First person: Resisting Trump's agenda is both exhausting and exhilarating

Lampooning Trump is easy. The more difficult task is to re-shape the culture that produced him. South Asians can play a role.

I have just returned from a rally. I’ve lost count of how many rallies I’ve been to in the past two months. For a working parent like me, juggling the demands of a job and family is challenge enough. Since the election of Donald Trump, though, a new source of pressure on my time has emerged: the imperative of civic participation. My email inbox is brimming with calls to action: campaigns to support, rallies to attend, elected representatives to call, postcards to write, and petitions to sign. It is exhausting, this daily judgment call about where to focus my attention apart from the usual and necessary commitments. But it is also in this heightened level of civic engagement that I have found the most comfort in recent months: for the first time since I came to the United States 25 years ago, I have a vivid sense of mass activism rather than activism in pockets. Witnessing a citizenry in motion is inspiring.

The most interesting aspect of what some have called the “resistance” is how dispersed and bottom-up it is. Countless neighbourhoods like mine (in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC) have come together and formed committees coordinating actions such as calls to legislators, rallies, postcard campaigns, and town halls. The causes range from immigrant rights, the environment, healthcare, reproductive rights, to public education. They are spurred by national coordinating efforts such as Indivisible, Swing Left, and Women’s March on Washington and countless facebook groups such as Pantsuit Nation. Many local actions are plotted in living rooms of friends and colleagues. And many are led by women. I have attended more potlucks in the past two months than I have in over a decade of living in the neighbourhood. And I have made more friends with strangers: just the other day, someone driving in another car on a highway waved at me because we were both wearing pink “pussyhats”– the signature symbol of the Jan 21 Women’s March.

Much of this activism feels raw and necessary to me as an immigrant. The news affecting immigrants and Indians under Trump’s administration has been especially bad – the travel ban on many Muslims, deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the restrictions on H-1B visas, the shooting of Indian-origin men in Kansas, Washington, and South Carolina. Many of us have noticed an uptick in xenophobic microaggression in public places: jokes about our “terrorist links”, questions about our citizenship, or just fewer smiles. The changing climate has been marked by several progressive South Asian organizations such as DRUM and SAALT, which are tracking hate crimes actively and organising a national summit on South Asians in a few weeks. In addition, new organisations such as Hindus for Justice are countering Islamophobia within the Indian diaspora. Their activists have a record of working in solidarity with other racial justice efforts in the country.

The existence of such organisations is a relief, but also I sense a subdued shock among many South Asians I meet. Not everyone feels secure enough to protest in this moment. I am sometimes only one of a handful of South Asians at rallies ranging in focus from immigrant rights to global women’s health to public education. Of course, not everyone has the means to protest, but I do sense that the online resistance to Trump is far more racially diverse than the crowd I see at rallies. Sticking out one’s neck can feel risky when police are questioning one’s immigration status in everyday and irrelevant situations.

To retreat or to commit?

For some Indians, the xenophobia we experience fuels a sense of not wanting to belong any more. A few weeks ago, someone I know from India turned down a promising job in a Midwest town after years of graduate training in the United States out of a worry that they would feel unwelcome. This is not a story I would have anticipated even a year ago. It makes me turn to activism with even greater ferocity – as if fighting harder for a country that turns against people like me will set things right. The internalised fear and experiences of exclusion call for making stronger claims to space. I feel a compulsion now, having a secure job and citizenship, to act in ways that are louder than one, to reach out to strangers, and to grow filaments of social connection.

Living in the Washington DC area makes some of this activism feel especially valuable. On Jan 21, when attending the March for Women alongside millions, I carried the names of 21 friends, including several in India, written on my hat – they asked to be represented in spirit. The “pussyhat” I wore was itself knitted by a circle of elderly women in California who could not be there in person. At recent rallies outside the White House, I have felt the satisfaction of knowing that my body adds to the numbers reported in stories about Trump’s besieged presidency. We are perhaps a part of the reason he feels compelled to run away to his resort in Florida every weekend.

What I want to say is this: if you live outside the United States, know that the level of resistance to Trump’s agenda is enormous and impressive. There is a new depth to civic engagement in this time, and it is an uplifting thing for anyone to behold. Legislators and governors are receiving unprecedented numbers of daily calls and mail; some are cancelling town halls for fear of being shouted at. It may not be news to you that the US president is unpopular on the left, but his declining popularity among even his supporters is historic. He is regularly and roundly criticized in major newspapers and television channels (with the exception of the most right-leaning outlets) and the butt of jokes on cartoon shows such as the Simpsons and award shows such as the Oscars.

Ultimately, though, lampooning Trump is easy. The more difficult task is to re-shape the culture that produced someone like him. For that task, we need immigrants claiming public spaces rather than retreating from them, questioning white supremacist narratives rather than reeling from them. So if you are living inside the United States, and if you are an Indian immigrant, I want to say this as well: speak up. As the Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde once put it, “your silence will not protect you.”

Ashwini Tambe is Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland-College Park.

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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.