Even as ‘Hindus for Trump’ rally behind the US president’s policies on immigration and his infamous border wall, others part of the Indian diaspora slam the group’s policies for being bigoted and vindictive.
With the world witnessing the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders who sprung up from the sidelines to win power in various countries, including in India and the United States, it wasn’t particularly surprising in 2016 when a certain section of the Indian diaspora in the US – the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) – threw its weight behind Donald Trump, vocally supporting the key issues of Trump’s platform.
In a statement released this week, members of India Civil Watch (ICW), a civil society collective of “Indian-Americans committed to furthering progressive politics in the US and India” slammed the group ‘Hindus for Trump‘ (HFT) for “their offer to pay for President Trump’s proposed wall at the Mexican border”, claiming it stank of “unequivocally the rank opportunism”.
In fact, just last week, the RHC held a rally in front of the White House and declared its support for Trump’s immigration proposal to implement ‘merit-based’ immigration and eliminate ‘chain immigration’.
According to the website India Abroad, the slogans raised at the rally “said ‘We Love Trump’, ‘Trump Loves Hindus’, ‘Trump is not a Racist’, ‘Trump bringing Ramrajya’, ‘End Chain Migration’, ‘End Chain Reallocate to Skilled’ and ‘End Country Limit: Bring the Best and the Brightest’.”
“The enthusiastic support of HFT’s members – immigrants or children of immigrants themselves – for Trump’s racist anti-immigration policies is the worst kind of political expediency. Supporting thus the bigoted and vindictive policies of an administration that openly expresses racist contempt against immigrants, minorities, and non-white populations of the world is an affront to South Asian communities in the US, a diverse population which often shares with other Americans of colour their struggles for dignity and a stable livelihood,” reads ICW’s statement.
On January 30, Trump, in his first state of the union address, had said, “It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system, one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.”
It shouldn’t be forgotten that in its bid to help Trump win the election against Hillary Clinton, Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, the founder of the RHC, personally donated close to a million dollars to Trump’s campaign, making him one of Trump’s biggest financial backers. The event RHC sponsored in New Jersey in October 2016, in fact, was an event framed around raising money to combat “radical Islamic terrorism”. This even got the Hindu Sena, a fringe phenomenon in India, excited about Trump, leading them to performing a havan for Donald Trump on his birthday.
How and why I started “Hindus For Trump”https://t.co/8EWzs3uJw2
— Hindus For Trump (@USAHindus4Trump) September 3, 2017
Trump himself has also praised India’s role in fighting “radical Islamic terrorism”. By doing so, Trump strikes at the heart of the Hindu nationalist narrative: anti-Muslim anxiety.
Krishna Bansal, the national policy and political director of the RHC, told India Abroad that by holding the rally, the RHC has “once again demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Hindu Americans under the leadership of the RHC, have come to love this businessman-turned-politician (Trump) who is bold, speaks the truth and is a man of action”.
Taking the opposite stand, the ICW statement points out how Trump’s “merit-based” immigration system is consistent with their fight against reservation in India.
With Hindutva forces taking control of the daily narrative in India under the Narendra Modi regime since 2014, the statement says “it is not surprising that HFT is an avid supporter of the Islamophobic and casteist policies of the Indian prime minister, who, inspired by Hindu Supremacist ideology (Hindutva) sees non-Hindus and oppressed castes as permanent second-class citizens”.
Pointing out just how contradictory it is for Indian immigrants to support such policies considering the history of the Indian diaspora where “Punjabi farm workers labouring in the fields of California made common cause and built community with Mexican immigrants working alongside them”, ICW says that it solidarity is the only way forward.
The group offers “the shining example of the drivers from the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance who staged an impromptu strike at JFK to protest against Trump’s Muslim ban”.
“A community that has produced a Ravi Ragbir who stands for the rights of the undocumented, should not have to settle for a Shalli Kumar (founder of ‘Hindus for Trump’), who seeks to ingratiate himself to white supremacists for a shameful seat at the table of injustice,” the statement ends.