Thursday, 6 October, 2022
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Radical left is bullying Hindus in the US

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Silencing or suppressing a gathering where Hindus from across the diaspora participate is counterproductive.

One in three Hindu-American students report being bullied for their religious beliefs. Fifty per cent of the same children report experiencing social isolation because of their religious identity. What’s worse is that this bullying extends far beyond the classroom in the US.

In the latest example, after Raja Krishnamoorthi, one of four Hindu-American members of the US Congress, spoke at the World Hindu Congress (WHC) held in a district neighbouring his Chicago constituency, he was disinvited from an event to mark – with some irony – bullying and hate crimes.

Efforts to de-platform or de-legitimise speakers who happen to hold or even merely acknowledge ideological positions opposed to their own are in vogue. Such efforts frequently emanate from college campuses. Why? The radical left academic project has morphed into one which equates ideas that don’t align with their own intersectional calculations with violence. And their way to fight such “violence” is to silence it. So academics like Rohit Chopra and Maia Ramnath, unsurprisingly, use the same tactics here in ThePrint by throwing shade at the WHC.

Also read: Once again, an IIT Kharagpur grad is bringing his regressive World Hindu Congress to US

Let’s dispense with a factual error in their piece: the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) did not co-sponsor the WHC nor speak on any panel. HAF is not and never has been affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, and is a professionally staffed independent advocacy organisation based in Washington, D.C.

Chopra and Ramnath go on to make the libellous claim that HAF and other Hindu-American organisations “publicly lauded” violence against Dalits and Muslims in India. Even a superficial perusal of HAF’s website demonstrates that such a claim is ludicrous and shows that such incidents have been unequivocally condemned.

The WHC, organised by a coalition of duly registered Hindu-American organisations, hosted 2,500 Hindus from across the global diaspora. The Dalai Lama addressed the audience. Swami Swaroopananda (worldwide head of the Chinmaya Mission), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Art of Living Foundation), Swami Paramatmananda (secretary of the Dharma Acharya Sabha), Satguru Dalip Singh (Namdhari Sikh), and other senior swaminis and mahatmas blessed the gathering. Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan recipients were among the panelists. Pakistani Hindus, Bhutanese Hindus, and many more were among the poignant voices on global human rights, environmental activism, and faith-based seva. Hindus from Africa, the Middle East, and South America assembled to network with their co-religionists.

But a short address by Mohan Bhagwat, head of the RSS, transformed the entire event into a Waterloo of sorts for the radical fringes of South Asian activism. As a result, Krishnamoorthi became the target of unrelenting social media attacks and demonstrations for appearing on the dais of the WHC – a dais from where the Lt Governor of Illinois, the Vice Presidents of India and Suriname, and assorted elected leaders from Mauritius and various European countries also spoke.

To deconstruct this overwrought targeting of Krishnamoorthi, it’s important to shed light on who actually was protesting the events in Chicago Friday.  The six radicals who stood on their chairs and raised slogans to disrupt the event were arrested by Chicago police. These radicals immediately released a rambling manifesto that threw a demand at a Hindu Chicago city council member to oppose the opening of a local police academy. Another twitter handle that posted messages against the WHC includes the same actors who hounded and mocked Hindu children in California, trying to improve school textbooks, through live televised public testimony that said: “It’s only after I came to the United States that I learnt about what an oppressive construct Hinduism is”.

Also read:  From marriage to urination, here’s the Sanatan Sanstha complete guide to being a good Hindu

Another activist made the incredible claim that Kashmir unrest began with the advent of the Modi government and then called for denying Bhagwat a visa. And finally, not only did extremist Sikhs unfurl flags for Khalistan and the ISI-funded Referendum 2020 in the WHC parking lot, but one of the loudest internet portals that harangued Krishnamoorthi and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard over the WHC – the Organization for Minorities of India – is operated allegedly by a Khalistan supporter who was the subject of a federal investigation for allegedly trying to “procure illegal arms for the Khalistan movement”.

So, as I wrote just last week, Krishnamoorthi is not the first Indian or Hindu-American elected to national office who has been targeted like this:

Ami Bera (D-CA), an Indian American [legislator] born in California… was targeted by Sikh separatists… Ro Khanna (D-CA) faced dark insinuations of loyalty to India in a previously failed quest for a congressional seat, before he ultimately triumphed.

Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the first Hindu elected to the U.S. Congress… was targeted by an internet portal, infamous for its voluminous efforts to force American cities to take down statues celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolence movement, for having even met with Modi… [and] Hindu Americans previously came to Gabbard’s defense when not only Gabbard, but her temple, her spiritual mentor, and parents were maligned for embracing Hinduism.

In this mad rush to render the WHC toxic, most absurd is the spirited defence of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Chopra and Ramnath describe it, approvingly, as an “American congressional institution”. In fact, USCIRF is a commission convened only in 1998, under the Clinton administration, with deep roots in the ultra-conservative American Evangelical Christianity movement. It is known to promote that agenda through commissioners with overt anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and anti-Hindu views.

The Commission has never been given permission to visit India, regardless of the party in power, and its bias against India is considered so blatant that one of the commissioners took the unusual measure of penning a dissent against the commission’s annual rote condemnation of perceived ills in India.

And last year, HAF exposed a particularly blatant USCIRF attack on India, which was authored by a Pakistani activist with alleged ties to extremist and Indian separatist groups. The author’s background and lack of expertise raised alarm bells and members of the US Congress were requested to initiate inquiries into USCIRF’s vetting and review practices.

Also read: Dear Rahul, soft Hinduism can be a winner, but not with soft nationalism

Chopra and Ramnath, and their sundry fellow travellers will choose their ideological battles. But silencing or suppressing a gathering where Hindus from across the diaspora – politicians, authors, poets, and the towering spiritual leaders of our times – participate is counterproductive. This internecine bloodletting – targeting and then de-platforming the few Hindu-Americans holding national office with a clear record of championing progressive causes in the US – is shamefully short-sighted and can only emasculate putative allies. Allies whom each one of us need at a time when illiberal ideas are on the rise and the very lives of Hindu and all Americans are at stake.

Suhag A. Shukla is a human and civil rights lawyer and serves as the Executive Director of the Hindu American Foundation.

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  1. Coming from the perspective of an actual American citizen I feel you should of not used right leaning rhetoric naming “the radical left” as the culprits of your expose. If anything it’s the right that influence the majority of tribal extremists groups with religion (the aforementioned evangelicals) and white supremacy with tribalistic goals of separation and exclusion. That is where you’ll hear the bullying stories from our children who are not part of the “in crowd” and have to deal with the ongoing rhetoric of the now former bullying president of the right. I feel sorry you and your readers if you were to censor this as you’ve already bought in to right leaning propaganda.

  2. The PRINT needs to withdraw the malicious, libellious and generally dishonest article by Robit Chopra of Santa Clara U. and the other Bibi from Fordham U., and apologize to readers for posting such trash. Also for deleting the comments under the Chopra article that pointed out how bogus it is.

  3. The constructive takeaway is that even with a track record of voicing support for human rights for all, Hindu American Foundation still gets tarred and feathered by the “progressive”– rather a regressive bunch– Leftists. The reality is that Left in India as much as in the U.S., has and will always ally with Islamists, with Christian chauvinists, and with every fringe group that seeks to divide Hindu social cohesion and to divide India, ostensibly for whatever leftist cause is the flavor of the month.

    While I appreciate HAF providing a clear and sane voice against the radical screams of Hinduphobia apparent among the “progressives”, it is disheartening to see that after unmasking these hateful people hiding behind agitprop, the article nonetheless still seeks to partner with these same insane people for the greater fight “against illeberal ideas”. Does Ms. Shukla not realize that the progressives are themselves espousing several illeberal ideas, not the least of which is silencing her own voice in the instance when they don’t agree with her and Hindus like her?

    Hindu American causes are best served when we realize that the political construct of “Left” and “Right” is alien to Hinduism, and is simply not useful in representing Hindu worldview, and therefore HAF ought to set its own agenda, and then partner with or lobby any group or political party that can match it on a given topic. Recent news has shown that Hindus welcome LGBTQ rights while Islamists and their Left votaries do not; Hindus welcome women’s independence and equality, whereas Left partners with a hijabi Islamist chauvinist for the Women’s March; HAF has given voice to Hindus grieving by the millions under oppressive Islamist regimes in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but “progressive” Left groups never ally with the feeble Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindus.

    Ideologically, HAF and its leadership ought to really rethink things. It is nice to try to gain the “liberal” stamp of approval, but at what cost of our own moral values?

    • Agree with most of what you’ve written, but hold that genuine liberalism supports all people’s freedom, not just the freedom of those one agrees with. And in the Hindu American context, there are illiberal ideas, especially as they relate to the place of immigrants in this country, that directly impact us. There are also illiberal ideas on the other end of the spectrum, like protesting the WHC, that also directly impact us. We’ve also found through 15 years of advocacy, that our issues are best served by working with “both sides of the aisle,” as they say here in the US.

      As for HAF’s ideology, please see from:

      HAF is politically agnostic and non-partisan, meaning we are informed, but do not favor or endorse any one political party or its positions. We will work with all individuals and institutions committed to and constructively engaged in promoting dignity, mutual respect, and pluralism…

      Our positions are based on a relentless pursuit of facts; deep consideration of Hindu principles and American values, such as freedom, equality, and justice; and the input of subject matter experts. If we like a policy, we’ll say so, and rigorously substantiate our position.

      HAF positions will always be based on our guiding principles. And we will always advocate for what we believe is rooted in Hindu Dharma, and serves the well-being of Hindus and the greater good of all.

    • Hi Himanshu, I think you misunderstand the term “illiberal” here. It is used in opposition to the ideas of liberal democracy. Illiberalism means the restriction of civil liberties and making elections largely meaningless because voters are deprived of the information needed to make a good decision and/or cast a ballot. It has nothing to do with the traditional liberal/conservative divide that we normally think of – both of those camps, in their traditional philosophy, support of the idea of liberal democracy. You are correct, though, that some of these radical Left groups would happily establish their own system of illiberal governance that espoused their views if given a chance. The point of that line in the article is to point this out, and ask what these groups are doing to safeguard liberal democracy – in many cases, they are not doing anything, because they don’t seek to establish a liberal democracy themselves. They only seek power for their side of the argument. That’s not what anyone needs right now.

    • I agree with you for the most part, Himanshu. But please know that I, and my colleagues at HAF, use the terms liberal and illiberal in the classical sense — a liberal is a person committed to liberty and freedom for all, and illiberals selectively espouse the opposite. Illiberalism has infected both ends of the American political spectrum, where both sides seek to curb rights based on one’s adherence to certain ideologies or beliefs, or belonging to a particular group.

      As for HAF’s “ideology,” I invite you to see we try to approach every issue or priority:

      HAF is politically agnostic and non-partisan, meaning we are informed, but do not favor or endorse any one political party or its positions. We will work with all individuals and institutions committed to and constructively engaged in promoting dignity, mutual respect, and pluralism…

      Our positions are based on a relentless pursuit of facts; deep consideration of Hindu principles and American values, such as freedom, equality, and justice; and the input of subject matter experts. If we like a policy, we’ll say so, and rigorously substantiate our position.

      HAF positions will always be based on our guiding principles. And we will always advocate for what we believe is rooted in Hindu Dharma, and serves the well-being of Hindus and the greater good of all.

  4. I attended the conference and am glad that I did. The most vociferous protests on the ground were by a bunch of 30 Sikhs who carried Khalistan banners – the same movement that killed 25000 innocent Indians through terrorist acts, blew up the Kanishka Aircraft killing hundreds, and assassinated an Indian Prime Minister. So we know which camp SAALT and Rohit Chopra belong to – the camp of terrorism. During the meeting, I met with persecuted Hindu groups and heard their harrowing stories. A group of African Hindus told me that in their country, the local banks, dominated by Muslims and Christians, do not even allow them to open bank accounts for running their monasteries and temples. Due to this harassment, they are forced to use the few branches of Indian banks open there! There were poster presentations on how the Yezidis were persecuted by ISIS, how Pakistani Hindu girls are kidnapped and converted to Islam, the dozens of Service projects by individuals and orgs in India and elsewhere. The 5000 delegates, the gentlest people you could come across, hailed from 60 countries. Here is what Mohan Bhagawat said in his speech, “In 50s, before the VHP was formed, we approached Hindu religious leaders and asked them to come together for unity of Hindus. The typical response we got was, ‘Lions do not walk around in groups. They roam alone.’ But I think that even the mighty lion can be attacked and killed by a pack of mad dogs.” This one statement is being spun in many many ways and the usual Ultra Left Hinduphobic media is wondering who these mad dogs are. Well, look no further! These mad dogs are hate groups like SADHANA, Khalistanis, SAALT, Hinduphobic ‘academics’ like Rohit Choptra and other ultra-left and religious terror networks with a genocidal ANIMOSITY against the Hindus.

  5. The constructive takeaway for the Indian diaspora is that we are all a minority in some part of the world. Just as we expect our religious and cultural identity to be respected in the US or elsewhere, Indian Americans, an especially talented and prosperous group, should be vocal in their support for tolerance and secularism in India.

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