Tag Archives: Politics

Valarie Kaur: What If Maternal Love Extended to Our Opponents ?

“As many mothers know, love is sweet labor — a choice that we have to make over and over again, every single day. What would it look like to extend a fraction of that love, to ourselves, to others who don’t look like us, and even to our opponents?” 

– Valarie Kaur

Valarie Kaur is a mother, lawyer, and progressive activist who is grounded in her culture and religion, much like Gandhi and MLK. She is the author of the upcoming book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, releasing on June 16, 2020. Here I am in conversation with Valarie Kaur, as she comments on loss, love, and the power of forgiveness.

GPJ: A lot of activists are seen as angry, yet you have talked about loving your enemy. How do you do that?

VK: I believe that revolutionary love is the call of our times. I became an activist after the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was a family friend. Since I was 20, for more than 16 years, I have gone from community to community working on a range of social justice issues. I began fighting hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, and other South Asian Americans, and soon realized that our issues were bound up with other communities of color. So I’ve worked with: Latino communities fighting immigration detention; worked with black youth fighting stop and frisk; on prison reform and solitary confinement; marriage equality and trans rights. 

My son was born at the end of 2015, and we began to see hate crimes skyrocket, reaching levels just as high as they were in 9/11. 

I had a small existential crisis — I thought, I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years — I thought with every campaign, we were making the country safer. My family had been in the country for 100 years and I believed we were making linear progress. I looked at my son and realized that I was raising a brown boy, keeping his hair long in accordance with his Sikh faith, in a country that was even more dangerous than the world that my grandfather lived in. I sat in a torrent of tears. I left my job. I took a period of deep introspection. 

After so long, what actually creates change for the communities I serve? It always came down to a critical question: is there love here? Communities that received love in the wake of atrocity were able to respond with love and sustain struggles against institutions of power. I began to think about love as a revolutionary force and began to speak publicly about it. 

When the elections happened in 2016, I was flooded with messages from people saying, “now more than ever, we need this message of revolutionary love.” When my speeches went viral, I felt I had a mandate. 

We built the Revolutionary Love Project — the vision of the project is to make love a public ethic in American life, but also globally. I’m really thinking about how social norms take hold in 25-year cycles — what might it look like in education, criminal justice, politics, as well as our homes and schools. Our mission is to produce thought leadership, stories, and tools to equip people to practice love, particularly in the fight for social justice. 

Activists are usually stereotyped as being angry, and there’s a reason for that. They traditionally work in the frame of resistance, and while resistance is necessary — it’s important to have a strong line of defense against the policies and executive orders that this administration is issuing — it is insufficient to produce lasting social change. When it’s all about resistance, we as advocates tend to mirror the dysfunctions that we are fighting. We tend to mirror the stress, anxiety, fear, and even hate that we are resisting. 

So my call is instead to adopt a frame of revolutionary love. As many mothers know, love is sweet labor — a choice that we have to make over and over again, every single day. What would it look like to extend a fraction of that love, to ourselves, to others who don’t look like us, and even to our opponents? When love is poured in these three directions, it can become revolutionary. 

GPJ: We seem to care a lot about people who look like us, but the leap to care about our oppressors seems difficult. How do we love our oppressors?

VK: To me, the ideal in the Sikh faith has always been that the warrior fights, the saint loves — hence, a revolutionary love. I see Guru Nanak’s path as one of revolutionary love. We’ve inherited a history of, not only martyrs, but also soldiers and warriors. What does it mean to adopt that religious imagination of warriors against political injustice in modern times? 

The first Sikh woman warrior was Mai Bhago in 1705 — when 40 soldiers abandoned their post, she donned a turban, she took a sword in her hand, mounted a horse, and said, “We will return to the battle and I am the one who will lead you.” She became the one she was waiting for. She’s my inspiration, and I believe we need to become the Mai Bhago of our time. 

That’s why I created the Mai Bhago Retreat, to bring together Sikh women justice leaders every year so we can see ourselves and reinterpret our faith in this way. This is fierce religious imagery — sword and shield — but I believe we do not need literal weapons to fight the war before us. We may have needed them years before, but not now with the institutions of democracy we have before us. 

My sword is my law degree, my shield is my film camera. I look at my Sikh sisters using their pens, doctors’ scalpels, pocketbooks, as their shields. Nobody goes into battle alone, so it’s important that we come together to fight the good fight together. What does it mean to love your opponents? My core practice is to heal the wound. I have never come across anyone who I have seen as wholly evil. 

Every perpetrator of violence or supporter of violence is doing it from their own sense of woundedness, fear, and insecurity. They don’t know what else to do with their insecurity but to aim it at us. They are wounded. We point our swords and shields at the cultural-political institutions that allow them to hurt us. I am less interested in unseating this particular president, and more interested in the social and political conditions that led to this presidency. That’s what I’ve battled against — it changes how we fight. 

Whenever we focused on putting bad actors behind bars, it never changed very much. But when we focused on transforming institutions of power, or transforming a corrupt police department, or changing federal hate crimes policy, or winning net neutrality, that’s when we began to see systemic change. I believe that loving our opponents simply consists of tending to their wounds. Changing how we see them, from monsters to people who are wounded, opens the possibility of forgiveness, and even possibly reconciliation. 

Frank Roque, who murdered Balbir Singh, was about to receive the death penalty when his sentence was commuted to life in prison. On the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, Rana Balbir and I stood at his memorial, and he said, “nothing has changed.” I asked him, who is the person we have not yet tried to love? 

The last thing we had heard from Frank Roque was at his trial, when he had said he was going out to shoot some towelheads and their children too. So we called him up and asked him why he agreed to speak to us, and he began to tell us how he was sorry for what happened to our family but was also sorry for the lives of the thousands of people killed in 9/11. He failed to take responsibility, and I began to get angry, but Ranaji kept listening and wondering about the wound in Frank. 

He says, “Frank, this is the first time I have heard you say you’re sorry.” And Frank says, “Yes, I’m sorry for what I did to your brother. And when I go to heaven to be judged by God, I will ask to see your brother and I will hug him.” 

Forgiveness is not forgetting, it is freedom from hate. Then we can begin to see and challenge the cultural forces and the institutions of power that allow violence to happen. It took us fifteen years to make that call. If you are still hurting, and you can still feel that rage and pain and loss in your body, the best and most loving thing you can do for your opponent is to tend to your own wound. Forgiveness is really about freedom for yourself, and opening yourself to the possibility of reconciliation. 

I don’t believe I will ever reconcile with Donald Trump, but I do believe that thinking about what drives his insecurity and fear, what makes him feel so alienated and lash out against all of us who look different from him, helps me fight him better and helps me to talk to those who support him, to understand why they are fearful, and hold up a vision of a country that includes them too. Loving our opponents is strategic, and savvy. It’s how we are going to build a movement that’s not just about resistance but about transformation.

Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is grateful to Kartik Jain for transcribing this unpublished interview with Valarie Kaur. When she is not writing or teaching yoga, Geetika can be found enjoying the great outdoors. She is currently working on a book called “50 Voices From South Asia.”

FIIDS Gala: Indian American Political Involvement

The Indian Diaspora, like other immigrant communities, lives in two cultures simultaneously. Its well being is affected by the political and economic situation in the USA, while its heart stays connected to India. They address issues affecting India through various organizations and forums. 

The Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIISDS) is one such organization. FIISDS is dedicated to Policy Studies, Analysis, Advocacy and Awareness Related to India and Indian Diaspora.

The Silicon Valley chapter of FIISDS organized an event on Feb 22, 2020 to discuss the current policies, incidents, and decisions affecting Indians in India and the United States. The event was attended by Silicon Valley eminent entrepreneurs, community leaders, politicians, social workers, doctors, and engineers.

The event started with the panel discussion on ‘Indo American Political Involvement’. It was moderated by Vijay Rajvaidya, Managing Director of India Currents Inc.

The panelists were Raj Salwan (Councilmember city of Fremont), Rishi Kumar (Councilmember city of Saratoga and running for US Congress District 18), Ritesh Tandon (Running for US Congress District 17) and, Nisha Sharma (running for US Congress District 11). 

Raj Salwan emphasized the importance of Indian American to participate in local politics and get their issues highlighted through political involvement. 

Rishi Kumar, who has been an activist, felt that Indian American can raise their issues and get them resolved by participating in community related programs. 

Ritesh Tandon, who is running for US Congress from the US Congress district 17 stressed that Indian Americans need to unite and raise their voice as one community with America-first policy. 

Nisha Sharma pointed out that there is a vacuum in women leadership at the top, and it is the right time for them to come forward. 

The event was inaugurated by the well known physician and community leader Dr Romesh Japra. In his address, he expressed his desire to create a grand Hindu American coalition and get their issues raised at the highest level. Following Dr. Japra’s address, Dr. Jasubhai Patel, a patron of FIIDS, emphasized the need to work on strategic policy matters.

There were more speakers who held the attention of the audience.

Deepak Karanjkar very eloquently spoke about “Misinformation Campaigns & Need for Public Awareness” in the context of abrogation of Article 370 from the Indian Constitution and the Citizenship Amendment Act. He pointed out that the current government in India resolved the seventy years old Kashmir issue by abrogating Article 370, while previous governments were simply attempting to manage it. 

Rabbi Serena Eisenberg shared her experiences as Jewish leader for implementing the SAFE (Safety Awareness Friendship Empowerment) program to uplift the Jewish community in America. 

David Marshak felt that Pakistani organizations worldwide indulge in spreading misinformation about India and suggested that Indian diaspora should focus on countering the false negative.

The Keynote speaker of the evening Sree Iyer, a well-known political commentator, author, and founder of PGurus, discussed the vicious Campaign against CAA and the Role of Indians Americans. He mentioned that currently there are seven million Hindus living in the rural areas of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan, a sizable Hindu population discriminated against and abused by the Pakistanis. They are facing humiliation on a daily basis by the majority community in Pakistan. Sree generously agreed to auction the copies of his popular book ‘WHO PAINTED MY MONEY WHITE’ at the event, with the proceedings donated to FIIDS.

FIIDS is a 501(C)(3) Tax Exempt Organization, and engages in Policy Studies, Analysis, and Awareness Related to India and Indian Diaspora. For further information, please visit www.fiids-us.org, or contact FIIDS at info@fiids-usa.org.

 

Presidential Primary Poll: Make Your Voice Count

The U.S. Presidential Primary Election cycle starts with Iowa on February 3rd, 2020. This marks the nascence of the election year and an exciting time for politics. What is the average Indian American thinking during the elections? Are you politically engaged or are you tired of the non stop political talk? Please help us find out by completing this two minute survey and have your voice heard!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE OUR SURVEY

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? No!

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? No!

By Mani Subramani

The trade deal with China is definitely a step in the right direction for the Trump administration.  But only after taking several steps backwards! Like a broken clock Donald Trump has been complaining about trade imbalances since the 1980s, first with Japan and now with China.  Global trade with China has been growing steadily. In a recent study, The Economic Policy Institute reported little over a 4 fold increase in imports from China (120B-540B) and a greater than a 6 fold increase in exports to China (19B-120B).  

The Trump administration needs to ask itself if it’s willing to give up 120B in exports to Make America Great Again? Like the U.S. did in 2001?  The answer is clearly NO.  

The Phase-1 Trade Deal will have the Chinese buy more soy and hogs from U.S. farmers but the agreement keeps the level of export the same as before. Due to the African flu and the following hog shortage in China, there was a pre-existing demand for hogs without the Trade Deal.  

Now President Trump claims that tariffs are great for the treasury and makes false claims that it is paid for by the Chinese entirely.  Wrong on both counts. Despite the tariffs and expanding U.S. economy, the deficit for 2020 is on track to hit a trillion again. A recent Business week study finds that of 25% tariffs on $250B about $3B/month is paid by consumers and another $1.4B/month in costs related to lost efficiency.  In other words, a vast majority of the tariffs are borne by consumers and importers. 

Tariffs are a blunt un-directed weapon which when used are full of unintended consequences.  As pointed out in a study by the Tax Foundation, more workers in other industries dependent on steel lost their jobs due to the 2002 Bush Steel tariffs; few were protected. Trump repeated this mistake making the false claim of saving jobs once again and implemented his Steel and Aluminum Tariffs in 2018.  The result was a temporary improvement in steel prices followed by a deep slump in prices due to over capacity and severe cutbacks in steel jobs. 

In addition to these unintended consequences, the trade deal represents a loss of focus and forgets to address three key areas: Chinese government subsidies create unequal advantages for development and pricing that kill off global competition; intellectual property protection in China is exploitative and should be changed for it to be a mutually beneficial relationship; the trade deal does not specifically prohibit the use of technological advances for military warfare. 

U.S. interests would have been better served by steering clear of a trade war and instead focusing the dialogue in China on the three key issues aforementioned. Maybe that is why past presidents weren’t “tariff men”.  Guess it’s a lot easier to win elections by blaming trade for lost jobs!

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal?  Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

For decades, China has pursued discriminatory, fraudulent and predatory industrial policies with the U.S. and unfair trade practices—including dumping, discriminatory barriers, steep tariffs, forced technology transfer, over capacity, and intellectual property theft. 

U.S. Presidents, both Democratic and Republican, in the past, have only paid lip service to China. It wasn’t until President Trump, who has the spine to confront China, that the U.S. was able to extract concessions and sign the Phase 1 Trade Deal. While the deal may not be perfect or complete, it is a welcome and necessary first step. 

China has imposed tariffs three times more than the United States. The U.S. imposes a 2.5% tariff on Chinese cars while China has a 25% tariff. Chin’s “Made in China 2025” plan adversely impacts U.S. manufactures. The cost of China’s blatant intellectual property theft costs United States’ innovators billions of dollars a year and results in job losses.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer showered rare praise on the President for standing up to China and imposing tough tariffs and sanctions. Further Senator Schumer said – “Not only do they steal our intellectual property, they keep our good companies out, and say the only way you’re going to be able to sell your American products in China … is if you come to China, make them there, and give us the techniques and intellectual property.”

According to CNN Business, “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually to the U.S.” According to a CNBC SFO survey, 1 in 5 U.S. companies said that China stole their intellectual property within the past year. In 2003, China played another dirty trick by using currency manipulation, allowing its currency to artificially fall. Since 2018, China has had a positive trade imbalance of $379 billion with the U.S. 

While it may not be fashionable to commend President Trump in California, any right thinking citizen ought to support Trump’s “America First” policies; the policies focus on eliminating laws and regulations that kill jobs and stifle innovation. With the Trade Deal, China agreed to purchase, over the course of the next two years, $200 billion more goods and services from the United States than it purchased in 2017. As Hillary Clinton rightly said, China has “gamed the system for too long” and now Trump deserves credit for taking the first steps with the Trade Deal to level the playing field and ensure that trade is both free and fair.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


License for the image used can be found here.

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? Yes!

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal?  Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

For decades, China has pursued discriminatory, fraudulent and predatory industrial policies with the U.S. and unfair trade practices—including dumping, discriminatory barriers, steep tariffs, forced technology transfer, over capacity, and intellectual property theft. 

U.S. Presidents, both Democratic and Republican, in the past, have only paid lip service to China. It wasn’t until President Trump, who has the spine to confront China, that the U.S. was able to extract concessions and sign the Phase 1 Trade Deal. While the deal may not be perfect or complete, it is a welcome and necessary first step. 

China has imposed tariffs three times more than the United States. The U.S. imposes a 2.5% tariff on Chinese cars while China has a 25% tariff. Chin’s “Made in China 2025” plan adversely impacts U.S. manufactures. The cost of China’s blatant intellectual property theft costs United States’ innovators billions of dollars a year and results in job losses.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer showered rare praise on the President for standing up to China and imposing tough tariffs and sanctions. Further Senator Schumer said – “Not only do they steal our intellectual property, they keep our good companies out, and say the only way you’re going to be able to sell your American products in China … is if you come to China, make them there, and give us the techniques and intellectual property.”

According to CNN Business, “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually to the U.S.” According to a CNBC SFO survey, 1 in 5 U.S. companies said that China stole their intellectual property within the past year. In 2003, China played another dirty trick by using currency manipulation, allowing its currency to artificially fall. Since 2018, China has had a positive trade imbalance of $379 billion with the U.S. 

While it may not be fashionable to commend President Trump in California, any right thinking citizen ought to support Trump’s “America First” policies; the policies focus on eliminating laws and regulations that kill jobs and stifle innovation. With the Trade Deal, China agreed to purchase, over the course of the next two years, $200 billion more goods and services from the United States than it purchased in 2017. As Hillary Clinton rightly said, China has “gamed the system for too long” and now Trump deserves credit for taking the first steps with the Trade Deal to level the playing field and ensure that trade is both free and fair.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? No!

By Mani Subramani

The trade deal with China is definitely a step in the right direction for the Trump administration.  But only after taking several steps backwards! Like a broken clock Donald Trump has been complaining about trade imbalances since the 1980s, first with Japan and now with China.  Global trade with China has been growing steadily. In a recent study, The Economic Policy Institute reported little over a 4 fold increase in imports from China (120B-540B) and a greater than a 6 fold increase in exports to China (19B-120B).  

The Trump administration needs to ask itself if it’s willing to give up 120B in exports to Make America Great Again? Like the U.S. did in 2001?  The answer is clearly NO.  

The Phase-1 Trade Deal will have the Chinese buy more soy and hogs from U.S. farmers but the agreement keeps the level of export the same as before. Due to the African flu and the following hog shortage in China, there was a pre-existing demand for hogs without the Trade Deal.  

Now President Trump claims that tariffs are great for the treasury and makes false claims that it is paid for by the Chinese entirely.  Wrong on both counts. Despite the tariffs and expanding U.S. economy, the deficit for 2020 is on track to hit a trillion again. A recent Business week study finds that of 25% tariffs on $250B about $3B/month is paid by consumers and another $1.4B/month in costs related to lost efficiency.  In other words, a vast majority of the tariffs are borne by consumers and importers. 

Tariffs are a blunt un-directed weapon which when used are full of unintended consequences.  As pointed out in a study by the Tax Foundation, more workers in other industries dependent on steel lost their jobs due to the 2002 Bush Steel tariffs; few were protected. Trump repeated this mistake making the false claim of saving jobs once again and implemented his Steel and Aluminum Tariffs in 2018.  The result was a temporary improvement in steel prices followed by a deep slump in prices due to over capacity and severe cutbacks in steel jobs. 

In addition to these unintended consequences, the trade deal represents a loss of focus and forgets to address three key areas: Chinese government subsidies create unequal advantages for development and pricing that kill off global competition; intellectual property protection in China is exploitative and should be changed for it to be a mutually beneficial relationship; the trade deal does not specifically prohibit the use of technological advances for military warfare. 

U.S. interests would have been better served by steering clear of a trade war and instead focusing the dialogue in China on the three key issues aforementioned. Maybe that is why past presidents weren’t “tariff men”.  Guess it’s a lot easier to win elections by blaming trade for lost jobs!

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Edited by Contributing Editor Srishti Prabha.

Kamala Harris’ Amma, an Unlikely Soulmate

Until recently, American elections used to evoke in me, not angst, but wonder.  When Bill Clinton ran for president, I watched The Man from Hope, a documentary about his life, over and over again, feeling inspired by the story of a boy who rose from an abusive childhood to reach the highest office in the world.

Through the summer of 2008, as the world teetered on the edge of a financial meltdown and my mother lay dying in our house in Nagpur, I sat by her bedside, reading Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father, and marveling at the miracle of America.

Even today, as a criminal occupies the White House and I dread the demise of the American promise, I come across the story of Shymala Gopalan and feel I’ve met my soulmate.

I am talking of Kamala Harris’ mother, who, until recently, I did not know was Indian.  Why, as Harris rose through the political ranks, she never spoke of her mother, remains a mystery, but I find Shyamala to be a fascinating figure.  I can’t imagine a young woman from Madras – now Chennai – venturing into the University of California, Berkeley, at a time when few Indians had even heard of the place.

I recall when I was a school kid in the 1960s and America was just entering into my consciousness.  The Kennedys had appeared on the world scene and Jackie Kennedy was visiting India.

I imagine the young Shyamala leaving Madras, a place of Hindu orthodoxy and spicy food, and arriving alone in Berkeley just as the ‘60s were in the offing.  I can envision her being thrown into the tumult of Vietnam War protests and civil rights movements.

Nearly two decades later, I arrived in Berkeley to find myself just as exotic as Shyamala once was.  In the ‘70s, there were still very few Indian women on campus and even fewer role models to follow.

How had Shyamala navigated this terrain nearly twenty years earlier?  What were her guiding principles?  Did she find Berkeley’s liberal politics and culture just as invigorating as I found it?  Did the Americans of Berkeley, a breed unto themselves, wrap their arms around her just as they had done around me?  Did she relish this place where she could live without restrictions or fear of judgment, just as I had done?  Did she welcome the absence of expectations?

I am convinced that she did.  Why else would she fall in love with a black man from Jamaica?  Why, when it became imperative, would she divorce him and strike out on her own as a single mother?

But the question that haunts me is this: how did Shyamala have the courage of her conviction that I’ve had to struggle to maintain?

Arriving in the US decades after Shyamala, I experienced the stigma of divorce out of my arranged marriage. I was ostracized, not by the Americans, but by the Indian community, which had just begun forming in the Silicon Valley.  Later, I felt the taboo of my marriage to a white Englishman.

I felt I had been wronged.

But Shyamala overcame so much more.  When Kamala mentions that her grandparents had no telephone and had to rely on writing flimsy aerograms that took two weeks to arrive in Berkeley, I tear up.  Decades after I arrived in the US, my parents too did not have a phone.  For them, calling me involved an expedition at a prearranged time to my cousin’s house in another suburb.

I imagine that the lack of communication made it easier for Shyamala to break away, to assimilate into North American society; to eventually take the professorship in medical research at McGill University in Montreal and move her two daughters there.

Just as it had enabled me to strike on my own path.

Recently, I came across a picture of Shyamala walking her daughters to an elementary school in Berkeley.  In the photo, she is wearing black stockings, a short plaid skirt, matching vest, and a black blouse.  With her strong Indian features, curly hair, and beaded earrings, she looks like a woman who is working hard to assimilate.  The picture reminds me of the first skirt and vest outfit I had purchased nearly forty years ago for attending job interviews.  With my knee-length hair and off-the-boat expression, I’d perhaps looked just as out of place in it as Shyamala had done.

The thought fills me with a kinship that I haven’t experienced with any other immigrant female. I marvel at the miracle of our nation which, every four years, presents us with unique stories of the American journey.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of India Currents and India Currents does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Congressman Khanna Informs Local Media on What Keeps Congress Awake at Night

Congressman Ro Khanna spoke with the journalists from ethnic media on 12th November 2019. The teleconference, organized by Vandana Kumar, Publisher India Currents, came at a timely juncture when the nation and community is gearing up for the 2020 Presidential elections and it is time to take stock of what the nation has gained and lost in the last few years. Cyber security and Healthcare emerged as two issues that impact the community and are close to the heart of the Congress.

Cyber security, with routine data mining in the face of the fast changing social media landscape, was raised as a special concern. As Internet becomes a large part of our daily lives what is Congress doing in terms of legislation to address the issue of cyber crime? The Congressman addressed the press’ concerns and spoke of his request for the Internet Bill of Rights.

Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) has introduced the Internet Bill of Rights, a proposal that includes the right to know about “all collection and uses of personal data by companies,” and to be notified “in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered.” He aims to strengthen people’s ability to correct or delete personal data in a company’s control, and require companies to obtain consumer consent before collecting or sharing data with third parties. In the Congressman’s words the bill would require people to give their consent making it harder for the companies to collect data, a situation better than the one in China where people have very little protection.

The Congressman also felt blatant falsity should not be allowed. There is an obligation on the part of companies like Google and Facebook to check for an obvious disregard of the truth. If copyright violation can be checked then surely they can remove false information by following the same procedure. Perhaps, he said, we need an independent depoliticized government agency that can define the rules and draw the boundary of truth.

Though there is a desire to regulate social media before the 2020 election, what really keeps the Congress awake at night is the question of healthcare. Khanna is hoping the social media corporations will hopefully voluntarily self regulate if no legislation can be passed in time for the 2020 elections. However, Congress must and has been working hard on providing affordable healthcare.

It is the Congressman’s view that “more than almost anything else, our health has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day activities, state of mind, and overall well-being. Good health is foundational to everything else we do – our ability to take care of our families, be productive at work, and pursue our passions and hobbies”.

“We need basic care and low premiums,” said the Congressman.

Congressman Khanna would like the creation of a single-payer health care system, or Medicare for All and supports legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for more reasonable drug prices. This type of legislation will allow Americans below the age of 65 to buy into Medicare. A result of this would be that community members could save money through reduced fees and premiums.

Congressman Khanna also supports legislation to allow for the importation of drugs from nations that we trust. He was an original co-sponsor of legislation to allow for the importation of Canadian drugs.

“We must increase coverage, support small businesses, expand primary care, and provide lower premiums. Medicare for All is the next step toward addressing the high costs and inequalities in the current health care system,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. The congressman feels the states should be empowered to create their own solution if the federal government is unable to establish a single-payer system. We must guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.

The telebriefing on “The Role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 Elections”, moderated by Vandana Kumar (Publisher, India Currents), gave Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) an opportunity to share his perspectives as a key lawmaker representing the Silicon Valley. Sponsored by India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services, it is part of the ‘Conversations with Candidates’ series initiated by India Currents to expand ethnic media news access to elected officials and presidential candidates.

Ritu Marwah is a citizen who would like to pay closer attention to the political issues that are bound to impact her life. She understands that an informed citizen is a safer citizen.

RaajneeTEEN: A Chat with Deepa Mahesh

The 2020 presidential election is not a race. It is a battlefield. Scattered across its rugged landscape is an onslaught of tweets and hashtags, opinions hurled from every edge of the American demography. From our broken healthcare system to our toxic immigration legislation, it is clear that America has everything to gain – and much to lose. 

2020 Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Devi Harris, knows what is at stake. Since her emergence in mainstream American politics during the controversial Brett Kavanaugh questioning, Harris has captured public interest with her visceral speeches.. As a South Asian woman, she is a pioneer in political territory that has long been foreign to Indian-Americans. To discuss her representation of our community, we spoke with fifteen-year old Deepa Mahesh, a member of Kamala Harris’s South Asians For The People initiative. 

“My group is all about uniting people in this community who want to fight for Kamala”, explains Deepa. “Unity gives us a lot more power, and makes our stances a lot more clear and more well-known in this sphere of politics… we’re fighting for her so she can fight for us.” 

Deepa’s role in this initiative includes maintaining a consistent social media presence, spreading the news among students, and communicating with voters and supporters. As a young person in this unique political climate, she is molded by the flame of America’s polarizing past . 

“I was first drawn to politics in seventh or eighth grade, when the 2016 elections were drawing to a close. And from then on, politics became really intriguing. It affected everything around me, from people I’ve seen… to people in Washington..and then this 2020 election started. I looked at the candidates, and I was instantly attracted to Kamala … As a South Asian, I was..happy to see someone like me … She is an amazing speaker. She’s the kind of person to command an audience and she has experiences that I don’t think..that other candidates can toss into the ring…I really share her social views and her beliefs, and I was just..drawn to her.” 

Unfortunately, the same heated social climate that drew Deepa into politics drove other teenagers her age further into indifference and apathy. Social media and the other casualties of an internet age serve as prime distractions from pressing societal issues. Deepa offers advice for other alienated or indifferent students, “ teenagers should know that just because we don’t see people exactly like ourselves in politics, doesn’t mean that we are invalid. Don’t let that be a roadblock in your path…if you have a stance, always remember to fight for it and act on it. It’s one of the greatest things in our country that we are allowed to do..”

On the surface, Deepa Mahesh is just your average San Jose teenager. “I really enjoy playing video games online in my spare time,” she laughs. “I know it’s not the most productive hobby.” But her voice exudes a sense of social awareness, and her commitment towards the Kamala Harris campaign is reflective of the immense potential of the South Asian youth community. 

Politics, in a sense, is the larger-than-life, funhouse reflection of another video game, from its unspoken rules to its spiraling conflicts. And young people really do have the power to navigate these challenges – as long as we give them the chance to play. 

*Raajneeti is the Hindi word for politics. The title is a play on words, as this article is about teenagers’ contributions to American politics today.

Kanchan Naik is a rising junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California.

Edited by contributing editor, Meera Kymal.

What Will My Next President Look Like?

As I’ve watched the Democratic Party debates over the past couple days, one thing has struck me – we have come a long way America! When JFK ran for election, it was a big deal because he was potentially the first Catholic President. In 2008, the election of Obama as our first black President prompted a national conversation about race. And more recently, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as a woman caused equal controversy. For each of these individuals, the question of identity took front and center. Each faced intense pressure and endless questions.

Are you black enough? Are you too black? Are you likeable?  Are you strong enough? Can you be Commander in Chief?

Now look at the podium. No one seems to be asking those questions. We have 6 women running for President. We have candidates that are black, brown and Asian. Some are young and some not quite. Most are heterosexual and one, not so. The persona we expect to see in our President is no longer one-dimensional and we are all better off because of it.

The real victory isn’t just for the actual candidates but for all of us. The “first” ones always have the hardest time as they have to work hard to prove themselves. But their experience has paved the path for the rest . What is striking is that it is not just their looks, but the backgrounds of the candidates that are diverse; there is not one proven path to run for that office.

We can thank our first Reality Show President for that!

This unprecedented diversity of backgrounds, life experiences, gender and careers is a game changer.  Look at the topics being discussed on a national stage – health care, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay, immigration, climate change, criminal justice etc. Most of these issues, which affect every American, never got airtime before. What is significant about this diverse array of candidates is what it represents about the new democratic base.  The increasing diversity of democratic voters demands better representation. There is a battle of values and ideas within the party and this wide gamut is represented by this vast array of presidential candidates.

The next few months will be intriguing.  Some candidates will falter, others will bow out and eventually only one of them will make it to the final night. But I am excited to see that we have come to a place in our country where we can debate the merits of the ideas and policies that the candidates propose and not what they look like or where they came from.

What will my next President look like? Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

All I care about is what their policies are like.

Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

Young Indian Girl Dies While Crossing Border

Did you hear of the death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur?

Gurupreet’s body was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote desert outside the Lukeville, Arizona point of entry on Wednesday, June 12th, just days before her seventh birthday.

She died of heat stroke in the Arizona desert where temperatures were 108 degrees Fahrenheit, according to U.S. Border Patrol and the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME).

Gurupreet and her mother were reportedly among a group of five Indian nationals who were dropped off by migrant traffickers in a remote area on the U.S.-Mexico border. Her mother and another woman went in search of water, leaving Gurupreet with two others from the group. Gurupreet’s mother was found by a U.S. Border Patrol agent 22 hours later. Four hours after that, Border Patrol agents found Gurupreet’s body.

Seven migrant children have died in immigration custody since last year. Hundreds more have died close to ports of entry while attempting to make the perilous journey through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border.

South Asian Americans Leading Together SAALT is sending a letter of inquiry to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, Kevin K. McAleenan this week, demanding an investigation into Gurupreet’s death and information about her mother and the other migrants in their group.

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection has escalated border enforcement and aggressively turned away migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry, deaths have continued to mount. Migrants are forced right back into the dangerous conditions that CBP and other federal agencies often blame on migrant traffickers and smugglers.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “U.S. border militarization, forced migration, and rejection of migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry have created an environment where a child like Gurupreet, can die in the desert, alone. Until this system is completely defunded and a new one is created that upholds the dignity of all migrants – we will continue to see unspeakable tragedies, not withstanding the countless deaths that go undocumented. While ICE and CBP have experienced unprecedented surges in their budgets, their treatment of migrants has plunged to new lows. ”

SAALT has been tracking both the rise in the number of South Asians crossing the border over the last 5 years and their treatment in detention facilities. Between October 2014 and April 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested over 17,000 South Asians.

Of the South Asians who end up in detention facilities, SAALT has tracked a pattern of abuse including inadequate language access, lack of religious accommodations, medical neglect, use of solitary confinement, and unacceptably high bond amounts.

We urge our communities to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.

Stay updated and active by following our updates and action alerts on Twitter (SAALTweets) and Facebook (facebook.com/talktosaalt).

You can also support by donating to these organizations that provide immediate assistance:

  • The Fronterizo Fianza Fund is a community bond (fianza) fund based in El Paso and serving Far West Texas and New Mexico. Many detained migrants have no chance to be released while they wait the months or years until their trial. When someone does receive a bond, they are often way out of reach for most families, ranging anywhere from $1,500-50,000.
  • The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal and social services to detained men, women, and children under threat of deportation.
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas.

Sudha Raghunathan’s Daughter’s Marriage Being Trolled

Carnatic musician Sudha Raghunathan is facing criticism online for her daughter’s decision to marry an African-American. When I first read the email in my Inbox earlier today, I could not believe that there were Twitter users who were imploring organizations to stop giving her opportunities based on unfounded rumors that the wedding was going to be solemnized in a church. But, here is a message that says exactly that.

Nandagopal.K.M.@nandaji1958

Finally the Cat jumped on the wall. Famous Carnatic singer Sudha Ragunathan daughter’s marriage reception card. Sure wedding may solamaniosed in a church. Hope In feature all the music Shabas dump her for season, churchs may offer chance for Kachery. @shakkuiyer @ShefVaidya

Replying to   and 

S. Sudha Raghunathan‘s daughter marrying a Christian( African American), sad girls leaving their roots

Here is one tweet that supports the decision and tries to confront the trolls.

Sudha Raghunathan daughter seems to be marrying a foreigner.. She is not converted to Christianity.. Don’t understand where these rumours start.. Many in my family too have married foreigners..outrage factory is in full outrage mode

https://twitter.com/search?q=sudha%20raghunathan&src=typd&lang=en
Reading Twitter messages on this topic was enough to make me realize how tribalism is alive and well –  racism, colorism, Brahmanism – along with high-minded attitudes justifying these hateful opinions.
IC condemns this set of attitudes most forcefully, and the only reason that I am writing this story is to convey my shock while reaching out to Indians and Indian-Americans to examine our personal attitudes and behaviors in fighting these deeply held prejudices.
Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing editor of India Currents.

Decoding Modi’s Resounding Victory

Prime Minister Narendra Modi achieved a super-sized victory in the recently held Lok Sabha elections in India. This is his second consecutive term in office and he won it by a whopping majority. His party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has crossed the 300-seat mark in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Let’s begin by looking at the state of the economy in which people have voted for PM Modi. During his election campaign in 2013-14, Modi raised expectations of a great economic revival, high growth and tens of millions of new jobs for the ever-growing workforce. The new government hit the ground running and the first two years were action-packed with new programs and plans.  But, at the end of his five-year term, the economic slowdown is visible even through the fog of official statistics. Exports, barring a modest recent pickup, have been stagnant for the last five years, creating pressure on the economy, and reflecting growing lack of global competitiveness. Manufacturing is sluggish. Banking and the power sectors require urgent reform. Further, India’s unemployment rate hit 6.1% in the fiscal year ending 2018; reportedly the country’s highest in over four decades. An estimated 12 million young Indians join the workforce every year, and the country needs to grow much faster in order to provide jobs for all of them. Another set of figures released by the government showed that gross domestic product expanded 5.8% in the quarter ending March, 2019. That’s a sharp decline from 6.6% growth in the previous quarter and the weakest rate in last five years.

As a result, the state of the economy is sharply diminishing living conditions of millions of people in India, a country that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people. More than half of India’s population (around 700 million) is still living under ‘multi-dimensional poverty’ compared to 5.2 per cent in China.

But, Modi, who first swept to power in 2014 on promises to revive India’s economy and boost growth and job market, won election again by even bigger margin.  

Why did the people repose faith in him?  Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

There were no serious corruption charges against the government and inflation was managed well during the first term (but faces upward pressure now). Further, one could attribute BJP’s success to better administration of welfare schemes/projects, and the Balakot strikes just before the election which retaliated against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror groups and that pushed   the spirit of nationalism. While all these factors may have played a role they do not, even in combination, satisfactorily account for the magnitude of BJP’s sweeping victory in the frustrating job market and skidding economy.

What may have worked for BJP is that it succeeded to a large extent in turning this election into a referendum on PM Modi. Opposition parties appear to have helped in this process as their campaigns have primarily been about ousting Modi, rather than offering positive alternative visions of what they will do if elected to power. As the opposition was fragmented and offered no obvious PM candidate, this cemented the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor in favor of Modi.

But that is not the only reason behind his whopping success.  It’s possible some deep structural shifts are taking place in the Indian polity and Modi was smart enough to comprehend these in his favor. Indians, especially the young ones, are in a hurry to move away from ‘Third World’ space it currently occupies. And, they sensed that Modi can do it. India could be second ‘China’ under his leadership!  The BJP’s election manifesto, which was released just three days before the general election, aimed to make India a ‘developed’ nation by 2047, on completion of 100 years of Independence. “Our aim (is) to change India from a developing country to a developed country. We want to fight poverty rather than sit inside air conditioned rooms. Nationalism is our inspiration and inclusion and good governance is our mantra”.

Despite many problems people are confident that India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ could be achieved under Modi’s leadership. They consider him as a ‘messiah’ or expected deliverer of achieving the goal of developed and prosperous India.  Here, the media played a very active and vital role in promoting that image. In fact, Modi was in virtual reality due to digital excesses. Possibly, voters might have thought that Modi would do wonders in his second term.  We have to remember that Indians generally have hope when the situation appears to be hopeless. And, five years later in 2019, India has again placed high hopes in Narendra Modi. Will he deliver?

In 2014, Modi asked the Indians to give him 10 years to transform India. Well, here is his chance. So what should PM Modi do? A top American corporate leader, John Chambers, has asserted, while   congratulating him on his election victory that “in the next five years, PM Modi will lay the groundwork for India’s economic growth and prosperity for the next quarter century.”  And, there is no reason to doubt his observations.

First of all, two issues need urgent attention: agrarian unrest and the related job crisis. Any durable solution to agrarian crises requires non-farm jobs. The agrarian sector generates less than 15% of GDP but employed around 45% of the workers. It means that output per worker in this sector is less than one-fourth of that in industry and services combined. “With output per worker in industry and services itself low, per-worker output in agriculture is truly tiny”, noted by the economist Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University. One cannot resolve agrarian unrest without absorbing at least two-thirds of those dependent on the farm in non-farm jobs. So, generating non-agrarian jobs that provide adequate wages is the biggest issue.   

Secondly, there needs to be a concurrent increase in productivity. India became the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2018 but still it has a very-very low per capita GDP, as per IMF. It is placed at 122nd position among 187 countries.

What is needed now is a new generation of economic reforms which will unleash productive forces and generate jobs.

Modi has to recognize that the export-oriented, low-skill, large-scale manufacturing jobs that developing economies have relied upon (and that was the key to much of China’s success) are on the wane around the world. Automation and AI are reducing the amount of low-skill work that the manufacturing sector requires and is adversely affecting the job market.  Thus, there are many reforms that India is required to carry out to attain competitive strength in manufacturing and reducing the level of unemployment and underemployment. These would require changes in labor and land laws, cutting corporate and general taxes, and improving basic infrastructure especially uninterrupted cheap power supply. The availability of the water is another crucial issue.

Most importantly, unlocking the human potential to enhance productivity is a must and it should be India’s priority, since India’s Unique Selling Point (USP) is its people.

Let us consider some facts. India has done well over the past decade or so to get most of its children into school. It has done less well at getting them to learn anything. Analysts are, therefore, already worrying that India’s demographic dividend — its vast pool of young people — will become a curse: Without jobs, all those young people could drag down the country instead of pushing it towards upper-middle income status. The problem is that they are desperately short of preparation for both the old economy and the new. In addition, the population growth is also a worrying factor.  The current population growth in India is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them which    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 445 million people out of 1,350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building?   

What India does in the next five years will determine not only the destiny of the country but also of PM Modi? A person like Modi knows about it that the people elected him with immense hope that he will change their lives for better. Investments in education, health, living environment and its determinants – the social sector – therefore, should be made a priority in the next five years to lay the foundation for a developed India by 100th birth anniversary of India. For this, PM Modi must use unmatched political capital to make it happen today!  

After obtaining formal degrees from Harvard and Australian National universities, Dr. Devendra Kothari has been working on issues pertaining to population and development. He can be contacted at: dkothari42@gmail.c9om or 09829119868.   Last year, his comments on “Population and Climate Change” appeared in the New York Times (Sept. 11, 2018). Also see his Blog at: kotharionindia.blogspot.com