Why American Anti-Caste Measures Aren’t Actually About Uplifting Dalits

Nearly each day, I learn an article about my Hindu American neighborhood that shocks me. These tales, more and more alleging caste discrimination, typically assume an angle that’s discordant with our actuality and blind to our historical past. My micro-minority spiritual neighborhood—we’re 1% of the US inhabitants—is combating for the appropriate to outline our personal spiritual beliefs whereas defending our brothers and sisters around the globe, persecuted by the identical forces concentrating on us.

The American Anti-Caste Motion 

The teams pressuring universities and lawmakers to cross payments like California’s SB403 “banning” caste discrimination are capitalizing off of a caste narrative that’s being more and more racialized. It’s uniquely American to view battle by means of a reductive racial lens. On this case, Hindu People are labeled the “white supremacists” of the Asian diaspora whereas their alleged victims, the “caste oppressed”, are likened to Black People. This elicits a strong, however misplaced, emotion in lots of well-meaning People and is fomented by influential personalities in universities like Harvard and Rutgers. 

The forces pushing these angles rely upon the deeply ingrained affiliation between Hinduism and caste constructed into the American consciousness. Actually, anti-Hindu prejudices are sometimes unconscious and have been strengthened by means of highschool textbooks and missionary literature. Simply Google the phrase “caste” and the hyperlink to Hinduism is ubiquitous. With these foundational biases in place, non-public teams like Equality Labs declare that these payments don’t goal the Hindu neighborhood particularly, however slightly, South Asians at massive. 

On the coronary heart of the push for “caste fairness” is the posturing that Dalits, previously known as “untouchables,” are inherently oppressed by advantage of their delivery, regardless of the place they’re positioned or how rich they might be. There are ample testaments from American Hindus, together with Dalits, that systemic discrimination merely isn’t current within the diaspora. The 2021 Carnegie Endowment’s research on Indian People clearly chronicles this. American Dalits like Sudha Jaganathan and Aldrin Deepak, senior leaders within the Coalition of Hindus of North America, have commonly challenged the declare that Equality Labs speaks for his or her communities. Their tales hardly ever get protection.

The flaw in these caste payments is prime: they fail to delineate easy methods to determine somebody’s caste. Such lack of readability in laws will be tremendously damaging. These payments assign American understandings of “privilege” and “oppression” onto poorly understood spiritual and ethnic communities, making Hindu People victims of one other wave of colonization.

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Silence on the Destiny of Pakistan’s Hindu Dalits

Slightly than specializing in the betterment of the actually oppressed, the American anti-caste motion targets Hinduism and Hindu organizations. That is evident within the coalition’s indifference to Dalit persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Inconveniently, these Dalits are overwhelmingly Hindu. 

My first publicity to advocacy for Bangladeshi and Pakistani Hindu Dalits was in 2011 once I participated within the Hindu American Basis’s annual DC Advocacy Day. We visited with a number of congressmen to debate the pressured conversion of minor Hindu ladies to Islam. Our “ask” was that the US place human rights contingencies on its seemingly countless money circulate to Islamabad. 

Pakistan, an Islamic republic, has the strictest blasphemy and apostasy legal guidelines on this planet. Like different minorities, Dalit Hindus are actively persecuted by the state. Rape is usually used to strain kidnapped minority ladies and boys to transform. Whilst their households combat to retain custody of their kids, the act of conversion is immutable, prohibiting the kids from returning to their delivery faith.

The instances of Rinkle Kumari and Kareena Kumari (no relation) have made worldwide headlines, although each ladies have been denied justice and reside with their abductor husbands. In 2022, 15-year-old Pooja Kumari was murdered by an older man; she rejected his advances to transform her to Islam so he may marry her, leading to her execution on the entrance step of her house. This phenomenon continues right now. In March 2023, 13-year-old Krishna Bheel was kidnapped whereas returning house from college and stays lacking. 

Most of those ladies occur to share a surname, Kumari, as a result of they’re Dalits from the Pakistani province of Sindh. Different frequent surnames for the lacking Hindu kids are “Kholi” and “Bheel,” belonging to different Dalit communities.

Over 90% of Pakistani Hindus stay in Sindh. Within the 1931 British India census, Sindh’s Hindu inhabitants stood at 26%. Partition in 1947 noticed an exodus of Hindus to India. Right this moment, Hindus stay in rural areas and are overwhelmingly Dalit. The federal government forces Hindus to decide on between classification as “Hindu” or “scheduled caste” (Dalit). The 2017 census places the variety of Hindus at 6.9% and Dalits at 1.74%. Specialists imagine the variety of Dalits to be a lot increased, as they contemplate people who opted for the label “Hindu” versus “Dalit” on the census.

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Many far-left teams clamoring for caste legal guidelines within the US cite violence in opposition to Dalits in India, notably sexual violence, to allege that anti-Dalit discrimination is baked into the fiber of Hindu society. Their indifference to state-sponsored violence in opposition to Dalit Hindu kids in Pakistan nonetheless lends itself to my concern as a Hindu American: their activism is rooted in Hinduphobia slightly than justice for Dalit lives. 

The Ignored and Persecuted Hindus of Bangladesh 

This intentional indifference turned even clearer final 12 months when Home Decision 1430, recognizing the particular concentrating on of Bangladeshi Hindus in 1971, did not make it to vote within the US Congress. In 1971, Bangladesh was nonetheless East Pakistan and confronted a horrible navy backlash in opposition to requires independence from Islamabad. Whereas concurrently concentrating on Bengali intellectuals and political leaders, the Pakistani military unleashed a wave of brutality in opposition to the sizable Hindu minority. This disproportionate violence will be understood in opposition to the backdrop of the Pakistani nationwide identification being a rejection of “Indianness” and “Hinduness.”

Hindus accounted for almost 80% of these killed within the 1971 genocide. 

Home Decision 1430 confronted sturdy opposition from the identical teams pushing right now’s anti-caste measures, just like the misleadingly named Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR). Whereas denying official recognition for the genocide of Bangladeshi Hindus in 1971, the main target of HfHR’s worldwide marketing campaign is to attract consideration to an impending “genocide” in opposition to Muslims in India, whose inhabitants has steadily risen since 1947. Between 1951 and 2011, this share has gone up from 9.8% to 14.4%, and Indian Muslims presently quantity at round 180 million. 

HfHR acknowledged the Pakistani military’s anti-Hindu atrocities. Nonetheless, it claims that these atrocities occurred due to anti-Bengali sentiments. This narrative denies details effectively recorded by many sources, together with the US State Division. The Blood Telegram by Princeton professor Gary J. Bass has chronicled “the hardhearted coverage and outright bigotry” of even the American resolution to assist Pakistan throughout that marketing campaign.

With out an correct historic report, the Hindu diaspora is handicapped from demonstrating the extent of systemic anti-Hindu bigotry. HfHR additionally vocally opposed an Indian legislation that will give minority refugees fleeing spiritual persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh a path to Indian citizenship, forcing them to stay stateless. 

Like Pakistan, a big variety of Hindus remaining in Bangladesh after the 1947 partition are Dalits. The Bangladeshi authorities doesn’t conduct a caste census and plenty of Hindus resist figuring out with a caste for a similar causes as Pakistani Hindus: they don’t search to make themselves extra weak in a majority Muslim nation with more and more illiberal tendencies. That is by the way the identical supply of unease many American Hindu Dalits categorical with the push to unmask and determine South Asian People by their castes right now.

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After the mud of partition settled, the primary Pakistani nationwide census in 1951 positioned the Hindu inhabitants at 22% of East Pakistan. Per the 2011 Bangladesh census there have been 12 million Hindus within the nation, 8.9% of the inhabitants. This dramatic fall within the Hindu inhabitants over 60 years displays the genocide and ensuing exodus to India. The group Nagorik Udyog, a Dalit advocacy group in Dhaka, positioned the 2011 Dalit inhabitants at round 5.5 million. This inhabitants is overwhelmingly Hindu. I spoke to human rights advocates in Dhaka for this piece they usually ballpark the Dalit composition of the Bangladeshi Hindu inhabitants at roughly 44%. 

Crimes in opposition to Bangladeshi Hindus get far much less protection than the scant consideration Pakistani Hindus obtain. Nicely-organized assaults by Islamists in the course of the fall Hindu celebration of Navaratri over the past two years have cloaked the weak neighborhood in concern. The 2021 organized violence was notably jarring, with round 100 Hindu temples vandalized and as much as 10 Hindus killed over the ten-day vacation.

By calling themselves activists combating international Islamophobia (as HfHR and Equality Labs do), American anti-caste teams harness their media entry and wealth to undermine minority Hindu struggling. In doing so, they create a local weather by which calling out Islamist bigotry is considered as Islamophobia. Thus, they concurrently protect harmful spiritual ideologies from criticism whereas making it socially acceptable to disclaim Hindu persecution. A lot for Dalit upliftment.  

The push to legally acknowledge caste in the US is steeped in Hinduphobia. When the California metropolis of Fremont handed a symbolic anti-Hinduphobia invoice in April, the chief director of Equality Labs broadcasted an angry tirade, placing her prejudice on full show. However like influential members of the South Asia Scholar Activist Collective, she refuses to make use of her privilege to guard essentially the most weak Dalits on this planet. 

American anti-caste laws was by no means about defending Dalits. It was all the time about persecuting Hindus.

[Fair Observer updated this article at 16.40 Eastern Time on Monday, 15 May.]

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.