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Washington, April 26 – Ro Khanna, a US lawmaker of Indian descent, has urged those among the Indian diaspora who have been raising the bogey of growing “Hinduphobia” lately, to focus on unifying issues.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a day-long conference he is hosting on Capitol Hill on India-US elections, the lawmaker also indicated that he will push for an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint session of Congress during his June visit, which, to be clear, has not been announced officially.
Khanna is one of US Congress’s three Hindu Americans and his home state California is currently a battleground for Hindu Americans who are trying to prevent the enactment of a proposed law that seeks to ban caste-based discrimination, which they have blamed on, among other things, those opposed to Hindus.
The phrase “Hinduphobia” is used by these Hindu Americans to describe and define all and any real or imagined slights.
“I grew up Indian American, Hindu American, in the 1980s, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was 97 per cent, white and Christian. And I didn’t know the word Hinduphobia or feel Hinduphobia at any single point in my life growing up,” he said recalling something he said in an earlier conversation with someone. “So now we’ve got all these Hindu Americans and it’s all over the…,” he added, leaving that sentence hanging.
“I think that what we have to focus on as a community is how do we contribute to the American project? How do we be proud of our identity? And obviously if someone feels that they are discriminated against, they should speak up, but my personal experience has been one of great hope for the American people, that they have been very embracing and understanding of people of different faiths. I think you’ve got Indian Americans leading the most important companies in the world. Now, there was a time you know, back in the 1980s, where people couldn’t meet a staffer for a member of Congress. They didn’t cry Hinduphobia.”
The lawmaker clearly has no sympathy for those crying “Hinduphobia”, which include elements of rightwing Hindu Americans tied to the wider sangh parivar.
On Modi’s upcoming visit, Khanna said the India caucus, which he co-chairs, could write to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to invite the Indian Prime Minister to address the joint session of Congress, which is an honour that is not extended to every visiting head of state or government.
Prime Minister Modi first addressed the US Congress in 2016, Khanna’s suggestion, if it goes through, will make him the first Indian Prime Minister accorded this honour twice. All the others had to make do with only one each – Jawaharlal Nehru (1949), Rajiv Gandhi (1985), P.V. Narasimha Rao (1994), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (2000) and Manmohan Singh (2005).