8th March 2017,11:55Am
Hate crimes in the United States have increased substantially after Donald Trump’s presidential win on November 8, 2016.
With the open celebration of white supremacists, there was a rise in incidents of racist attacks, physical threats, intimidation and also vandalism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitored the sharp spike in hate crimes, says schools, colleges, business establishments and religious places were among the most affected.
These racist incidents started to decline after the initial surge, but at last count, the numbers have stayed above the pre-election level.
However, a number of attacks against people of Indian origin — in a span of less than two weeks, which began with the murder of an Indian techie in Kansas on February 22 — has brought back the fear of the rise in hate crime in Trump’s America.
The attacks have attracted international attention, and in India, they have already led to a chorus of anger and condemnation.
True to form, minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj has tweeted about her serious distress. And, her ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna has conveyed his deep concern to the US government and underlined the need to prevent such incidents.
There is an increasing fear among Indians that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is encouraging these racially-motivated attacks.
A secretly filmed video of Indian-Americans in a park in Columbus, Ohio, which appeared on the anti-immigrant website, SaveAmericanITJobs.org, has added to the uneasiness.
Trump took some time to mention the murder in Kansas during his first address to the Congress, but he has kept his silence on other such incidents.
Hate crime in any form is a disgrace to a civilised society.
A majority of Americans are ashamed and angry over the spurt of hate-related incidents since November 9, 2016 and the recent “get out of my country” attacks against the Indian-origin population.
That has not, of course, stopped the wave of serious anxiety that has gripped one of the most educated and richest immigrant groups in the US.
The Indian-American community, particularly Hindus, have reason to be rattled as they had never expected to be subjected to such racial attacks in the US, so it will take time to get used to it.
Indian Americans have been portrayed as “model diaspora” for some decades now as they have made remarkable success in their professions and have not posed major challenges to the mainstream. However, it was not always the case.
In the early 20th century, a small number of people had emigrated from India to America.
That was enough for a US government commission in 1910 to conclude that Indians were “the most undesirable of all Asiatics”.
The surge of Indians moving to America came with the rise of the technology industry.
Most of Indian-born Americans are first generation immigrants as 75 per cent of the two-million strong community came to the US in last 25 years.
As many of them have entered the country under the highly-skilled foreign workers H1-B visa programme, they have been invariably highly-educated and economically well off.
However, almost everyone writing on Indian-origin Americans has been effusive in praising their success, yet hesitant to explore the dark side of this community.
It is high time for introspection for America’s Indian community as they confront real challenges of being a minority in the country. Nearly 80 per cent of Indian-origin Americans identify themselves as Hindus.
They have fought a legal battle against McDonald over its use of beef fat to fry its chips, against the use of Hindu icons on items sold by American companies and even over history textbooks.
While the Indian Hindu community has been extremely protective and highly combative about its own rights as a minority group in the US, it has, at the same time, actively supported Hindu chauvinism in its country of origin.
This American Hindu community has become a “major powerbase” and source of funding for the Hindutva politics in India.
Many of their associations have been raising money to support radical Hindu organisations to wage violence against religious minorities in India, particularly Muslims.
They have become a major support base for Hindu Hriday samrat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the 2002 Gujarat riots.
It is puzzling for an observer that a highly-educated and professionally successful community, which is so protective about its own rights as a minority group in the host country, can support and promote a political ideology and leadership that is anti-minority back in India.
Few months ago, when I interviewed several Hindu Indian-Americans for my book and posed a question about the behaviour, the dominant explanation was that when, as a minority in the US, they did not receive favours yet achieved so much, why does the Indian government feel the need to appease Muslims?
They conveniently forget to mention their class and caste advantage while growing up in India.
Though most of the Hindu Indians in America have been supportive of rightwing Hindutva groups in India, in the United States, they lean Left and support the Democratic Party.
But, the final days of last presidential election saw a major shift in their political allegiance and Trump became their favoured candidate.
Besides attending the Hindu Republican event and lighting a diya (oil lamp) in New Jersey, speaking few words in Hindi and praising Modi, what really made many Indian Americans support him was his open opposition to other minorities, most importantly Muslims.
The support from the Hindu Americans gave a much-needed edge to Trump, particularly in battleground states like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.
The deep aversion of the Hindu Indian-American community for Muslims not only motivated them to support an anti-minority regime in India, but also made them rally behind Trump, even when he openly ran on a racist platform against other minority groups.
Trump’s overt racism has been central to his triumph in the election.
Perhaps, blinded by professional successes and the upper-caste mindset, the Hindu Indian community was flattered to the extent of believing that it will be treated with majoritarian “white privilege” in Trump’s America.
However, they unfortunately forgot that when a racist decides to attack, s/he does not ask for the passport or try to know what faith a person practises, the colour of the target is good enough.
Racism is a great unifier.
Trump’s election gave him legitimacy and helped the racist Americans connect — from the poor Whites of the Bible belt to the rich whites of the suburbs.
They perceive people of colour — Hindus to Muslims, Asians to Latinos — as threats to their jobs and culture.
It is unfortunate, but inevitable that Hindu Indian-Americans will be subjected to racist attacks like any other minority community in the United State in the days to come.
The real tragedy is that Hindu Indian Americans have actively facilitated this unfortunate socio-political climate. One hopes they realise that you reap what you sow for others.