Gurpreet Singh: All eyes on Vancouver for a motion like Seattle's against India’s anti-Muslim law

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      Vancouver city council, which recently passed a motion officially commemorating the 2017 Quebec City mosque shootings, has yet to break its silence on what is going on in the world’s so-called largest democracy.

      After Seattle city council passed a motion in early February that's highly critical of a discriminatory citizenship law brought by a right-wing Hindu nationalist government in India, expectations have grown for a similar move in Vancouver.

      The Seattle motion, introduced by councilmember Kshama Sawant, was approved unanimously. Sawant was born in the Indian city of Pune, raised in Mumbai, and immigrated to the United States in her 20s.

      The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India recently adopted the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries—including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh—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 these Muslim-dominated nations.

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

      The CAA violates the principle of secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution.

      The BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to transform India into a Hindu theocracy. 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 the CAA all over the world.

      Last month, the Economist offered extensive coverage of rising repression of minorities in India.

      Yet politicians, for the most part, have been silent in Canada, which has a history of the racist Continuous Journey Regulation, passed against South Asians in 1908 to discourage their permanent settlement in this country.

      While Canada has already apologized for the Continuous Journey Regulation, it remains indifferent to the CAA, which is repeating that history in its worst form. 

      Notably, Vancouver was the site of the Komagata Maru episode—the outcome of the Continuous Journey Regulation, designed to keep Canada as a white man’s country.

      The Japanese vessel carrying more than 350 South Asian passengers was forced to return to British-ruled India from Vancouver's harbour in 1914.

      Unlike Sawant, Canadian leaders have largely remained unmoved by these public demonstrations apart from statements by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh against the CAA, and Vancouver councillor Jean Swanson’s presence at one of the anti-CAA rallies outside the Indian consulate on January 26.

      No such motion like Sawant's has been passed in any municipal councils or provincial legislatures in Canada, let alone in the House of Commons.

      Video: Last May, the Guardian posted this video, "The Hour of Lynching", about the rise of "cow vigilantism", which has sharply risen against Muslims in India under the BJP government.

      However, Swanson is expected to bring a motion against the CAA before Vancouver city council in the near future.

      It remains to be seen whether it will be passed unanimously or not.

      After all, Vancouver has a sizable population of people of Indian origin who are really concerned with the developments in India.

      Understandably, the Indian diaspora has its eyes set on Vancouver, another internationally known city close to Seattle.

      Their hopes remain high as Vancouver claims to be a leader on social justice.

      Seattle politician Kshama Sawant (left) has campaigned with Vancouver councillor Jean Swanson in the past.
      Charlie Smith

      If Vancouver really cares for human rights and Muslims, it must step in as Islamophobia is not just confined to North America and Europe.

      It also exists in India where the government of the day is openly hounding Muslims with impunity because of the global silence.

      If Vancouver choses to remain quiet, it will be only be seen as a city siding with the oppressors.

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