Hinduism

What happened to Indian land owners in California

According to the 1919 census of land in the state of California, Indians owned 88,000 acres of land in California. 52% of this land was in the Sacramento Valley.

In the Imperial Valley, they owned 32,000 acres. However, most of these Indians were destined to lose their land under the 1913 California Alien Land law. The supreme court of the USA, in November 1923, upheld this law and claimed that it did not violate the fourteenth amendment.

A few months later California strengthened the law, disallowing Indians from even leasing land. Hence Sikhs and other Indians could only work as agricultural laborers. Racism could also turn violent.

On September 5, 1907, in Bellingham, a frontier town in Washington State, mob of over 500 angry racist white men kicked open the doors to the waterfront barracks. Some of them grabbed all the “Hindus’” belongings and threw them onto the street. If they found any money or jewelry they pocketed it. The others went after the “rag-heads” themselves.

They dragged the Indians from their beds and punched and kicked them. The ones that jumped out of the buildings to escape injured themselves in the process or were caught and beaten outside. Other rioters attacked a tenement on Forest Street. Once they were done beating the “Hindus” they burnt the bunkhouses. The police just stood and watched.

police chief turned over City Hall to the mob so the mob could collect the Indians and hold them there. He claimed it was to protect the Indians! Earlier, at the insistence of the mob, his policemen had released two youths who had been caught stoning Indians. They didn’t interfere with the mob’s rampage after that. As all the ‘Hindus’ left town nobody was prosecuted. But history repeated itself in other towns.

On November 5th, 1907, in Everett, Washington, over five hundred armed men attacked and beat the Indians and robbed and destroyed their belongings. Most newspapers editorials in the west including the San Francisco Chronicle condemned the violence but proclaimed that they understood and supported the intentions of the mobs for a “white west coast”.

These racist aspirations coalesced into groups such as the Asiatic Exclusion League. Thousands of Indian immigrants who had been naturalized lost their citizenship as they were deemed to be ‘non-Aryan’.

For example, Bhagat Singh Thind had his citizenship revoked twice, finally becoming a naturalized American only in 1935, almost 20 years after arriving in the country. This was by virtue of the fact that he had served in the military.

 – S Suchindranath Iyer
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sikkim offbeat destinations

    April 3, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Hi there. Love your blog!.

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