Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna Defeats Pro-Modi Challenger

Congressman Ro Khanna has won 65% of all votes cast to deal a heavy defeat to pro-Modi candidate Ritesh Tandon in primary elections in California's 17th district that covers part of Silicon Valley. Khanna angered many of his Indian-American constituents last summer when he criticized Prime Minster Narendra Modi's Hindutva politics and joined US Congress's Pakistan Caucus. Vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his Islamophobic legislation like CAA and his government's extended lock-down in Kashmir and brutal anti-Muslim actions in India.

California 17 Election Results: 

Incumbent Congressman Ro Khanna received 46,657 votes or 65,1% of the votes cast in CA17 district in yesterday's primary elections. His main challenger Ritesh Tandon trailed far behind with 17,337 votes or  24.2% of all votes cast, according to New York Times.

California 17th Congressional District Results. Source: New York Times

Khanna thanked his supporters in a tweet yesterday after "beating Ritesh Tandon who ran on Islamophobia and right wing nationalism in India".

Congressman Ro Khanna with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Capitol Hill
Ritesh Tandon, an Indian-American technology entrepreneur, said Khanna "has turned his back on our allies all over the world, including the nation of my birth, India by siding with India’s enemies like Pakistan on key security issues”, according to Indica News.

Khanna Rejects Hindutva:

L to R: Ro Khanna, Riaz Haq
Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) tweeted the following on Aug. 29: “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.”  On August 17, Khanna became the first Indian-American to join US Congress's Pakistan caucus headed by Democratic Congresswoman Shiela Jackson of Texas and Republican Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana. Khanna's decision to join Pakistan caucus came after he met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during his July visit to Washington. After his July meeting with Khan Khanna tweeted: "Honored to meet PM Imran Khan. We spoke Hindustani, and I shared that my grandfather, an Indian freedom fighter with Gandhi, always had a hope for reconciliation. South Asian Americans of my generation hope for peace in the subcontinent in the 21st century."

Pakistani-American Support:

Congressman Ro Khanna has received support from Pakistani-American community for his courageous and principled stand on issues affecting South Asia. He regularly attends community events organized by Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley. I met him at a dinner hosted at the house of a Pakistani-American family that owns local Mirchi restaurant in Fremont. He assured the community he would continue to work to address issues such as Islamophobia that affect Muslims in America.


Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna has dealt a heavy defeat to his pro-Modi challenger Ritesh Tandon in California primary elections. Khanna has joined US Congress's Pakistan Caucus and rejected Hindutva. His actions have angered Hindu American supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Cracks are beginning to appear in the Hindu American community. Democrats from the Progressive Wing of the Party are finding it increasingly difficult to support Prime Minister Modi as he ferociously pushes his hateful Hindutva agenda to target minorities. Vast majority of Hindu Americans, including those in Silicon Valley tech community, are solidly supporting Mr. Modi in spite of his Islamophobic legislation like CAA and his government's extended lock-down in Kashmir and brutal anti-Muslim actions in India.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Imran Khan in Washington

Modi's Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

Hinduization of India

Brievik's Hindutva Rhetoric

Indian Textbooks

India's RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said…
Violence in #India Threatens Its Global Ambitions. #Indian Officials said on condition of anonymity that they're on the defensive when foreign dignitaries arrive in #Delhi. #pogrom #Islamophobia #Modi #AmitShah #BJP #Hindutva

Much of the world remained quiet, or cautious, in recent months as India began locking up hundreds of opposition politicians and activists without charge across the country. Business executives say they are too afraid to speak out about shortcomings in the government’s economic strategy. The press complains of government intimidation.

Still, there was President Trump last week, embracing Mr. Modi in New Delhi, where streets were dotted with posters declaring the “world’s oldest democracy meets the world’s largest democracy.”

But as the leaders celebrated each other in India’s capital, Hindu mobs began going after Muslim protesters in neighborhoods just a few miles away while the police looked on or joined in. And it was those images — the return of sectarian violence on the streets, not the carefully crafted show of international partnership — that set the tone for India on the world stage over the past week.

On Wednesday, Freedom House, a nonpartisan democracy advocacy organization, flagged India as a major concern.

“The Indian government has taken its Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level with a succession of policies,” the group said, “threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world.”

In a rare move, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday to challenge a citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims. Some of India’s closest partners have begun criticizing its treatment of Muslims and migrants, with condemnations coming in from Iran, the United States, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

“If India loses that secular, democratic identity then it loses what makes it different than other countries in Asia. We are all watching the riots in Delhi and worry they are going down a dangerous road that makes it harder for us to be a strong advocate for India,” said Representative Ami Bera, a California Democrat who is the longest-serving Indian-American in Congress.


In private conversations, diplomats are worried that the rhetoric coming from Mr. Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party is creating an environment that could lead to more violence. They point out that B.J.P. members have been labeling protesters and opposition supporters as terrorists who were supported by Pakistan. One minister led crowds in chants of “shoot the traitors!”

One area where international officials believe that India may be particularly hurting itself is in its campaign to be granted a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council along with other nuclear powers. Speaking on condition of anonymity, several diplomats, including some from countries that have publicly pushed for an Indian seat on the Security Council, say that their governments are now reluctant to push the issue after India’s domestic unrest has laid bare the effects of Hindu nationalism there.

During his first campaign for prime minister in 2014, Mr. Modi downplayed his Hindu agenda. His first term was marked by an energetic foreign policy and alliance building. Domestically, he focused on development and economic reforms. He promoted himself as a globalizer and unifier, friends with everyone: the Israelis and Palestinians, the Russians and the Americans.

After winning a second term last year, Mr. Modi’s government prioritized issues that appealed to its Hindu-nationalist base, and the prime minister himself talked less about economic reform.
Riaz Haq said…
#Harvard Alum #Hindutva Leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy:“All people are not equal. Muslims of India are not equal to others!” Showtime's 'Vice' Exposes #HumanRights Crisis as #Muslims Are Targeted in #India. #Modi #BJP #Islamophobia

The second season of “Vice” Showtime is full of shocking global stories that will remind viewers there are still crises beyond the coronavirus. Some crises are compounded by it, too, which “Vice” correspondent Isobel Yeung explained to TheWrap by phone this week.

Episode 2 — which airs Sunday, April 5 — outlines an ongoing human rights crisis in India, where Muslims are treated like second-class citizens. Beyond looking at the building of detention camps for the Muslims targeted by the Indian government, Yeung sat down with Dr. Subramanian Swamy — a member of India’s parliament — to get the government’s rationale for it. That clip, exclusive to TheWrap, can be seen above.

“On this issue, the country is with us,” he told Yeung. “Most people like our hardline approach to solving pending problems.”

He went on to say that “where the Muslim population is large, there is always trouble,” which Yeung countered by pointing out that with 200 million Muslim residents, India has the second-largest Islamic population in the world. When Swamy stuck to his position, she told him his comments sounded “like hatred,” but he said he was being “kind.”

Once Yeung cited Article 14 of India’s constitution — “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India” — he told her she was misinterpreting it and, in fact, Muslims are “not in an equal category” to non-Muslims.

In a subsequent chat with TheWrap, Yeung expanded on what’s happened to Muslims in India since she went there to talk to Swamy. The country, she said, is on lockdown for three weeks due to the coronavirus, and while there are relatively low numbers of confirmed cases, that’s likely because of a lack of testing.

At the end of February, there were violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims that resulted in over 50 deaths, with the majority of casualties Muslim people who were targeted for their religion. There were hundreds of injuries and many Muslims remain missing. As a result of these riots, a lot of Muslims lost their belongings and housing, Yeung explained.

“And now the government has said that there is this national lockdown, this national emergency,” she continued. “so they don’t necessarily have anywhere to turn so they are definitely one of the populations that are definitely going to struggle through this.”
Riaz Haq said…
First #Arab world, now #Canada saying enough is enough to #Muslim-hating overseas #Indians. A firm in Canada ended ties with an Indian over his #Islamophobic tweet. But little has changed in #India. #Islamophobia #Hindutva #Modi #BJP via @ThePrintIndia

For the past few years, Islamophobia and hate against Muslims have grown at an unprecedented rate in India without any consequences. And like most things Indian, this bigotry has also gone international. But while bigots in India have enjoyed a free run with direct and indirect support of members in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and even Narendra Modi government, the situation for bigoted Indians living abroad, such as in the Gulf and now Canada, has taken a different turn.

After several incidents of Indian expatriates in the Gulf countries being called out for their Islamophobic tirade on social media and getting sacked by their employers, it was Canada’s turn to take down such hate.

Ravi Hooda, a real estate agent based in Ontario, was angered by Brampton mayor Patrick Brown’s tweet over exemptions given in the city’s noise bylaws to allow azaan (call to prayer).

Our noise by law originally passed in 1984 only included an exemption for Church bells. It will now include all faiths within the permitted hours & decibel levels. The Muslim community can proceed with the sunset azan because it’s 2020 & we treat all faiths equally. #Ramadan

— Patrick Brown (@patrickbrownont) April 30, 2020

“What’s next? Separate lanes for camel & goat riders, allowing the slaughter of animals at home in the name of sacrifice, bylaw requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents to appease the piece fools for votes,” he tweeted in reply.

It was lost on the Islamophobe that the exemption was earlier limited to church bells and was now being extended to all faiths. Perhaps, he also forgot that he was in Canada, and not in India, where such remarks draw thousands of likes and retweets. But he soon learnt his lesson.

Hooda, who later deleted his tweet, was called out by several Twitter users, including Canada’s Anti-Hate Network, for his vile comments. The real estate company he was associated with terminated his services. He has also been removed as the School Council Chair by the Macville Public School.

This follows the recent trend seen in the Gulf countries where several Indian expatriates have been fired for their Islamophobic posts targeting Muslims for the spread of Covid-19.

While Canada has won praise for its swift action against Islamophobia, things back home are not that great with hate mongers having a field day — despite several Gulf nations being vocal about it and asking the Modi government to take action.

Over the past few years, hate and communal polarisation, specifically targeted at the Muslim community, has emerged as a low-cost election winning formula for India’s political class. With already existing deep chasms of insecurity and communal divide, it takes no more than a dog whistle to act as communal kindling.

Indian social media, especially since the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, has seen a steady rise in hate targeted at Muslims, blaming them for almost every evil besetting the country.

The factual accuracy, and history, of hate mongers may be as bad as their logic, but they all manage to achieve the intended result – violence against Muslims.

If it passes muster in the homeland, if there are no repercussions here, why not replicate it elsewhere — or so goes the belief. This bigotry is so normalised that many Indians working and living in the Gulf countries, a predominantly Muslim majority region, see no problem in spreading this vitriol.

Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's acolytes have reminded #India's #Muslims just what he thinks of them. An image in #NewYork #TimesSquare celebrated not only the construction of a #Hindu temple but the destruction of a mosque. #BabriMasjid #AyodhyaRamMandir | Siddhartha Deb

The coronavirus might have been expected to put a halt to Modi’s American fantasies, it being as difficult to leave the United States now as it is to enter India. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop Modi’s Hindu right supporters in the United States – fronted by a group called the American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – who decided to lease giant screens in Times Square on Wednesday 5 August to display images of the Hindu god Ram and a temple to Ram being inaugurated that day in India by Modi.

There was a demo and a counter-demo and, while the plan to project an image of the proposed temple on the high-profile Nasdaq screen in Times Square did not materialise, one digital board showing the temple aired over the Hershey’s store for a limited part of the day. As their celebration of the temple appeared on a giant screen, the “Indian community” distributed sweets in Times Square. Protests were lodged with the mayor and with the billboard companies by a diverse range of groups, and were apparently successful in preventing the images from being displayed on a majority of the screens, including those on the Nasdaq building, but even the solitary airbrushed image of the Ram temple concealed far more than it revealed.

The temple construction is taking place in the provincial north Indian city of Ayodhya. This demolition was the high point of a long campaign by the Hindu right, so successful in creating an imagined grievance that it turned the BJP from a political oddity to the totalitarian behemoth it is today.

Even before the mosque was demolished, Hindus in India and abroad were asked to donate bricks to build a Ram temple, based on the claim that the mosque stood on the alleged birthplace of Ram. Bricks, some made of gold, arrived from Britain and the United States as well as from thousands of villages and towns in India in response to this campaign. Yet rather than birth, violent death was the true shrine of this campaign. Around 2,000 people died in the spiral of violence set off by the demolition of the mosque; soon the vilification of Muslims had become an everyday affair in India. Even the Gujarat pogroms in 2002 were set off by an incident involving the death of Hindu pilgrims returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya after a celebration of the demolition of the mosque.


Mussolini confided in his son that one of his nightmares was that he would be put on trial at New York’s Madison Square Garden, in case of capture by the Allies. Narendra Modi’s fantasy was to hold his victory rally there, as he did in September 2014, soon after being elected prime minister of India. Returning triumphantly to the heart of the very empire that denied him a diplomatic visa and revoked his tourist visa for an anti-Muslim pogrom carried out while he was chief minister in Gujarat in 2002, Modi’s presence at Madison Square Garden sparked off the rapturous belligerence of 20,000 supporters. Since then, through events like “Howdy Modi” and “Namaste Trump”, Modi appears to have made America his second home and Donald Trump a buddy, a coming together of civilisations ancient and modern as well as a merger of two failed states with among the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in the world.
Anonymous said…
One more Hindutva vessel bites the dust. I voted for Ro Khanna. Tandon was too overconfident and kept on sending hate filled mails against Muslims and those affiliated with Bernie Sanders, he also came across as arrogant and pompous fool.

He says his father was a freedom fighter and was a member of RSS but the lair forgot to note that those of us who are from India know the history of RSS and British.

The matter of concern is that there are just too many RSS and Modi sympathizers in Bay Area. This election has exposed their strength for all to better organize in the future.

Good riddance!
Riaz Haq said…
US court dismisses Hindutva group’s defamation case against Audrey Truschke, four activists

A United States court on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the Hindutva group Hindu American Foundation against four activists and historian Audrey Truschke for two articles published in Al Jazeera.

“The Hindu American Foundation’s SLAPP lawsuit against me and four other defendants is dismissed by Judge Mehta! I’ll comment more in the coming weeks, but this is a win against the far right!,” tweeted Truschke.

The US-based right wing group had filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 7 May last year. Besides Truschke, it had sued Indian American Muslim Council Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed, Hindus for Human Rights co-founders Sunita Viswanath and Raju Rajagopal and Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America chairman John Prabhudoss.

Sunita Viswanath, Rasheed Ahmed and John Prabhudoss had been quoted in the Al Jazeera articles, while Audrey Truschke was named in the suit for tweeting about the story and the Hindu American Foundation.

The author of one Al Jazeera article and prominent young Muslim journalist Raqib Hameed Naik, was named as a co-conspirator in the lawsuit.

“A federal judge in Washington DC has dismissed a frivolous lawsuit filed by rightwing group Hindu American Foundation over one of my stories published in Al Jazeera last year. HAF had sued 5 people & named me as a co-conspirator,” Raqib tweeted.

Riaz Haq said…
#SiliconValley's #Indian-#American Congressman Ro Khanna talks of the threat of growing #Hindu nationalism. Khanna: “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva" #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Modi #BJP

Khanna said that, having spent much of his career in Northern California's Silicon Valley, he has been immersed in Indian American issues for years. The rising tide of Hindu nationalism is on the forefront of the diaspora’s collective consciousness; from professional spheres to college campuses, reports of Islamophobia and casteism abound in South Asian spaces.

Khanna hasn’t shied away from such conversations, and his vocalness has sparked outrage from right-wing Indian Americans. In 2019, 230 Hindu and Indian American entities wrote letter criticizing Khanna for denouncing Hindu nationalism (also known as Hindutva) and for advocating religious equality on the subcontinent.

“It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians,” Khanna tweeted at the time.

They also criticized Khanna for joining the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and for speaking out against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revoking the state of Kashmir’s autonomy.

“Of course, we have to fulfill the strategic partnership and we have to respect the democratically elected leadership in India,” Khanna told NBC News. “I will work to strengthen that while also upholding these human rights values.”

Riaz Haq said…
The Mughals | Empire-builders of medieval India - The Hindu

Within hours of the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT) decision to remove a chapter on the Mughals from the history textbooks for Class XII students, noted historians of the country issued a statement, denouncing the deletions. “The selective dropping of chapters which do not fit into the ideological orientation of the present dispensation exposes the partisan agenda of the regime,” a statement signed by Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Aditya Mukherjee, Barbara Metcalf, Dilip Simeon and Mridula Mukherjee, among others, read. “Driven by such an agenda, the chapter titled ‘Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts’ has been deleted... In medieval times, the Mughal empire and the Vijayanagara Empire were two of the most important empires... In the revised version, while the chapter on the Mughals has been deleted, the chapter on the Vijayanagara Empire has been retained.”

It’s hard to understand the history of modern India without the contribution of the Mughals, who, including Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, were all born in undivided India; and were buried here. None of them ever left the country, not even to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.“Is there anything in India today which does not owe to the Mughals?” asks Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, secretary, Indian History Congress. “From legal system to legal jargon, we owe to the Mughal and Turkish Sultanate before them. Words like vakalatnama, kacheri, durbar, we owe them all to the Mughals. Today, when a large number of Indians consider Lord Ram as a major deity, we have to thank Tulsidas who wrote his version of Ramayana during the Mughal period. Also, Vrindavan, associated with Lord Krishna, developed thanks to Chaitanya saints who were given grants by Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, and helped Vrindavan and Mathura emerge as a key centre of Krishna Bhakti.”

The richness was owed substantially to the Rajputs, who were sharers of power from the time of Akbar, who defeated Rana Pratap in the Battle of Haldighati, and co-opted them in his empire through matrimonial alliances. Most Mughal rulers after Jahangir were born to Rajput women. As a result, within the family, Hindavi was often the language of communication. Aurangzeb, incidentally, conversed in Hindi and composed in Braj bhasha.
Riaz Haq said…
Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation

Despite his condemnations of Hindu nationalism, Representative Ro Khanna pushed for Modi to speak to a joint session of Congress and has received more than $110,000 from Hindu nationalist figures in the US.

On June 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be in Washington, D.C., for his first official state visit. And US political elites are busy preparing for his fete. The prime minister will address a joint session of Congress and attend a state dinner in his honor at the White House. This will only be President Joe Biden’s third state dinner. Just a few years ago—from 2005 to 2014—the US barred Modi from entering the country because of his alleged role as Gujarat’s chief minister in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which nearly 2,000 Indians, most of whom were Muslim, were murdered.

Representatives Ro Khanna (D) and Michael Waltz (R), cochairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, secured Modi’s address by writing a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, urging him to invite the prime minister.

Khanna’s role in Congress’s celebration of Modi disappointed many human rights advocates and supporters. The Indian American Muslim Council called on Khanna, who represents a district in the Bay Area, to rescind his letter, explaining that allowing the prime minister “to speak before Congress will help to legitimize Modi’s brand of Hindu nationalist politics and the systematic persecution of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, under his rule.”

In 2019, Khanna called for rejecting Hindu nationalism, tweeting, “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.”

Now four years later, he has helped secure Modi’s address to Congress.

“It’s disheartening to see Representative Khanna take the lead in asking the congressional leadership to invite Prime Minister Modi to address a joint session of the Congress,” Raju Rajagopal, a Bay Area activist and cofounder of advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights, told me

“As one of only two Indian American congresspeople to speak out against Hindu nationalism”—along with Representative Pramila Jayapal—“Khanna had symbolized the hopes and aspirations of India’s over 200 million religious minorities, who are in a virtual state of siege under Modi’s rule,” he said. “To now welcome Modi in the halls of Congress and completely ignore the escalating hate and violence under Modi’s rule, undermines Khanna’s own progressive credentials.”

Khanna has publicly condemned Hindutva, a Hindu supremacist movement, but his congressional campaigns have also received more than $110,000 from individuals associated with Hindu nationalist groups since 2011. When I asked about his decision to advocate for Modi’s presence at Congress, Khanna reaffirmed the Biden administration’s perspective of “India as a strategic ally” to the United States.

He told me, “I believe any elected prime minister of India at this moment from whatever party should be afforded the honor of addressing Congress, meeting the president, and a state dinner. I don’t think it’s about the person as much as it is about the office. It is about respecting the nation of India.”

Not all progressive members of Congress agree with him. Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Jamie Raskin said they will boycott Modi’s joint address. Jayapal will attend and will escort Modi to Congress but organized a letter urging Biden to “discuss the need to protect human rights and democratic values in India as he meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Riaz Haq said…
Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation

When I asked Jayapal about her decision to be in Modi’s escort team, she also emphasized the importance of engaging with India. Jayapal said if she has the opportunity, she will speak to Modi about her concerns and that she hoped the letter would encourage Biden to publicly comment on the need for India to address human rights.

Modi’s visit comes amid state persecution of religious minorities, such as Muslims and Christians, as well as growing authoritarianism of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Hindu religious extremists have called for genocide against Indian Muslims, attacked mosques and churches, and demolished homes. The Biden administration has been largely silent on these issues, choosing to try and strengthen the US-India relationship and deepen the ties between the countries’ military and technology sectors. With Modi’s visit, for instance, Washington has been pushing Delhi to sign off on a military deal for dozens of US-made armed drones.

Several top US officials have even praised the Modi regime. In April, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described Modi as “unbelievable, visionary” and “the most popular world leader.” In the same month, Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, applauded press freedom in India: “You have India as a democracy in part because you have a free press that really works.”

These statements, however, contrast with the findings of the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which ranked India 161 out of 180 countries due to its crackdown on the press.

Arjun S. Sethi, a community activist, civil rights lawyer, and author based in Washington, D.C., told me, “Under the Modi administration, we have seen countless human rights abuses against Muslims and other minorities, atrocities committed in Kashmir, and infringements on association, press, and speech.”

Parts of the US government do acknowledge widespread human rights violations in India. In May, the State Department released an International Religious Freedom report that highlighted the violence against religious minorities, discriminatory laws, and demolitions of Muslim homes. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) echoed these concerns in its 2023 annual report. Last year, India’s government passed legislation against the wearing of hijabs, religious conversion, cow slaughter, and interfaith relationships. These policies specifically discriminate against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Adivasis, the Indigenous people of South Asia.

For four consecutive years, the USCIRF has recommended that the US government designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern” and impose strategic sanctions on Indian government officials and agencies involved in religious freedom violations.

The Biden administration’s decision to extend an invitation to Modi indicates a preference for trade and strategic gains over addressing human rights concerns.

Tahil Sharma, an interfaith activist from Southern California, told me it is hypocritical for politicians to espouse the importance of democratic values while celebrating Modi. “You are talking about pushing back against a narrative that doesn’t support pluralism or that doesn’t support democracy; then you give a platform to someone whose political party has done nothing but the opposite of promoting pluralism and democracy,” Sharma said.

Riaz Haq said…
Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation

Over the last 12 years, Khanna’s congressional campaign has received at least $110,036 from individuals associated with US-based Hindu nationalist groups. Bharat Barai and his wife donated $36,000. (Bharai has also donated $1,250 to Jayapal.) Barai’s most recent donation to Khanna was in October 2022. Barai, a Chicago-based oncologist, is often described as a “confidante” of Modi. He sits on the advisory board of the Chicago chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, a Hindu far-right group and US offshoot of VHP India, a Hindu far-right group that has been at the forefront of violence against religious minorities in India. After Modi’s ban, Barai hosted video conferences to boost Modi’s popularity in the diaspora.

When I asked Khanna about his history of accepting donations from Barai, he said that he has never had a conversation with Barai about his views on Indian politics. Khanna added that he has thousands of donors in the South Asian community and that he doesn’t “ask each of those people what their views are on Indian politics.”

When I asked if Khanna will continue accepting money from Bharat Barai and other Hindu nationalist leaders in the US, Khanna’s spokesperson said, “Representative Khanna has thousands of Indian American supporters and has been vocal about his stance against nationalism and for pluralism.”

Khanna has also received donations from key members of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a Hindu right-wing advocacy organization. Arjun Bhagat, a member of HAF’s board of directors, has donated $27,100, with his most recent donation of $5,000 in March 2023. Recently, HAF has been spearheading a campaign to oppose the California SB 403 Bill, which would make caste a protected category against discrimination.

Khanna has not established a strong position on SB 403. When asked about SB 403 by Equality Labs founder Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Khanna stated that he “strongly opposes any form of caste discrimination” but also stated that the bill needs to be “fairly enforced” so it ”doesn’t selectively profile any community.” Some Hindu groups, including HAF, say SB 403 would expose Hindu Americans to racial profiling and harassment.

Khanna told me that he never takes a position on state bills, and reiterated that he “strongly opposes caste discrimination” and believes that the details of the bill “should be fair to all groups.” I then asked Khanna if he believes that SB 403 would unfairly persecute Hindu Americans—the dominant narrative on the American Hindu right. Khanna said, “Again, I don’t comment on the details of the bill, but I oppose caste discrimination.”

Khanna’s indecision regarding SB 403, says Karthikeyan Shanmughan of Ambedkar King Study Circle, is not unexpected. He says that upper-caste Indians dominate discussions about the South Asian diaspora and that this suppresses conversations about caste oppression. But Shanmughan said the growing anti-caste movement in America, which is led by those of caste-oppressed groups, is forcing Indian American politicians to take a stance. Political leaders, he said, “can’t continue their ‘manipulative’ position of fighting for racial equality and being neutral on caste discrimination.”

Deepa Iyer, a racial justice activist, tweeted at Khanna for supporting Modi’s address to Congress, criticizing the congressman for “providing a platform in this way.” Khanna responded by saying that he “will always stand for pluralism, liberal democracy and human rights while also calling for the strengthening of the US-India relationship.”

Riaz Haq said…
Why Does Ro Khanna Want Modi to Address Congress? – The Nation

Deepa Iyer, a racial justice activist, tweeted at Khanna for supporting Modi’s address to Congress, criticizing the congressman for “providing a platform in this way.” Khanna responded by saying that he “will always stand for pluralism, liberal democracy and human rights while also calling for the strengthening of the US-India relationship.”

Some of Khanna’s constituents are grappling with the actions of their congressman. According to Anu Mandavilli, who lives in Khanna’s district and is a member of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Khanna’s Bay Area district has one of the highest concentrations of South Asian Americans and Indian Americans in the country. While Khanna may need to listen to his Hindutva-leaning constituents as their elected representative, Mandavilli said, he still needs to fight their hateful views. She urged Khanna to endorse Jayapal’s letter asking Biden to raise human rights concerns in his conversations with Modi and demand accountability from the prime minister.

“Khanna must assure his constituents from caste-oppressed groups as well as his Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and other constituents from minority religious communities that he understands the threat that Hindu nationalism poses in the Bay Area as well as more broadly in California and in the US,” Mandavilli said. “He must initiate dialogues with those communities as well as with Hindus opposed to Hindutva and other progressive constituents to hear their concerns and learn from their experiences.”
Riaz Haq said…
How did Rajiv Gandhi, applauded for his modernist ideologies, accelerate Hindu nationalism politics?
An excerpt from ‘India is Broken: And Why It’s Hard To Fix,’ by Ashoka Mody.
Ashoka Mody

In 1987, Indians owned just 13 million televisions. Friends and neighbours gathered around television sets in homes and at shopfronts. In villages, hundreds of people assembled around the one available set. On average, about 80 million people (almost 10 percent of the population) watched an episode. By the time the serial ended, almost all Indians had seen multiple episodes. More so than the Ekatmata yagna (the series of processions in late 1983), the Ramayana serial fused Savarkar’s view of India as the fatherland and holy land of the Hindus.

In a tribute Savarkar might have savored, the Indian Express’s media correspondent Shailaja Bajpai commented on August 7, 1988, a week after the series ended, “From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Gorakhpur, millions have stood, sat and kneeled to watch it.” Reflecting on that total absorption, she wondered: “Is there life after Ramayana?” No, she answered, there could be no life after Ramayana. Instead, echoing the void Jawaharlal Nehru sensed when Mahatma Gandhi died, Bajpai wrote: “the light has gone out of our lives and nothing will ever be the same again.”

For the 78 weeks that Ramayana ran, it presented a martially adept and angry Ram dispensing justice. The VHP projected its partisan view of the serial in its iconography of Ram. The author Pankaj Mishra described the Ram in VHP posters as an “appallingly muscle- bound Rambo in a dhoti.” Theatre scholar Anuradha Kapur lamented that VHP images showed Ram “far more heavily armed than in any traditional representation.”

In one image, Ram carried a dhanush (a bow), a trishul (trident), an axe, and a sword “in the manner of a pre-industrial warrior.” In another image, Ram, the angry male crusader, marched across the skies, his dhoti flying, chest bared, his conventionally coiled hair unrolling behind him in the wind. Accompanying those images, every VHP poster pledged to build a temple in Ayodhya. The dismayed Kapur noted that Ram, the omniscient and omnipresent Lord, was everywhere. Pinning him down to Ayodhya made no sense. “Hinduism,” she despairingly wrote, “is being reduced to a travesty of itself by its advocates.”

The Hindutva movement’s heavy reliance on young hypermasculine warriors to achieve its mission only exacerbated this travesty. In April and May 1987, when the Ramayana serial was in its early months, bloody Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Meerut, a city in western Uttar Pradesh. By most accounts, Muslims provoked the riots. But then the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary, infected by the Hindutva virus, killed hundreds of Muslims in cold blood.

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