Out of hundreds of detainees at the federal prison in Victorville California, some 40 per cent were found to have travelled from India seeking asylum.
One of their representatives told US Representative for California Mark Takano that they were forced to seek refuge following persecution by India’s ruling party Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), The Los Angeles Timesreported.
“They said they were often bullied into doing things that were immoral. They would have to carry drugs, perpetrate violence against others,” said Takano.
Hailing from Punjab, on of the detainees, Sukhwinder fled India after being attacked by a group of men who questioned him on why he had not joined the BJP. Following death threats, he travelled to Mexico in the hope to seek asylum in the US.
Detainees with similar stories said they could not turn to police for help. “In some cases, the beating has been pretty gruesome. People have been hospitalised. Police have not done anything to protect them, and even though they try to relocate, threats continue to follow them and their families,” said Meeth Soni, co-legal director at Immigrant Defenders Law Center.
Sukhwinder said the police threatened to book him under false charges if he spoke against the ruling party.
“Mob attacks by extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the BJP against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef,” said a report by Humans Rights Watch.
“Instead of taking prompt legal action against the attackers, police frequently filed complaints against the victims under laws banning cow slaughter.”
An assistant professor at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, Gaurav Khanna said religious and political persecution in India has become more intertwined with the rise of the BJP.
“There are definitely people getting attacked for their political beliefs. You do see, especially before elections, people are killed for … campaigning for certain parties. My sense is it has been happening for years, but the question is, is it rising in recent years?”
The troubles for Indian nationals, however, do not end as Sikh detainees – as well as those of other faiths – complained of mistreatment in the US prisons. “I didn’t feel at ease,” Sukhwinder said. “I wished I was in my home country.”
The Sikhs complained of not being allowed to wear turbans while Hindus said they were forced to eat meat.
“We provide turbans to detainees free of charge,” refuted the company that operates Imperial Regional Detention Facility. “The menu is approved by a dietician according to national standards, and if detainees request, they are provided with a vegetarian diet.”
“They’ve been told it’s going to cost them $10 for a turban — $10 that these people do not have,” asserted Soni. “ICE took their turbans away from them, threw them away and now is saying you have to pay us money to properly observe your religion.”
The immigration officials and attorneys revealed an increase of the number of Indian nationals crossing into US through Mexico following travel routes forges by Latino immigrants. According to US Federal Bureau of Prisons, 380 out of 680 migrants at Victorville facility were Indian nationals with pending immigration cases.
Additionally, 40 per cent of the detainees at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Imperial Valley facility and nearly 20 per cent of the detainees at ICE’s Adelanto processing center were found to be from India.
During the current fiscal year, 4,197 Indians were arrested by US Border Patrol agents, revealed data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Asylum details of many detainees have been denied. Date from fiscal years 2012 to 2017 showed about 42 per cent requests from Indian citizens were rejected, according to the clearinghouse records.
Article Source: The Express Tribune
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