As Midterm Approaches, Hindus in the US Prepare to Weigh Policy Options

Teaneck, New Jersey, an all-American township of 40,000 people, woke up one bright October morning looking at several freshly installed billboards on their commute to work. The billboards demanded an end to bigotry against Hindus in America. They also highlighted a URL: StopDemocratsBigotry.com. Ten billboards were installed along northern and central New Jersey counties. They are expected for ten days.

The billboards were in “retaliation against the rise of anti-Indian and anti-Hindu hate speech and hate crimes across the country”, said Satya Dosapati, the Hindu activist behind the billboards. It was “triggered by a resolution passed by the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee (TDMC), which sent shockwaves through the community,” Dosapati said in one of the news outlets.

The TDMC passed a resolution on September 12, 2022, which categorized several Hindu groups operating in the United States as terrorist groups.

The resolution also attempted to intimidate and intimidate Hindus by calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other US investigative and law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute organizations such as the Hindu American Foundation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Seva International, Infinity Foundation, etc. The resolution received support from several Muslim and left-wing groups operating in the United States. From their anti-CAA rhetoric to their role in organizing the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference – these groups have a history of Hinduphobic activities.

Bullying and Harassment

Bullying and intimidation of political opponents has become part of the current political environment in the United States and therefore must be taken seriously. Recently, there has been a massive outcry across America against school closures, mandates, and wake-up programs. When the National School Board Association, a left-aligned federation of locally elected school boards, wrote a letter to the Biden administration documenting “heinous actions” by protesting parents that “could amount to a form of terrorism domestic,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland quickly obliged his political allies by issuing a memorandum. The memorandum outlined how the FBI would coordinate with law enforcement to deal with threats against school administrators and board members.

Native American politics is deeply tied to India for civilizational reasons. These ties have become more visible since Narendra Modi’s rise to center stage in Indian politics. As an economic powerhouse with a Hindu revival, a resurgent India created a huge disconnect between old orientalist-colonial perceptions and current reality in international circles. “Unless carefully managed,” writes Walter Russell Meade of the Hudson Institute in his Wall Street Journal column, “these differences could derail US-India cooperation at a critical time.”

These differences were on full display during India’s repeal of Article 370, the implementation of its Citizenship Amendment Act and, more recently, in the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, when the he entire American establishment has criticized India, its leader Modi and its policies. As Meade aptly put it, the new and confident India “wants to increase and develop Indian power, not submerge Indian sovereignty in Western-designed international institutions.”

Disenchantment and betrayal

These differences have highlighted a latent disenchantment within the Indian diaspora with American political establishments, both left and right. American Indians, in the words of Aanang Mittal, have also become “the punching bags of political division in America.” Mittal, a first-generation Indian immigrant, was on the staff of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

From last year’s Dismantling Global Hindutva conference to anti-Hindu hate speech and hate crimes in Texas, California and elsewhere, almost no mainstream politicians, including those in the Native American community, have stood up to speak. in the name of the Hindus. A sense of betrayal gripped the Hindu-American diaspora.

The Biden administration’s mishandling of the visa situation has made matters worse. According to a Wall Street Journal report, “in New Delhi, an appointment for a nonimmigrant visitor visa takes over 800 calendar days… for a student visa, nearly 450 days.” Some analysts have called the US government’s visa denial policy delay a form of “collective punishment” against India’s foreign policy regarding Russia and Ukraine. “A communist Chinese citizen can get a visa to travel to the United States in two or three days, but an Indian citizen has to wait two or three years for this privilege,” wrote MD Nalpat in his editorial column for the Sunday Guardian.

For decades, American Indians overwhelmingly voted for the Democratic Party. However, that began to change with the rise of Donald Trump to the American political landscape. The share of Republican votes among American Indians has increased since the 2016 election. Data from the Asian American Voter Survey (AAVS 2020) suggests that up to 28% of American Indians intended to vote for Donald Trump, against only 16% in 2016. American Indians overwhelmingly voted for Obama (84%). However, according to the 2022 AAVS, 56% of Indians identified as Democrats, up slightly from 54% in 2020.

The Indian American Attitude Survey (IAAS 2020) conducted between September 1 and September 20, 2020 had predicted 82% support for Biden among Indian American Muslims. However, that support fell to 67% among Indian Hindus and 49% among Indian Christians.

Activism and reassessment of political options

After decades of being seen as a stalwart Democratic vote bank, American Indians, especially Hindu Americans, are looking for new political allies. Events of the past few months have given rise to new Hindu political activism in the United States that could pave the way for political realignment.

The website StopDemocratsBigotry.com mentions on its homepage that the poster campaign across New Jersey “exposes the bigotry of the Democratic Party”. He accuses the Democratic Party of “fishing in the cracks of India for Western geopolitical objectives”. The Democratic Party establishment “works with organizations such as the IAMC (India American Muslim Council), CAIR (Council for American Islamic Relations) and missionary agents with questionable backgrounds,” the website mentions.

Another website, HinduVote.org, helps voters select federal candidates based on their support for issues important to the Hindu diaspora. It was started by HinduPACT, a political action group affiliated with the VHPA. The website consists of a location-based list of candidates for the United States House of Representatives and Senate, candidates’ biographical and social media details, candidates’ responses to a questionnaire focusing on Hinduism and HinduPACT’s assessment of candidates’ legislative votes.

The website uses crowdsourcing to capture Hindu sentiments. Hindu voters assess candidates based on their ideological and legislative positions. The questionnaire covers the growing hate campaign against Hindus across the United States. It also addresses concerns about US foreign policy affecting Hindu communities around the world.

Rakhi Israni, director of legal affairs for HinduPACT, said the HinduVote initiative “is the first step in reclaiming the political power that should have been granted to them some time ago.”

Another organization FIIDS (Federation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies, Fiids-USA.org), has launched a campaign for American Indians to vote in the 2022 US elections. As part of the campaign, FIIDS is studying the issues and the policies of American Indians important to vote in the 2022 U.S. election. The results of this survey will be shared with the media, Democratic and Republican parties, and candidates.

About Jimmie T.

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