World News – United States – Kamala Harris and the « Other 1 Percent »


Long before the Democratic vice presidential candidate became a national figure, India played a role in US politics

In a few weeks, the United States could elect its first vice president of Indian heritage Kamala Harris’s rise to power reflects the fortunes of Indian-Americans, a very prosperous community with high levels of education and income earned it the nickname « the remaining 1% »

Harris’s name on the ballot, combined with President Donald Trump’s close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, put Indian-Americans – a much smaller contingent than other major minority groups – at honor this year, and Republicans and Democrats vying for their votes So it’s tempting to think that this surge has been strong and sudden

In fact, Native American political influence has deep historical roots Long before the first wave of massive Indian immigration in the 1960s, the US played an important role in India’s independence movement against the British colonial rule For Indians colonized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the US represented a compelling alternative to democracy and relative equality (they quickly realized this did not extend to African Americans) Several Indian political leaders such as BR Ambedkar and JP Narayan studied at American universities or undertook extended visits Many Americans, meanwhile, sympathized with India’s anti-colonial movement and saw parallels with the struggle of their own republic for existence

Today, as the US and India are concerned about the strength of their democracies, it is worth remembering two people who helped solidify these political ties and lay the foundation for an American community. Indian woman who is now about to enter the White House

Only a few sources – a confidential British intelligence report, a bundle of letters and a series of newspaper articles – help us reconstruct the life of the first individual, George Freeman, an Irishman who emigrated from London in the late 19th century century According to the intelligence report, his hatred of the British Empire was so intense that after leaving English soil he changed his last name to Freeman from Fitzgerald After a few years of agitation against the Empire in Canada, he emigrated to New York, where he joined the Clan na Gael, an Irish Republican organization, and wrote articles criticizing the British Empire for the New York Sun

What exactly attracted Freeman to Indian political affairs is unclear American newspapers of the time cataloged grim South Asian news – famine and pestilence – that might have sparked his interest In 1897, Freeman began a long correspondence with Dadabhai Naoroji, the first great Indian nationalist leader, then based in London, one of the very first examples of anti-colonial cooperation between an Indian and an American

Freeman’s letters to Naoroji bristled with outrage He condemned British mismanagement in the West Indies, opposed the Boer War in South Africa, and expressed his horror at the poverty and famines he India has known under colonial rule But Freeman also denounced America’s thirst for empire Together, Naoroji and Freeman drew parallels between British imperialism and American Freeman, believing Britain’s sordid record was a stern warning against expansionism American, asked Naoroji for more information about India Over time, piles of Indian newspapers began to arrive at Freeman’s residence in Lower Manhattan From April 1899, somewhere between Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge, a brave Irishman was leafing through the pages of the Amrita Bazar Patrika of Calcutta

With the ascendancy of Jingoism after the Spanish-American War of 1898, and the Stars and Stripes floating above the Philippines and Puerto Rico, Freeman took on Naoroji’s writings, which documented how British rule had devastated India, and sent them across the US: to the anti-imperialists in Boston in Nebraska, US senators, public libraries and universities

Through a friend Omaha, he even sent Naoroji’s writings to William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1900, who applied Naoroji’s ideas – that imperialism brought about a « Flight of wealth » that put millions of colonial subjects on the brink of starvation — in the postwar American context In newspaper articles and speeches, Bryan has argued that « the politics of England are our warning « He then met Freeman in New York and told him about » the instruction he had learned from reading « Naoroji’s pamphlets India therefore played a minor role in the presidential campaign of 1900

With Naoroji’s help, Freeman met Indians who were visiting and studying in the United States, who were part of an emerging Native American community Many were radicals and revolutionaries Freeman saw new avenues of cooperation and started discussing bombs, bullets and rifle silencers with these Indian students He helped start a newspaper, Gaelic American, which poured venom on British stocks in Ireland and India, and helped a young Bengali, Taraknath Das, to publish one of the first Indian newspapers in North America, The Free Hindusthan

Freeman became, in the words of a nervous British intelligence officer based in India, « considered by the Indians of New York to be the true leader of the anti-British movement » He put the Indian newcomers in touch with Irish Republicans and coordinated shipments of fiery revolutionary literature to India During World War I, he participated in an elaborate plot to smuggle German weapons into India, but subsequently escaped historical records. One of his last public statements appeared in the Amrita Bazar Patrika in 1922, where he regrets never having been able to visit the country whose freedom he has devoted so much to defending

As Freeman retreated into the shadows, another immigrant who would have had a disproportionate impact on the Indian independence movement arrived in New York: Jagjit Singh, a Sikh from the Punjab British intelligence reports have documented that Singh had taken part in Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement but, disappointed by its abrupt cancellation in 1922, left India He eventually opened an Indian clothing and textile business on Fifth Avenue In Manhattan’s art-deco whirlwind, « JJ, » as his American friends called him, became the prototype of the successful immigrant His business exploded A profile in the New York Post describes a man who listened to music swing, loved to dance in nightclubs and ditched the Punjabi fare for steaks

But in the late 1930s, Singh rediscovered his Indian nationalist leanings.The New York Indians founded the Indian League of America, which met at two Indian restaurants in Midtown Manhattan In 1942, Singh , who had a knack for advertising and networking, was in charge of the group That summer the British jailed the nationalist leaders in India and launched a massive propaganda offensive in the US, trying to convince Americans that Indian independence would be fatal to the war effort Singh, who wanted a free India to fight on an equal footing with the Allies, took this as a call to arms

Like Freeman, Singh forged various connections He brought a slice of America to the Indian League: his membership roster included labor leaders in Detroit, Sikh farmers in California, African-American activists in Harlem, Chinese immigrants and a handful of lawmakers Two of his closest confidants were Sidney Hertzberg, a Jewish socialist, and John Haynes Holmes, a Unitarian minister Together, Singh and his colleagues dressed up Indian nationalism in red, white and blue Urging Americans to support freedom for India, they compared Gandhi to George Washington and printed the Declaration of Independence and its Indian counterpart, published in 1930, side by side in brochures, dinner and event programs, and in the Indian League newsletter « Indians believe in the teachings of Lincoln and Washington, » Singh’s voice echoed over the radio in 1942 « Indians want the chance to fight and die for freedom and democracy »

British agents in the US countered by a meteoric offensive, infiltrating the Indian League and trying to put Singh in the FBI’s crosshairs But Singh had his own tricks up his sleeve He turned out to be a fantastic lobbyist (a  » individual lobby, ”The New Yorker joked), quickly gaining friends and supporters for India on Capitol Hill And, rewarding British espionage attempts, Indian League associates infiltrated the British embassy in Washington and contributed to the leakage of damaging material

Over time, the efforts of Indian nationalists to conquer Washington, DC began to have an impact In 1944, a Washington Post columnist, Drew Pearson, made a scandalous revelation that rocked the Anglo-British alliance. American: Franklin D Roosevelt’s top diplomat in New Delhi, William Phillips, had confidentially urged the White House to encourage Indian independence A clear British promise of freedom for India, Phillips argued, would actually help the war effort Several Indian League associates aided in the escape Singh skillfully used Phillips’ revelation to garner additional US support for Indian independence

Along with his work to promote the Indian independence movement, Singh helped Indian immigrants become legally American, pushing to overturn the 1923 Supreme Court ruling that Indians could not become naturalized citizens Singh teamed up with two representatives, Clare Boothe Luce and Emanuel Celler, to draft a bill, then tied in figures as varied as Albert Einstein and WEB Du Bois as supporters He claimed to have contacted « all the newspapers and magazines of United States’ to get approvals It worked In July 1946, President Harry Truman approved the Luce-Celler Act, which allowed limited immigration from India (as well as the Philippines), helping to pave the way to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act Singh has been invited to the White House to watch Truman sign him into law

Although Singh never resumed US citizenship himself, he nonetheless became American par excellence. His friends and colleagues were a patchwork of American society Some of these friends helped Singh finally settle in 1951, Hertzberg told Holmes their mutual friend loved the daughter of an Indian diplomat and was very keen for Holmes to celebrate her wedding So, with the help of a Jewish socialist, a Christian Unitarian married a Sikh man to a Hindu woman It’s hard to imagine a more American story

Singh retained a precious asset from his campaign to earn Indians the right to naturalize After the signing ceremony of the Luce-Celler Act, Truman gave Singh the pen he signed, and Singh transmitted this memory to his descendants Today it is run by his granddaughter, who is herself a prominent member of the Native American political community – Kamala Harris press secretary Sabrina Singh In January, she might be able to bring it home. White

Kamala Harris, Native Americans, India, Vice President of the United States, United States Presidential Election, 2020, Democratic Party

News from the world – United States – Kamala Harris and the ‘other 1 Percent’


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