New Jersey–The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) sent a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago City Council Members urging them to stand for persecuted refugees in the Indian subcontinent, by rejecting Resolution R2020-583 (Recognition of India’s 74th anniversary of Independence Day and call for condemnation of violence against certain castes and faith groups).
The resolution is very divisive, full of falsehoods and reveals an extremely poor to non-existent understanding of the issues being referred to, the coalition said in a statement, adding that it propagates disinformation about Indians in general and Hindus in particular, vilifies them and perpetuates the stereotypes that drive Hinduphobia.
India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a limited and humanitarian extension of India’s Citizenship Act, 1955, and simply expedites Indian citizenship for approximately 31,000 religious minorities, who fled Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in the face of extreme and systemic persecution, the statement said. The focus on these three countries stems from recent history which led to the partition of India under British rule and the creation of modern India and Pakistan on religious grounds, along with agreements such as the Liaquat-Nehru Pact, which unfortunately never lived-up to the promise of safeguarding the religious freedom of minorities in India’s neighborhood, the statement added.
It further said that these persecuted minorities are on the verge of near demographic extinction and have been systemically denied a minimum standard of living. Each year, more than 1,000 women and children are abducted, raped, and coerced into marriages following forced conversion in Pakistan. In Bangladesh, the Hindu population has declined from 22% in 1951 (in what used to be East Pakistan) to just 8% by 2011. And, in March 2020, more than 25 Sikhs were killed in Afghanistan, further reducing an already dwindled Sikh population of around 600, the statement said.
CAA seeks to provide these persecuted religious minorities a life of dignity and a path to rebuilding their lives, much like the Lautenberg-Specter Amendment in the U.S. This spirit is reflected in American lawmakers even today. In May 2020, President-elect Biden openly advocated for providing refugee status to Hindus and Sikhs escaping persecution in Afghanistan, while in June 2020, twenty US senators wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to provide emergency refugees status to Hindus and Sikhs under the FY20 US Refugee Admission Program, the statement said.
“It is both common sense and instinctive human nature to prioritize and help those in the direst of needs,” remarked Nikunj Trivedi, President of CoHNA. “By passing Resolution R2020-583, the city is essentially saying that severely persecuted minorities and refugees deserve no extra kindness, help or accommodation. Even more perversely, the city is condemning those who seek to help the most destitute as engaging in ‘discrimination.’”
By venturing into international issues beyond its understanding and taking cues from organizations that have a history of peddling Hinduphobia and supporting the denigration of Hindu religious festivals and symbols, the Council has created a hostile atmosphere for Hindu Americans in the city of Chicago and beyond, the statement said, adding that it is particularly surprising to see the city devote time and resources on this amid an unprecedented pandemic that has killed so many and while ignoring long term problems around unemployment, homelessness, racism, the opioid crisis and other pressing local issues.