Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna Defeats Pro-Modi Challenger

Congressman Ro Khanna has won 65% of all votes cast to deal a heavy defeat to pro-Modi candidate Ritesh Tandon in primary elections in California's 17th district that covers part of Silicon Valley. Khanna angered many of his Indian-American constituents last summer when he criticized Prime Minster Narendra Modi's Hindutva politics and joined US Congress's Pakistan Caucus. Vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his Islamophobic legislation like CAA and his government's extended lock-down in Kashmir and brutal anti-Muslim actions in India.

California 17 Election Results: 

Incumbent Congressman Ro Khanna received 46,657 votes or 65,1% of the votes cast in CA17 district in yesterday's primary elections. His main challenger Ritesh Tandon trailed far behind with 17,337 votes or  24.2% of all votes cast, according to New York Times.

California 17th Congressional District Results. Source: New York Times

Khanna thanked his supporters in a tweet yesterday after "beating Ritesh Tandon who ran on Islamophobia and right wing nationalism in India".

Congressman Ro Khanna with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Capitol Hill
Ritesh Tandon, an Indian-American technology entrepreneur, said Khanna "has turned his back on our allies all over the world, including the nation of my birth, India by siding with India’s enemies like Pakistan on key security issues”, according to Indica News.

Khanna Rejects Hindutva:

L to R: Ro Khanna, Riaz Haq
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."

Pakistani-American Support:

Congressman Ro Khanna has received support from Pakistani-American community for his courageous and principled stand on issues affecting South Asia. He regularly attends community events organized by Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley. I met him at a dinner hosted at the house of a Pakistani-American family that owns local Mirchi restaurant in Fremont. He assured the community he would continue to work to address issues such as Islamophobia that affect Muslims in America.


Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna has dealt a heavy defeat to his pro-Modi challenger Ritesh Tandon in California primary elections. Khanna 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. Vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his Islamophobic legislation like CAA and his government's extended lock-down in Kashmir and brutal anti-Muslim actions in India.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Imran Khan in Washington

Modi's Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

Hinduization of India

Brievik's Hindutva Rhetoric

Indian Textbooks

India's RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said...

Violence in #India Threatens Its Global Ambitions. #Indian Officials said on condition of anonymity that they're on the defensive when foreign dignitaries arrive in #Delhi. #pogrom #Islamophobia #Modi #AmitShah #BJP #Hindutva

Much of the world remained quiet, or cautious, in recent months as India began locking up hundreds of opposition politicians and activists without charge across the country. Business executives say they are too afraid to speak out about shortcomings in the government’s economic strategy. The press complains of government intimidation.

Still, there was President Trump last week, embracing Mr. Modi in New Delhi, where streets were dotted with posters declaring the “world’s oldest democracy meets the world’s largest democracy.”

But as the leaders celebrated each other in India’s capital, Hindu mobs began going after Muslim protesters in neighborhoods just a few miles away while the police looked on or joined in. And it was those images — the return of sectarian violence on the streets, not the carefully crafted show of international partnership — that set the tone for India on the world stage over the past week.

On Wednesday, Freedom House, a nonpartisan democracy advocacy organization, flagged India as a major concern.

“The Indian government has taken its Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level with a succession of policies,” the group said, “threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world.”

In a rare move, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday to challenge a citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims. Some of India’s closest partners have begun criticizing its treatment of Muslims and migrants, with condemnations coming in from Iran, the United States, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

“If India loses that secular, democratic identity then it loses what makes it different than other countries in Asia. We are all watching the riots in Delhi and worry they are going down a dangerous road that makes it harder for us to be a strong advocate for India,” said Representative Ami Bera, a California Democrat who is the longest-serving Indian-American in Congress.


In private conversations, diplomats are worried that the rhetoric coming from Mr. Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party is creating an environment that could lead to more violence. They point out that B.J.P. members have been labeling protesters and opposition supporters as terrorists who were supported by Pakistan. One minister led crowds in chants of “shoot the traitors!”

One area where international officials believe that India may be particularly hurting itself is in its campaign to be granted a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council along with other nuclear powers. Speaking on condition of anonymity, several diplomats, including some from countries that have publicly pushed for an Indian seat on the Security Council, say that their governments are now reluctant to push the issue after India’s domestic unrest has laid bare the effects of Hindu nationalism there.

During his first campaign for prime minister in 2014, Mr. Modi downplayed his Hindu agenda. His first term was marked by an energetic foreign policy and alliance building. Domestically, he focused on development and economic reforms. He promoted himself as a globalizer and unifier, friends with everyone: the Israelis and Palestinians, the Russians and the Americans.

After winning a second term last year, Mr. Modi’s government prioritized issues that appealed to its Hindu-nationalist base, and the prime minister himself talked less about economic reform.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump is enabling #Modi’s #Islamophobia in #India . But so are many #Indian #Americans . It is not right to support Modi simply out of a sense of Indian solidarity.

The violence was spurred by different perspectives: nationalists supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and anti-CAA protesters. The CAA was passed in December, granting a track to Indian citizenship for undocumented immigrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi backgrounds. The stated goal was to protect refugees coming from neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. That is, refugees who are not Muslim. Muslim identities were conveniently left out of the amendment, but these three countries are Muslim majority nations. These same Muslim identities are also some of the most persecuted in the world, notably the Rohingya, who are fleeing to Bangladesh following ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not helped matters very much, brashly throwing around anti-Muslim rhetoric. From potentially gaslighting millions of citizens, assuring them of no religious bias, to revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, another Muslim-majority state, Modi is clearly promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda. He, like Trump, is also the victor in an election campaign that has used fearmongering and anti-Muslim rhetoric to consolidate support.

Modi's and Trump’s kinship makes sense in this context. During a Houston rally in the fall, Modi said he supports Trump's efforts to "Make America Great Again." Trump and Modi pledged to support each other's efforts to “protect innocent civilians from radical Islamic terrorism.” From enacting a “Muslim ban” during his first days in office to speech that far too often denigrates minorities, Trump has encouraged the kind of anti-Muslim sentiment that dovetails with the Islamophobic atmosphere in India right now — and indeed is increasingly spreading around the world.

The consequences of this atmosphere can be seen in the language used by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which threatens to denaturalize Muslims across the country. As Ravi Kishan, a prominent member of Parliament and supporter of the CAA, said recently, “India has always been a Hindu nation.”

As a first-generation, Indian American immigrant myself, I watch what is happening both in my home and the homes of many of my family members with frustration — and yet the Indian diaspora remains largely silent. Where is the outrage? I recognize the struggle and the fear of appearing “too American” or “too Westernized.” And I recognize the desire to want to connect with our homeland and its heritage. We, as immigrants, hold a double identity that we constantly battle to balance.

It is not right to support Modi simply out of a sense of Indian solidarity. We need to stand in solidarity with those working for the betterment of India. We must call out those who don’t dare decry Modi’s actions, those who are so easily seduced by Trump’s saccharine tweets in Hindi; tweets which ignore the crippling afflictions in India. We cannot let Trump’s deceptive techniques fool us into believing he has our interests at heart, as he has apparently fooled both Indians and Indian American immigrants alike.

Indian American immigrants might rather avoid this messy topic. But we cannot settle for an authoritarian government — neither in America nor in India. We must confront the discomfort on social media and in WhatsApp chats. If we sit idly by, we are complicit.

The heart of India is burning. Pointing out the flaws is the only path toward a better India — an India we can all be proud of.

Riaz Haq said...

How #Delhi’s Police Turned Against #Muslims. “Even if we kill you, nothing will happen to us.” #India #pogrom #BJP #Modi #Hindutva #Islamophobia #muslimgenocide


A police commander said that as the violence erupted — at that point mostly by Hindu mobs — officers in the affected areas were ordered to deposit their guns at the station houses. Several officers during the violence were later overheard by New York Times journalists yelling to one another that they had only sticks and that they needed guns to confront the growing mobs. Some researchers accuse the police force of deliberately putting too few officers on the streets, with inadequate firepower, as the violence morphed from clashes between rival protesters into targeted killings of Muslims.

Two thirds of the more than 50 people who were killed and have been identified were Muslim. Human rights activists are calling it an organized massacre.

Though India’s population is 14 percent Muslim and New Delhi’s is 13 percent, the total Muslim representation on the Delhi police force is less than 2 percent.

Kaushar Ali, a house painter, was trying to get home when he ran into a battle.

Hindu and Muslim mobs were hurling rocks at each other, blocking a street he needed to cross to get to his children. Mr. Ali, who is Muslim, said that he turned to some police officers for help. That was his mistake.

The officers threw him onto the ground, he said, and cracked him on the head. They started beating him and several other Muslims. As the men lay bleeding, begging for mercy — one of them died two days later from internal injuries — the officers laughed, jabbed them with their sticks and made them sing the national anthem. That abuse, on Feb. 24, was captured on video.

“The police were toying with us,” Mr. Ali said. He recalled them saying, “Even if we kill you, nothing will happen to us.”

So far, they have been right.

India has suffered its worst sectarian bloodshed in years, in what many here see as the inevitable result of Hindu extremism that has flourished under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His party has embraced a militant brand of Hindu nationalism and its leaders have openly vilified Indian Muslims. In recent months Mr. Modi has presided over a raft of policies widely seen as anti-Muslim, such as erasing the statehood of what had been India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir.

Now, more evidence is emerging that the Delhi police, who are under the direct command of Mr. Modi’s government and have very few Muslim officers, concertedly moved against Muslims and at times actively helped the Hindu mobs that rampaged in New Delhi in late February, burning down Muslim homes and targeting Muslim families.

Riaz Haq said...

First #Arab world, now #Canada saying enough is enough to #Muslim-hating overseas #Indians. A firm in Canada ended ties with an Indian over his #Islamophobic tweet. But little has changed in #India. #Islamophobia #Hindutva #Modi #BJP via @ThePrintIndia

For the past few years, Islamophobia and hate against Muslims have grown at an unprecedented rate in India without any consequences. And like most things Indian, this bigotry has also gone international. But while bigots in India have enjoyed a free run with direct and indirect support of members in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and even Narendra Modi government, the situation for bigoted Indians living abroad, such as in the Gulf and now Canada, has taken a different turn.

After several incidents of Indian expatriates in the Gulf countries being called out for their Islamophobic tirade on social media and getting sacked by their employers, it was Canada’s turn to take down such hate.

Ravi Hooda, a real estate agent based in Ontario, was angered by Brampton mayor Patrick Brown’s tweet over exemptions given in the city’s noise bylaws to allow azaan (call to prayer).

Our noise by law originally passed in 1984 only included an exemption for Church bells. It will now include all faiths within the permitted hours & decibel levels. The Muslim community can proceed with the sunset azan because it’s 2020 & we treat all faiths equally. #Ramadan

— Patrick Brown (@patrickbrownont) April 30, 2020

“What’s next? Separate lanes for camel & goat riders, allowing the slaughter of animals at home in the name of sacrifice, bylaw requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents to appease the piece fools for votes,” he tweeted in reply.

It was lost on the Islamophobe that the exemption was earlier limited to church bells and was now being extended to all faiths. Perhaps, he also forgot that he was in Canada, and not in India, where such remarks draw thousands of likes and retweets. But he soon learnt his lesson.

Hooda, who later deleted his tweet, was called out by several Twitter users, including Canada’s Anti-Hate Network, for his vile comments. The real estate company he was associated with terminated his services. He has also been removed as the School Council Chair by the Macville Public School.

This follows the recent trend seen in the Gulf countries where several Indian expatriates have been fired for their Islamophobic posts targeting Muslims for the spread of Covid-19.

While Canada has won praise for its swift action against Islamophobia, things back home are not that great with hate mongers having a field day — despite several Gulf nations being vocal about it and asking the Modi government to take action.

Over the past few years, hate and communal polarisation, specifically targeted at the Muslim community, has emerged as a low-cost election winning formula for India’s political class. With already existing deep chasms of insecurity and communal divide, it takes no more than a dog whistle to act as communal kindling.

Indian social media, especially since the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, has seen a steady rise in hate targeted at Muslims, blaming them for almost every evil besetting the country.

The factual accuracy, and history, of hate mongers may be as bad as their logic, but they all manage to achieve the intended result – violence against Muslims.

If it passes muster in the homeland, if there are no repercussions here, why not replicate it elsewhere — or so goes the belief. This bigotry is so normalised that many Indians working and living in the Gulf countries, a predominantly Muslim majority region, see no problem in spreading this vitriol.

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...

#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...

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.

Riaz Haq said...

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.