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Indian Americans’ complex relationship with politics in Trump America

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Rep. Gabbard presents a copy of the Bhagvad Gita to Indian Prime Minister Modi (2014)

HOUSTON (Diya TV) — Indian Americans constitute a tiny 1.5 percent of the U.S. population. The presence of Donald Trump, over 60 prominent lawmakers, and leaders of the corporate world, at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event speaks to the many economic successes of this community in addition to the trade ties between the two countries.

Indian Americans are not just a rapidly rising population in the U.S.—from close to 2 million in 2010, to about 4 million in 2015— but are also the highest earning ethnic group in the US. 

At a median age of 34 years, 70 percent Indian Americans are foreign born. For them, forming allegiances with a political party in Trump America, can be daunting.

Howdy, Democrats: Indian Americans need to know

Two Democratic leaders not attending the event have become symbolic of the way some Indian Americans are conflicted in forming a clear political identity: Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard.

Democratic Congressman from California, Ro Khanna, recently tweeted that, “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.” This was opposed immediately by those who thought that this was guilt shaming Hindu Americans.

While Hinduism is a religion based on myriad traditions and philosophies, Hindutva is a political ideology primarily based on a pluralistic Hindu identity. In an exclusive interview to Diya TV, he defended his stand saying, “We got a standing ovation when we said that in the district.”

He had previously joined the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and was urged by 230 Indian American organizations in the United States to withdraw from the caucus. Caucuses in the U.S. political system make decisions based on shared viewpoints to influence state legislatures.

Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, made history by becoming the first Hindu to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. An Army veteran she was deployed as a medical administrator in Iraq. She kept her childhood copy of Bhagwad Gita for comfort during those days and gifted that copy to PM Modi on her first visit to India in 2014. However, she would be unable to share stage with PM Modi due to “prior engagements.”  Or perhaps Trump’s presence had something to do with her absence? She sent in a video with greetings and apologies to PM Modi for not being able to make it.

There was another stage Gabbard missed addressing in Houston last week: the presidential primary debate. She is one of the lower-polling Democratic presidential contenders and was passed up by the Democratic National Committee. Their reason being that she could not make the 2 percent threshold in polls although she had enough donors—very akin to the Indian American diaspora.

Gabbard’s political rise is attributed to funding from many Hindu organizations.

Both, Khanna and Gabbard, are scathing critics of American foreign military adventurism—that’s a viewpoint all Indian Americans could get on board with.

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US sends aid, and bans travel from India

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US ends aid, bans travel from India | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — The Covid-19 crisis continues to spiral out of control in India. And now the U.S. is instituting a travel ban.  It goes into effect on May 4 but won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and their spouses. Meanwhile foreign aid is flowing into India from places like Israel, America, and Germany.

Sikh’s in Indianapolis held a memorial service to remember the victims of the Fed Ex facility shooting last month. Four of the people who died were from the Sikh community.  Police have not identified a motive for the shooting, yet. It’s unclear if the shooter, a former employee at the facility, was targeting Sikhs. There are a high number of Sikhs, immigrants and refugees who work in the facility.

And mega stars from the Indian diaspora raised more than 3 million dollars for Covid-19 relief in India.  Jay Shetty, Lilly Singh, Deepak Chopra, and Jay Sean. The virtual event was called help India Breathe and aired on Diya TV. The funds are going to three major areas of relief on the ground including food, direct cash transfers to families, and makeshift hospitals.

You can watch the fundraiser and still continue to donate:

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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American Coronavirus aid arrives in India

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American Covid-19 aid arrives in India | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — American aid is finally starting to arrive in Covid-19 battered India as vaccination sites run out of shots and thousands of people gasp for air. A U.S. military transport plane delivered more than 400 oxygen cylinders, nearly one million rapid coronavirus test kits, and other supplies. The country has been reporting an average of more than 350,000 new cases of Covid infections every day for the past week.

After seven hours of public comment and testimony from hundreds of people on whether caste should be added to the county’s non-discrimination policy, the Santa Clara Human Rights Commission deferred their vote pending futher testimony and likely another public hearing. Equality Labs and the Hindu American Foundation each made presentations for and against this potential new category at the hearing, that was broadcast exclusively on Diya TV.
Watch the full event here:

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made history during President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress just by taking their seats — marking the first time two women would be sitting behind the President.  Biden’s Indian American chief speech writer Vinay Reddy wrote the president’s address, adding to the historic evening.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Death toll rises as Covid supplies head to India

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Death toll rises as Covid supplies head to India | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — No end in sight to India’s deepening Covid-19 crisis as the number of new virus cases in the country shatter records. India added nearly 400 thousand new cases on Thursday, breaking the record set a day earlier, boosting the country’s death toll to more than 200 thousand. US officials have urged Americans to leave the country because of the deteriorating conditions.

Several members of the Dalit community and their supporters are addressing the Santa Clara Human Rights Commission to discuss their experiences with caste discrimination. They want the commission to recommend that the Board of Supervisors make caste a legally protected category against discrimination like race, age, gender and sexual orientation. Equality Labs is pushing this agenda but critics say it is anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.

And the Senate overwhelmingly passed an Asian Hate crimes bill and created a new position at the Justice Department to fast track reviews of potential Covid-19 related hate crimes. 

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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