In the colder Midwestern state of Minnesota in the USA, The St. Paul City Council’s Resolution 20-712 has deeply troubled the Hindu community the region, needlessly bringing divisive international politics and creating Hindu phobia amongst the masses. Amidst the deadly coronavirus pandemic when people are losing lives, left right and centre the St. Paul City Council has chosen to table Resolution 20-712 which has left the Hindus of the area dumbstruck. The resolutin is to be taken up on May 20.
The way this resolution has been secretly introduced makes it problematic for the community. There are around 50,000 people of Indian origin in the Twin Cities and this resolution 20-172 creates an unnecessarily hostile environment for them. According to Vishal Agarwal, member of the Advisory Board of the Hindu American Foundation and Trustee Executive Council of the Hindu Society of Minnesota the Hindus are now forced to dispel the many untruths and stereotypes the St. Paul City Council has perpetuated. In these times of trouble, they have another pressure on themselves as respectable citizens of the area.
In an Open Letter to St. Paul City Council signed by 27 of the Twin Cities’ prominent Indian and Hindu community leaders, they have asked the government to Stop Tearing Apart the Hindu Community with RES 20–712. The letter written by Vishal S. Aggarwal given on Medium is as follows:
“Dear City Council Members of St. Paul, MN
We are a group of long-term residents of the Twin Cities and are prominent members of the Indian and Hindu American Communities of Minnesota. We are writing to you to express our collective dismay at RES 20–712 proposed by the St. Paul City Council for a vote on May 20, 2020.
It is our considered opinion that the tone and the content of this Resolution promotes misunderstanding and marginalization of our community, puts us in the way of harm, and distracts from our city’s collective fight against the ongoing Pandemic.
This past April, city council members introduced RES 20–621 that rightly condemned acts of racism directed against our fellow Americans — immigrants from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities residing in our state, who were being blamed unfairly for the Covid-19 Pandemic. The current RES 20–712 is opposite in its essential nature and impact. It injects divisive overseas politics into Minnesota and thereby endangers the safety and well-being of people of Indian origin in the Twin Cities by creating a hostile environment for us and creating fault lines within the community. We know that the City Council strives for peace and friendship in our community. This resolution achieves the opposite.
We urge you to withdraw RES 20–712 or vote against its passage for the following main reasons:
It mis-states facts that are easily verifiable. Inaccurate declarations are made worse with incendiary language.
It divides our local communities along religious and political lines at a time when we need to fight the Covid-19 Pandemic unitedly. The Resolution unnecessarily injects divisive overseas politics into local concerns.
It endangers Indian Americans residing in Minnesota by falsely implying that their homeland is becoming some version of the Third Reich. Most Indian Americans here are first generation immigrants with strong family ties in India. The resolution makes them appear as racists and religious bigots. It also affects their relationship with family members back in India.
It diminishes the valuable contributions of the Indian American community to Minnesota and undermines the healthy relationship between the two largest democracies in the world.
Below we provide a Fact Check as ‘Clarifications’ for the various erroneous assertions made in RES 20–712 so that you get a correct and informed perspective.
There are 50,000 people of Indian origin in the Twin Cities. They are outstanding members of the community, contributing to a variety of notable sectors, including but not limited to healthcare, bio-technology and engineering, entrepreneurship, education, tourism and food service, retail etc. Numerous Indian, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh community organizations in Minnesota are volunteering tirelessly to serve other Minnesotans during the ongoing Pandemic. We wish to emphasize that when a city council paints an entire country in broad and factually dubious strokes, it reflects negatively on all people of Indian origin, and especially on Hindus Americans who reside in Minnesota as fellow Americans. It also promotes Hinduphobia.
Indian businesses have made a significant investment in the Twin Cities and are creating jobs for Minnesotans. According to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Minnesota has attracted more than $1.8 billion and created 2,500 jobs as a direct result of investment from India-based companies, ranking Minnesota third among American states in Indian investment dollars. Several Indian companies are doing business in Minnesota: TATA Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, and ITC Infotech are in the IT and telecom industry; Essar in the materials and manufacturing sector. Twin Cities based businesses also have significant and mutually beneficial investments in India. For example, Cargill began a five-year investment plan of $240M in 2017 intended to improve food safety and economic development and benefit the food processing and agriculture industries. 3M is heavily invested in India for over 30 years now. Target Corporation and Medtronic Ltd (with its major operations run from Fridley, MN) are other examples of companies with a broad footprint in India.
This resolution diminishes and disregards the deep economic relationship between Minnesota and India and demeans the worth of Indian Americans in our state as fellow Americans. The two organizations who have drafted this resolution do not fully represent their own communities, let alone South Asians or even Indian Americans as a whole. In the coming years, the governments of the United States of America and India are expected to coordinate closely to fight this Pandemic. It is pertinent to note here that the largest vaccine producing company in India is owned by an Indian minority citizen.
Below is a list of individuals who endorse the contents of this letter (along with the Appendix). Their affiliations, while not reflective of institutional endorsements, give you an indication of their stellar community service to the several prominent institutions that they have founded and nurtured in our esteemed state.
You have heard from some of our community organizations. Through this letter, our intent is to convey how RES 20–712 has deeply troubled us as individual Americans. The country of our origin has been tarred with crude and broad strokes without even a basic fact check, thereby making us feel otherized and unwelcome in a state that we have called home and contributed to for decades.
27 Prominent Indian American Citizens of Minnesota.”
The letter clearly states their plight and expresses how their status is being tarred without a thorough fact-check. They have clearly conveyed how their sentiments are deeply hurt and they feel targeted and troubled by RES 20–712. It further claims that the resolution divides the local communities along religious and political lines at a time when the fight against COVID-19 to be fought unitedly should have been the government’s main target.
Not only does this resolution marginalizes the Hindu community but also appears to be deeply racist and Hinduphobic.