Recently, I outpaced the return of Karl the Fog (yes, San Francisco names its fogs), and library closing time to walk several blocks quick-speed without my ankle strap even, just to reach the library and photograph the New York Times.
I saw an image of the web version of the story shared by friends earlier in the day, but I had to see the real thing, the newspaper, that word in ink, chaapoed like a death sentence on us, a Jewish star we had to wear before being marched off into extinction, into the eyes and minds of millions of innocent readers in little libraries in small-town America.
You see, I take these military assaults on the word “Hindu” very seriously, like someone is dropping a bomb on my own house and family.
Do you think I exaggerate?
Do you think I dramatize the situation because I am too “sensitive”? Or I cannot handle criticism of my “religion”? Or I am vain about my tribe’s “image”?
If you do you can’t read English or at least you haven’t written a word of what I’ve written all these years.
But if you are reading this, it is perhaps safe to assume you don’t judge me thus. You either agree with me, or you think perhaps while I may remotely have a point or two, I am still, well, “over-reacting.” Hindus don’t have problems, you will say. There’s really no such thing as Hindus you will say (except of course when they are labelled as such in crime news etc.).
My key question is this: if you saw a headline saying “Blacks are Dangerous, Violent People” would you be as indifferent to it as you presently are to the SYSTEMATIC, relentless, tidal wave of demonizing labels about Hindus in the Western press? No. I think not. You’d say it’s racist. Not because you fear that such a headline necessarily affects you, or maybe you do, a bit, but largely because it’s the right thing to do, and you have been taught it’s the right thing to do.
But why do you resist seeing that what is going on in the Western media is exactly the same thing? Do you not notice, that “Hindus are Dangerous, Violent People”/ “Hinduism is Evil” is overwhelmingly the only thing being said (btw, I have the data, and it’s true, the bias is real and extreme)? Or do you excuse each instance saying “but it’s true, those Hindus in Kashmir really did kill that girl”, or maybe even adding “because Hinduism is a patriarchal religion and The Daily Beast published an article consistent with research by the eminent Hinduism expert Wendy Doniger proving that Vishnu raped Tulsi.” (all these are facts btw).
I do not know why you, as an Indian, a PoC (Person of Color), a Hindu — the last one perhaps only by default-definition of history and postcoloniality if not personal choice or belief — fail to see that hate is hate. Especially hate that is aimed at people very much like you.
Actually, I think I have finally understood why this is so.
The answer occurred to me in the context of organized Hindu activism in the US. Why has it been only marginally effective? Is it the famous Indian infighting and such? No. I think, and this is what I have seen, the problem is that even some of the people who float around in great Hindoo gatherings and such fail to see, process, or act on the DANGER upon them. Maybe it’s changing now because the media is getting far more intense in its anti-Hindu hatred. But in the early 2000s, when I first started hearing about Hindu groups and initiatives here, I don’t recall anyone feeling scared – they were at best angry (the ones with some honour), but the rest, for them this organizing was actually yet another NRI social status “we have arrived” status-signaling thing. “The Jews have a lobby!” They would say. “We are rich and educated like them and so we must have a lobby too!” That was the vibe. And obviously, on this vital front of media and cultural warfare, I do consider that vibe a problem, a cause of failure.
Anyway, that’s just the problem within self-identified Hindus in America, even well-meaning ones who know/agree there is a bit of a problem at least.
But what of the wider community? The million or two Indians in the US, or the tens of millions or so that are to be found in the Phoenix malls and pubs on weekends in India who do not actively feel that there is such a problem, the elite Indians, SISAs (Self Identified South-Asians), non-non-Hindus?
At best, some of them go announcing health updates on the state of their “Josh,” and do stand up for Jana Gana Mana in the theatre, and I don’t knock them for that.
But what of the rest, the rest of the non-non-Hindu upper and middle classes of India and the US diaspora who DON”T like this stuff at all? Who abhors “nationalism” and “RW” and “Modi” and “Hindu” this or that? SISAs and their followers?
(Well I don’t like the label “RW” either but a different time for that…)
The truth is that none of this lot feels a thing when the name Hindu is napalmed, no, irradiated like Chernobyl actually, because it doesn’t affect them much.
Okay. Good for you. You are post-religious, post-national, cosmopolitan, liberal and equally opposed to RSS and ISIS and whatever else you kid yourself with.
That is unimportant. What is vitally important though is that you realize WHY it doesn’t bother you a bit that there’s a WAR. ON. “HINDU.”
You don’t realize it because you are the frigging upper class.
You are not in the basthi being swallowed by another basthi, violently.
You are not in the villages of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
You are not in parts of Bengal or Kerala.
You did not have to flee your home in Kashmir one Friday afternoon which started the same way most Friday afternoons do in India. Did they know even how it could change, on a dime, as they say?
Your physical and economic safety is okay, for now. Whether you are Hindu, or non-non-Hindu, or la-di-da, you are safe.
Of course, even if you are la-di-da rich in some US suburb or Indian IT posh colony, your well-being and image are not as rosy as you think. The war raging in media, schools and colleges upon your dignity and that of your progeny has eviscerated you and you don’t even see it.
Your posh English your clothes your secular credo least of all, none of it matters.
You are the buffoon Hindoo in the eyes of the world. Just watch one fellow called Pa Ranjith Tamil pictures with Rajnikanth. The movie Peta, where every scene with the villain shows him doing Hindu prayers, including Ganga arathi, and the good people are all either non-religious Hindus or pious Muslims.
It ends with Rajni-sir doing psycho laugh and dance that he tricked a Hindu youth into killing his own dad by telling him his daddy didn’t love him.
Then, Rajni-sir shoots the Hindu duffer too.
This is the story a whole bunch of whoever isn’t thinking of themselves as Hindus is thinking about you, dear “all-izz-well in my shopping mall and in the posh school my kids go to” la-di-da Hindus and non-non-Hindus!
It doesn’t matter at all if you want to be “religious” or “traditional” or what not.
But if you are not aware that you are being conned, big time, by the same forces pushing the planet to overheated extinction, you better beg Goddess Saraswati or Charles Darwin or Ayn Rand or whoever is your hero to give you some brains. And a heart.
Don’t be selfish, dear elite Hindus and non-non-Hindus. Think of the 90% “Hindus” who are not like you. Who are poor, ‘lower caste,’ women, children, farmers, co-dependent.
Stand for them.
It may not bother you, but learn to resist the anti-Hindu hate machine in media and education and the whole wide world – at least for them.
If this is still too unclear, for one example, please read my essay on how media’s mocking of Hinduism is usually not about mocking superstition but about mocking thirst and hunger and the lives of the poor and simple people of our country.
Resist the media.
And that other -cide which is what you are doing right now.
(This article has been written by Vamsee Juluri, writer and USF Media Studies Professor)