By Nejoud Al-Yagout
So the Kuwait National Assembly has drafted a law, or an expatriate quota law so to speak, which is currently under consideration. In layman’s terms, the law, as yet a draft law, stipulates that are too many expatriates in Kuwait, and citizens of varied countries will be assigned quotas according to their nationality. The first nationality to come to the attention of the public were Indians who, according to the proposed law, should stay within the range of 15 percent of the local population. What would this mean?
According to news sources, this would entail 800,000 Indians being asked—nay, required—to leave our country. To say this is deplorable is an understatement. While we sit in silence as one law is proposed after the other denigrating the rights of expatriates, racism is no longer an invisible enemy but a tangible force spreading its tentacles into our political, legal, and social systems.
They say the pen (or keyboard, for that matter) is mightier than the sword; but not when the pen is in the hands of the weak. What use is it to vent when such a law has been drafted by those in power? What use is it to wonder aloud how people can sleep at night knowing their decision will create a loss of livelihood and displacement of those who call this country home?
How would a Kuwaiti feel if they were living in a country that proposed such a law? Oil wealth will not last forever. One day, we may be the ones migrating to other countries, not only trying to make a better life for ourselves but also contributing to the infrastructure of the country we move to. And how will we feel when the host country decides that all we worked for amounts to nothing; that we are dispensable; that what matters most is the citizens of the country in question and that immigrants are a burden to the economy?
There are Indians who were born in this country. They are loyal to Kuwait, even when they know they will never be granted citizenship. There are notable Indian businessmen and businesswomen who have lived here for decades, even though they know their business is never entirely their own, that they are required to have Kuwaiti sponsors, and only a few of them are granted ‘silent partners’. There are Indians who continue to pay the rent even with the realization that because of their non-national passport they will never own land or property in our country. And yet they stay.
They go to school here. They are our teachers. They are our doctors. They are our friends. They are part of our heritage. Many Kuwaiti families lived in Bombay and Pune in the 1940s and 1950s and were treated with such respect and love by the Indians. Some of us speak Hindi here. The Kuwaiti dialect includes Hindi words. Our food is a blend of Middle Eastern and Indian. We travel to India often. To cut off the Indian population from our society is to cut off a limb.
How can we tell a part of our population: You are not Kuwaiti. And you will never be. And we are driving you out in droves for the benefit of our economy. How?
This is not about demographical balances. This is about ensuring that Kuwaitis alone benefit while everyone else has no right to our wealth even when they work harder than us and give sweat, blood and tears to stay in a country that will feel no pain and no heartbreak when they leave.
I am no expert in the economy, nor am I an expert in demographics, but I know that borders are man-made. I know the economy is fickle. I know that God invites us to take care of another regardless of our nationality. I know that the greatest empires fall. And I know that even though this is a draft law that may not be passed, the fact that it was even drafted means we need to resurrect our humanity. And if we do not, then one word comes to my mind and it happens to be an Indian word: Karma.