Tag Archives: Hindu America Foundation

Indian Americans – Inclusive in US, Intolerant in India?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States to join President Trump to address a gathering of over 50,000 Indian Americans is an opportunity to not only strengthen the ties between the oldest and the largest democracy, but also to pressure the Prime Minister to stand up to his promise of an inclusive and secular India.

To Prime Minister Modi’s credit, he has implemented developmental plans from space exploration to health insurance schemes at a rate unheard of in Indian politics. After a decade of unprecedented corruption and poor governance, Modi’s vision of India as a developed country has captured the dreams and imaginations of many.

But the economic strides comes with a cost: intolerance, bigotry and hate crimes.

Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) and allies have made no secret of their vision of India as a Hindu country, contradicting India’s secular founding principles.

Just months after the B.J.P.’s rise, a Hindu right wing group induced over 3000 Christians to participate in mass conversion ceremony to Hinduism by a combination of intimidation and bribery. In a move unbecoming of the largest democracy, the B.J.P. endorsed sedition charges against students who had cheered for the Pakistani cricket team in an India-Pakistan cricket match.

This August, just a few months into his second term, Modi revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed state of Kashmir. Not by debate and deliberation, but by a security clampdown that left the residents of the Muslim-majority valley without internet, mobile and even healthcare services for weeks.

The rising intolerance is all too palpable on social media too.

The slightest hint of dissent is quickly silenced with raucous accusations of anti-nationalism.

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousaf was trolled for tweeting her concerns about the ongoing crisis in the Valley affecting the education of school children. Hindu American Foundation, an American non-profit and ally of the Modi government lambasted Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for speaking out against curtailing civil liberties in Kashmir.

The similarities in the politics of Trump and Modi are hard to miss.

Both  are immigration and national security hardliners, ran for elections on populist policies, and frame any criticism of their policies as unpatriotic. Their majoritarian beliefs have galvanized the far right of their respective countries resulting in a wave of bigotry, intolerance and hate crimes.

Despite their similarities, it is ironic that the popularity of the two leaders are at polar opposites among the Indian diaspora.

As minorities in the US, we desis accept and enjoy the benefits of secularism, freedom of religious expression, and evangelizing (the Hare Krishna movement).

We vote for secular left wing policies in the US, and accuse Trump of instigating hate crimes  against Indian Americans, like the killing of an Indian engineer in 2017, by his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Yet, Indian Americans, the majority of whom are Indian-born Hindus, hypocritically champion the Hindu nationalist policies of Modi in India, the very policies that we are critical of in the American setting.

If we want an inclusive and tolerant America, we must start by cleaning our own backyard. We must insist that Prime Minister Modi create a secular, inclusive and multicultural India, much like the America we seek for ourselves.

Ashwin Murthy is a software engineer at LinkedIn and a freelance writer of Indian descent.

hindu american

Hindu America Foundation Wins Significant Victory to Modify Textbooks

After more than a decade of constructive civic engagement with the California Department of Education, the Hindu American community won a significant victory yesterday in its quest for an accurate, equitable, and culturally competent portrayal of Hinduism and India in California textbooks.

In its final public hearing, the Department’s State Board of Education (SBE) voted unanimously to approve positive edits submitted by Hindu American community groups to improve the portrayal of Hinduism and India in 10 textbooks. The board also voted to reject two deeply problematic textbook programs from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Grades K-6 and Grades 6-8) for adversely reflecting on Hinduism and other diverse communities.

“This is truly historic. After many years of civic engagement, Hindu-Americans have started to make themselves heard,” said Shantharam Nekkar of Hindu Education Foundation USA, an organization dedicated to enriching the understanding of Indian civilization and Hinduism in America. “We will continue to engage constructively and fight biases and prejudices against Hinduism and India.”

The SBE’s decision came after hearing testimonies and receiving letters from thousands of Hindu American parents, children, educators and community members from across California, including immigrant Hindus from Fiji, Caribbean and India, as well as letters from a broad coalition of more than 75 interfaith and community groups, 17 state and federal elected officials, and 38 leading academics.

Throughout the day, several public officials across the country also sent social media messages of support, applauding the community’s efforts in ensuring that Hinduism is presented accurately in California textbooks.

The Board rebuffed last minute attempts to disrupt the process by a group calling itself South Asian Histories for All, which made vitriolic, bigoted, and Hinduphobic statements about Hinduism in public testimony and on social media, and threatened to sue the SBE.

“Despite the false claims of SAHFA, our broad interfaith coalition that represents individuals from all communities including Dalits, never tried to erase any community, caste, or religion’s history, and believe that all groups should be represented fairly in textbooks,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., Senior Director at the Hindu American Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group for the Hindu American community. “In fact, we asked that the contributions of Hindus of all backgrounds, including the spiritual traditions of Dalit Hindus, be acknowledged in textbooks. Most of the changes that SAHFA submitted were hateful and violate California law and the textbook framework.”

The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), a leading coalition partner, released the following statement:

“We are grateful for the testimonies from NAACP representatives and the Hispanic Chamber, along with strong letters of support from over 17 public officials. Together, we rallied over 1000 people to rally in this amazing showing of civic engagement and empowerment. Our voices were heard!”

CC Yin, Founder and Chairman of APAPA, added, “When we work together, we will win.”