Monday, May 27, 2019

The History of Punjabi Mexicans in California

It was in early 1980s when I was driving through Yuba City with a couple of friends. It was lunch time and we were looking for a halal restaurant when we spotted Rasul's. At the restaurant we met a man who introduced himself as Mohammad Ali Rasul. He spoke in Mexican accented English but he told us his father came from the Punjab region now in Pakistan and his mother was of Mexican ancestry.  There were 400 such marriages between Punjabi men and Mexican women by 1940, according to Professor Karen Leonard of UC Irvine. Rasul gave us a warm welcome when we told him him we are also originally from Pakistan. He offered us his "Roti Quesadilla" special without charge as a gift. The fusion dish is a variation on Queso Quesadilla made with Indian "nan"(flat bread) topped with traditional rich, melting cheese which originated in Mexico and Texas. I had forgotten all about it until memory was refreshed by a story titled "California’s Lost (and Found) Punjabi-Mexican Cuisine" by Sonia Chopra I read in

Early South Asians:

Currently, there are nearly 5 million people from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and other South Asian nations in the United States. The earliest record of South Asians arriving in California is in the San Francisco Chronicle of April 6, 1899. It carried a story of the arrival of four Sikh men who were allowed to enter the United States in San Francisco, according to UC Davis Digital Archives.

Karen Leonard, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Irvine and author of "Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans", says that there were almost 2,000 Punjabi men living in California in the early 1900s, and approximately one-third of them married (or re-married) after settling in the state. Over 80% of the men were Sikh and most of the rest were Muslim. Almost all of them were from Central Punjab and came to California by ships from the then British Hong Kong via Vancouver in British Columbia in Canada. They had a choice between going to canal colonies of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan) and emigrating to North America. Most moved to canal colonies while the rest chose to go to the United States.

Punjabi Farmers:

While some Punjabis worked on building the transcontinental railroad along with Chinese immigrants, the vast majority of them chose farm work. While Punjabi men lived and worked on the farms with their Mexican spouses in several western states including Arizona and Texas, it was California that reminded them of their home in the Punjab, the land of five rivers. One of them described the similarity in the following words as narrated by Professor Karen Leonard:

"In my story of the Land of Five Rivers was Sacramento Valley. The river Sutlej was Feather River. The rest of the four rivers--American, Bear, Yuba, and Sacramento. My Bhaskhra (Dam), the Oroville Dam. Mu Govind Sagar, the Oroville Lake. The city of Anandpur Sahib, the nearby town of Paradise. The Shivaliks, the Sierra Foothills. There was Naina Devi, our Mount Shasta. And yes, the Ja- walamukhi, the Lassen Volcanic Park. Obviously, I was carried away by my imagination. Yet, the reality was not far behind. The water, like the water in the Punjab, had the same urge to run downward. The distant hills had the same charm. The fire in Ja- walamukhi and in the Lassen Volcano has the same way to burn."

Asians in America. Source: National Geographic

United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind:

South Asians, like their fellow Asians among the Chinese and the Japanese, faced widespread discrimination in the United States culminating in the Immigration Act of 1917. It was the second act, also known as the Literacy Act or the Asiatic Barred Zone Act after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, aimed squarely at restricting immigration. An even stricter version of the US immigration law was passed in 1924 which was praised by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, according to Daniel Okrent, author of The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians and Other European Immigrants Out of America.

Bhagat Singh Thind, a US Army veteran and a naturalized US citizen, was stripped of his citizenship under the Immigration Act of 1917. He sued to get his status restored. In a landmark case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind,  Thind argued that as a descendent of Indian Aryans he was racially "white".  The US Supreme Court unanimously rejected Thind's argument and ruled that he was not white "in accordance with the understanding of the common man".

Thind ruling was followed by a tragedy when Vaishno Das Bagai from Peshawar committed suicide in 1928 after being denaturalized as a US citizen in Los Angeles.

Post-1965 Immigration:

The population of South Asians in America remained very low due to severe immigration restrictions from non-European countries until the US Immigration Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act. This act opened up immigration from Asia, Africa and Latin America and significantly changed the US demographics in the last half century.

Most of the nearly 5 million South Asians in the United States today owe their presence in this country to the passage of this 1965 law passed by Democrats.  A large number of South Asians are engineers and technologists and many live in Silicon Valley. Over 500,000 Pakistani immigrants and their children live in the United States as of 2013, according to a report compiled by Migration Policy Institute. Of these, 273,000 were born in Pakistan and the remaining 180,000 are US-born. Pakistani-American population has more than doubled in the last decade due to increased immigration, according to US 2010 Census data.  Pakistani-Americans (pop: 450,000) are the seventh largest community among Asian-Americans, behind Chinese (3.8 million),  Filipinos (3.4 million), Indians (3.2 million), Vietnamese (1.74 million),  Koreans (1.7 million) and Japanese (1.3 million), according to Asian-American Center For Advancing Justice . They are still a minuscule fraction of the overall US population.

Trump's Anti-Immigration Policy:

The demographic changes since 1965 have angered many Republican white Americans who support immigration restrictions and voted for President Donald J. Trump in 2016 general election.  Trump has called Mexicans "criminals and rapists", complained about letting in people from "shit-hole" countries and imposed ban on entry of Muslims from several countries. His efforts to further restrict overall immigration have met with significant resistance from Congressional Democrats.

Here's a brief video clip of the documentary Roots in the Sand on Punjabi Mexicans:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

New York's Little Pakistan

Pakistan is the 3rd Largest Source of Foreign Doctors in America

Pakistani-American Stars in "Big Sick" Movie

Pakistani-American Population Growth 2nd Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Muslims in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

A Dozen British Pakistanis in UK Pariament

Trump and Modi

OPEN Silicon Valley Forum 2017: Pakistani Entrepreneurs Conference

Pakistani-American's Tech Unicorn Files For IPO at $1.6 Billion Valuation

Pakistani-American Cofounders Sell Startup to Cisco for $610 million

Pakistani Brothers Spawned $20 Billion Security Software Industry

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Pioneered 3D Technology in Orthodontics

Pakistani-Americans Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 


Rashid A. said...

This is excellent.

I have access to some old pictures of that era.

Also there is a documentary “Roots in the Sand”. A very powerful documentation of early arrivals from Punjab. Very emotional too!

I also met a Mexican Punjabi whose father was a Muslim from Tandalianwala. He said there is an organization of Punjabi Mexicans.

Riaz Haq said...

How South Asian Americans Are Building a New American Dream
They're expanding on the success of their immigrant parents, creating a blended cultural identity—and turning the tables on old stereotypes.

At Hoboken, New Jersey’s City Hall, Ravi S. Bhalla, the new mayor, stands in front of portraits of past mayors. An Indian-American civil rights lawyer and a Sikh who wears a turban to express his faith, Bhalla was elected in November. “We are a diverse and welcoming community,” he says.

“Thank you, come again!” a heckler yelled mockingly in a thick, faux Indian accent. The phrase is instantly recognizable to millions of fans of The Simpsons television show as the signature utterance of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who is portrayed unabashedly as a racial stereotype: the thrifty, borderline unscrupulous, and somewhat servile Indian convenience store owner.

To Kondabolu, those words at a show in October 2015 were even more familiar. Like many people of South Asian heritage in the United States, Kondabolu had “Thank you, come again!” aimed at him countless times while growing up. Now his irritation found expression in a smiling comeback. “I know you from high school, even though I don’t,” he said, pointing at the heckler. “You are the reason I do comedy, sir.”

One of his early jokes was a riff on a caption he says he read on a picture of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is part of the British crown jewels, describing the precious stone as having been found in India in the mid-1800s. “Right. It was just found in India. It wasn’t taken from India. It was just found there,” he says, because Indians didn’t know what diamonds were and were “grinding them up, putting them into curry,” and making “diamond biryani” until “luckily the British showed up.” Another joke was about how his mother would pretend to call adoption services whenever he and his brother were being troublesome. “One day we discovered there was nobody on the other end of the phone, and so the next time she said it, I told her I would be calling immigration, and that ended that.”


Kondabolu is one of many second-generation South Asian Americans, predominantly of Indian heritage, who have gained prominence in mainstream American comedy in the past few years. Their success represents a significant milestone in the integration of people of South Asian descent into American society. By mining their immigrant experience for laughs, Kondabolu and others are giving expression to a self-assurance that many first-generation immigrants did not have.

The increased visibility of South Asian Americans in popular culture mirrors the rise of this relatively new immigrant group in various walks of American life—in science, medicine, technology, business—and now increasingly in politics and public service, as exemplified by Ravi S. Bhalla, the new mayor of the largely white city of Hoboken, New Jersey, who, like many Sikh men, wears a turban. In recent years South Asians have been one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States, increasing in population from 2.2 million in 2000 to 4.9 million in 2015. About 80 percent of the demographic is Indian, with a median annual household income of $100,000—nearly double the median for all U.S. households.

Even though some communities with roots in South Asian countries, like Bangladeshis and Nepalis, are generally far less affluent, the overall success of South Asian Americans is no mystery. It can be partly explained by U.S. policy, which since the 1960s has selectively encouraged educated foreign workers and high-performing students to immigrate. Owing to its large English-speaking population, a result of British colonialism, and the quality of some of its educational institutions, India became a major source of such talent. And family-based immigration opened the doors to a broad array of South Asians.

Riaz Haq said...

Coming to America
The making of the South Asian diaspora in the United States

ON A SEPTEMBER NIGHT IN 1907, an angry mob of about six hundred white people attacked and destroyed an Asian Indian settlement in Bellingham, in the north-western US state of Washington. Many of the traumatised residents fled to Canada. A San Francisco-based organisation called the Asiatic Exclusion League, dedicated to “the preservation of the Caucasian race upon American soil,” blamed the victims for the riot, adding that the “filthy and immodest habits” of Indians invited such attacks. Despite the small number of Indians in the United States—there were fewer than 4,000 at the time—the Asiatic Exclusion League had been warning of a “Hindu invasion” of the country’s west coast. Two months later, another angry white mob struck a settlement of Indian workers in Everett, Washington, forcibly driving them out of the town. In 1910, the US Immigration Commission on the Pacific Coast deemed Indians “the most undesirable of all Asiatics” and called for their exclusion.

Many anti-immigrant laws had already been enacted against other Asian communities, starting with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In 1907, a new law in the western US state of Oregon barred all Indians from becoming permanent residents (the state had long excluded black people). In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law, mainly targeted at Japanese immigrants, after which California’s attorney general also barred Indians from owning property in the state. In 1914, at a congressional hearing on “Hindu immigration” led by a vitriolic representative from the seventh congressional district of California, Indians were variously called “a menace,” “thick-headed and obtuse,” illiterate, carriers of strange diseases, people who worked “too hard for too little,” and, according to a purportedly “scientific” document, “likely to deplete the vitality of our people, as the Negro had done.”

Now fast-forward a century. In an expression of poetic justice, California’s voters elected Kamala Harris, an Indian American, as the state’s attorney general in 2010. Two years later, the same seventh congressional district of California elected Ami Bera, another Indian American, as its congressman. Today, there are over three million Indian Americans, making up 1 percent of the US population. They are by far the richest and most educated ethnic group in one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. They are disproportionately employed in high-status, high-skill professions. Their median household income is nearly twice as high as that of white households in the US, and they attain graduate and professional degrees at nearly four times higher rates than whites. They furnish over 10 percent of the labour force in computer-related and many other technical fields. Indian Americans have served as CEOs of some of the most iconic US corporations, including Microsoft, Google, Adobe, PepsiCo, Mastercard, McKinsey and Citibank. They are also increasingly becoming visible in spaces that have long been inhospitable to them, such as politics, arts and media. Add to this their low rates of poverty, incarceration, divorce and reliance on public welfare, and one can see why Indian Americans are sometimes called a “model minority” in the United States.

Riaz Haq said...

American Immigration and Ethnicity by Gerber and Kraut.

Historically, Indians have rejected foreign ways and foreign people as profoundly corrupting, even polluting, as they endured centuries of foreign domination. In the 19th century, Indians who went abroad were obliged to undergo elaborate purification rituals when they returned. Today the problem is identified not as loss of ritual purity but as loss of culture. Immigrants, by leaving the motherland, and immersing themselves in an alien cultural contexts, have lost their Indian-ness. Overseas Indians are thought to have lost their language, their morals, their religion, their sense of community, and their connectedness to India. In pursuit of foreign wealth, they have adopted the soul-less, anomic, and licentious ways of the alien.....they are not considered "real Indians".

Riaz Haq said...

American Immigration and Ethnicity by Gerber and Kraut.

Today, new arrivals, legal and undocumented alike, find ample opportunities for employment in the United States. Migrant workers cross the Mexican border plant and harvest. Their low-cost labor keeps the prices of fruits and vegetables  inexpensive for Americans. They often take jobs in the service sector that are either so low-paying or undesirable that native-born workers refuse them. However, at the other end of the scale, well-educated newcomers from China, India and Pakistan are transforming America's high-tech industries, especially in the areas of computer technology. The computer has rejuvenated home work. Men and women can support their families, working in a variety of industries that require online labor. 

The expansion of hospital based medical care, and the institutions of broad-based social programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, resulted in the need for thousands of skilled professionals. The 1965 Immigration Act, which abolished national quotas in favor of those based on professional status, aimed to encourage the immigration of professionals. Thousands of unemployed professionals  from India and Pakistan flocked to the United States............Medical graduates especially were encouraged , with offers of free apartments and secure jobs at hospitals.

Riaz Haq said...

April 2019

Over 9.5% of green card recipients in FY 2017 were from South Asian countries: Bangladesh (14,693); Bhutan (2,940); India
(60,394); Nepal (11,610); Pakistan (17,408); and Sri Lanka (1,627).

The South Asian American community grew roughly 40% between 2010 and 2017. (See Table 1) The Nepali community
experienced the most significant growth, increasing by 206.6% followed by Indian, Bhutanese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and
Sri Lankan populations.
By 2065, it is projected that Asian Americans will be the largest immigrant population. The term immigrant refers to 2
individuals living in the United States but were not U.S. citizens at birth and necessarily all individuals who trace their
ancestry to a country outside of the United States. Bhutanese (92%) and Nepalese (88%) communities have the highest
foreign-born shares, followed by Sri Lankans (78%), Bangladeshis (74%), Indians (69%), and Pakistanis (67%)

Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) describes the total South Asian American population that is eligible to vote.30
Bangladeshi - 69,825
Bhutanese - 1,242
Indian - 1,558,594
Nepalese - 18,931
Pakistani - 222,252
Sri Lankan - 22,161

Changes in South Asian American Population, 2010 to 2017
Single Ethnicity Reported4 Multiple Ethnicities Reported5
2010 2017 Percent
2010 2017 Percent
Bangladeshi 142,080 176,229 24% 147,300 185,622 26%
Bhutanese 18,814 23,904 27% 19,439 26,845 38.1%
Indian 2,918,807 4,094,539 40.3% 3,183,063 4,402,362 38.3%
Maldivian 102 N/A N/A 127 N/A N/A
Nepali 57,209 171,709 200.1% 59,490 182,385 206.6%
Pakistani 382,994 499,099 30.3% 409,163 544,640 33.1%

Riaz Haq said...

Dancers Honor California’s Mexican-Punjabi Heritage | KQED Arts

Mixing bhangra and Mexican folkloric styles, dancers explore the Punjabi-Mexican communities that took root early in the 20th century when farm workers from India married Mexican women.

Riaz Haq said...

When #KamalaHarris's mother first came to #America, there were only around 12,000 #Indian immigrants here.The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 paved the way for millions of Indians and other non-European immigrants to come to the #UnitedStates.

It was 1958, seven years before a new law would transform the US immigration system and fundamentally change the face of the nation.
By 2018, there were nearly 2.7 million Indian immigrants living in the US. And now, Gopalan's daughter, Sen. Kamala Harris, is the first Indian American on a major party's presidential ticket.
Harris is the daughter of immigrants -- her mother from India and her father from Jamaica. Her vice presidential nomination marks a milestone and highlights a major demographic shift in the US in recent decades, as more immigrants began arriving from non-European countries.

"It's hugely significant. ... It is, first of all, really affirming and rooting into our consciousness that these demographic shifts are very much a part of our country and they are here to stay," says Virginia state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, who was born in India.
"Her background, her experience, her leadership is an indication of the ways in which so many immigrant communities really just are woven throughout the fabric of this country."

A young Harris is seen with her mother, Shyamala, in this photo that was posted on Harris' Facebook page in March 2017. "She, and so many other strong women in my life, showed me the importance of community involvement and public service," Harris wrote.
Some Indian Americans say the moment is a particularly resonant sign of how far the community has come in a matter of decades. Others note that Harris' Indian heritage is just one part of her background and caution against painting a group that is culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse with too broad a brush.
But there's no doubt that this is a "first" that's drawing attention.
"It's pretty remarkable that you have a population that was numbering in the thousands 50 years ago now on a major presidential ticket," says Pawan Dhingra, a professor of American Studies at Amherst College.
Dhingra says that reveals a lot about how US immigration policies have influenced who's able to come to the US in the first place, and what happens to generations of families once they're here.
The US began admitting more Asians and Africans
"It speaks to how US immigration law privileged certain kind of immigrants, namely those with high education levels and skills in scientific fields, that many Indians, including Kamala Harris' mother, migrated through," Dhingra says. "Once you have a population in the US that is highly educated and highly skilled, then it sets up their kids for certain kinds of achievements and opportunities that can happen within a generation or two."
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eliminated national origin quotas, paved the way for millions of Indians and other non-European immigrants to come to the United States.

Riaz Haq said...

مریکی ریاست کیلیفورنیا امریکہ سمیت پوری دنیا کو خوراک مہیا کرتی ہے۔ یہاں بہت سے پاکستانی اور بھارتی خاندان آباد ہیں جو زراعت کے شعبے سے وابستہ ہیں۔ ارم خان ایسی ہی ایک پاکستانی نژاد خاتون ہیں جو کیلیفورنیا میں چاول کی کاشت کرتی ہیں۔ نخبت ملک کی رپورٹ۔

Imrun Khan's husband Tariq Khan's family came to America in 1906.

Riaz Haq said...

The Truth Behind Indian American Exceptionalism
Many of us are unaware of the special circumstances that eased our entry into American life—and of the bonds we share with other nonwhite groups.

Arun Venugopal
Senior reporter with WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, after the Exclusion Act halted most immigration from China, North American employers in need of laborers turned to India, among other places. As Erika Lee notes in her 2015 book, The Making of Asian America, leaflets blanketed the Punjabi countryside promising “opportunities of fortune-making”—typically a wage of $2 a day if a man was strong. As their numbers grew, Indian immigrants, primarily working as farm laborers or lumberjacks, came to be considered “the least desirable of all races.” Nativists warned of a “tide of turbans.” The immigrants were overwhelmingly men, and were legally prevented from bringing over a wife or children. Subject to anti-miscegenation laws, the unmarried frequently found spouses in the Hispanic or Black communities.

In 1920, a court in Oregon granted citizenship to a man named Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian immigrant who had served in the U.S. Army during the First World War. A naturalization examiner objected, and the issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Citing immigration and naturalization law of the time, the Court in 1923 ruled that Thind was not white in “the understanding of the common man” and denied him citizenship. In 1924, the U.S. passed the draconian Johnson-Reed Act, the last of a series of laws that effectively closed the door to immigrants from Asian countries.

Vaishno Das Bagai, the son of a wealthy landowner in Peshawar, had arrived on Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, in 1915 with his wife, their three sons, and $25,000 in gold. He became a naturalized citizen in 1921. But the revocation of his citizenship, in 1923, led to the liquidation of his property, including the store he owned. In 1928, despondent, he took his own life. “I came to America thinking, dreaming, and hoping to make this land my home,” he wrote in a farewell letter addressed to “the world at large,” which was published in the San Francisco Examiner. “Now what am I?”

Attitudes began to change during the Second World War. The U.S. began—selectively—to scrub exclusionary laws in a bid to build wartime alliances in Asia and to counter propaganda by Germany and Japan, which took aim at America’s grim racial history. Naturalization rights were extended to Chinese immigrants in 1943 and to immigrants from India and the Philippines in 1946. Japanese Americans were of course an exception—their loyalty questioned, they were rounded up during the war and interned in detention camps.

The nature of anti-Asian racism in the U.S. was always different from that of racism directed at Black Americans, which was much older than the nation. In sheer numerical terms, the Asian and Pacific Islander population was small—in 1940, it was one‑50th the size of the Black population. African Americans would fight for decades more to end legal segregation and secure voting rights, even as doors were thrown open for Asians.

As one nation after another shed its colonial overlord—the Philippines in 1946, India and Pakistan in 1947, Indonesia in 1949—the U.S. was in the delicate position of trying to expand its sphere of influence without perpetuating imperial optics. In her book Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (2011), the legal historian Mary Dudziak framed the issue pointedly:

How could American democracy be a beacon during the Cold War, and a model for those struggling against Soviet oppression, if the United States itself practiced brutal discrimination against minorities within its own borders?

Riaz Haq said...

Arun Venugopal
Senior reporter with WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit

The career of Dalip Singh Saund can be understood against this backdrop. Saund, a Democrat from California, was the first Indian American elected to Congress. In 1956, he narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, Jacqueline Cochran Odlum, a pioneering pilot and the first woman to break the sound barrier. She found it hard to believe that she had lost to “a Hindu,” and never ran for office again. Saund was in fact Sikh. He had arrived in the U.S. in 1920, at the height of anti-Asian sentiment, and received a doctorate in mathematics, but had gone on to become a successful farmer (and a justice of the peace). Early on, he wore a turban, but at some point he stopped. The images we have of him in later years show a dashing man in dark suits. In one photo, he flashes a rakish smile while greeting then-Senator John F. Kennedy. He represented a new kind of mid-century American.

During the pandemic this spring, my parents were stuck in Kerala and watched, bewildered, as America seemed to implode, and not just from disease and economic distress. Police killings of unarmed Black Americans inspired national outrage and protest; a backlash led by armed white counterprotesters was quick in coming. I communicated with them by email and WhatsApp. On one occasion, I asked Dad what had prompted him and Mom to move to Piney Point, back in the ’70s. “Perhaps,” he ventured in reply, “the American dream.”

That “perhaps” reflected the fact that many years had passed and memories were foggy. But I think it also reflected something else: that the American narrative is not nearly as neat and linear in his mind as it had appeared when he arrived here, months after the U.S. had put a man on the moon. The American dream doesn’t mean what it once did to a newcomer.

Read: Trump is scaring Indian Americans into finding their political voice

In 2017, just a few weeks into the Trump presidency, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian-born engineer, was killed at a bar in a Kansas City suburb. The killer had shouted: “Get out of my country.” Not long after, I found myself on an email thread with my dad and a few of his good friends, or “uncles,” as we refer to them, all retired Indian American doctors around the age of 80. They understood that the position of Indian Americans was in many ways privileged, and that threats were sporadic. But they were worried. “The more noise we make, these racists will be awakened, who may never have heard of Hindus and their customs,” wrote one. “Fighting them alone may get us under six feet.” The only thing to do, he said, was lie low. Despite all their success, and nearly 50 years of living in the U.S., the uncles were reacting as if their Americanness remained tentative and conditional.

Like most of their Indian-immigrant peers, the uncles came from historically advantaged communities. This had helped them emerge from India’s ferocious academic system victorious, allowed them to leap across continents and flourish professionally, and enabled them to isolate themselves in America’s best and whitest neighborhoods.

It did not, however, prepare them for a fight—or for the realization that they were not in this alone.

Riaz Haq said...

Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey

According to IAAS data, 54 percent of respondents report belonging to the Hindu faith (see figure 6). The next most common response—those claiming no religious affiliation (a category that includes agnostics and atheists)—accounts for 16 percent of the sample. Thirteen percent of respondents are Muslim, 11 percent are Christian, and another 7 percent belong to a variety of other faiths including Buddhism and Sikhism. In certain cases, these larger groupings consist of smaller denominations that have been aggregated upward.

This study is the third in a series on the social, political, and foreign policy attitudes of Indian Americans. The major findings are briefly summarized below.

Indian Americans exhibit very high rates of marriage within their community. While eight out of ten respondents have a spouse or partner of Indian origin, U.S.-born Indian Americans are four times more likely to have a spouse or partner who is of Indian origin but was born in the United States.
Religion plays a central role in the lives of Indian Americans but religious practice varies. While nearly three-quarters of Indian Americans state that religion plays an important role in their lives, religious practice is less pronounced. Forty percent of respondents pray at least once a day and 27 percent attend religious services at least once a week.
Roughly half of all Hindu Indian Americans identify with a caste group. Foreign-born respondents are significantly more likely than U.S.-born respondents to espouse a caste identity. The overwhelming majority of Hindus with a caste identity—more than eight in ten—self-identify as belonging to the category of General or upper caste.
“Indian American” itself is a contested identity. While Indian American is a commonly used shorthand to describe people of Indian origin, it is not universally embraced. Only four in ten respondents believe that “Indian American” is the term that best captures their background.
Civic and political engagement varies considerably by one’s citizenship status. Across nearly all metrics of civic and political participation, U.S.-born citizens report the highest levels of engagement, followed by foreign-born U.S. citizens, with non-citizens trailing behind.
Indian Americans’ social communities are heavily populated by other people of Indian origin. Indian Americans—especially members of the first generation—tend to socialize with other Indian Americans. Internally, the social networks of Indian Americans are more homogenous in terms of religion than either Indian region (state) of origin or caste.
Polarization among Indian Americans reflects broader trends in American society. While religious polarization is less pronounced at an individual level, partisan polarization—linked to political preferences both in India and the United States—is rife. However, this polarization is asymmetric: Democrats are much less comfortable having close friends who are Republicans than the converse. The same is true of Congress Party supporters vis-à-vis supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Indian Americans regularly encounter discrimination. One in two Indian Americans reports being discriminated against in the past one year, with discrimination based on skin color identified as the most common form of bias. Somewhat surprisingly, Indian Americans born in the United States are much more likely to report being victims of discrimination than their foreign-born counterparts.
To some extent, divisions in India are being reproduced within the Indian American community. While only a minority of respondents are concerned about the importation of political divisions from India to the United States, those who are identify religion, political leadership, and political parties in India as the most common factors.

Riaz Haq said...

Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey

Religious affiliation too correlates with one’s feelings toward their Indian identity. Eighty-eight percent of Hindus say being Indian is very or somewhat important to them, compared to 79 percent of Christians and 66 percent of Muslims. This is possibly a reflection of India’s current political climate. The February 2021 IAAS paper found that almost seven in ten Hindus approve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s performance, while just one in five Muslims feel the same.34 However, without longitudinal data, it is unclear to what extent the religious divide reflects the specificities of the current context—in which Muslims in India feel especially marginalized and discriminated against—or is instead a product of longer-term trends.


Self-identification also varies by religion. While 86 percent of Hindus report identifying with some kind of “Indian” identity, 71 percent of Christians and 52 percent of Muslims do the same. Relative to Muslims, Christians and Hindus are equally likely to self-identify as “Indian American” (47 percent each versus 32 percent for Muslims), and Hindus are substantially more likely to self-identify as “Indian” (32 percent versus 17 percent for Christians and 12 percent for Muslims). On the other hand, Muslims are much more likely to self-identify as “South Asian” (27 percent compared to 7 percent of Christians and 5 percent of Hindus). Finally, Christians are more likely to self-identify as “American” without any hyphenation (9 percent versus 6 percent for Muslim and 4 percent for Hindus).


First, Hindus are more likely to report that most or all of their Indian friends are also Hindus, underscoring a greater degree of religious homogeneity in their social networks. Fifty-eight percent of Hindus respond in this way, while 48 and 46 percent of Muslims and Christians, respectively, report that their networks are comprised of those of the same religion. Second, around one-third of Christians and Hindus and two-fifths of Muslims are situated in the middle, reporting that some of their Indian American networks are made up of friends of the same religion. Third, Christians are much more likely to report that hardly any or none of their Indian friends share their religion. Nearly one in five (19 percent) identify this way, compared to 10 percent of Muslims and only 6 percent of Hindus.

Riaz Haq said...

#Sikh #Farmers: ‘I Can’t See Myself Doing Anything Else’. In #California, a young generation of Sikh farmers has #agricultural roots that stretch back 900 years. Since September 2020, farmers in #India have been protesting #Modi's new agricultural laws.

KERMAN, Calif. — Simranjit Singh is a second-generation American farmer, but his agricultural roots go back 900 years.

Before his father moved to California from India in 1991, before India gained independence from Britain in 1947, before his Sikh culture took root in 1469, the civilizations of Northern India worked various agricultural lands, and Mr. Singh, 28, is part that unbroken lineage.

On a secluded 100-acre farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California, he and his father tend the family’s raisin and almond orchards, determined to keep their heritage vital.

“Whatever is passed to me from my father is so valuable that I would be a fool to throw it away,” he says. “Farming will always be at the core of who I am.”

Over the past century, ethnic diasporas from all over the world have labored in these fields, as people from Armenia, Mexico, Southeast Asia, China and many other places have built lives and families rooted in Central California’s fertile soil. It’s a place whose economy and lifeblood are defined by the land and the people who work it. Punjabi Sikhs are among the most recent migrants to try their luck.

The Sran farm, where Mr. Singh works with his father, Sarbjit Sran, is a small full-time operation with just the two men running most day-to-day operations. Mr. Singh’s mother, Jaswinder Sran, 55, sometimes joins them in the fields. Only during the late-summer harvest does the family hire contract laborers to reap the ripened crops.

Mr. Singh and other younger Sikh farmers in the region are already a shrinking group. Economic mobility has pushed recent generations into more traditionally white-collar occupations, even as the remaining farmers feel duty bound to continue.

“Around here, you don’t have as many Punjabi workers as we used to have in the ’80s and ’90s, because the kids are now doing professional things,” said Simon Sihota, a prominent Punjabi Sikh farmer in the area.

Riaz Haq said...

The first person in Sheridan, Wyoming, to learn that Hot Tamale Louie had been knifed to death was William Henry Harrison, Jr. The news came by telegram, the day after the murder. Harrison was the son of a member of Congress, the great-grandson of one President, the great-great-great-grandson of another President, and the great-great-great-great-grandson of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Hot Tamale Louie was the son of nobody knows who, the grandson of nobody knows who, and the great-great-grandson of nobody knows who. He had been selling tamales in Sheridan since Buffalo Bill rode in the town parade, sold them when President Taft came to visit, was still selling them when the Russians sent Sputnik into space and the British sent the Beatles to America.

By then, Louie was a local legend, and his murder shocked everyone. It was front-page, above-the-fold news in Sheridan, and made headlines throughout Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota. It travelled by word of mouth across the state to Yellowstone, and by post to California, where former Sheridan residents opened their mailboxes to find letters from home-town friends mourning Louie’s death.

That was in 1964. Two years later, the killer was tried, found guilty, hanged, removed from the gallows, then hanged again. Within a few years after that, Louie, his tamales, his murder, and everything else about him had faded from the headlines. A half century passed. Then, late last year, he wound up back in the news.

The events that propelled him there took place in the town of Gillette, ninety minutes southeast of Sheridan. Situated in the stark center of Wyoming’s energy-rich but otherwise empty Powder River Basin, Gillette grew up around wildcat wells and coal mines—dry as a bone except in its saloons, prone to spontaneous combustion from the underground fires burning perpetually beneath it. Because its economy is tied to the energy industry, it is subject to an endless cycle of boom and bust, and to a ballooning population during the good years. The pattern of social problems that attend that kind of rapid population growth—increased crime, higher divorce rates, lower school attendance, more mental-health issues—has been known, since the nineteen-seventies, as Gillette Syndrome. Today, the town consists of three interstate exits’ worth of tract housing and fast food, surrounded by open-pit mines and pinned to the map by oil rigs. Signs on the highway warn about the fifty-mile-per-hour winds.

A couple of hundred Muslims live in northeastern Wyoming, and last fall some of them pooled their money to buy a one-story house at the end of Gillette’s Country Club Road, just outside a development called Country Club Estates, in one of the nicer neighborhoods in town. They placed a sign at the end of the driveway, laid prayer rugs on top of the wall-to-wall carpeting, and began meeting there for Friday worship—making it, in function if not in form, the third mosque in the state.

Most locals reacted to this development with indifference or neighborly interest, if they reacted at all. But a small number formed a group called Stop Islam in Gillette to protest the mosque; to them, the Muslims it served were unwelcome newcomers to Wyoming, at best a menace to the state’s cultural traditions and at worst incipient jihadis. When those protests darkened into threats, the local police got involved, as did the F.B.I.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan pioneers in Wyoming


The Khans of Wyoming: WyoFile interviews writer Kathryn Schulz
The New Yorker magazine writer Kathryn Schulz’s remarkable story, “Citizen Khan” (June 6), about Wyoming’s one-hundred-year-old Muslim community began modestly as reporting on a tawdry flap over a new mosque in Gillette.

Unemployed oil field mechanic and Wyomingite Bret Colvin, 49, had raised an ill-informed stink — mostly through social media tirades — about the Queresha mosque near the Gillette golf course.

“I don’t want Jihadis in my neighborhood,” he told Wyoming Public Radio reporter Miles Bryan in December.

Colvin, a Roman Catholic and ex-Marine, created the Facebook group “Stop Islam in Gillette” that recently listed 389 members. Some of his followers posted attacks on Islam and threatened to disrupt the mosque by — among other defiling acts — throwing bacon at the mosque walls.

Some in Wyoming’s Muslim community calmly responded, notably Aftab Khan, a University of Wyoming molecular biology graduate and regional hotel chain operator who was born in Sheridan. Aftab Khan attempted to engage the xenophobes, noting that his family had been in Wyoming almost as long as Colvin’s and were solid citizens.

“My entire family participated in some kind of sport or debate team; school councils; public boards,” Aftab Khan, 41, said in a recent interview. “We’ve participated in a lot of different arenas. This one particular guy (Colvin) is just stirring up a lot of crap.”

Acting to defuse the situation, Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King earlier this year called in the FBI to investigate the “Stop Islam” movement and things have calmed down since.

“I’ve been asked what are you going to do about the mosque and the Muslims,” Carter-King told WPR. “Well, I feel we are here to protect them just as we do anyone else.”

Using the mosque controversy as the entry point into her story, Schulz dug deeply into the early Muslim presence in Wyoming and found the astonishing, exhilarating yet often troubling tale of Afghan immigrant Zarif Khan. Others had touched on this story, notably Montana radio reporter Clay Scott, a former foreign correspondent who captured a piece of this history in an April 2012 report, “The Legacy of Zarif Khan” for his series Voices of the Mountain West.

While acknowledging Scott’s contribution and that of the Sheridan Press newspaper, which reported key points in the Khan saga, Schulz took the tale to an entirely different level. Given the rising pitch of Islamophobia in Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, her story has special resonance today.

Kathryn Shultz who brought the remarkable story of Zarif Khan to light, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. (Photo by InkWell Management Literary Agency)
Kathryn Shulz who brought the remarkable story of Zarif Khan to light, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. (Photo by InkWell Management Literary Agency)

Riaz Haq said...

Ghadar Party at the city's Finnish Socialist Hall in 1913. The Ghardar Party was an organization founded by Punjabi Indians, in the United States and Canada with the aim to liberate India from British rule. The movement began with a group of immigrants known as the Hindustani Workers of the Pacific Coast. This is an important site for members of the Astoria community, tourists from India and Indian communities across the United States.

The Ghadar Party Plaque is located at Maritime Memorial Park walkway, next to Shively's Historic Fresh Water Fountain. Park amenities include benches and group gathering spaces.

Riaz Haq said...

A #kidnapped family of 4 #Indian-#American #Sikhs, including an 8-month old baby, has been found dead in #Merced, #California, authorities say. A suspect in custody was convicted in 2005 in a case involving armed robbery and false imprisonment.

The search for a family of four kidnapped in California ended Wednesday with authorities recovering their bodies from a rural farm area days after being abducted at gunpoint.

“Tonight, our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said during a news conference Wednesday night. “Horribly, horribly senseless what happened here.”

The body of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri was found in the same general area as her parents Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh, along with the body of the child’s uncle Amandeep Singh, Warnke said. Authorities received a call to the area Wednesday afternoon, he said.

The family had been missing since Monday, when authorities said they were kidnapped by a man armed with a gun and forced into a truck.

Police have taken into custody a man they consider a person of interest in the case. The man is speaking with authorities and a motive remains unclear at this time, the sheriff said.

Before the bodies were found, family members were imploring the public for any information related to the case.

“Every store, gas stations, everybody who has cameras please check the cameras,” Sukhdeep Singh, a brother of one of the victims, told reporters Wednesday. “We need the public’s help right now. Please help us … so my family comes home safe.”

Another relative, identified only as Balvinder, described the family as “peace loving” and said they own a small business and are longtime residents of the area.

“We are devastated. We are shocked. We are dying every moment not finding any clues,” Balvinder said.