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Hindus not happy about Gods and deities used for commerce

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People buy idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha from roadside stalls for the Diwali festival in New Delhi. (Hindustan Times)

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Several questionable items, such as toilet seats, shoes and dog tags, have in recent years gone on sale adorned with the images of Hindu deities, particularly that of Ganesha, known most commonly in the West for his elephant face.

“It is inappropriate, and it is offensive to devotees,” said Rajan Zed, a Reno, Nev.-based Hindu activist who protests against such commercial products, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“I haven’t seen Christ on toilet seat covers. Or any symbol of Islam,” Vasudha Narayanan, a professor of religion at the University of Florida, added. “If you wouldn’t do it with one, why do you want to do it with something else? Or at least wouldn’t it behoove you to check?”

Zed said he receives a message about insensitive commercial use of an Hindu image every few months.

Most recently, Zed approached Amazon to pull deity-decorated skateboards and bedding from its online shelves. Earlier this year, the hashtag #boycottAmazon trended on Twitter in India after users discovered doormats with images of Hindu deities available for sale. Amazon removed the items within days.

Most of the time, when Zed reaches out to companies with such a request, he said, they apologize and comply. “It’s ignorance, basically,” Zed said. “People don’t know our traditions and our deities.”

Indians are still considered a relatively new immigrant group in the U.S., the majority arrived in the country after the immigration laws were changed in 1965. Indians comprise only about 1% of the U.S. population, and Hindus are a fraction of that, as Indians practice a variety of faiths. There also are Hindu immigrants from other countries, albeit in even smaller numbers.

Some Hindu symbols have become particularly valuable to some brands.

For example, Brahma Beer in Brazil, estimated to be the world’s ninth top-selling beer, carries a name that also refers to a Hindu god. Zed said he contacted Anheuser-Busch InBev, now the owner of Brahma, about discontinuing the product, but he acknowledged that it was too significant a revenue source for the company to terminate.

In the U.S., the yoga industry is a multibillion-dollar per year business. One which has for years been churning out yoga mats, towels and exercise pants that place “om” symbols and images of Ganesha close to or directly underneath the feet and legs. The fact that these images are so valuable to companies is a real problem, said Suhag Shukla of the Hindu-American Foundation.

“On the one side, people are very familiar with Hindu concepts like karma or reincarnation” and practices like yoga, she said. But on the other hand, these elements have been stripped of any association with Hinduism.

Shukla’s group is trying to change that. Its members previously launched a “Take Back Yoga” campaign to educate the public about yoga’s connection to Hinduism.

Information from the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

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Missing Hindu woman found mutilated in Pakistan

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The mutilated body of a Hindu woman was found in a field in southeastern Pakistan. Police say 40 year old Daya Bheel was murdered in the latest suspected attack against minorities in the Muslim-majority country. Authorities say they have arrested some suspects but have not determined a motive.

The Khosla family has donated nearly 2 million dollars to the Nudge Institute to help fight poverty. The philanthropists have donated millions of dollars for many other causes.

And disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-fried pleaded not guilty to eight different counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy before a U.S. federal court in the Southern District of New York. U.S. prosecutors allege that under Bankman-Fried’s direction, FTX, once considered one of the largest and most-trusted cryptocurrency exchanges, transferred billions in customer assets to his trading firm, Alameda Research. If convicted of these charges, Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Christmas crash kills Indian American toddler

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Tragic news out of Nevada. Authorities say an Indian American toddler has died in a devastating Christmas day car crash and his mother is in critical condition fighting for her life. Authorities say the accident happened on a busy Las Vegas boulevard and they were returning home from a trip in California.

Anil Beephan is now the first Indian American Republican ever to be elected to the New York State Assembly in Albany. So far only Indian American Democrats have been elected to the state legislature. Beephan will also become the first minority to represent Dutchess County and at 29 years old, he’s the youngest GOP rep in the state legislature. He’s currently in the tech industry and has also worked as a volunteer firefighter.

Vice President Kamala Harris has named Indian American Rajeev Badyal to a key national advisory group, responsible for strategy and recommendations to improve and maintain space policy. Badyal already works for Amazon, helping launch satellites into orbit. 

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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EXCLUSIVE: Warriors host first-ever Bhangra Night

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The Golden State Warriors first-ever Bhangra Night made its debut during the Warriors-Jazz game at the Chase Center in San Francisco. The Warriors say it’s a chance for the team to connect with the Bay Area’s rapidly growing South Asian community and fan base. Only Diya TV was on hand to capture the festivities. This change from the annual Bollywood night was supposed to take place in 2020 but was postponed because of the pandemic.

A federal jury in San Francisco has convicted Sivannarayana Barama of insider trading. Authorities say he used the quarterly financial performance of Palo Alto Networks before that information was released to the public and then traded in that company’s stock while that information was still confidential. Barama worked in IT for several Silicon Valley companies.

U.S. Border Patrol caught more than 4000 Indians illegally crossing the Mexico border in October and November. That’s more than double compared to the same time frame last year. An Indian man recently died climbing a border wall in Texas. The Biden administration is struggling to contain a surge of illegal immigration at the southern border.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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