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On India’s Independence Day We Must Reflect on a House Divided Against Itself

On India’s Independence Day We Must Reflect on a House Divided Against Itself

  • We must examine the price of some Indian Americans conflating the toxic ideology of Hindu supremacism with Indian nationalism.

Today is India’s Independence Day. Earlier today, the Indian tricolor was raised at Times Square in New York by an Indian expatriate group. Ten days ago, on August 5, I stood at Times Square and watched, in disappointment and dismay, as a hundred-odd people celebrated the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in India. Certainly, not a few participants at both events would be common. The organizers of the two events, too, overlap. 

The Hindu diaspora involved in both events are unquestionably supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and champions of the ideology of Hindutva that Modi, his BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have espoused for 95 years. Today, the Indian diaspora in the U.S. has worryingly conflated the toxic ideology of Hindu supremacism with Indian nationalism, imagining an India as a “Hindu Rashtra” in a not-too-distant future.

Painting by Sarita Pandey. Top photo, flag hoisting ceremony on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day at Times Square on August 15, 2020.

It was surreal to watch the Ram temple’s proponents at Times Square last week shouting themselves hoarse “Ram mandir jhanki hai; Mathura, Kashi baaqi hai.” A hate-filled blood-thirsty war cry that, unbeknownst to them, will deeply harm not just the Muslims, who are the Hindu supremacist’s main target, but India itself. Indeed, Hindu religion and society themselves will not be able to withstand the naked bigotry of Hindutva.

Already, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that blatantly aims to disenfranchise Indian Muslim citizens; the National Register of Citizens in Assam that has shamefully turned nearly 2 million Indians into foreigners in their own country; the endless lynching of Muslims across India by Hindutva-inspired vigilante mobs; the failure of the Indian police and justice system to prevent the violence against minorities and to bring the culprits to justice; and the near open declaration of Hindu nationalism with Modi laying the foundation-stone of the Ram Temple have cast a long shadow on pluralism that has been the cornerstone of secularism in India.

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Abraham Lincoln’s words that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” ominously ring out for India. It is a dictum that Indian Hindus that assembled at Times Square on August 5 and again today need to remember and embrace, lest they end up destroying the great country that was built on the sacrifice of millions of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and members of many other faiths and ethnicities. 

Sarita Pandey is a digital media professional and volunteers for human rights advocacy groups. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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