To my brothers and sisters who identify as followers of Sanatana Dharma, commonly known in the West as Vedanta and Hinduism, I offer my humblest greetings.
The scenes coming out of Delhi, where Hindutva nationalists are enacting a full-out pogrom against the local Muslim community, are horrifying, but they are also echoes of similar episodes in recent memory: the eruption of violence last year in Kashmir and its subsequent transformation into an open-air prison by Indian occupying forces, the 2002 Gujarat riots, and the anti-Sikh genocide of 1984. India’s reputation as a secular pluralistic democracy exists only in the minds of those deluded enough to believe their ignorance is not a form of indirect complicity in what could become a 21st Century Holocaust in India and across South Asia.
This outbreak of coordinated attacks on Delhi’s Muslims (and likely elsewhere, as Al Jazeera warns of the emergence of more “apartheid cities” in India) occurred while Modi welcomed President Donald Trump, himself an avowed anti-Muslim nationalist who makes a mockery of the Bible with his actions, words, and lifestyle but paradoxically courts the vote of so many American Christians. When it comes to political strongmen who use their respective state religions to enact political street violence, Modi and Trump are unsurprising bedfellows. Whatever Trump’s affiliation may be with Vladimir Putin — a man whose government tried unsuccessfully to ban the Bhagavad Gita for fostering “social discord” — his budding relationship with Modi deserves far more scrutiny and criticism.
As Hindutva thugs carry out violence in the name of Lord Rama — the same name uttered by Gandhi as he took an assassin’s bullets not just for the Hindus of the subcontinent, but all of India’s children — most Western leaders who are quick to condemn religious extremism in the Middle East remain silent. Senator Bernie Sanders stood peerless in his swift rejection of Hindutva violence and criticism of Narendra Modi.
Out of concern for the safety of India’s religious minorities, namely Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrian Parsis, it is my belief that the best way forward is allowing the people of the embattled states of Jammu, Kashmir, and Punjab to hold referendum votes on the subject of secession from the Indian state. It has become abundantly clear that these populations have become targeted for state violence, as local police forces have been willing participants in all of the above named instances of Hindutva mob violence. A movement promoting a referendum for Punjab to secede and form the Sikh-majority Khalistan state has global support. Religious organizations and congregations committed to upholding social justice, especially those supportive of the Palestinian cause, must also support the movements for a free and liberated Khalistan, Jammu, and Kashmir.
Lastly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi must either resign or face the removal from power by any means necessary. He is a menace to world peace, as is the toxic marriage of nationalism and religion which he promotes. Hindus in India and around the world must speak out against Hindutva nationalism and condemn this violence as being wholly unrepresentative of the religion of Adi Shankara, Swami Vivekananda, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Om Sai Ram,
Rev. Alex DiBlasi, M.A.
Oregon Hindu Society