Opinion: The city that fell for a hoax

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka showed mercy in January at a ceremony to make Newark “sister cities” with the “Hindu nation” of Kailash.

“I pray that our relationship will help us understand the cultural, social and political development,” he said in a joint speech at City Hall, “and improve the lives of everyone in both places.”

However, recently the city has had to – as experts say? – “return” to these comments after it became known that Kailash does not exist.

In fact, it’s even worse: Kailash appears to be just a website and a scheme run by Swami Nityananda, a notorious fugitive from India who has been trying to evade authorities ever since he was charged with kidnapping and child rape in 2019.

Newark officials said in a statement that they now consider the proclamation of their sister cities to be “unreasonable and invalid.”

The news that Newark had allied itself with a non-existent nation caused an uproar from both the left and the right.

“How can the whole city fall into a trap?” Kal Penn, an actor who also briefly worked in the Obama White House, said while taking daily show. “There must have been so many red flags. The biggest one was that someone wanted to be Newark’s sister cities.”

Penn from Montclair, New Jersey, about 11 miles from Newark, but in the whole world. Some might say that the people of Montclair should not throw stones at Newark, especially since, unlike Kailash, Newark is real and someone could get hurt.

On the right, Jesse Watters on Fox News asked, “Nobody on the Newark City Council thought, ‘Hey, I’ve never heard of this country… Let me just do a Google search before we put these guys in the room and make them ours.’ sister city.”

The Kailasa website calls itself home to “an ancient enlightened civilization, a great cosmic boundless Hindu nation”. I understand why someone in the city bustle of Newark City Hall who may have been looking for “Kailash” might read this line and think, “Sounds good!”

The city government of Newark may have deserved a little criticism for its naivety. But I also find something attractive in it. That Newark would have said yes without much thought seems sincere and courteous to me. The mystifier deserves ridicule, not the deceiver.

And if Newark is still interested, I have a bridge in Brooklyn, I’d like to sell them.

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