Gurpreet Singh: Seattle council motion illustrates spineless Canadian reaction to India's Citizenship Amendment Act

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      Seattle city council recently passed a motion highly critical of a discriminatory citizenship law brought by the right-wing Hindu nationalist government in India.

      Moved by Indo-American councilmember Kshama Sawant, the motion was unanimously approved last week amid tension between its supporters and opponents.

      It came in response to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India recently adopting its controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This legislation discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from the neighbouring countries on the pretext of giving shelter to non-Muslims facing religious persecution in those places.

      The law blatantly ignores Muslims and only encourages non-Muslims to come to India from Muslim-dominated Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

      This is despite the fact that not only non-Muslims, but even some sects of Muslims and atheists have faced oppression in these countries. 

      Even otherwise, the CAA violates the principle of secularism enshrined in India's constitution. The BJP is determined to transform India into a Hindu theocracy and already the attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have grown under the BJP government ever since it came to power in 2014.

      There have been angry protests against CAA all over the world.

      However in Canada, politicians have mostly remained silent, despite the history of the racist Continuous Journey Regulation of 1908, which discouraged the permanent settlement of South Asians in this country. Notably, Canada has already apologized for the Continuous Journey Regulation, but remains indifferent to the CAA, which is repeating that history in its worst form. 

      Unlike Sawant, Canadian leaders have largely remained unmoved to these demonstrations. Barring a statement from Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh against the CAA and Vancouver councillor Jean Swanson’s presence at one of the anti CAA rallies outside Indian Consulate on January 26, no such motion has been passed in any of the municipal councils or provincial legislatures, let alone any resolution being passed in the House of Commons.

      B.C., which is practically next door neighbour to Seattle, has no dearth of MPs and MLAs of Indian origin, yet they've made hardly any statements against CAA in Parliament or the legislature.

      In B.C., there there are seven Indo-Canadian MLAs, many of whom claim to be progressives from a labour background, which morally binds them with the international solidarity movement. It’s a shame that many miss no opportunity to wine and dine with Indian agents and attend their official events, but have continued to ignore rallies being held against CAA over the past several weeks. 

      On January 26, when the Indian consulate was holding its Republic Day celebrations, they stayed away to avoid demonstrators who were protesting outside. But some of them could not stop themselves from going to the evening party hosted by the Indian officials. Among them were Labour Minister Harry Bains, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, former Minister Jinny Sims, and MLA Jagrup Brar. 

      While Sims is known for her proximity to the Indian consulate, others need to explain to the voters why have they remained silent to the persecution of minorities in India and have chosen to please the Indian diplomats in these difficult times? Especially Bains and Chouhan, will be at pains to defend themselves considering their labour background and “strong left leanings”.

      It is pertinent to mention that when Sims and Brar went to attend another event inside the Indian consulate on the night of January 9, a young female activist and anti-CAA protester, Riya Talitha, chanted slogans outside to shame them publicly. This message was widely circulated on Facebook, and yet these politicians remain unapologetic.

      Maybe they need to be taught a much harder lesson during next election campaign. For now, Seattle’s slap on these spineless Canadian politicians is enough to expose their doublespeak on human rights and social justice.