Minneapolis/St. Paul Has Busybody City Council Members

Dear Minneapolis/St. Paul City Council Member _____________

Sub: Resolution 20–712 — which has been brought to the City Council by Council members Jane Prince, Dai Thao, Nelsie Yang: “Reaffirming Saint Paul as a welcoming city, expressing solidarity with Saint Paul’s South Asian community regardless of religion and caste by rejecting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Islamophobic ideology, and opposing India’s National Registry of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment Act.”

It is with concern and trepidation that I write you about Resolution 20–712 sought to be passed by the Minneapolis-St. Paul City Council. I do not know if the esteemed members of the city council have sought to pass such a resolution against any other country about its internal affairs, and wonder why this resolution is before you, city council members and not the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. I wonder why that in this time of the coronavirus pandemic you are seeking to intervene in the affairs of the world’s largest democracy, and do so provocatively? India, which is seeking to maintain its sovereignty and its security against threats both internal and external, has enough important matters to deal with in this time of pandemic lockdowns to ask its diplomats in the US to come talk to you. India has fought four wars with its Muslim-majority neighbor — Pakistan; it has Muslim and Christian proselytizers pouring hundreds of millions of dollars each year to convert Hindus and “plant churches” and build mosques; it has violent Maoist groups seeking to divide and break India into a million pieces; it has China playing mischief in the neighborhood, and it has Bangladesh driving out its remaining Hindus, and sending scores of millions of its Muslim citizens to find employment in India. Now, you esteemed city council members want to weigh in on these and blame India for its fate?

Courtesy: Minneapolis/St. Paul City Council

You are discussing the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the people who have brought this resolution for you to weigh in on do not seem to understand or acknowledge these basic facts about the CAA:

  • India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) provides amnesty and a fast-track to citizenship for certain refugees currently in India who have fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

  • These persecuted refugees are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs — for whom India is a sacred homeland, and the countries that they have been driven out of or were discriminated in were once part of India. They have no other options for resettlement in any other country than India unless Minneapolis and St. Paul want to take them in and offer them US citizenship.

  • The CAA does not alter the rights of any Indian citizen nor does it establish any religious test for immigration. It does not exclude Muslims from anywhere in the world immigrating to India if they do so via legal channels.

  • The CAA has been contemplated by previous Indian governments and was long overdue. These Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain refugees have been in limbo for long, and they are now due to get some relief.

  • As others have noted, “the amendment removes substantial barriers to legal resettlement and citizenship by proposing amnesty for certain religious refugees from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who sought refuge in India on or before December 31, 2014”.

· According to the CAA, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, who entered India illegally are not barred from naturalization, and that their minimum residency requirement has been reduced from 11 years to six.

· And the most important fact to note: the CAA does not change any Indian citizenship laws or other immigration laws. It only provides legal status and a fast-track to citizenship to refugees who are in India because of religious persecution in neighboring states that privilege Islam as the official state religion.

What is the historical record of the persecution of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in the three Islamic Republics — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan — contiguous to India?

When India was partitioned in 1947 into a secular India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Hindus constituted 20 percent of the population in West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and about 30 percent in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). India liberated East Pakistan in 1971 after the East Pakistanis rebelled against the Sunni-led West Pakistan. The Hindu population in Pakistan now is 1.6 percent, and in Bangladesh they are reduced to 8.6 percent of the population. Twenty million Muslim Bangladeshi migrants have illegally crossed into India, and these are the ones whose claims to residency will be tested when India completes its Population Register. The CAA has nothing to do with India’s Muslims. They have been safe and will continue to be safe despite some of their leaders’ attempts to sow discord and animosity. As to Afghanistan, do I have to even bother to update you about its deadly, decrepit condition and where as recently as two months ago the few remaining Sikh residents were subjected to yet another ghastly attack?

As the Hindu American Foundation notes, “the CAA is not unprecedented”. For example, our own Lautenberg Amendment (1990), the extension of which has over the years has received broad-based, bipartisan support, creates a fast-track refugee status for certain religious minorities. Initially, the amendment specified Jews and Evangelical Christians from the Soviet Union as well as members of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Over the years, the law, with the passage of the Specter Amendment (2004), has been expanded the scope to include the Baha’i, Christians, and Jews from Iran. In contrast to the Lautenberg-Specter Amendment, the fast-track created by the CAA is not indefinite. It applies only to certain religious minorities who fled to India on or before December 31, 2014.

There is more to these matters than what I have listed above but I am not interested in offering history lessons to learned council members. Instead, I hope you will carefully weigh the pros and cons of passing such a resolution against a large, diverse, multi-religious, multi-ethnic democracy whose Hindu civilizational base, unlike monopolist, monotheistic faith-inspired nations, allows for people to seek god, knowledge, and truth in many ways?

However, if in your wisdom you seek to support such a resolution, would you also please consider resolutions against the Chinese government over the Uighur issue? The Greeks for keeping Syrian migrants on far-away islands and not letting them make their way to Germany or Sweden? The Russians over Chechyna? The British over Brexit? The New Zealanders over not allowing any international travelers to visit New Zealand indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic? The North Koreans about Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s whereabouts and about his weight problem? I would be happy to provide a list of all the other 194 countries in the world, beyond India, against whom the Minneapolis-St. Paul City Council may wish to throw its resolutions darts at. I hope, however, you will pay closer attention to the ills in your city; keep the Somali taxi drivers from bothering international travelers carrying liquor; keep your busy political activists and leaders, like Ms. Ilhan Omar, safely quarantined at home during the pandemic; and ask whether your state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, is an anti-Hindu bigot. Some of us Hindus went to meet him, when he was a Congressman, to brief him about the fate of Hindus in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and other places where the Hindu Diaspora has found home. He refused to meet with us, instead sending his Muslim aide to come harangue us.

Yes, please, look at the plank in your eye before you go looking for the speck of dust in India’s neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Ramesh Rao

— A non-Minnesota, non-Minneapolis/St. Paul resident who just wants to poke into the city’s and state’s “internal” affairs when he should be busy grading exams and minding his Georgia business!

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