Indian-Americans in Congress raise red flag on hate crimes against Hindus | World News - Hindustan Times
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Indian-Americans in Congress raise red flag on hate crimes against Hindus

Apr 02, 2024 05:34 AM IST

Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Shri Thanedar and Amy Bera sent the letter to Kristen Clarke, the US assistant attorney general for the civil rights division at Department of Justice

Washington: Citing an “alarming increase” in incidents of vandalism at Hindu temples, and suggesting that these incidents have led to “increased collective anxiety” among Hindu-Americans, five Indian-American members of the US Congress have demanded a briefing from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) about the status of investigations concerning “these crimes” and its strategy on dealing with hate crimes against Hindus.

A view of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP)
A view of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP)

This is perhaps first time that all members of the samosa caucus — the informal label the desi members use to self-identify their collective group — have raised a civil liberties issue that directly concerns the exercise of religious freedom of Hindu-Americans and hate crimes against them.

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Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Shri Thanedar and Amy Bera sent the letter to Kristen Clarke, the US assistant attorney general for the civil rights division at DOJ on Friday. All five are Democrats and occupy important positions in the American political theatre. Jayapal leads the progressive caucus, Khanna co-chairs the India caucus, Krishnamoorthi is ranking member of the key House committee on competition with China, Bera is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Thanedar has set up the Hindu caucus.

In the letter, the Congressional leaders have noted an increase in incidents of vandalism at all religious places of worship, “including at Hindu mandirs”. They have then asked for a briefing, no later than April 18, about the status of investigations into these incidents as well as the mechanisms of coordination between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement and the civil rights division of DOJ.

“Attacks at mandirs from New York to California have contributed to increased collective anxiety among Hindu Americans. Leaders from these impacted communities have expressed there are unfortunately ‘no leads’ on suspects, leaving many to continue to live in fear and intimidation. Our communities remain concerned about law enforcement coordination regarding these bias-motivated crimes, and they are left wondering if there is appropriate federal oversight to ensure equal protection under the law,” the Indian-American leaders have said.

The leaders have also told DOJ that the “number of incidents and the closeness of the timing of incidents” raised “troubling questions about linkages and the intent behind them”.

“It takes relatively few coordinated acts of hate to create fear nationally within a community that has often been marginalised or neglected, and we must work collaboratively to combat hate against all religious, ethnic, racial, and cultural minorities in America,” Jayapal, Khanna, Bera, Krishnamoorthi and Thanedar have noted in the letter, asking the DOJ to provide them with its strategy to specifically deal with “hate crimes targeting Hindus” in the US.

In recent years, Hindu-American groups have stepped up with their outreach on the Hill to convey their point of view both on issues within the US and on developments within India that affect them. This is often a counter point to Muslim diaspora groups that trace their heritage to South Asia and established western human rights organisations that have extensively lobbied on the Hill and have their own critical perspective on developments related to Hindu political mobilisation in India and US.

Last year, Thanedar, a representative from Michigan, set up the Congressional Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain American caucus. He had claimed that 27 legislators from both parties had joined the caucus and said that there were over three million Hindus in the US and more than 1,000 temples.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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