*First published at Wear Your Voice Magazine, March 6, 2017.*
The Hindu Sena’s internalized racism puts the group at odds with fellow Indians — and, ironically, with themselves.
As if what Trump is doing to America isn’t bad enough, his nationalistic rhetoric has become a toxic tsunami spreading its virus around the world; India is one of the recently infected. The ultra-right-wing Indian nationalist group Hindu Sena have called Trump the “savior of humanity” and they have been praying for him to win since the very beginning of his presidential campaign.
Vishnu Gupta, the founder of fringe group Hindu Sena, told Al Jazeera:
“When we called him ‘The King of the United States’ or ‘The World King,’ people made fun of us and said that Donald Trump will never win, he’s never going to be a king. And Donald Trump has won and our hard work has been successful. Now Donald Trump will be installed as ‘King of the World.’… This marks the initiation of the right-wing in the world. The right-wing will become powerful in the whole world and we want this quartet to join hands to fight together against the Islamic radicals who are spreading terror. They will be successful in reigning these people in.”
The video shows Gupta anointing a poster of Trump with a sacred tilak on his forehead and feeding him ceremonial food — as if he is a god. Trump’s image is flanked by that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian president Vladimir Putin, along with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have a long history in India, going back to the late 1940s, when post-British colonial rule redrew borders in the entire South Asian region on the basis of religion, creating the countries we now know as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Because many people did not want to leave ancestral homes on account of their religion, Partition planted many seeds of discord, especially in Hindu-majority India. Discrimination against the Muslim community in India is a deep-seated social pillar in many ways, evident in Hindu Sena’s entire political platform.
While Islamophobia is a major driving force of the Hindu Sena movement, we also cannot ignore the racial component behind an Indian nationalist group’s support of a man like Donald Trump. An unfortunate byproduct of colonialism is the mistaken belief by many South Asians that proximity to whiteness, support of white people, and even financial wealth somehow erases their racial brownness, aligning them with whites. This internalized racism is a deep and difficult belief to shake, even when presented with so much evidence to the contrary. Donald Trump himself has mocked Indian accents, used inappropriate language (“I’m a big fan of Hindu”), and has plans to restrict H1B visas that many Indian nationals use to emigrate to the United States.
One of the more troubling aspects of the Hindu Sena sectionalist movement is how white nationalism in the United States is spreading to other opportunistic communities, but also how selectively these white nationalistic principles are being translated into other cultures and societies. It seems absurd that any segment of India at all would revere an open racist such as Donald Trump, especially when Indians have been directly attacked by the man on account of their skin color and nationality. Yet, hatred appears to justify hatred in whatever form that may appear, and gives license to incite and focus all the more hate in a chosen direction.
Other political parties in India have made a point of distancing themselves from Hindu Sena’s rhetoric and platform, and in America, the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) has been actively condemning the Trump administration’s variety of offenses against brown minorities in the country, and not just South Asians. Speaking to Times Now, SAALT said:
“India is the country of origin with the greatest increase in unauthorised immigrants to the United States with a 914 percent increase since 1990.
Currently there are 450,000 undocumented Indian-Americans in the US alone, making India the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.”
SAALT’s executive director, Suman Raghunathan, noted in the same Times Now interview:
“The scale of the President’s anti-immigrant policies is extreme, and the new administration appears hell-bent on targeting and demonizing immigrant communities through orders that actively undermine safety and public trust in law enforcement.
Short-circuiting due process is not a crackdown on crime, but a crackdown on rights and our very founding values as a nation, and these measures must be opposed by all communities of color.”
However, Hindu Sena and its supporters show no signs of abating, and Trump’s Nazi-reminiscent platform continues to spread around the world like a devastating socio-cultural cancer.