When US Democratic party’s Presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his Vice President nominee on Wednesday, social media in India also erupted with positive and negative responses to the same. Kamala Harris is partly of Indian origin – her mother, Shyamala Gopalan from Tamil Nadu, had migrated to the US in 1960 for Cancer research. She met Donald Harris, a Stanford University professor of Jamaican origin, while in the US, and the duo later got married, and had two children – Kamala and Maya.
Although Kamala (54) has spoken about her heritage and has visited India quite a few times during her childhood, she is a citizen of the US, born and brought up there. However, some Indian netizens took to Twitter to celebrate (and some, criticise) the development, focusing on Kamala’s relation to India. Interestingly, the social media commentators also revealed the racial, socio-political, and cultural complexities of the rhetoric around the Vice President nominee.
Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra had a positive thought to share.
There will be an explosion of celebrations by Indian communities claiming her as ‘our own.’ But we should recognize that Kamala Harris isn’t just of Indian descent; she epitomises what the world should be—borderless & interracial... https://t.co/2dPhcQ6CEA— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) August 12, 2020
Actor and voice artist Ashwin Mushran found humour in the Indian response to Kamala:
Kamala Harris - Brought up in the US— Ashwin Mushran (@ashwinmushran) August 12, 2020
Indians - Awesome... An Indian right up there in politics in America. So proud.
Me - Brought up, living, working in India
Indians - Eh... Firangi... Y your name Ashwin... You were adopted?
On a more serious note, quite a few netizens noted that while Kamala – despite being a US citizen who spent her life in the US – is regarded as an “Indian,” Congress party president Sonia Gandhi – of Italian origin but has spent four decades in India - is still considered an outsider.
@kahlonjaskaran— Jas Mankoo (@thirteendesignz) August 12, 2020
Kamala Harris is an American. Satya Nadella is an American. Sundar Pichai is an American. Sonia Gandhi is an Indian. Jaishankar's wife is an Indian. Until India gets this, it cannot be called a modern, civilized country.
Kamala Harris has been a vocal critic of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and revocation of Section 370 in Kashmir, two moves by the incumbent government which had drawn applause and criticism from various parts of the world. Author and journalist Sharanya Manivannan made a cheeky comment alluding to these:
Of course, Kamala Harris has got so much work to do for her people (the American people) but if she could pause for a sec to tell the supremacists over in India staking their claims to her that she plans to oppose a lot of what they stand for, that would be really, really nice.— Sharanya Manivannan 🌺 (@ranyamanivannan) August 12, 2020
Author Kiran Manral also made a significant point, subtly hinting at the Indian hypocrisy:
It is rather embarrassing when we rush to claim someone who has long been not from India as one of our own when they achieve something on international shores. They're citizens of another country. They're born and brought up there. We have enough folks to celebrate right here.— Kiran Manral (@KiranManral) August 12, 2020
On the one hand, many are rejoicing the candidature of a coloured woman for the first time in the history of a major party in the world’s most powerful country – something she has earned after decades of hard work and dedication. But on the other hand, Trump-supporters and self-proclaimed voice for India was busy spreading propaganda on Twitter – especially on the “qualifications for running the country” although Kamala has a degree in Political Science and Economics from Howard University and a Law Degree from University of California.
Fraud, Opportunist, Corrupt, Racist and Terrible past prosecution record, combo of Communist + Islamist, pro-Paki, anti-India...That's @KamalaHarris. Skin color, ethnicity & race are NOT QUALIFICATIONS for running a country.— Purnima Nath 🇺🇲🕉 (@PurnimaNath) August 12, 2020
America deserves better. #HindusForTrump @iExit9 pic.twitter.com/F0LI6PpunR
Remember when @TulsiGabbard completely annihilated @KamalaHarris at the Democratic Debate? Kamala is Hindu hating & evil. She attacks Hindus, Modi & India. Beware Hindus she will act like a friend of Hindus for Votes only. DO NOT FALL FOR IT. She will forget you after elections ! pic.twitter.com/VRDa3FgNXX— Renee Lynn (@Voice_For_India) August 12, 2020
Indian media – across languages – had different responses.
Interesting contrast from today’s front pages in India: Kamala Harris above the fold in English-language newspapers but only merits a tiny brief (with no photo!) in largest Hindi daily Dainik Jagran pic.twitter.com/alLsWyYOXD— Joanna Slater (@jslaternyc) August 13, 2020
The significance of race (and racism) in US elections was also pointed out.
Over 10 million Indian Americans on the voting list account for 5% of the US electorate. The selection of @KamalaHarris is an attempt to win them over. As a woman of colour who comes with experience & many firsts, she’s a good choice for the Democrats. Not necessarily for India https://t.co/Trw1G3E9fR— Palki Sharma (@palkisu) August 13, 2020
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)