New Delhi: Hindu organisations in the United States are warning of a rise in hate-crimes against the community, following a string of attacks involving communal and physical abuse.
In a video, uploaded by California resident Krishnan Iyer on YouTube, a man (a Sikh) is seen calling him an “ugly Hindu”, a “dirty Hindu” and said he “showers in cow urine”.
The deluge of abuse, in Punjabi and English, also targets former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and goes on to say “you were the ones who kneeled down to the East India Company”.
Fremont police officers later charged Tejinder Singh, also of Indian origin, with committing a hate crime, assault and disturbing peace by offensive language.
According to the Fremont Police, “At the conclusion of this incident, it was determined one male used extremely offensive and hurtful language toward the other male. No physical threats were made by the second individual, and he was not arrested.”
This incident comes a few days after a Texas woman was caught on camera “in a racist rant and assault on women of South Asian descent in a suburban Dallas parking lot”.
According to the Plano police, the Mexican-American woman was charged “for assault bodily injury” and “terroristic threats”.
“Go back to India,” “I hate you Indians,” shouted the woman at other Indian-origin women out for dinner. She then physically assaulted the woman recording the incident.
Earlier the same month, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside a Hindu temple in New York was vandalised on two occasions.
A statement by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said “six men (were) smashing the statue with a sledgehammer while hurling slurs and making repeated calls for Khalistan”.
HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla told ThePrint, “In addition to run-of-the-mill anti-immigrant sentiment, over the past few years, we’ve seen an exponential rise in Hinduphobic rhetoric being published in both traditional and social media. And as history has shown, hateful rhetoric too often leads to physical violence.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation data shows that there were only 11 “anti-Hindu bias” hate offences in 2020, compared with 279 “anti-Asian” offences, 110 “anti-Islamic” and 89 “anti-Sikh” offences.
However, Shukla said, “Actual hate crime data on Hindus is still in its nascent stages. Previously, hate crimes committed against Hindus simply fell into a generic ‘other’ category.”
A study conducted in July 2022, published by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), showed a rise in online “Hinduphobia”.
“As ethnic tensions and violence begin to mount in the subcontinent, knowledge of Hinduphobic tropes is now a critical asset for the media and platforms because anti-Hindu tropes are rapidly cycling from the cyber social sphere to the kinetic sphere in an atmosphere of populist violence,” the research paper noted.
The quantitative analysis of the paper included tracking the trajectory of “anti-Hindu hashtags and comments from popular social networking and messaging platforms — Twitter, Tiktok, 4chan, Gab, and Telegram” between January 2019 to June 2022.
“Pajeet” is an ethnic slur coined as a derisive imitation of Hindu names. “Typically Pajeet is used to describe Indians on internet – and by default — Hindus,” the paper said.
The analysis on 4Chan and Telegram suggested that usage of “Pajeet” is growing significantly on “fringe platforms’”. “Using data from the SMAT application, we conducted a time series analysis of the terms ‘Pajeet’ and ‘Hindu’. Twitter has also seen a rise in the usage of ‘Pajeet’ since 2019.”
The NCRI report further noted, “Spikes in the data correspond to key events. For instance, after the appointment of Parag Agarwal as Twitter CEO in late November 2021, there were surges in the usage of ‘Pajeet’.”
The authors also found that on 4Chan, most users commenting “Pajeets”, “Hindus” and “India” self-reported their locations in the US.
In a briefing Thursday, hosted by the Coalition of Hindus of North America, one of the paper’s authors Joel Finkelstein said, “The internet has provided a fertile ground for the large-scale organisation and weaponisation of Hinduphobia by extremist communities, state actors and hateful players in the online space.”
To a query, a spokesperson for the United States Embassy in New Delhi told ThePrint, “The United States is deeply committed to addressing the challenges of systemic racism both at home and abroad, including the structures, policies, laws, and practices that sustain racial injustices. We further believe that any pledge to advance human rights around the world must begin with a pledge to advance human rights at home.”