April 16, 2018

Recast(e)ing the model minority: Behind right wing Hindu politics in the U.S. | Sirisha Naidu and Raja Swamy

On February 3, 2018 a group of about 200 people, mostly men belonging to the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), held a rally in Washington DC with an unequivocal endorsement of Trump’s xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda, and called for a “merit-based” immigration system, which would impose additional fees for Indian H1-B applicants (to secure work permits in the U.S.). They held signs and chanted slogans voicing enthusiastic support for building a wall along the U.S. Mexico border, and drew explicit and implicit connections between the politics of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repressive and anti-Muslim Hindu nationalist, (also known as Hindutva) and Trump’s white supremacist anti-immigrant administration. [ . . . ] how do we understand RHC’s support for Trump and its brazen and contemptuous disregard for the real issues of concern to immigrants today—racism, xenophobia and accelerated multi-pronged attacks on their rights to work and live with dignity? And do we accept the arrogant claims of this organization, founded in 2015 along the lines of the anti-Palestinian pro-apartheid Jewish Republican Coalition, to not only speak on behalf of all Indian immigrants, but also propose and negotiate terms of profound implications with the U.S. state?
The antics of the RHC are not terribly shocking if we consider the social and historical context of reactionary politics among the vocal, largely upper-caste and relatively well-to-do classes of Indians and Indian Americans under the tutelage of Hindutva (right-wing Hindu nationalism) in India. The growth of Hindutva in the U.S. over the last three decades has been well documented by Indian American research and activist collectives. For example, organizations started by U.S. based Hindutva activists created a 503(c) charity called the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) to funnel over $3.2 million to Hindutva organizations in India. Many of the latter organizations led the genocidal violence unleashed on the Muslim population in the state of Gujarat in 2002. [ . . . ]