"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Seattle’s slap on spineless Canadian politicians Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh

A motion highly critical of a discriminatory citizenship law brought by a right wing Hindu nationalist government in India was passed by Seattle City Council on Monday.

Moved by Indo-American city Councillor Kshama Sawant, the motion was unanimously passed amidst tension between its supporters and opponents.

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India recently adopted the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). that discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from 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 been facing oppression in these countries. 

The CAA violates the principle of secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution. The BJP is determined to transform India into a Hindu theocracy, and 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. 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, politicians have mainly remained silent. While Canada has already apologized for the Continuous Journey Regulation, it remains indifferent to the CAA which is repeating that history in worst form. 

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

Even though BC is a next door neighbour to Seattle, and has no dearth of MPs and MLAs of Indian origin, hardly any statement has been made by them against CAA in Parliament or the provincial legislature.

In BC,  where the ruling NDP has six Indo-Canadian MLAs who claim to be progressives, coming from a labour background that morally binds them with international solidarity movement, we are still waiting for such a thing to happen. It’s a shame that they miss no opportunity to wine and dine with Indian agents and attend their official events, but continue to ignore rallies being held against the CAA for 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 could not stop themselves from going to the evening party hosted by the Indian officials that night. 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, but choose to please the Indian diplomats under 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, who was protesting outside, chanted slogans to shame them publicly. Those chants were widely circulated on Facebook, and yet these politicians remain unapologetic. Maybe they need to be taught a much harder lesson during the next election. For now, Seattle’s slap on these spineless Canadian politicians is enough to expose their double speak on human rights and social justice.

 

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