In a recent diaspora engagement in Washington DC, India’s Minister for External Affairs, Dr S Jaishankar, made an incredibly poignant remark. Responding to a question on rising anti-India sentiment in many Western countries, including the US, the UK, and Canada, Jaishankar said: “Look, the more India goes its way and the people who believe that they were the custodians and the shapers of India lose ground in India, the more actually, some of these debaters gonna come outside.” What happened in the anti-Hindu riots of Leicester, England, and the Teaneck Democrats’ resolution against Hindu-American organisations in New Jersey, goes beyond the realm of ‘debates’, Jaishankar pointed out. These incidents pose genuine threats and challenges to religious freedom and freedom of speech. It also exposes the tangled web of authoritarianism between the security-intelligence agencies and the progressive-neocon wing of the American ruling class. In this context, the Biden DOJ’s school board “violence” memo must be kept in mind.
Onslaught On Hindus
There has been a series of anti-Indian and anti-Hindu hate speeches and hate crimes across the US in the past couple of months. The perpetrators vandalised a Mahatma Gandhi statue at a Hindu Mandir in Richmond Hills, New York. At a fast-food chain in Fremont, CA, a Hindu man was drowned in a deluge of unprovoked racial and Hinduphobic slurs. A viral video on social media showed a woman shouting racist comments and physically assaulting a group of Indian women in Texas. Then the anti-Hindu riots in Leicester, UK, saw the Jihadi elements vandalise Hindu homes and places of worship.
These were targeted attacks on the minority Hindu diaspora. The Hindu community worldwide felt the shock waves. But even before the Hindu diaspora had an opportunity to come to terms with these assaults, another shocker came from Teaneck Democrats’ anti-Hindu resolution.
There has been a series of anti-Indian and anti-Hindu hate speeches and hate crimes across the US in the past couple of months. The perpetrators vandalised a Mahatma Gandhi statue at a Hindu Mandir in Richmond Hills, NY. At a fast-food chain in Fremont, CA, a Hindu man was drowned in a deluge of unprovoked racial and Hinduphobic slurs. A viral video on social media showed a woman shouting racist comments and physically assaulting a group of Indian women in Texas
Teaneck is a township of about 40,000 residents in New Jersey just outside the NY Metropolitan area. Under the aegis of the Indian Business Association, the Indian-American community of the Teaneck took out an India Day Parade to celebrate ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’—the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence from British colonial rule. The Parade featured, among other floats and tableaus, a bulldozer. The organisers also hung pictures of Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister (the head of the executive branch) of the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh (UP), and the second-term Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi.
The Indian American Muslim Council & the Teaneck Democrats
The Parade triggered a backlash against its organisers. The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a DC-based advocacy group representing Indian Muslims, was at the forefront of this ‘backlash.’ It was alleged by the IAMC that the Parade was an endorsement of Modi and Yogi’s alleged anti-minority policies. Soon, Black Lives Matter (BLM), American Muslims for Democracy, and other fringe leftist and jihadi groups got into action.
IAMC demanded immediate action from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the New Jersey Attorney General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The IAMC also filed a formal complaint with the Edison Police Department. It asked the US DOJ to cancel the visa of Sambit Patra, the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who had served as the Grand Marshal of the Parade.
The Teaneck Democrats, under the leadership of municipal chairman Alexandra Soriano-Taveras, passed a resolution that compared many US Hindu organisations to foreign hate groups. Many prominent Democrats, including US Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, also issued statements siding with the IAMC narrative.
Despite members of the Indian-American community occupying high-profile political posts, the diaspora has failed to produce leadership that champions Hindu-American causes. This lacuna has been the most glaring in the recent attacks on Hindu Americans. Worse, many Hindus are deeply entrenched in the progressive American ‘race’ narrative. They either fail to see Hinduphobia or consciously deny it even when faced with it for the perceived fear or emboldening “Hindutva”
Pressured and bullied, the Parade organisers issued an apology. “Our parade should never be about politics and should never include these blatant divisive symbols,” the group said. “We hereby make the commitment that we will not allow these symbols in the future and that we will work with all different groups of South Asian heritage to make sure that our parade remains the best in the State of New Jersey.”
The Hindu Warrior Ascetic Tradition
Re-elected recently with an overwhelming majority, Yogi Aditynath heads a State roughly the size of Wyoming in area. Uttar Pradesh is also about four times the size of the UK in population. Born Ajay Singh Bisht in 1972, Adityanath became an ordained Hindu monk (1994) belonging to the Goraknath Sampradaya (order) soon after finishing his undergraduate studies in Mathematics. Guru Gorakhnath, an 11th-century Yogi, founded the Sampradaya with a mandate to protect cows. A five-time Parliamentarian, Adityanath was the youngest (26-year-old) member of the Lok Sabha (People’s House) of the Indian Sansad (Parliament) before taking over the reins as the Chief Minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh in 2014. Throughout Indian history, the warrior ascetics have played a significant role in the protection of Dharma—the overarching tenet of Hinduism. In recent history, the Sanyasi Rebellion of the 1770s was one of the first revolts, though much smaller in scale compared to the First War of Independence of 1857, against the rule of the East India Company. The anti-cow slaughter agitation of 1966 too was led by the Sadhus. In the 1990s, the Sadhus played a prominent role in the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi movement to construct a grand temple in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram.
Once a rich and culturally vibrant State, Uttar Pradesh had fallen into disrepute for crime, corruption, and poverty. Soon after Yogi was appointed as the CM of Uttar Pradesh, he embarked on a mission to rid UP of all maladies and put it on the path of progress and development. In that exercise, the bulldozer became a symbol of the fight against crime and corruption. Author Shantanu Gupta in his book The Monk Who Transformed Uttar Pradesh provides meticulous details of how Yogi Adiyanath has fought crimes and corruption using bulldozers.
What Is At Stake?
The Teaneck Democrats’ blatantly anti-Hindu resolution and its pandering to the Indian American Muslim Council and other anti-Hindu groups are symbolic of the issues facing the Hindus, including in India, their Holyland—the Devabhoomi (the land of Gods and Goddesses) and Pitrubhoomi (the land of ancestors). The Left-dominated academia and media have created a highly negative image of the Hindus. They often raise the spectre of “Hindu Nationalism,” “Hindutva,” caste oppression, etc., without much understanding and contextualisation. They do it to demean Hindus and create hatred against the followers of one of the oldest and arguably the most liberal faiths.
Divide Between Narrative And Reality
It’s no secret that the West’s perception of Indian culture, texts, and traditions is at odds with reality. The recent ‘Religions of India’ survey, a massive undertaking by the Pew Research Centre, illustrates the schism between the narrative and reality. The overriding Orientalist, colonial, and Marxist discourse about India fosters a dubious and distorted ‘outsider’ narrative at the cost of a native and authentic one. The indigenous and native Hindu’ insiders’ rarely get a seat at the table. This non-native perspective has permeated deep into the Western and native consciousness. It also manifests in academic and popular presentations. The only Hindu acceptable under such representation is the colonised docile Hindu who quietly accepts the diktats of the non-native “scholars.” For example, a prominent South Asia academician from Rutgers University tweeted that her views on Hinduism trump the followers’ opinions of the tradition because she was a “scholar” (sic). They reject any deviation from such an outsider presentation or breaching the “academic consensus” as “Hindutva” terrorism.
The Road Ahead
Despite members of the Indian-American community occupying high-profile political posts, the diaspora has failed to produce leadership that champions Hindu-American causes. This lacuna has been the most glaring in the recent attacks on Hindu Americans. Worse, many Hindus are deeply entrenched in the progressive American ‘race’ narrative. They either fail to see Hinduphobia or consciously deny it even when faced with it for the perceived fear or emboldening “Hindutva.” Case in point—a family member of the Texas hate-crime victim tweeted, targeting Hindu organisations, that they will not be used for “nationalist propaganda.”
Acting As Silent Spectators
More than 50 Hindu organisations condemned the Teaneck Democrats’ anti-Hindu resolution. However, none of the prominent Indian and Hindu-American politicians—Democrats or Republicans—uttered a word against these attacks. The current US administration, by the way, boasts one of the largest contingents of Indian-Americans. Most high-profile Indian-American Big Tech and Fortune 500 CEOs maintained their studied silence throughout these Hinduphobia attacks. These are the CEOs we proudly share WhatsApp forwards and Social Media posts of their Indian roots. Some even became recipients of the Padma Award—one of the highest civilian awards accorded by the Indian government. Some Indian-American CEOs have rarely missed an opportunity to comment on progressive social issues or the controversial ESG. However, “not one institution, group, or leader who claims the mantle of ‘secularism,’ or being ‘progressive,’ or ‘South Asian,’ or whose concern is ‘human rights,” said Ramesh Rao, “have gone to bat for Hindus.”
Rao is a professor of Communication Studies at Columbus State University. While writing this column, a piece of news from the prestigious University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law caught the author’s eyes. At Berkeley, nine different law groups have begun their new academic year by amending their bylaws to ensure that they will never invite any speaker who supports Israel or Zionism. With the California State University system’s recognition of “caste” as a discriminatory category, Rutgers University professor Audrey Truschkey organising the “Holi against Hindutva” and “Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference,” how far away are we Hindus from the ‘submit or perish’ proclamation?