Reject Council Member Sawant's Resolution Against Persecuted Refugees in India

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The Indian community in the United States would like the Seattle City Council to vote NO on Council Member Sawant’s resolution which is against protecting persecuted minority refugees living in India, that she originally proposed at the Jan 21st council meeting. After a push back from Indians in Seattle with strong public comments the council voted 5-2 to move it to Feb 3rd. Ms. Sawant is severely misguided, misinformed, indulging in spreading divisive and dangerous lies about India and interfering in the internal matters of another country.

It is unfortunate that Council Member Sawant is misinformed about the history, the urgent need for and the future humanitarian impacts of India’s recent Citizenship Amendment Act, which was passed democratically and is one of the most generous human rights acts passed in that region.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), in 1990, introduced amendment to the US policies for granting refugee status, and subsequently Citizenship, to persecuted religious minorities - Christians, Jews and few others, from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Southeast Asia. In Dec 2015, the Obama administration expanded this amendment to include religious minorities such as Jews, Christians, Baha’is, and select others from countries like Iran

Those seeking asylum to US under these provisions are required to prove that they are a bonafide member of one of the designated religious groups; i.e. only those belonging to specific religion, as provided in the Lautenberg Amendment, can get refugee status to US.

Our respected congresswoman Rep Pramila Jayapal in July 2, 2019 speech suggested the Lautenberg Amendment as a solution to handle refugees from other countries. In the speech Rep Jayapal said “So if you really want to fix the border crisis here’s what you have to do. You have to put money, aid, into Central American countries, something that Trump just cut. Okay? He just cut that. But that’s the number one thing. Number two; you could have a program just like what’s called the Lautenberg Amendment for Soviet Jews continue, Ukrainians have come in through this as well, where you give a specific type of entry visa with permanent status to a particular region that is very troubled.”

Like laws in any country the CAA is a law with limited scope to rehabilitate religious minorities who were left behind on the other side of the border during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition. Just a quick search online will reveal to you that the percentage of Hindu population in Pakistan in 1941 was nearly 14% and today is about 1.5%, similarly in Bangladesh it was 22% Hindus in 1951,  now reduced to about 10%. While the numbers may seem small in percentages the actual numbers are in millions.

At the same time the percentage of Muslims in India since 1950 has grown from approximately 9% to 15% ( as per the 2011 census). Several studies such as Pew Research show that by 2050 India will be home to the largest number of Muslims and Hindus in the world.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/21/by-2050-india-to-have-worlds-largest-populations-of-hindus-and-muslims/

https://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/

While millions of Hindu women in Pakistan and Bangladesh were being raped and families being killed and forcibly converted some of them managed to escape this persecution and sought shelter in India for the last several decades. They have been living in India as refugees in camps without proper food, hygiene, sanitation, education, job opportunities and any of those basic rights  that were taken away from them and their ancestors during the partition for no fault of theirs.

Ms. Sawant is missing the fact that all the CAA does is rehabilitate these religious minorities and has nothing to do with turning away Muslims. Muslims,  who are Indian citizens will continue to be an integral part of India, and Muslims  as well as non-Muslims from all over the world are always welcome in India through the usual legal immigration channels. In fact, India has granted citizenship to over 500 Pakistani nationals and continues to do so.

Here are some points to note about the CAA:

1. CAA is no different from US’s Lautenberg Amendment which gives fast track asylum to only Jews and Christians from certain countries

2. CAA protects persecuted minorities ( Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs)

3. CAA is for HUMAN RIGHTS

4. CAA is inclusive

Furthermore, Ms. Sawant claims that the NRC (National Registry of Citizens) will strip 200 million Indian Muslims of their citizenship. First, the NRC is still being deliberated and has not been passed or implemented in India except in one state. Second, if implemented, the NRC has nothing to do with giving or taking away citizenship – it is simply a registry of legal citizens of India. All citizens will be given an exhaustive option of ways to prove their citizenship without causing any hardship.

The Indian community in the United States looks forward to your informed vote against the resolution being proposed by Ms. Sawant at the Jan 21st meeting.