Justice Markandey Katju-
Rohit Khanna (born 1976), known as Ro Khanna, is an American citizen of Indian origin, and is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, elected from California.
There are a large number of persons of Indian origin living in USA ( a little over 3 million i.e. about 1% of the US population ), the vast majority being Hindus ( about 2.25 million ). Of late, after the rise of Modi and the coming of the Bhartiya Janta Party ( BJP ) in power in India in 2014, most of them have become ardent BJP supporters, and many have even joined the RSS ‘shakhas’ in America. For instance in California, where I am presently staying, the Hindu NRIs (about half a million ) have been largely ( though not entirely ) polarized. While most of them are very proficient in their technical jobs ( e.g. in the IT sector in the Bay Area ), their understanding of political realities in India is very low. Being Hindus, they have a nostalgia for the country of their origin, and since many of them wish to retain their Indian identity (even after becoming US citizens or green card holders or on H-1B visa ) they naturally become admirers of the BJP which they regard as a party representing Hindus in India.
What these Hindu NRIs do not know is that the BJP is a party dominated by an organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS ) which is rabidly anti Muslim and anti-Christian. Top leaders in the BJP, e.g. Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, can normally only be persons who have been RSS members for several decades.
Now India is a country of great diversity, with numerous religions, castes, languages, ethnic and regional groups etc ( see my article ‘ What is India ‘ online ). So to remain united the only policy which can work in India and hold it together and take it forward is the policy of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar ( 1542-1605 ) of suleh-e-kul or universal toleration of all religions ( see my article ‘ Emperor Akbar–the real Father of the Indian Nation ‘ online ). The BJP ideology of polarization of society by spreading religious hatred ( e.g. by lynching of Muslims by cow vigilantes and attacks on them for not saying ‘ Jai Shri Ram ‘ ), a policy which can only lead to fragmentation of the nation and perpetual civil strife, is therefore directly contrary to the very nature and identity of India as a country of great diversity ( see my article ‘ The historical importance of the Ibadatkhana Movement ‘ published in indicanews.com. It is also on my fb page). The BJP is therefore an anti-Indian party.
As I mentioned before, USA, and in particular California ( from where Ro Khanna hails ), has a large NRI community, most of them being Hindus who have been largely polarized in recent years. Therefore it was an act of great courage on the part of Ro to have gone against the sentiments of most of the Hindu NRI community, who are his constituents, but who have been blinded by the BJP and RSS propaganda, by tweeting ” It is the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Budhists and Christians. That is the vision of India my grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar fought for “.
Many Hindus and Hindu organizations in America like the Overseas Friends of BJP ( OFBJP ) have criticized Ro for his brave stand, but I regard it as an act of statesmanship.
Ro’s critics say that Hindutva is only a way of life, as held by the Indian Supreme Court. Now I have myself been an Indian Supreme Court Judge, and can say with personal knowledge that most Supreme Court Judges ( not all ) are highly communal and are BJP supporters ( though they do not openly say so ). So the Supreme Court verdict has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Hindutva today really means oppression of minorities in India, particularly Muslims, marginalizing them, and denying them any space in the public discourse. It also means perverting history, science, etc, ‘saffronisation’ of all institutions of the Indian media.
Ro’s critics also say that Modi’s policy is of ‘ sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas ‘ as he has himself proclaimed, but everyone knows this is empty hypocritical rhetoric.
The difference between an ordinary politician and a statesman is that a politician only has an eye on immediate benefits, while a statesman has a long term and broader vision. Ro Khanna’s courageous stand may lose him many NRI voters in the next elections, but in the long run he will get many more, and be vindicated. He reminds me of the great American Senators mentioned in former American President John Kennedy’s book ‘ Profiles in Courage ‘ who did not swim with the tide nor succumb to pressures of their constituents or their party, but did what was right and acted on principle e.g. Sam Houston, who though a southerner, opposed secession. Ro also reminds me of Winston Churchill who in his wilderness years constantly warned the British people and politicians of the rising Nazi danger in Germany.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]