iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
The Coalition of Hindus of North America9CoHNA) has expressed its gratitude to Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi for supporting the minority Hindu-American community.
On September 6, Congressman Krishnamoorthi entered a memo summarizing the findings of the Network Contagion Research Institute’s (NCRI) research on anti-Hindu bigotry into the congressional records.
Referring to the NCRI’s findings, published in July 2022, Krishnamoorthi outlined the rise in anti-Hindu rhetoric and memes on social media between January 2019 and June 2022. Citing the study, the memo noted that Hinduphobic content “is deployed by fringe web communities and state actors alike.”
The congressman pointed out that most political leaders are unfamiliar with Hinduphobia and acknowledged that this must be addressed for anti-Hindu bigotry to be meaningfully countered. He drew several specific examples from the Rutgers report outlining how Hindus are being dehumanized in online spaces operated by a wide ideological spectrum including white supremacists and Islamists.
“As one of the first formal records of Hinduphobia in the national discourse, the congressman’s memo gives voice to the fears of millions of Hindu Americans, and we thank him sincerely for this effort,” said Nikunj Trivedi, President of CoHNA. “Memes like the ‘happy merchant’ and accusations of disloyalty echo antisemitic rhetoric that has haunted our country, and per the report, foreshadow real-world violence against Hindus. We see this real-world violence is actively underway in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh where micro-minority Hindu communities are being driven to the brink of extinction.”
This report came out less than two months before a spate of anti-Hindu attacks in New York and California in August 2022. CoHNA, in its statement, has said that these attacks may have been committed by members of the wider Indian diaspora, showing that the violence cannot simply be reduced to racially-motivated bigotry.
“Blanketing Hinduphobia under more familiar racial terms can confound the motives behind anti-Hindu sentiments and Rep. Krishnamoorthi rightly calls on congressional leadership to study the phenomena as a unique form of bigotry,” CoHNA says.
Rutgers University’s Study on Hinduphobia
On July 12, Rutgers University’s researchers released a study that tracked the rise of Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred on social media and other messaging platforms. The report found a dramatic rise in, and patterns of, hate speech directed towards the Hindu community across these platforms – genocidal memes and coded language patterns advanced by white supremacists and Islamists along with Iranian trolls accusing Hindus of perpetrating genocide against minorities in India.
Researchers also discovered that Hinduphobic code words and memes reached record highs and warned that this could spill into real-world violence against the community, especially in the light of escalating religious tension in India. John Farmer, the former Attorney General of New Jersey as well as a co-author, along with former Congressman and Miller Center Research Fellow Denver Riggleman also shared that the Hindu community, along with law enforcement, must unite to counter hate messaging before it leads to more violence, as has been observed by such incidents involving the Jewish community in the United States.
Like other communities have done, the Hindu community also must take security measures to ensure its safety and the safety of the next generation.
5 key takeaways from the Hinduphobia study:
- An old hatred with a new playbook – As former Attorney General John Farmer observes via the example of the Dotbusters gang of the 80s, Hinduphobia isn’t new and Hindus have regularly been subjected to hatred using centuries-old tropes. However, the real cause of alarm today is the deployment of those tropes over social media as a new playbook for rekindling old hatreds.
- Online hate can lead to real-world violence – NCRI’s previous research on vulnerable and minority populations, has observed that when the intensity of social media hate speech reaches a “fever pitch,” it can translate to violence against people in real life (as seen in past antisemitic, anti-Asian attacks). Thus, law enforcement must unite to counter this hate before it is too late.
- Hinduphobia is largely understudied, dismissed, or even denied in the public sphere, despite its violent and genocidal implications (now exploding across entire Web communities across millions of comments, interactions, and impressions in both mainstream and extremist platforms).
- Islamists, white nationalists, and other extremist sub-networks online are increasingly using genocidal memes, tropes, and codewords to spread Hinduphobia. The term “Pajeet” has been prominently used to describe Hindus in a derogatory manner and in reference to violent, murderous fantasies about Indians. The usage of this term has spiked with key events, such as the appointment of Parag Agarwal as the new CEO of Twitter. Other dog whistles that target Hindus in social media include scatological references and calling Hindus backward, dirty, perverted or unintelligent, etc.
- The Rutgers study highlights the deliberate and persistent use of Hindu-specific imagery, tropes, sacred symbols, practices, and livelihoods (e.g. the saffron color, the sacred Swastika, Tilak, or Bindi.) This finding is critical as many South Asian scholars and activist groups often downplay or dismiss Hinduphobia by couching it as anti-India or broader anti-South Asian xenophobia. Furthermore, in parallel with how antisemitic tropes of “Zionist Occupied Government” are used against the Jewish community, there is increased usage of tropes such as “Brahmin Occupied Government” which relay themes about Hindu dominance and control in places of power. Other prominent tropes include “Caste” “Nationalist” “Extremist” and “Rashtra”, associating Hindus with Nazis and extremists.