Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Silicon Valley's Indian-American Congressman Joins Pakistan Caucus, Rejects Hindutva

Democrat Ro Khanna representing Silicon Valley has joined US Congress's Pakistan Caucus and rejected Hindutva. His actions have angered Hindu American supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Cracks are beginning to appear in the Hindu American community. Democrats from the Progressive Wing of the Party are finding it increasingly difficult to support Prime Minister Modi as he ferociously pushes his hateful Hindutva agenda to target minorities. However, vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his extended lock-down and brutal actions in Kashmir.

Congressman Ro Khanna with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Capitol Hill

Khanna Rejects Hindutva:

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) tweeted the following on Aug. 29: “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.”  On August 17, Khanna became the first Indian-American to join US Congress's Pakistan caucus headed by Democratic Congresswoman Shiela Jackson of Texas and Republican Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana. Khanna's decision to join Pakistan caucus came after he met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during his July visit to Washington. After his July meeting with Khan Khanna tweeted: "Honored to meet PM Imran Khan. We spoke Hindustani, and I shared that my grandfather, an Indian freedom fighter with Gandhi, always had a hope for reconciliation. South Asian Americans of my generation hope for peace in the subcontinent in the 21st century."

Khanna Under Fire:

Khanna, a rising star in the progressive movement, who is vice-chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House, has come under fire by many right-wing Indian-American supporters of the RSS and BJP.
Majority of Hindu-Americans are ardent supporters of President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Indian Ambassador Shringle (R) with White Nationalist Steve Bannon

Most Hindu-Americans fail to see the irony that Srinivas Kuchibhotla who was killed by a white nationalist in Kansas in February 2017 was a victim of the same kind of hatred in America that Mr. Modi espouses against minorities in India. Kuchibotla himself was an ardent fan of Mr. Modi’s sweeping Hindutva politics as his wife related after this murder, according to and article published in the Hindu by Indian journalist and writer Varghese K. George.  Here is an excerpt of Mr. George's article:

"The dualism of Indian-American politics has now become unsustainable as Democratic leaders find it increasingly impossible to side with Mr. Modi as he advances the Hindutva agenda. Many of these friends of India were mislead, and had misread Mr. Modi’s politics and they interpreted his success in 2014 as a turn in Indian politics towards more neo-liberal reforms and globalism. Such an image of Mr. Modi was also projected by Indian diplomacy in America. But one American thinker, who interpreted Mr. Modi’s victory as a nativist revolt against a global elite, was none other than Stephen Bannon, the most authentic interpreter of Mr. Trump’s nationalist politics. Mr. Bannon has also been particularly a critic of the H-1B visa and Indian-American immigration. That the Indian Ambassador to the U.S. retweeted a tweet that denounced Mr. Sanders and tweeted about his meeting with Mr. Bannon in glowing terms (he deleted the tweet later) in quick succession bears out the official Indian position on the emerging fault-lines in American politics and the role of Indian Americans in it."

Hindu Nationalism in America:

India's top Hindu Nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has gone global with shakhas (branches) in 39 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and several Islamic middle eastern nations, according to Indian media reports.

In the United States alone, the RSS has 146 active chapters spread over all 50 states, according to Satish Modh who has been associated with RSS work abroad for over 25 years.

While shakhas in India take place in open public spaces, most shakhas meet on university campuses on hired parking lots in the US, says Modh.  Most overseas shakhas are held once a week. In London, they are held twice a week. The UK has 84 shakhas.

A US report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Groups" disclosed the following findings regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

 a. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

b. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

c. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard strongly supports Prime Minister Modi

American Presidential Politics:

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a strong supporter of Indian Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Modi.  Her bid for Democratic presidential nomination is being bankrolled by Hindu Nationalist donors. Amongst Gabbard’s many donors are members of the US chapters of groups such as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the Overseas Friends of the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, according to Pieter Friedrich. The Hindu Sangh Parivar in the United States has helped her come from nowhere to get elected to US Congress and set her sights on the White House.

US Presidential Candidate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's Hindutva Donors


Cracks are beginning to appear in the Hindu American community. Democrats from the Progressive Wing of the Party are finding it increasingly difficult to support Prime Minister Modi as he ferociously pushes his hateful Hindutva agenda against minorities. Democrat Ro Khanna representing Silicon Valley has joined US Congress's Pakistan Caucus and rejected Hindutva. His actions have angered Hindu American supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  However, vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his extended lock-down and brutal actions in Kashmir.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Imran Khan in Washington

Modi's Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Hinduization of India

Brievik's Hindutva Rhetoric

Indian Textbooks

India's RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel


Javed E. said...

Thanks for the post.

Ro Khanna is moving in the right direction but he was heard criticizing Imran Khan for inciting war and probably agrees with the Indian takeover of Kashmir. Perhaps you can find out what his stand is on Kashmir.

Riaz Haq said...

Javed: "he was heard criticizing Imran Khan for inciting war and probably agrees with the Indian takeover of Kashmir"

It's not unusual for politicians to talk out of both sides of their mouth.

But Indian-American Democrats in the Progressive Wing of the party can not justify their support for Modi and his actions motivated by his hateful Hindutva politics. It's especially true after Bernie Sanders has unequivocally condemned Modi.

Riaz Haq said...

#American Anti-Fascism Group Coalition Against #Fascism in #India (CAFI) Calls for Protest on Sept 28 during #Modi's US visit to attend #UNGA against #BJP's “anti-minority and anti-poor politics” #KashmirBleeds #Islamophobia #Hindutva https://caravandaily.com/us-based-anti-fascism-group-calls-for-protest-on-modis-un-visit/ via @caravandaily

“Modi’s government has been orchestrating a pogrom of hate and violence against Muslims and Dalits in India. His government has been cracking down on all forms of dissent and all those who question its politics of hate. Its economic policies have resulted in escalation of poverty and the highest unemployment rate in half a century.

“We call upon all anti-fascist, anti-racist,secular, and environmentalist groups in the United States to join us in protesting his visit and exposing the retrograde, near-fascist politics of Modi’s government,” reads the press statement issued by the CAFI.

The group cited many issues for the protest. These include his past role in 2002 Gujarat riots, the role of rightwing organisations, the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and others, in violence against minorities, lynching of Muslims, Adivasi (tribals) and Dalits, his action on Kashmir, his policy on the NRC in Assam, killing and witch-hunt of activists under his regime and many more.

Talking about his role in 2002 Gujarat riots and the involvement of the RSS and the VHP in the violence and hate against minorities, they said “Modi, his party, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and their affiliates, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, have a long history of violence and hate. They openly extol Hitler and Aryan supremacist views. In 2002, as chief minister, Modi oversaw pogrom of Muslim minority in Gujarat in which over a thousand people were killed women raped and thousands more were forced to leave their homes and businesses.”

Referring to the National Register of Citizen (NRC) which rendered millions of people stateless, they said, “The result is a kind of ethnic cleansing that has targeted Muslims and tribal populations in particular. As of July 2019, there are over 100 foreigner tribunals (FTs) in Assam, and 200 more are planned in the first phase by September 2019. These FTs are working with the Assam border police to render millions stateless.”

Drawing attentions towards mob lynching and hate crimes against Muslims under his regime, they said, “Since May 2019 when Modi’s second term as Prime Minister started, the violence against minorities has escalated to new heights. Violent mobs, mostly inspired by the atmosphere of hate perpetrated by the BJP, now attack and lynch Muslims (and Christians) on a daily basis with complete impunity”.

The CAFI also denounced Modi government’s decision to unilaterally revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by resorting to “dictatorial means” like clampdown, communication blackout and putting their leaders under house arrest.

S Abbas said...

Riaz bhai, sooner or later you will get Indians attacking you for not saying much regarding Xinjiang. I have visited the region part of CPEC Chinese language mentorship program and I must say Western and India media have overblown things. There are no human rights or religious intolerance issues.
For those who do not have a chance to know what is happening in Xinjiang, they are welcome to visit Xinjiang and see the truth with their own eyes. Recently, representatives from international organizations including the UN, OIC, and government officials and media groups from Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and some other countries visited Xinjiang and met the trainees face-to-face. They witnessed how local Muslims lived and worked in peace and fully enjoyed the freedom of religion. They highly appreciated the ethnic and religious policies of China.

Saqlain Abbas

Riaz Haq said...

SA: "sooner or later you will get Indians attacking you for not saying much regarding Xinjiang"

This is the kind of whataboutery that disgusts me. It's nothing more than an attempt to justify Modi's horrible Hindutva policies in a country that has long claimed to be a secular democracy. It's the worst kind of hypocrisy.

Riaz Haq said...

Valley of discontent: Contempt for #Indian and #Kashmiri politicians and media overrides ‘azadi’ in #India Occupied #Kashmir. “India is so down and out that it is robbing from the Reserve Bank. And you say you will develop Kashmir? Are you kidding?” https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/valley-of-discontent/article29410880.ece

""The overriding sentiment in Kashmir is not azadi but the deep repulsion and contempt towards the Indian media, particularly TV channels that blare vitriol and threats into their drawing rooms every evening. Soldiers are now intimate enemies of the Kashmiri people but TV anchors have become their constant tormentors. “Yes, soldiers enter our homes off and on, and can be nasty. We try to keep off them. But the Indian media’s falsehood about Kashmir and the situation here is nothing less than violence,” says Junaid. “We switch them off now.” Kashmiris get to make that choice, as of now.""

Riaz Haq said...

#Tulsi Gabbard Refuses Invitation to “Howdy #Modi” Event in Texas. #TulsiGabbard drops out after #Hindu-#American congressman’s call to “reject #Hindutva”. #KashmirStillUnderCurfew http://www.ofmi.org/tulsi-gabbard-refuses-invitation-to-howdy-modi-event-in-texas/

An anonymous source within Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 presidential campaign has confirmed to Organization for Minorities of India that the US congresswoman has refused an invitation to join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 22 pep rally in Houston, Texas.

Gabbard’s decision to drop out of the event, dubbed “Howdy Modi,” follows on the heels of Congressman Ro Khanna’s statement, issued last month, that “it’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians.” Her action marks a significant change in engagement with India’s controversial premier considering she has previously met with him on four occasions.

“Khanna’s statement was immediately recognized by South Asian politicos as a seismic shift in Indo-centric politics,” wrote Amar Shergill on September 3. An attorney who serves as an executive board member of the California Democratic Party, Shergill continued, “He is the highest ranking American elected official of Indian origin, with a deep understanding of and connection to South Asian politics, and, yet, he stated in decisive moral terms that the dominant political ideology of India must be rejected as a matter of fundamental human rights.”

Hindutva, defined by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as an ideology that treats non-Hindus as foreign to India, is the guiding philosophy of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP’s Modi, who campaigned as a Hindu nationalist, stated in 2013, “My identity is of a Hindutvawadi [follower of Hindutva].” VD Savarkar, who popularized Hindutva as a religious nationalist political ideology in his 1923 book of the same name, stated, “India must be a Hindu land, reserved for the Hindus.”

In 2014, Gabbard appeared at events celebrating Modi’s election, even wearing scarves bearing the BJP logo. Later, at their first meeting, Gabbard gifted Modi her childhood copy of the Bhagavad Gita on which she had taken the oath of office. In 2016, she called Modi “a leader whose example and dedication to the people he serves should be an inspiration to elected official everywhere.”

Since 2018, the Hawaiian congresswoman has faced repeated protest for her long-term association with American Hindutva groups, particularly the Overseas Friends of the BJP and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

HSS is the international wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a paramilitary founded on Savarkar’s Hindutva ideology and inspired by fascist movements in Europe. Gabbard’s oldest and most faithful donors include HSS Vice-President Ramesh Bhutada of Houston, who joined BJP (and former RSS) spokesperson Ram Madhav at her 2015 wedding in Hawaii. Bhutada, as reported by a recent profile of Gabbard, worked from Texas to help elect Modi in India. He reportedly organized a phone bank of 700 volunteers and described US-based preparations for supporting Modi’s campaign as “almost like that for an Indian wedding.” He later called Modi’s election “a second independence for India.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi is provoking #Pakistan and #China, and there's high potential for conflict...with the rising #Hindu #nationalism and intercommunal friction, #India is undergoing tremendous upheaval today, says #Israeli political scientist Ayelet Harel-Shalev.

Q: One of your areas of expertise is “deeply divided societies.” Examples are India and also Israel. Can you please first explain the meaning of the term?

A deeply divided society is one composed of a number of different communities that all see themselves as belonging to the state, and the state as belonging to them – but significant disagreements exist between these communities about the nature of that state. For example, whether it should be a state of all its citizens, or be defined as the state of a particular nationality. The case of India is interesting, because it shifts between two narratives. According to the first, it’s a state of all its citizens, a democratic, egalitarian state whose constitution is based on the democratic ethos; while the second narrative, which is currently undergoing rejuvenation and is gaining strength, is that India should be a Hindu and democratic state.

Meaning, a right-wing agenda. What is the difference between “national” and “nationalist” sentiment?

It’s elusive. If we assume that a national approach entails the aspiration that your state will possess a particular national character, take pride in the country’s achievements and have an affinity for members of the group – then nationalism deals with specific preferences for a specific people, with discrimination and racism against, and the pushing aside of, the Other. There are national movements that can be democratic or liberal, grant rights to minorities and not be swept up into nationalism. A case in point is the constitution of India, which is not nationalistic by nature. On the contrary: It promotes equality and defines minority rights. After the partition [in 1947, when independent India and Pakistan were created], which was violent and grim, [founding premier Jawaharlal] Nehru told the minorities: You are flesh of our flesh. This is an example of a particular route to the national that does not include nationalism.

Arguably, there was no other choice: The only way to create a bridge between so many streams and minorities is with pluralistic democracy.

“Uniformity and diversity” – that was the central slogan for India during the first decades of its existence, and it effectively dictated the country’s character.

But that wasn’t really its character. History in that country is rife with bloody clashes between Hindus and Muslims. And that also constituted the background to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

During the initial years [of statehood] there were many movements that believed that the Hindus, as the majority, should lead the country. Gandhi was assassinated by a member of a nationalist movement, the RSS, who thought that he was “selling out” the country to the minorities.

That’s the movement from which Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang. Do you attribute Modi’s rise to the universal trend of the strengthening of the right, or is it a local phenomenon?

It’s not disconnected from the universal trend, of course, but there are other contributing factors to Modi’s success. To begin with, the alternative, the left-center Congress Party, which was the ruling party in India for many decades, became weakened. It was perceived as corrupt, elitist, disconnected. The vacuum that was left made possible the rise and strengthening of nationalist parties that talked about restoring self-respect to the Hindus. Second, Modi is a very charismatic leader. His messages don’t deal only with nationalism; he also talks about the rights of farmers and of women, about recycling, about hygiene and sanitation in India. The public can relate to those messages.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Modi endorses #Trump in 2020: Modi said at his #Houston rally today: “Abki baar Trump sarkar” Trump's participation offered him chance to woo 4 million #American-#Indians whose support could prove helpful in re-election #HowdyModi #AdiosModi https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/22/us/politics/trump-modi-houston-rally.html

The rally brought together two leaders with similar styles. Both rose to power by embracing right-wing populism, portraying themselves as champions of the masses fighting against an entrenched establishment. Both presented voters with a vision to make their respective countries “great again,” and both have fanned tensions along religious, economic and social fault lines.

Mr. Modi, who is in the United States for a week largely to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, won a landslide re-election in May. But Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi are also both polarizing figures among the people they lead. While many Indians see Mr. Modi as a strong, decisive leader, a small but vocal minority say he is becoming an autocrat, rapidly consolidating power, going after political enemies inside his country and sowing division between Hindus and Muslims.

In the United States, Mr. Trump is preparing to run for re-election in a bitterly divided country with polls regularly showing him receiving well short of 50 percent support. His participation in Sunday’s rally with Mr. Modi offered a chance to woo a constituency — the four million American residents of Indian descent — whose support could prove helpful.

Mr. Modi delivered in English an over-the top introduction of Mr. Trump, declaring that the president’s name is “familiar to every person on the planet” and “comes up in almost every conversation in the world on global politics.”

Standing next to Mr. Modi, the president beamed with pleasure as the prime minister delivered a twist on his own election slogan: “Abki baar Trump sarkar” or “This time, a Trump government.”

But earning votes from Indian-Americans will not be easy for Mr. Trump, even with Mr. Modi by his side.

Indian-Americans have supported both Democrats and Republicans in the past, though they have gravitated away from Mr. Trump’s party more recently. Although the president’s tax and economic policies appeal to many Indians, his tough stance on immigration, including legal immigrants from India, has caused great angst, especially in Silicon Valley, which relies heavily on Indian workers who come on H-1B visas.

An overwhelming majority of Indian-American voters are registered as Democrats and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

M.R. Rangaswami, the founder of Indiaspora, a group that tries to organize Indian-Americans, said events like Sunday’s rally help the community become more relevant in the United States. He said Mr. Trump’s appearance here was an opportunity to increase his 14 percent showing among Indian-Americans in 2016.


He has come a long way. Years ago, he was banned by American authorities from even entering the United States because of allegations that as chief minister in Gujarat in the early 2000s he was responsible for an explosion of religiously driven violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives, most of them Muslim.

The goal of this trip is to attract investment to India, and there is a little extra urgency: India’s economy is suffering its biggest downturn in years. Mr. Modi is also eager to shore up diplomatic support. But a controversy threatens to cast a shadow over his visit.

Human rights groups and three Nobel Peace Prize winners have criticized the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a prestigious award they plan to bestow upon Mr. Modi this week. The peace activists say that under Mr. Modi’s leadership, “India has descended into dangerous and deadly chaos that has consistently undermined human rights.”

Riaz Haq said...

#India's Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate: “Facebook is replete with hate posts that continue to fester animosity. It is now clear that despite being reported by its own team, no action is taken” #Facebook #hate #BJP #Islam #Pakistan #socialmedia https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/row-over-wsj-report-facebook-issues-clarification-congress-reiterates-demand-for-jpc-probe

A day after US newspaper Wall Street Journal exposed how social media giant Facebook ignored hate speeches made by BJP leader, Facebook issued a clarification saying it does not discriminate on the basis of political ideology.

“We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone's political position or party affiliation. While we know there is more to do, we're making progress on enforcement and conducting regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy,” said Facebook.

In the report titled “Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics -- Company executive opposed move to ban controversial politician”, the WSJ reported that Facebook looks the other way in cases of hate speech made by BJP leaders.

The WSJ also reported that a top level executive of Facebook’s India operations, Ankhi Das had said punishing violations by BJP workers “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.

Blaming Facebook for ‘destroying democracy in India’, Congress has however, reiterated its demand for a JPC probe.

“With all responsibility I will say that Facebook’s inaction destabilises our democracy. More often than not Facebook takes no action and even worse, allows objectionable content to continue despite being brought to notice,” said Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate.

Saying that “Facebook is replete with hate posts that continue to fester animosity”, Shrinate said, “It is now clear that despite being reported by its own team, no action is taken”.

Shrinate pointed out that Facbook India policy head Ankhi Das' links with the BJP and RSS affiliated ABVP go back a long way.

“Her identical twin sister Ms Rashmi Das was not just ABVP General Secretary at JNU but she continues to be an ABVP activist and was a prominent voice that supported violence on the campus,” she said.

Reiterating Congress’ demand for a JPC probe, Shrinate said, “We also expect Facebook global to look into discrepancies that exist in its India operations and we hope Facebook will take immediate remedial measures”.

Riaz Haq said...

Unmasking Hindutva - Frontline


SOCIAL science academics associated with American and European universities organised a three-day online conference titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva” from September 10 to 12 with the stated aim of bringing together “scholars of South Asia specialising in gender, economics, political science, caste, religion, health care, and media in order to try to understand the complex and multifaceted phenomenon of Hindutva”. The conference was co-sponsored by academic units of more than 50 universities worldwide.

As soon as the announcement pertaining to the conference was made sometime in August, the organisers and the invited speakers were threatened, trolled and intimidated on social media. Hindu groups based in the United States such as the Hindu Mandir Executives Conference, which describes itself as an initiative of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad America, the Coalition of Hindus of North America and the Hindu American Foundation pressured participating universities to withdraw their support for the event. Niraj Antani, a Republican State Senator from Ohio, condemned the conference, terming it as “Hinduphobia”. In India, the event attracted massive opposition, with several media outlets taking the lead in campaigning against it.

The speakers acknowledged the “bravery” and “fortitude” of the organisers in staying the course and proceeding with the conference. The conference had nine thematic sessions with 45 speakers (including the moderators) presenting their ideas and analyses. While the participating scholars (the majority of them were of Indian heritage) were mainly from the U.S., there were speakers from the United Kingdom, France and Germany as well. A handful of Indian activists, who were subjected to virulent online attacks, including death threats, also spoke at the conference. The organisers deserve to be congratulated because it is hard to imagine an academic event that rigorously interrogates the idea of Hindutva taking place in India with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in government at the Centre.

Also read: Sangh Parivar’s U.S. funds trail

The historian Gyan Prakash, in his opening statement, said Hindutva, which he characterised as “anti-democratic and anti-intellectual”, was the “de facto ideology of the ruling regime in India” and that it “seeks to alter the constitutional order”. Prakash stated that the concerted attacks in the U.S. and India on the basis of “false characterisation of the conference as anti-Hindu” was because “the Hindutva ego is fragile”.

Paradox of global Hindutva
The first session was titled “What is Global Hindutva?”. The political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, the film-maker Anand Patwardhan and the poet and author Meena Kandaswamy spoke in this session. Jaffrelot sought to explain the paradox of a global Hindutva movement because Hindutva is linked to a “sacred territory” (the Indian subcontinent in this case) as expounded by V.D. Savarkar in his pamphlet Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Since the 1990s, Jaffrelot explained, a transformation has happened, with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) expanding its organisational base tremendously beyond India. The RSS invests heavily in the diaspora because of its “wealth”, “the concept of Western ethnic nationalisms of the early 20th century movements” and with the hope that it can act as an “ethnic lobby” the way Israel has done.

Riaz Haq said...

Unmasking Hindutva - Frontline


In a session on “Gender and Sexual Politics of Hindutva”, the film-maker Leena Manimekalai showed a clip from her incomplete film Rape Nation, which partially looks at the stories of survivors of sexual violence during the communal carnages that took place in Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar in 2002 and 2013 respectively. Arguing that sexual violence is at the core of Hindutva, Leena Manimekalai said: “Hindutva has redefined nationalism as a genocidal impulse to rape and murder non-Hindu women. It is a celebration of toxic masculinity.”

The transgender studies scholar Aniruddha Dutta showed in his presentation how the BJP’s rise had even affected the Hijra tradition where there has been a transformation from a “syncretic Indo-Islamic tradition to a more orthodox version of Hinduism”. The Dalit feminist P. Sivakami critiqued Hindutva as having “no vision for Hindu women except that it intends to prepare and reorient them against their imaginary enemy, i.e., the Muslim man, thus diverting her from her real struggles”. The feminist scholar Akanksha Mehta segued from this presentation, stating that “notions of gender and sexuality rooted in caste and race are crucial to the Hindutva project” even as she compared the analogous role of women among savarna (caste) Hindus and Zionists.

Hindutva and its relationship to nationalism was the theme of the session titled “Contours of the Nation”. The focus was on the operation of Hindutva in Kashmir, the north-eastern region and the Adivasi-inhabited areas of central India. The anthropologist Mohamad Junaid examined the “spectacle of domination” of the Hindutva state, characterising it as “primarily an anti-Muslim state”. He also spoke about the long history of Hindutva in Kashmir, tracing it to the land reforms of the 1950s, which were a challenge to “Hindu sovereignty”.

The anthropologist Arkotong Longkumer looked at the operation of Hindutva in the north-eastern States, arguing that “Hindutva’s spread is not restricted to the politics of the north-east but also extends to the cultural and social spheres of the region”. The sociologist Nandini Sundar’s presentation dwelt on four arenas through which the “supremacist projects of the RSS have received state support” in the Adivasi regions of central India; one of these arenas was the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashrams, which she discussed in detail. Yasmin Saikia, a historian of Assam, spoke about how millions of Muslims in Assam “are facing the threat of denationalisation and statelessness” because of the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. She stated: “The transformation of Muslims [in Assam] from migrants to immigrants to infiltrators to illegal Bangladeshis is the product of Hindutva, although the Congress party too enabled this process by its failure in developing a well-measured and humane minority policy.”

Riaz Haq said...

Unmasking Hindutva - Frontline


Ayurvedic and other native cures that were promoted by different departments of the Union government to treat COVID-19 came under the scanner at the panel discussion on “Hindutva Science and Healthcare”. Meera Nanda, science historian, made three points in her presentation: first, that the “[Narendra] Modi government promoted potentially dangerous ayurvedic remedies to fight COVID-19”; second, “fake history through which Ayurveda has claimed parity with modern science”; and third, that “the post-colonial critics of science have let us down by clamouring for alternative ways of knowing that can put modern science in its place”. The public health historian Kavita Sivaramakrishnan pointed out how “public health and science have become a vital pillar of Hindutva assertions”. The feminist science studies scholar Banu Subramaniam critiqued the Modi government by stating that “science and technology are being increasingly mobilised by an authoritarian state fuelling sectarian violence, crushing dissent, arresting writers, increasing surveillance and rousing the public in the false security of rampant rumours, disinformation, fake news and dangerous nostalgic visions of a Hindu prehistory”.

Capturing social media platforms
The BJP’s control over social media and the digital space has catalysed the party’s growth and has provided a steady channel for its propaganda. This was the theme of the next session. The journalist Cyril Sam spoke about the pioneering partnerships that the BJP had built with communication technology companies such as Facebook to spread its propaganda. “They [BJP] have captured most communication platforms which are used as a pipeline for radicalisation and recruitment,” said Sam. The digital culture scholar Dheepa Sundaram observed that the concept of secularism was systematically discredited through the digital ecosystem of Hindutva. The journalist and author Salil Tripathi analysing the BJP’s use of social media said: “The Internet has made it possible for people to believe that it is all right to be bigoted, to speak loudly and to heckle. The Internet makes bigotry more widespread than it originally was, makes it respectable and makes the fringe the centre and when the fringe becomes the centre, it is time to worry because it is when the centre cannot hold that things fall apart.”

Also read: ‘Hindutva is not the same as Hinduism’

In the penultimate session, which was on “Hinduism and Hindutva”, the Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna offered a range of possibilities on the theme under discussion: first, that Hinduism and Hindutva are the same; second, Hinduism and Hindutva are completely opposite; and third, that Hinduism and Hindutva are the same but this assertion came from a Bahujan perspective which even saw the conference as an attempt by “savarnas trying to save Hinduism”. The anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan commented on the critics of the conference. He said: “The main claim of the critics of this conference is that they are defending Hinduism. They do this by conflating Hindutva with Hinduism. but in reality, they are defending Hindutva by weaponising Hindu symbols—both literally and figuratively.”


Riaz Haq said...

India is miles away but its tyranny is shaking, shaping American politics
American supporters of the BJP and its affiliated ultra right-wing, paramilitary organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh manage to steamroll anyone who calls out India’s abysmal treatment of Muslims, oppressed castes and other minorities.
By Rummana Hussain Jun 18, 2022, 2:00am PDT


The issue, though, isn’t about him. It’s about the persecution in India that has been swept under the rug by many American leaders because of the handiwork of their BJP/RSS-supporting donors.

Jackson said he took issue with language Friedrich used.

Curiously, Jackson’s four-part tweet echoed the talking points of Indian Americans who fought against the City Council resolution and failed to mention Friedrich has been speaking out against oppression in India.

Krishnamoorthi accused Friedrich of making death threats for chanting “Krishnamoorthi murdabad.”

Murdabad literally translates to “death to” in Hindi and Urdu.

However, when used in political discourse in India and Pakistan, murdabad means “down with,” according to Tyler Williams, an associate professor of South Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago. “It is absolutely not a death threat,” Williams said.

Friedrich maintains he only referenced Hitler’s party because the most influential RSS leader was inspired by Nazi Germany.

Friedrich went on to say the homophobic and anti-abortion remarks Equality Illinois and Secretary of State Jesse White denounced him for in their support of Krishnamoorthi were made when he was a Christian fundamentalist as a teenager. “I own them and bear responsibility but I repudiate these views now,” said Friedrich, 36.

Krishnamoorthi, meanwhile, told me he is “very concerned” about the rhetoric being used against Muslims and other minorities by the BJP/RSS and that he condemns any violence carried out by them.

The congressman did rush out to O’Hare Airport in 2017 to join protesters and immigration lawyers when Donald Trump issued the “Muslim ban.” He also put out statements condemning the derogatory comments made about Prophet Muhammad by leading BJP members and the call for a genocide of Muslims at a conference in India earlier this year. Much appreciated.

But it is hard to ignore Krishnamoorthi’s reported attendance at several events organized by Hindu nationalists, including a 94th birthday commemoration of the RSS, a group Williams described as the Indian equivalent of the Proud Boys.

You can’t stand against someone when you are standing with them.

Krishnamoorthi is on the right side on domestic matters — Black Lives Matter, the environment, etc. — but when it comes to India, he’s “cheerleading for the Modi government” said Nikhil Mandalaparthy, the advocacy director of Hindus for Human Rights.

Krishnamoorthi said he is willing to meet with those worried about the tyrannical hold that has taken over India and conceded, “I need to do more in continuing to speak out.”

We’ll be waiting.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took India to task on Thursday for calling Pakistan “the epicentre of terrorism”, saying India “demonises the people of Pakistan” to hide its Hindu-supremacist ideas.


The FM’s comments came minutes after his Indian counterpart had accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.

In his speech at the Security Council, the Indian minister had said that “India faced the horrors of cross-border terrorism long before the world took serious note of it” and has “fought terrorism resolutely, bravely and with a zero-tolerance approach".

Bilawal hit back at the comments saying “I am the foreign minister of Pakistan and Pakistan’s foreign minister is a victim of terrorism as the son of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif when he was chief minister of Punjab, his home minister was assassinated by a terrorist. Political parties, civil society, the average people in Pakistan across the board have been the victims of perpetrators of terrorism.”

“We have lost far more lives to terrorism than India has,” he added questioning why Pakistan would ever want to perpetuate terrorism and make “our own people suffer”.

“Unfortunately, India has been playing in that space […] where it is very easy to say ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ together and get the world to agree and they very skilfully blur this line where people like myself are associated with terrorists rather than those that have been and to this day are fighting terrorism,” he continued.

The FM then went on to say that New Delhi perpetuated this narrative not just against India but also Muslims in that country. “We are terrorists whether we’re Muslims in Pakistan and we’re terrorists whether we’re Muslims in India.”

“Osama bin Laden is dead,” said Bilawal, “but the butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the prime minister of India”.

“He [Narendra Modi] was banned from entering this country [the United States],” he continued, “these are the prime minister and foreign minister of the RSS [a right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation]”.

“The RSS draws its inspiration from Hitler’s SS [the Nazi Party’s combat branch, Schutzstaffel],” Bilawal added.

The FM went on to point out the irony in the inauguration of Gandhi’s bust at UN headquarters by the Indian FM and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “If the FM of India was being honest, then he knows as well as I, that the RSS does not believe in Gandhi, in his ideology. They do not see this individual as the founder of India, they hero-worship the terrorist that assassinated Gandhi.”

“They are not even attempting to wash the blood of the people of Gujarat off their hands,” said Bilawal, lamenting that the “Butcher of Gujarat” was now the “Butcher of Kashmir”.

“For their electoral campaign, Prime Minister Modi’s government has used their authority to pardon the men who perpetuated rape against Muslims in Gujarat. Those terrorists were freed by the prime minister of India,” said Bilawal.

“In order to perpetuate their politics of hate, their transition from a secular India to a Hindu supremacist India, this narrative is very important,” said Bilawal, claiming Pakistan had “proof” that Modi’s government had facilitated a terrorist attack in Pakistan.

The minister was referring to the “irrefutable evidence” Pakistan had of the involvement of Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in the blast at Johar Town, Lahore last year as three terrorists had been arrested.

Riaz Haq said...

US court dismisses Hindutva group’s defamation case against Audrey Truschke, four activists


A United States court on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the Hindutva group Hindu American Foundation against four activists and historian Audrey Truschke for two articles published in Al Jazeera.

“The Hindu American Foundation’s SLAPP lawsuit against me and four other defendants is dismissed by Judge Mehta! I’ll comment more in the coming weeks, but this is a win against the far right!,” tweeted Truschke.

The US-based right wing group had filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 7 May last year. Besides Truschke, it had sued Indian American Muslim Council Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed, Hindus for Human Rights co-founders Sunita Viswanath and Raju Rajagopal and Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America chairman John Prabhudoss.

Sunita Viswanath, Rasheed Ahmed and John Prabhudoss had been quoted in the Al Jazeera articles, while Audrey Truschke was named in the suit for tweeting about the story and the Hindu American Foundation.

The author of one Al Jazeera article and prominent young Muslim journalist Raqib Hameed Naik, was named as a co-conspirator in the lawsuit.

“A federal judge in Washington DC has dismissed a frivolous lawsuit filed by rightwing group Hindu American Foundation over one of my stories published in Al Jazeera last year. HAF had sued 5 people & named me as a co-conspirator,” Raqib tweeted.

Riaz Haq said...

How Desis in Illinois Fought Off a Law Altering the Definition of 'Indian'


Two things stood out in the Act:

How it defined an Indian: "Indian" means a person descended from any of the countries of the subcontinent that are not primarily Muslim in character, including India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

The Act said that the purpose of the council, among other things, is "to enhance trade and cooperation between Indian-majority countries and this state."

The Bill – HB4070 – was filed with the House clerk on 22 April 2021 by Lewis. It was eventually passed by both the chambers in April 2022 and became an Act on 10 June 2022 when Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker signed the Bill.

The law, however, came to the Illinois south Asian community's attention sometime in September, said Pushkar Sharma, Co-Founder of Chicago Coalition for Human Rights in India (CCHRI).

Subsequently, members of a group representing south Asian communities approached State Senator Ram Villivalam, a Democrat and the chief sponsor of the Bill in the State Senate.

"A group of Illinois citizens representing the Asian American community, particularly the south Asian American community, spoke with State Senators and Representatives to learn more about what had happened. We learned that community members had not been involved in drafting this text. As far as we know, Representative Seth Lewis also did not consult with the members of the community," Sharma said.

"Legislators we spoke with said that they receive 6,000 pieces of legislation, and advisory councils like this (and there are many of them) are not as urgent as other legislative priorities."
Pushkar Sharma
Senator Villivalam also admitted mistake but said that he did not read the text clearly as he receives many such legislations on his desk.

The amendment changed the name of the Act to the 'Illinois South Asian American Advisory Council Act', renamed the advisory council to the 'Illinois South Asian American Advisory Council', removed the term 'Indian', and defined 'South Asian' as "a person descended from any of the countries of the South Asian subcontinent."

South Asian American Advisory Council Act

The Trailer Bill was passed by the State Senate in late November 2022 and was approved by the House of Representatives on 11 January 2023. It will become a law after the governor signs the amendment.

Seth Lewis: The Republican Behind the Law
The brainchild behind the Indian American Advisory Council Act, Seth Lewis, was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from District 45 for two years after being elected in 2020; he held office from January 2021 to January 2023.

Riaz Haq said...

#SiliconValley's #Indian-#American Congressman Ro Khanna talks of the threat of growing #Hindu nationalism. Khanna: “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva" #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Modi #BJP

Khanna said that, having spent much of his career in Northern California's Silicon Valley, he has been immersed in Indian American issues for years. The rising tide of Hindu nationalism is on the forefront of the diaspora’s collective consciousness; from professional spheres to college campuses, reports of Islamophobia and casteism abound in South Asian spaces.

Khanna hasn’t shied away from such conversations, and his vocalness has sparked outrage from right-wing Indian Americans. In 2019, 230 Hindu and Indian American entities wrote letter criticizing Khanna for denouncing Hindu nationalism (also known as Hindutva) and for advocating religious equality on the subcontinent.

“It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians,” Khanna tweeted at the time.

They also criticized Khanna for joining the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and for speaking out against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revoking the state of Kashmir’s autonomy.

“Of course, we have to fulfill the strategic partnership and we have to respect the democratically elected leadership in India,” Khanna told NBC News. “I will work to strengthen that while also upholding these human rights values.”

Riaz Haq said...

The world is now learning about the major threat Hindutva fascism poses today.


In India, fascism is reinventing itself. It has crept through Hindu nationalism – Hindutva – and now poses a serious threat to Indian democracy, writes Amit Singh

Frequently framed as populist, nativist and nationalist, ‘Hindutva fascism’ has so far evaded the serious scrutiny of scholars and activists. But, as Luca Manucci has argued convincingly, mislabelling such a phenomenon could jeopardise the struggle against fascism and anti-democratic regimes.

Without accurate labelling, we will never develop an effective counterstrategy against fascism. Fascism is manifesting itself in India under the auspices of radical right-wing groups such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Widespread public confusion, along with a silencing of the discussion around Hindutva's ‘fascistic roots’, is assisting the gradual death of Indian democracy.

What is Hindutva?
Hindutva is an ethnic form of nationalism. Since 1925, the right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been its most staunch proponent. RSS is radically far-right, hierarchical, authoritarian, and founded on the premise of Hindu supremacy. Hindu nationalism seeks uniformity through the imposition of Hindi language, Hindu religion, Hindu mythology, and unquestioned loyalty to the nation. On different levels, it seeks to repress dissenting views, and to expunge religious pluralism and secularism from political discourse.

Current right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an active member of RSS, is notorious for his complicity in the post-Godhra riots. Modi claimed that the fire on the train which killed 59 Hindus in 2002 was an act of Islamist terrorism rather than an outbreak of communal violence. Under Modi, India is fulfilling RSS' Hindutva mission to make India a Hindu nation. Once a secular state, India has become an electoral autocracy, with Hindutva as its unofficial ideology.

Hindutva's fascistic roots
Veer Savarkar, one of Hindutva's earliest proponents, asserted:

India should follow the German example to solve the Muslim problem… Germany has every right to resort to Nazism and Italy to fascism – and events have justified those isms…

Hindutva ideologue Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar applauded Hitler’s Germany for exterminating Jews to maintain the purity of the race and its culture. He strongly believed 'foreign races in Hindustan must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race; [they] deserve no privileges… not even citizen's rights.'

BS Moonje, a politician close to the RSS, met with Mussolini on 19 March 1931. Moonje played a crucial role in moulding the RSS along Italian (fascist) lines, militarising Hindu youths. Hindutva ideologues consider a homogeneous identity a necessary foundation of nationhood. Thus, nationhood is inherently anti-plural.

Hindutva’s proximity to fascist ideas
The RSS shaped Hindutva ideology similarly to the way the Nazis and Italian fascists shaped fascist ideology in the 1930s. Hindutva rejects the liberal democratic conception of nation and citizenship. It is anti-democratic, and inherently Islamophobic. The cult of tradition and male chauvinism dominates Hindutva fascist policies. Under Modi, Hindutva fascism has crystallised.

Fascist politics aims to separate a population into 'us' and 'them'. In India, pre-existing communal divisions between Hindus and Muslims have been exacerbated by Hindutva forces such as the RSS and its political wing, the BJP. Since Modi came to power in 2014, his administration has fed Islamophobic propaganda to the Hindu masses. This has led to the public demonisation of Muslims, and even normalised violence against them.

Hindutva is obsessed with Hindus' inherent superiority. The Indian Ministry of Culture is even establishing a genetic database to 'trace the purity of races in India'

Riaz Haq said...

The world is now learning about the major threat Hindutva fascism poses today.


Muslims have even been prosecuted for offering prayer in their own homes. A move to pass a Citizenship Amendment Bill, along with a proposed National Register of Citizens, are Modi's underhand attempts to exclude Muslims from Indian citizenship.

The Nazis were obsessed with 'racial purity', striving for a pure 'Aryan' German race. Hindutva, too, is consumed by the idea of Hindu superiority. In 1966, Golwalkar published a book alleging the 'purity' of Hindu blood. Today, the Indian Ministry of Culture is establishing a state-of-the-art genetic database to 'trace the purity of races in India'.

Disagreement is a crime in fascist discourse
In Modi's India, dissent at any level meets with ruthless punishment. This is a clear symptom of a fascist regime. Modi is a ‘predator of press freedom’. Under his government, freedom of the media and academic freedom have sunk to new lows. In many cases, parliamentary debate has been shut down, and laws passed without debate.

Under Modi's government, press freedom and academic freedom have sunk to new lows

The cult of Modi in India has parallels with Hitler’s leadership style. Images of the ‘Dear Leader’ are everywhere. Sensationalist, biased Godi media has replaced state media. This media never tires of demonstrating how hard Modi works. Instead, what they should be doing is criticising his disastrous mismanagement of the Covid pandemic, which has resulted in the deaths of millions of Indians. Godi media is normalising illiberalism and promoting hate speech, not only against Muslims, but against anyone who opposes Modi.

Fascism rewrites history. It promotes anti-intellectualism by attacking universities and educational systems that might challenge its ideas. Under Modi, chapters on protest and social movement have been excised from textbooks. Replacing them are Islamophobic Hindutva ideologies, and stories of Hindus' past glories. Academics and scholars are fired or attacked for criticising Hindutva or the Modi government. Government institutions, especially security and financial agencies, intimidate and harass opposition parties and anyone who dares to voice dissent.

Resisting Hindutva fascism
Current resistance against Hindutva is sporadic and disorganised. However, open resistance against Hindutva is apparent in various forms, and at different levels. Farmers, students, intellectuals, religious minorities, India's main opposition party, and members of civil society, are rising up to protest Modi’s Hindutva government policies.

‘Invisible defiance’ against Hindutva fascism is also taking shape in private discussion, even among Hindutva supporters. Hindutva may be hegemonic, but its gradual decline has already begun.

In 2005, the US banned Modi from entry because he had failed to act against anti-Muslim riots in India. However, when Modi became prime minister in 2014, Western leaders gave him the red-carpet treatment, possibly to nurture business interests. Once Hindutva gained respectability in the West, it boosted the morale of its proponents, and discouraged resistance.

If Western nations really want to save liberal democracy, they must isolate authoritarian leaders like Modi, and condemn their illiberal policies. Doing so is the only way to save a dying democracy like India.

Riaz Haq said...

#Facebook rejected complaints about posts in #India offering #guns for sale in a forum devoted to an extremist #Hindu nationalist org, then later removed them on Tuesday after Wall Street Journal inquired about the posts. #BJP #Modi #Hindutva https://www.wsj.com/articles/guns-offered-for-sale-in-facebook-groups-devoted-to-religious-extremists-in-india-11675861299?st=mrdsn2a0wsv3m3d via @WSJ

Firearms are heavily restricted in India, which requires buyers to be at least 21 years old and possess gun licenses. Sellers must also be licensed.

Posts offering firearms for sale have appeared in Groups, as Facebook’s forums for like-minded users are known, that pledge allegiance to Bajrang Dal, a youth wing of a conservative Hindu organization, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, or VHP.

The VHP is affiliated with Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organization, known as the RSS, for which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked for decades before his landslide election victory in 2014.

Bajrang Dal was in 2018 deemed a militant religious organization by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Its members have in past years been jailed in India for religiously motivated killings.

A spokesman for Bajrang Dal and the VHP said the U.S. government’s assessment of Bajrang Dal is misguided, that none of its members would purchase firearms and that the groups don’t believe in violence.

Spokesmen for the RSS and the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The posts offering guns for sale in five different Groups dedicated to Bajrang Dal were tracked by Mr. Naik, the founder of the research group Hindutva Watch. Some sellers promised they could deliver the firearms within 24 hours, according to posts reviewed by the Journal.

In one of the posts last month, a user shared images of five pistols, some silver and some black in color, with one resting on a motorcycle seat and another held in someone’s hand. Bronze-colored bullets emerge from a clip in one photo.

Any “brother” who needs a “Desi katta pistol,” an Indian homemade gun, should contact the user via Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service at a mobile number provided, the person wrote in Hindi.

When Mr. Naik contacted the seller via WhatsApp, the person responded that one of the pistols could be purchased for 11,000 Indian rupees, equivalent to $133, according to messages reviewed by the Journal.

Users in Facebook Groups devoted to Bajrang Dal have also made threats to use weapons against Muslims, according to separate posts seen by the Journal.

Mr. Naik said the material is alarming given ongoing religious tensions in Hindu-majority India, where Muslims make up about 14% of the population. The Journal in 2021 reported that internal Facebook documents showed researchers determined the company’s services were rife with inflammatory content that one internal report connected to deadly religious riots in India.

A Facebook spokesman said at the time that the company had invested significantly in technology to find hate speech across languages, and that globally such content on the platform was declining.

Facebook in the U.S. has confronted the issue of gun sales before. In 2016, it banned the private sale of guns following controversy over users selling firearms through its Groups.

India is a vital market for Facebook, since it isn’t allowed to operate in China, the only other country with more than one billion people. In 2020, Facebook announced a $5.7 billion investment in a new partnership with an Indian telecom operator to expand operations in the country, its biggest foreign investment.

Facebook in 2020 determined Bajrang Dal likely qualified as a “dangerous organization” that should be banned from the platform, the Journal reported that year, citing people familiar with the matter.

Facebook didn’t remove the group following warnings in a report from its security team that cracking down on it might endanger both the company’s business prospects and its staff in India, the people said.

Riaz Haq said...

#US Congressman Jamaal Bowman, #Democrat, #NewYork, introduces resolution in House to designate March 23 as ‘Pakistan Day’. He initiated the “landmark resolution”. It is the first such resolution introduced in the US Congress. #PakistanDay2023 #Pakistan

The resolution emphasised the importance of recognising and paying tribute to those who foster ethnic pride and enhance the profile of cultural diversity, which strengthens the fabric of the US communities.

Bowman in fact stated that it was an honour for him to introduce the resolution and stressed the importance of standing with the people of Pakistan during their time of crisis.

Bowman expressed his solidarity with Pakistan, which has been hit by a natural disaster and conveyed his message of peace and love to the people of Pakistan.

The resolution also highlighted that Pakistan Day provides an excellent opportunity for all US residents to learn more about Pakistan’s rich heritage and foster an appreciation for its ancient culture among future generations.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Masood Khan, thanked Bowman for his initiative, which would bring the two countries and their people closer to each other.

Riaz Haq said...

Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation


Despite his condemnations of Hindu nationalism, Representative Ro Khanna pushed for Modi to speak to a joint session of Congress and has received more than $110,000 from Hindu nationalist figures in the US.

On June 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be in Washington, D.C., for his first official state visit. And US political elites are busy preparing for his fete. The prime minister will address a joint session of Congress and attend a state dinner in his honor at the White House. This will only be President Joe Biden’s third state dinner. Just a few years ago—from 2005 to 2014—the US barred Modi from entering the country because of his alleged role as Gujarat’s chief minister in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which nearly 2,000 Indians, most of whom were Muslim, were murdered.

Representatives Ro Khanna (D) and Michael Waltz (R), cochairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, secured Modi’s address by writing a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, urging him to invite the prime minister.

Khanna’s role in Congress’s celebration of Modi disappointed many human rights advocates and supporters. The Indian American Muslim Council called on Khanna, who represents a district in the Bay Area, to rescind his letter, explaining that allowing the prime minister “to speak before Congress will help to legitimize Modi’s brand of Hindu nationalist politics and the systematic persecution of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, under his rule.”

In 2019, Khanna called for rejecting Hindu nationalism, tweeting, “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.”

Now four years later, he has helped secure Modi’s address to Congress.

“It’s disheartening to see Representative Khanna take the lead in asking the congressional leadership to invite Prime Minister Modi to address a joint session of the Congress,” Raju Rajagopal, a Bay Area activist and cofounder of advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights, told me

“As one of only two Indian American congresspeople to speak out against Hindu nationalism”—along with Representative Pramila Jayapal—“Khanna had symbolized the hopes and aspirations of India’s over 200 million religious minorities, who are in a virtual state of siege under Modi’s rule,” he said. “To now welcome Modi in the halls of Congress and completely ignore the escalating hate and violence under Modi’s rule, undermines Khanna’s own progressive credentials.”

Khanna has publicly condemned Hindutva, a Hindu supremacist movement, but his congressional campaigns have also received more than $110,000 from individuals associated with Hindu nationalist groups since 2011. When I asked about his decision to advocate for Modi’s presence at Congress, Khanna reaffirmed the Biden administration’s perspective of “India as a strategic ally” to the United States.

He told me, “I believe any elected prime minister of India at this moment from whatever party should be afforded the honor of addressing Congress, meeting the president, and a state dinner. I don’t think it’s about the person as much as it is about the office. It is about respecting the nation of India.”

Not all progressive members of Congress agree with him. Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Jamie Raskin said they will boycott Modi’s joint address. Jayapal will attend and will escort Modi to Congress but organized a letter urging Biden to “discuss the need to protect human rights and democratic values in India as he meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Riaz Haq said...

Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation


When I asked Jayapal about her decision to be in Modi’s escort team, she also emphasized the importance of engaging with India. Jayapal said if she has the opportunity, she will speak to Modi about her concerns and that she hoped the letter would encourage Biden to publicly comment on the need for India to address human rights.

Modi’s visit comes amid state persecution of religious minorities, such as Muslims and Christians, as well as growing authoritarianism of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Hindu religious extremists have called for genocide against Indian Muslims, attacked mosques and churches, and demolished homes. The Biden administration has been largely silent on these issues, choosing to try and strengthen the US-India relationship and deepen the ties between the countries’ military and technology sectors. With Modi’s visit, for instance, Washington has been pushing Delhi to sign off on a military deal for dozens of US-made armed drones.

Several top US officials have even praised the Modi regime. In April, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described Modi as “unbelievable, visionary” and “the most popular world leader.” In the same month, Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, applauded press freedom in India: “You have India as a democracy in part because you have a free press that really works.”

These statements, however, contrast with the findings of the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which ranked India 161 out of 180 countries due to its crackdown on the press.

Arjun S. Sethi, a community activist, civil rights lawyer, and author based in Washington, D.C., told me, “Under the Modi administration, we have seen countless human rights abuses against Muslims and other minorities, atrocities committed in Kashmir, and infringements on association, press, and speech.”

Parts of the US government do acknowledge widespread human rights violations in India. In May, the State Department released an International Religious Freedom report that highlighted the violence against religious minorities, discriminatory laws, and demolitions of Muslim homes. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) echoed these concerns in its 2023 annual report. Last year, India’s government passed legislation against the wearing of hijabs, religious conversion, cow slaughter, and interfaith relationships. These policies specifically discriminate against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Adivasis, the Indigenous people of South Asia.

For four consecutive years, the USCIRF has recommended that the US government designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern” and impose strategic sanctions on Indian government officials and agencies involved in religious freedom violations.

The Biden administration’s decision to extend an invitation to Modi indicates a preference for trade and strategic gains over addressing human rights concerns.

Tahil Sharma, an interfaith activist from Southern California, told me it is hypocritical for politicians to espouse the importance of democratic values while celebrating Modi. “You are talking about pushing back against a narrative that doesn’t support pluralism or that doesn’t support democracy; then you give a platform to someone whose political party has done nothing but the opposite of promoting pluralism and democracy,” Sharma said.

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Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation


Over the last 12 years, Khanna’s congressional campaign has received at least $110,036 from individuals associated with US-based Hindu nationalist groups. Bharat Barai and his wife donated $36,000. (Bharai has also donated $1,250 to Jayapal.) Barai’s most recent donation to Khanna was in October 2022. Barai, a Chicago-based oncologist, is often described as a “confidante” of Modi. He sits on the advisory board of the Chicago chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, a Hindu far-right group and US offshoot of VHP India, a Hindu far-right group that has been at the forefront of violence against religious minorities in India. After Modi’s ban, Barai hosted video conferences to boost Modi’s popularity in the diaspora.

When I asked Khanna about his history of accepting donations from Barai, he said that he has never had a conversation with Barai about his views on Indian politics. Khanna added that he has thousands of donors in the South Asian community and that he doesn’t “ask each of those people what their views are on Indian politics.”

When I asked if Khanna will continue accepting money from Bharat Barai and other Hindu nationalist leaders in the US, Khanna’s spokesperson said, “Representative Khanna has thousands of Indian American supporters and has been vocal about his stance against nationalism and for pluralism.”

Khanna has also received donations from key members of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a Hindu right-wing advocacy organization. Arjun Bhagat, a member of HAF’s board of directors, has donated $27,100, with his most recent donation of $5,000 in March 2023. Recently, HAF has been spearheading a campaign to oppose the California SB 403 Bill, which would make caste a protected category against discrimination.

Khanna has not established a strong position on SB 403. When asked about SB 403 by Equality Labs founder Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Khanna stated that he “strongly opposes any form of caste discrimination” but also stated that the bill needs to be “fairly enforced” so it ”doesn’t selectively profile any community.” Some Hindu groups, including HAF, say SB 403 would expose Hindu Americans to racial profiling and harassment.

Khanna told me that he never takes a position on state bills, and reiterated that he “strongly opposes caste discrimination” and believes that the details of the bill “should be fair to all groups.” I then asked Khanna if he believes that SB 403 would unfairly persecute Hindu Americans—the dominant narrative on the American Hindu right. Khanna said, “Again, I don’t comment on the details of the bill, but I oppose caste discrimination.”

Khanna’s indecision regarding SB 403, says Karthikeyan Shanmughan of Ambedkar King Study Circle, is not unexpected. He says that upper-caste Indians dominate discussions about the South Asian diaspora and that this suppresses conversations about caste oppression. But Shanmughan said the growing anti-caste movement in America, which is led by those of caste-oppressed groups, is forcing Indian American politicians to take a stance. Political leaders, he said, “can’t continue their ‘manipulative’ position of fighting for racial equality and being neutral on caste discrimination.”

Deepa Iyer, a racial justice activist, tweeted at Khanna for supporting Modi’s address to Congress, criticizing the congressman for “providing a platform in this way.” Khanna responded by saying that he “will always stand for pluralism, liberal democracy and human rights while also calling for the strengthening of the US-India relationship.”

Riaz Haq said...

Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation


Deepa Iyer, a racial justice activist, tweeted at Khanna for supporting Modi’s address to Congress, criticizing the congressman for “providing a platform in this way.” Khanna responded by saying that he “will always stand for pluralism, liberal democracy and human rights while also calling for the strengthening of the US-India relationship.”

Some of Khanna’s constituents are grappling with the actions of their congressman. According to Anu Mandavilli, who lives in Khanna’s district and is a member of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Khanna’s Bay Area district has one of the highest concentrations of South Asian Americans and Indian Americans in the country. While Khanna may need to listen to his Hindutva-leaning constituents as their elected representative, Mandavilli said, he still needs to fight their hateful views. She urged Khanna to endorse Jayapal’s letter asking Biden to raise human rights concerns in his conversations with Modi and demand accountability from the prime minister.

“Khanna must assure his constituents from caste-oppressed groups as well as his Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and other constituents from minority religious communities that he understands the threat that Hindu nationalism poses in the Bay Area as well as more broadly in California and in the US,” Mandavilli said. “He must initiate dialogues with those communities as well as with Hindus opposed to Hindutva and other progressive constituents to hear their concerns and learn from their experiences.”

Riaz Haq said...

How did Rajiv Gandhi, applauded for his modernist ideologies, accelerate Hindu nationalism politics?
An excerpt from ‘India is Broken: And Why It’s Hard To Fix,’ by Ashoka Mody.
Ashoka Mody


In 1987, Indians owned just 13 million televisions. Friends and neighbours gathered around television sets in homes and at shopfronts. In villages, hundreds of people assembled around the one available set. On average, about 80 million people (almost 10 percent of the population) watched an episode. By the time the serial ended, almost all Indians had seen multiple episodes. More so than the Ekatmata yagna (the series of processions in late 1983), the Ramayana serial fused Savarkar’s view of India as the fatherland and holy land of the Hindus.

In a tribute Savarkar might have savored, the Indian Express’s media correspondent Shailaja Bajpai commented on August 7, 1988, a week after the series ended, “From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Gorakhpur, millions have stood, sat and kneeled to watch it.” Reflecting on that total absorption, she wondered: “Is there life after Ramayana?” No, she answered, there could be no life after Ramayana. Instead, echoing the void Jawaharlal Nehru sensed when Mahatma Gandhi died, Bajpai wrote: “the light has gone out of our lives and nothing will ever be the same again.”

For the 78 weeks that Ramayana ran, it presented a martially adept and angry Ram dispensing justice. The VHP projected its partisan view of the serial in its iconography of Ram. The author Pankaj Mishra described the Ram in VHP posters as an “appallingly muscle- bound Rambo in a dhoti.” Theatre scholar Anuradha Kapur lamented that VHP images showed Ram “far more heavily armed than in any traditional representation.”

In one image, Ram carried a dhanush (a bow), a trishul (trident), an axe, and a sword “in the manner of a pre-industrial warrior.” In another image, Ram, the angry male crusader, marched across the skies, his dhoti flying, chest bared, his conventionally coiled hair unrolling behind him in the wind. Accompanying those images, every VHP poster pledged to build a temple in Ayodhya. The dismayed Kapur noted that Ram, the omniscient and omnipresent Lord, was everywhere. Pinning him down to Ayodhya made no sense. “Hinduism,” she despairingly wrote, “is being reduced to a travesty of itself by its advocates.”

The Hindutva movement’s heavy reliance on young hypermasculine warriors to achieve its mission only exacerbated this travesty. In April and May 1987, when the Ramayana serial was in its early months, bloody Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Meerut, a city in western Uttar Pradesh. By most accounts, Muslims provoked the riots. But then the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary, infected by the Hindutva virus, killed hundreds of Muslims in cold blood.