Indian Americans have always voted for Democratic Party candidates in national and state elections. More than 80% voted for Obama and Biden in 2008 and 2012 and more than 75% voted for Hillary Clinton. Many Indian Americans, however, have concerns about Joe Biden’s agenda. They are dismayed and disappointed with Biden’s vision and his positions regarding India.
Joe Biden’s “Agenda for Muslim American Communities” is essentially a verbatim repetition of the pro-Muslim speech that Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered to a Muslim sponsored conference in Houston, Texas, in 2019. It therefore appears that Biden has adopted Sanders’s pro-Muslim agenda in order to garner Muslim votes, but he may have done so at the risk of losing many non-Muslim Indian American votes.
Biden’s position regarding India appears to be based on misinformation and misinterpretation of actions taken by a democratically elected government of the world’s largest democracy. The actions that Biden has criticized are overwhelmingly endorsed by the majority of Indian Americans, as was noticed at the “Howdy Modi” rally for Prime Minister Modi in Houston in September 2019.
Biden criticizes restrictions imposed in Kashmir. These restrictions were imposed to eliminate chances of violent protests and acts of terrorism in Kashmir when the temporary Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was removed in August 2019. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has experienced hundreds of violent separatist activities and frequent acts of terrorism (sponsored most of the time by Pakistan) for more than three decades. History shows that violent protests in Kashmir can be expected at the drop of a hat, and the government can keep peace only instituting strong measures. Expecting violence on a large scale based on historical pattern, the Indian government imposed certain restrictions that were lifted slowly as conditions calmed down.
Biden should know that by removing Article 370 from the Indian Constitution, the government restored the rights of many Indian citizens who were living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir but had no rights. The Dalit community, and the LGBT community, got rights with this action that were denied earlier. The removal of this article also gave rights to Kashmiri women to marry men living outside Kashmir without losing their inheritance rights, as was the case before. Unfortunately, there is no acknowledgement of restoration of these rights by the Biden campaign. Biden does not acknowledge that more than 500,000 Hindus were forced out of the state of Kashmir because they refused to convert to Islam and are now living as refugees in other parts of India.
It is not at all clear why Joe Biden is upset with the passage of the CAA. Even a cursory reading of this Act would have informed Biden that the Act does not deprive any Indian citizen of any of their rights. The Act only provides asylum to Jains, Christians, Parsis, Hindus, and Sikh refugees who fled Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to escape religious persecution in those countries. Non-Muslims constituted about 23% of the population of Pakistan in 1947 when the state was created. Non-Muslims constituted less than 3% of Pakistan’s population in 2019. Clearly non-Muslims did not feel safe in Pakistan and Bangladesh and fled to India, and all India has done with CAA is to provide asylum and a path to citizenship. The CAA is a humanitarian law and it is shocking that Joe Biden would be upset with this law.
CAA. to which Biden objects, is similar to the Lautenberg Amendment of 1989 which Sen. Biden supported. That act provided refuge in America to Jews and other ethnic minorities who were persecuted in the former Soviet Union. Biden’s agenda for Muslim Americans criticizes China for its treatment of Uighur Muslims. I am sure that as a humanitarian, Biden does not discriminate between religious groups persecuted in the Soviet Union and China and religious groups persecuted in the Islamic republics of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Biden’s stated positions have created a major disquiet and concern about the attitude of the Democratic Party towards issues of concern to Indian Americans. Activists of the Democratic Party have also forced six major American cities to pass resolutions criticizing the CAA, and most Indian Americans are unhappy with this gross interference in India’s internal affairs. The Democratic Party should not take the support of Indian Americans for granted.
The selection of Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate will not change the misgivings and apprehensions that Indian Americans have about the Biden campaign, because she has expressed similar hostility towards India.
(The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.)