Affording “Atithi Devo Bhava”: To Cringe Or To Give Up?

Posted on December 18, 2012

By Shubhra Kukreti:

Immigration, as per the Oxford dictionary, is the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country. Living beings migrate for multiple reasons: social, political, economic, and even climatic. The concept of human migration is ancient but is being considered in a new light nowadays. Historically, human beings have lived in tribes and shifted their locations as per their requirements. But with the “Treaty of Westphalia” of 1648 came up the concept of “nation states” which defined the notion of “territorial integrity” and demarcated borders.


Fast forward to 2012, globalization is in full swing, international organizations talk of a “world without frontiers”, intercultural exchange, westernization of the East, east-ernization of the West and so on. Yet, when it comes to opening the doors to migrants, skilled as well as unskilled labour, we find ourselves in a state of dilemma. Forget about the rest of the world and think specifically of “Arun yeh madhumay desh hamara“, India, “Jahan pahunch anjaan kshitij ko milta ek sahara“. She is our motherland and at the same time, she is home to immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Burma. Now, India, being the second most populated country in the world, hosts a legal population of 1.22 billion. Despite her rapid strides of development, she remains a third world nation. When we do not have anything to cater to own mouths, how do we feed others?

One might claim that ours is a tradition of sacrificing the self for the welfare of others, where a guest is God. However, don’t you think that the ‘self’ of the state is too great to be sacrificed? As Hans Morgenthau puts it, the moral aspirations of a particular nation do not identify with the moral laws that govern the universe. Until the idea of the “global village” is actually realized, we can only seek help from the international organizations and follow the norms set by them without forgetting about the humanitarian aspects concerning immigration. While many countries shun immigrants for various socio-political reasons, India, more than anything, simply can’t afford to house immigrants when her own citizens can’t have ends meet. To put it plainly, one can’t give what one doesn’t have.

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