institution building by reaching out to sympathetic groups and individuals in the country. They knew it would enable them to increase their social visibility, and open channels to the mainstream political establishment. In this manner they developed the resources to “influence the influencers.” Eventually it would lead to the ultimate political break-through that would persuade significant sections of the American public, a majority of the US Congress, and indeed the President of the U.S. himself to decisively support independence for India and equal rights for Indian immigrants.
The Indian nationalists were helped by the liberal and radical press of the country. Rai has publicly acknowledged that the services of The Nation, The New Republic, The Dial and the New York Call and The New York Evening Post had been most valuable in disseminating information about India and its affairs in the United States.
Gould asserts that the key to Lajpat Rai’s rise as a credible spokesman for Indian freedom and South Asian human rights had been his ability to acquire a voice in the New York media and academic circles. This is what enabled him to come across as politically safe to middle class Americans whose support was essential to the success of Indian nationalism in the U.S., says Gould. “He left behind him an infrastructure through which the next generation of South Asian activists could move to the next level.”
Dr Syed Hossain, Dr Krishnalal Shridharani, Dr Anup Singh, Dr Haridas Mazumdar and Sardar J.J.Singh would later carry on this pattern of constructive work initiated by Rai. Hence their efforts led to the establishment of the Friends of Freedom for India (FFI) office in Washington with “two senators, one congressman, one ex-governor two retired circuit judges, three religious leaders, and the majors of six cities were on the roster as vice-chairmen.”
TARAKNATH DAS, HAR DAYAL
In Gould’s estimate, Taraknath Das who arrived on the scene in 1907 was “an intellectual and revolutionary spawned by Bengali radicalism, whose implacable dedication to the cause of South Asian immigrants’ civil rights, and whose staying power in the struggle encompassed not only the founding of Ghadar but the entire panoply of the struggle over a span of more than half a century – from 1906 to 1964.”
Soon thereafter several political formations with revolutionary agendas came into the picture. There was the Indian Association of the Pacific Coast, the Hindustan Association, and the Hindustani Workers of the Pacific Coast – all strictly grassroots undertakings. And Har Dayal, who was clearly the right man at the right place at the right time, emerged as the leader who had the charisma, the intellect and the legitimacy needed to weld South Asian immigrants into some semblance of a coherent political force.
In the Berkeley student newspaper Dayal claimed that British Rule in India was “an infamy that must be erased.” According to Haridas Mazumdar, Har Dayal built the Ghadar Party “from scratch.” Gould adds: “He helped build the Ghadar Party by parlaying the favorable public image he had achieved, in the journalistic and academic communities and among the general public following his arrival in the Bay area, into high visibility among his fellow Indians. He convinced many that an authentic leader had arisen in their midst who had clout in important sections of White society, and who possessed the talent to provide vigorous leadership to his fellow Indians in their struggle for human dignity both in India and in America.”
According to Gould, Har Dayal was the first to provide major organizational focus, combined with ideological zeal and direction, to the nascent South Asian political subculture that was yearning to be born. Although Har Dayal’s talents and impact would be in the long run be matched, indeed even exceeded, by Taraknath Das and others, it was he who in many ways started the political ball rolling, says Gould.
Then there was Pandurang Sadhashiva Khankhoje, a Maharashtrian chitpavan Brahmin. Who managed to enroll at the Tamalpais Military Academy to learn modern techniques of bomb-making.
Gould gives details of the infamous Hindu-German Conspiracy, revealing how in 1917, after the failure of the Ghadar movement, a total of 105 South Asians were indicted for “providing and preparing the means for a military enterprise to be carried out within the territory of the United States against India, the territory and domain of the British Empire with which the United States was at peace.”
As an interesting sidelight he shows how the two newspapers, The San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times, in particular, sensationalized this alleged conspiracy. Gould tells us, “The Chronicle was, of course, notorious for its anti-Asian racism.” Even aspects of the personal lives of Taraknath Das and Har Dayal got a lot of press exposure in the Bay Area which were fueled by the San Francisco Chronicle’s “lurid coverage.”
It is interesting too that during this period there existed “cultural safe houses” where Indian notables in the freedom movement coming from abroad could establish political and intellectual relationships with sympathetic Americans in the press, in the universities, in churches, indeed in the liberal establishment generally. It is a process which enhanced the “India Lobby.”
Gould explains away the Ghadar failure as a “touchingly naïve attempt” by a collection of zealously idealistic Indians to bring political freedom to their native country and social justice for their brethren overseas. He also quotes Khushwant Singh to explain the failure of the Ghadar revolutionaries: “Lack of arms; lack of experience; bad leadership; the notorious inability of the revolutionaries to keep secrets; the tension between the Germans and the Ghadarites; the efficiency of the British intelligence service which planted spies in the highest councils of the revolutionaries; the stern measures taken by the government of India; the brutal methods adopted by the Punjab police which compelled many of the leaders…to tell on their colleagues…”
Previously, major characters such as Har Dayal, Taraknath Das, Agnes Smedley and Virendranath Chattopadhyaya have been the subjects of in-depth biographical sketches by Emily Brown, Tapan Mukherji, Ruth Price, and Nirode Barooah respectively. The strength of this book is that the key people have been brought into focus. And according to Gould, they are: Har Dayal, Taraknath Das, Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Jagjit Singh. Also, others from the second tier such as Anup Singh, Krishnalal Shridharani, Haridas Mazumdar, and Syed Hossain are given the necessary attention.
We learn that all of the active participants that made up the India Lobby produced a torrent of political literature which were widely distributed in the American media. They built institutions to mobilize and coordinate the energy and talents of fellow Indians in the country. As Gould explains: Perhaps most important of all, they amplified the process of developing contacts in the political establishment, with members of Congress and other government officials, because they realized that it was access to the halls of power that mattered most. That’s why their modus operandi was to generate as much publicity, particularly press coverage, for the causes of Indian freedom and human rights.
The two magazines of that period - ‘India Today’ (not related to its modern avatar) and ‘Voice of India’ also turned into a major lobbying force becoming the medium through which a wide range of Indian and American authors could express themselves on South Asian affairs. In addition to regular articles and news items about the comings and goings of just about anyone who ever had anything to do with India, they also published book reviews which kept readers abreast of the good, the bad and the ugly among works dealing with South Asian subject matter, says Gould.
SARDAR JAGJIT SINGH “JJ”
Apparently it was Rawalpindi-born Sirdar Jagjit Singh (JJ) who emerged as the “maestro of the final phase of the India Lobby’s trek through American history.” Gould says that JJ’s immersion in the economic life of America’s most commercially dynamic city and its cosmopolitan lifestyle transformed him into a suave highly Westernized Indian, an “unshorn Sikh,” who mastered the art of fitting into the social and political mainstream.
One observer has commented that JJ “never made a nuisance of himself” yet he “covered miles in Congressional hallways.”
Basically, according to Gould, JJ became a “one man Lobby” gaining control of the India League of America and making it, along with the Indian Chamber of Commerce which he founded, the focal point of a lobbying machine which took the lead in projecting the South Asian message in Washington, New York and throughout the country. Indeed, it was with great foresight that JJ proposed that the League pay less attention to culture and philosophy and more to politics and propaganda. He also proposed that the League abandon its policy of restricting its membership to Indians and that it should go about corralling some prominent American members
“Singh invaded Washington,” wrote Robert Shaplen who has provided the most detailed picture of how JJ operated. Shaplen depicted him as “always elegantly set off by neatly tailored two hundred dollar suits which has frequently helped him gain access to cloistered places and to command an audience with their occupants once he gets there.” Lobbying on the Hill was his forte. And his compatriots, who worked hard and coordinated with him on developing congressional contacts, reinforced him in this respect.
According to the book, Castle Rock in the suburb of Washington became the setting and the social headquarters for the India Lobby throughout the war years. “With J.J.Singh as the principal attraction, weekend soirees of various kinds were held there, to which the elite of Washington political, government, journalist and academic society were invited. There was good food and plenty of drink, dancing, and even a little gambling on the weekends. Gould informs that it was here that some of the better-known heterosexual liaisons, including J.J.’s with Mrs Clare Booth Luce (wife of Time magazine founder Henry Luce) often took place. The result: “it enabled Mrs Luce to persuade her husband Henry, who inclined toward Anglophilia, to go easier on Gandhi and other Indian nationalists in Time magazine than he might otherwise have been inclined to do.”
JJ’s lobbying style in Washington was colorfully described by Robert Crane to the author: “He lived in New York City, used to come down to DC two or three times a week, where he would rent a suite in one of the best hotels in town, put out a very nice bar, and then hold a press conference which was announced in advance. He would manage to get on the press wires and ticker tapes (I never knew how). He’d get headlines saying ‘J.J.Singh, President of the India League of America, has journeyed to Washington to speak with Congressmen on immigration matters. He will give a press conference at the Mayflower Hotel at 4 PM. All members of the press are cordially invited. Food and drinks will be available.’ He was a very colorful guy. Furthermore he was so shrewd. He always brought a Congressman or a Senator with him which naturally drew a crowd…he had a genius for PR.”
One important aspect of JJs strategy was to link the purely political aspects of immigration policy with its business and commercial aspects – which was what interested Americans most. His reasoning was that the American business community – which after all was always the dominant interest group in the country – could exert decisive influence on any legislation with which they became identified in the name of economic self interest. Therefore, he believed, if one could connect the immigration question and political freedom for India to the post-war potential for expanded trade with India, the American business community might be brought on board. JJ stressed this potentiality in a statement he gave before Congress in early 1945. “The 400 million East Indians represent great untapped trade reservoir,” he declared. “There exists over there a great demand for American goods.”
JJ declared that not only was restrictive US immigration laws morally reprehensible, but they were also just plain bad for business. A Congressman echoed JJ’s view when he declared “India is a huge untapped reservoir for American goods, capital goods and consumer goods. And we must take advantage of that reservoir. We must tap it.” He warned that if America discriminates against India in this manner, “they are naturally not going to view with any degree of kindness our attempts to sell goods in India.”
It was in this spirit that Singh formed the Indian Chamber of Commerce of America in 1938. He hoped to use this organization to help make his point that trade with India was good for American business. There is no question that without JJ’s special talents, especially his Americans style cosmopolitanism, the campaign to achieve Indian immigration rights might not have succeeded as quickly and as ultimately it did, opines Gould. A strapping six-footer, JJ was in short a consummate secular man, an Indian who fitted well into the Western socio-political lifestyle.
In another sidelight Gould reveals the war of words and images that ensued in Washington and around the US between the “India Lobby” and their supporters and the “Imperial Lobby” led by the British ambassador, the British Indian Agent General Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai and their intellectual hirelings. It was Hindustan Times journalist Chaman Lal who has revealed this in his book British Propaganda in America in 1945 by referring to some of them as a “gramophone of his British masters.” Chaman Lal claimed that Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai himself “costs $53,000 a year, which is more than the salary of the President of the USA.” Gould too acknowledges that one of the most distressing sources of anti-nationalist propaganda in America was the Indians who sided with the British – men like Girija Shankar Bajpai (his son, who would later don the Ambassador’s mantle, is presently on the faculty at UC Santa Cruz).
Consider this too as an example of the road to success of the India Lobby. Because this was the first instance when a United States senator, in the course of his address to the Senate, had openly condemned British rule in India and identified himself with Indian nationalist sentiment. Thus, Senator McCormick of Illinois declared on August 20, 1919: “Gentlemen of the Senate, we the United States of America, cannot justify ourselves in signing and sealing an international agreement which thus sanctions and aims to make permanent the practical enslavement of a great nation (India) and which, making the situation still worse, also gives and guarantees to Great Britiain nearly 931,000 additional square miles of territory to rule and exploit for British benefit, as India has been ruled and exploited.”
The networks created by the South Asian groups were sorely needed not only to cope with South Asian human rights issues and the Indian freedom movement in general, but also to refute a mounting torrent of propaganda which the British and British India governments targeted at the Americans. Thus, the lobbying effort even included taking a full-page ad in the New York Times, under the sponsorship of the India League, containing the signatures of forty prominent Americans urging the British to grant India her independence.
As 21st century Indian-Americans are finding out, for lobbying to work you need American sympathizers and supporters too. In other words, people who mattered in high places. The early South Asians knew this only too well. As Gould says, “On the American side were a smattering of journalists, a scattering of academics, a sprinkling of government servants, some members of the US Congress, a number of persons with missionary backgrounds, plus a few prominent establishment individuals. According to Gould, I.F.Stone, Walter Lippmann and Drew Pearson, Pearl Buck, Will Durant and Clare Booth Luce played major roles in crafting lobbying resources for the Indians.
There were journalists such as John D. Barry, San Francisco Bulletin columnist, who publicized the India Lobby’s political doings and afforded them personal access to the media. And there were prominent local citizens who developed friendships and were valuable sources of financial support and entrée into liberal society. There were several faculty members at Stanford and at UC Berkeley who actively supported the right of the political activists to publicly champion their causes. Indeed at crucial times many joined them on the podium.
STATE DEPARTMENT “MOLE” IDENTIFIED
We now know that by the run-up to World War II, a bunch of South Asians and their American supporters existed, who had acquired a considerable amount of media savvy and mastery of the art of lobbying the US Congress and other agencies of government.
This was also a time when a confidential memo prepared by Ambassador William Phillips the US special envoy to pre-independence India, addressed to his boss, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, fell into the hands of Drew Pearson a syndicated columnist of the Washington Post. Ambassador Phillips memo was highly critical of British policy toward India, so much so that Phillips believed that the war effort in Asia had been placed in jeopardy by what he viewed as British arrogance and intransigence. Phillips insisted that the British should, as a gesture to the nationalists, unequivocally declare their intention to grant independence to India once the war ended. Pearson’s disclosure of the ambassador’s comments in the Washington Post caused a sensation in Washington, and proved to be a PR windfall for the India Lobby.
It turns out that Pearson was fed the information through a “mole” the India Lobby had in the State Department. One of the newsworthy highlights of Gould’s book is that he has publicly identified the mole as Robert Crane (1922-1997) -- an academic colleague to whom the book is dedicated and who was the source of inspiration. Crane, who later became a noted historian of South Asia, was, during this period, an obscure junior officer on the India Desk in the Division of Cultural relations in the State Department. As the child of missionary parents he had spent his early years in Bengal and would later enroll in Yale.
This really newsworthy part of the book comes towards the end in Chapter 10.
This is a book to be read and re-read by every Indian-American – especially the second generation. As a work written with a deep and profound understanding of the historical forces that shaped the destiny of South Asians in America, it is a tour de force.
I can think of only one other book that charts the historical saga of Indian-Americans with equal felicity and scholarly depth: Joan Jensen’s ‘Passage from India’ which was published 18 years ago. Like the Jensen study this too is a definitive historical account of how Indians became Indian Americans by challenging the establishment rules and co-opting the liberal media as well as sympathetic Americans in high places.
The book is newsworthy in two respects. For the first time we are given a blow-by-blow account of how the “India Lobby” succeeded in its endeavors in Washington. Secondly the book goes on to identify the American “mole” in the US State Department who helped the lobbying effort.
Finally, Gould’s book is an illuminating study that places the pro-India lobbying efforts of present day groups such as the US India Political Affairs Committee (USINPAC), the India Caucus in the US Congress, the "Friends of India" group in the Senate and organizations such as The Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) in perspective.
Interestingly, the title of Gould’s book derives from an article entitled ‘India in America’ written almost 100 years ago by Har Dayal. Writing in the July 1911 issue of ‘The Modern Review’ of Calcutta, Dayal went on to classify Indian immigrants into four groups with “accidentally alliterative appellations”: Sikhs, swamis, students and spies. Gould acknowledges that he found Har Dayal’s classification to be “an irresistible title for my book.” But this reviewer is of the opinion that if the full story of South Asians were to be told, one would have to include - if one were to follow the same alliterative sequence - slaves, soldiers, scientists and software engineers too.
However, what makes this book particularly interesting is that it connects two aspects of the Indian diaspora: The quest by Indian immigrants for racial and social justice in North America on the one hand and the Indian struggle for freedom on the other. Also, for the first time, a link has been made between the early Ghadar revolutionaries and the later activists, who joined hands with sympathetic Americans to form the India lobby.
Gould admits that his book owes a great deal to the scholarly researches of Emily Brown, Tapan Mukherjee, Joan Jensen, Archana Verma, Karen Leonard, Hugh Johnston, Ruth Price, Khushwant Singh, Nirode Barooah, Susan Bean, Gary Hess, and many others. As he humbly acknowledges: “In some respects I see myself as being no more than a vehicle through which their manifold marvelous contributions to this subject have been infused with a renewed visibility and appreciation.”
For the first time we are not only provided with biographical information of the key players in the saga, but also a blow by blow account of the events leading up to the legislation that brought civil rights to Indian-Americans and to all South Asian Americans.
Married to an Indian woman, Gould admits that for him it was also case of “love at first sight” with India that has lasted for more than 50 years and which has led to his fifth book on India. “This book is a small token of my appreciation for all that this wonderful country and her wonderful people have done for me professionally, spiritually and personally.”
Gould remembers an Indian friend who, many years ago, introduced him to an audience as a “brother in law of India.” Gould explains: “The term ‘sala,’ as those who know Hindustani are aware, can have a pejorative connotation. But not in this case, My friend was merely groping for some way to classify me as worthy of being a kinsman of India, even if by marriage. I proudly and gladly accept the appellation.”
With his path-breaking contribution to the history of Desis in America, Harold Gould has made every Indian-American, every South Asian, indebted to him.
Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States, 1900-1946, By Harold Gould, 460pp, HB, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.