- There is no factual basis for such a claim by Suhag Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF).
Cries of “dual loyalty” have often been followed by pogroms and genocides around the world: Jews were accused of dual loyalty by the Romans in the first century AD. Tamils in Sri Lanka, Hindus in Bangladesh, and Ahmadiyya’s in Pakistan have all been accused of being partial to India. Muslims living in western countries are often accused of being more faithful to the Muslim Ummah (global community) than to their own country.
As Akbar Shahid Ahmed says, “Suggesting that members of a religious or ethnic minority are guilty of dual loyalty is an inherently bigoted and dangerous charge. It’s also one that Muslim Americans…face every day.”
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is now attempting to add Hindu Americans to the ‘endangered list’ by claiming that the community has been accused of dual loyalty. (See Suhag Shukla in American Kahani, May 20, 2021) There is no factual basis for that baffling claim, coming from a powerful advocacy group that would like to portray itself as representing all Hindus in America.
The fact of the matter is that most Indian Americans, regardless of their faith and political leanings, are much more likely to express positive feelings towards both the U.S. and India – an inclusive version of dual loyalty, if you will. This is confirmed by a 2020 Indian American Attitude Survey by the Carnegie Endowment, which found that close to 73% of Indian Americans feel more Indian than American or feel equally American and Indian. There can be no better illustration of that reality than the outpouring of support from all quarters to aid India as it fights the second deadly Covid surge.
It is unfortunate that Shukla, with her imagined grievance, completely elides over the real victims of the “dual loyalty” charges, namely India’s Muslims: It is no secret that Indian Muslims are frequently told to ‘go back to Pakistan’ and are the targets of abuse and violence every day by Hindu nationalists.
The fact of the matter is India’s Muslims, who constitute the second or third-largest Muslim population in the world, have been facing charges of disloyalty from the very inception of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in the 1920s. The foundational ideology of these Hindutva “pioneers” was Islamophobia and Christophobia, and it remains a key aspect of the Hindu supremacist worldview to this day. This has been amplified many times over under Modi’s BJP rule, in which mob killings and violence by Hindu nationalists have become the norm rather than the exception.
“To call them [Hindus] ‘communal’ and to place them at par with those people whose loyalties are divided and at times questionable is unjust and unwise.”
— M.S. Golwalkar, ‘Bunch of Thoughts’, Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, 1966, (p. 170)
“When reminded that Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guaranteed equality before law for all, Swamy argued, ‘Article 14 guaranteed equality of equals,’ adding ‘all people are not equal.’ Swamy emphasized Muslims ‘were not in an equal category…’” https://tinyurl.com/vve69mfr
— Subramanya Swamy, Rajya Sabha M.P., The Week, Apr 3, 2020
To our dismay, Shukla’s article goes on to evoke the memories of Japanese internment camps in support of the supposedly besieged Hindu Americans, which we find offensive and disrespectful to the victims of that tragic event, to say the least.
Did it escape HAF’s attention that internment camps such as the ones that housed Japanese Americans in WWII are already operating in the state of Assam and that people have been dying there as they wait for years to be heard by so-called Foreigner Tribunals or be deported? Did HAF miss that their own leadership has spoken at events sponsored by the Middle East Forum, a group run by Daniel Pipes, who once called the internment of Japanese Americans a good idea?
Until the BJP came to power at the center, such camps were limited in number and held both Hindu and Muslim undocumented migrants. But with the Modi government doubling down on nationwide implementation of the National Population Register (NPR) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), plans seem to be afoot to build more such detention centers in different parts of India.
Who will be sent to these camps? Undoubtedly, only Muslim undocumented immigrants, whom the Home Minister repeatedly calls ‘termites’ and promises to throw into the Bay of Bengal. Hindus and other non-Muslim undocumented immigrants, on the other hand (1.2 million of them in Assam), have been promised citizenship under the CAA, with the purported reason that they are fleeing religious persecution, even if they have been living illegally in India for decades and have claimed to be Indian residents.
Inhuman detention camps, such as those in Assam and elsewhere, are what should be more urgently and appropriately compared to the infamy of Japanese internment camps. Every human rights organization worthy of its mission ought to be campaigning for shutting down such death camps, period. Instead, HAF chooses to cynically evoke Japanese internment camps to garner sympathy for its fear-mongering that Hindu Americans could one day find themselves in such camps. This is a travesty that we must condemn unequivocally.
Finally, HAF’s claim of Hindu victimhood is also belied by the recent Carnegie survey, which indicates that over 80% of Indian Americans have either not encountered any discrimination, or if they have, it is due to the color of their skin. Only 18% of Indian Americans report discrimination based on religion, with Muslims twice as likely to report discrimination than Hindus.
There is no doubt that among them, there must be many younger respondents and students, who have had legitimate encounters with racism and discrimination, which they may characterize as “Hinduphobia.” However, those genuine experiences are being co-opted by Hindu nationalist groups to support broader accusations of systemic Hindu victimhood all across America, which is simply not true.
Distorting or exaggerating the views of opponents, or even inventing statements attributed to them, is an old trick in the tool kit of Hindu nationalists in India – the idea is to repeat them over and over and they become accepted “facts.”
In 2002, then Chief Minister Modi was a master at it. To quote author Mukul Dube from December 2002:
“In his yatras and then in election meetings in 2002, Narendra Modi kept summoning up the image of ‘five crore Gujaratis’ who had been ‘defamed’ across the world…The genius of the ‘honor of Gujarat’ argument is that it deftly places the ordinary, peaceable Hindus of the state into the same logical category as the monsters who committed unspeakable crimes and their instigators…The guilt of a relatively small pack of criminals is spread widely and thereby dissipated. People who would never dream of killing or raping other humans, are told in perfervid language that they have been accused of just these violations – and believing this, they react with outrage.”
Unfortunately, ordinary Hindus of Gujarat were persuaded by that false narrative in 2002 and today Indian democracy is paying a heavy price for it. We hope that Hindu Americans do not buy into exaggerated and self-serving narratives of Hindu victimhood being advanced by Hindutva-aligned groups in the U.S. It is by combating their false narratives that we will demonstrate our own singular loyalty to the truth.
Sunita Viswanath is the cofounder of Hindus for Human Rights.Rasheed Ahmed is the Executive Director of Indian American Muslim Council.