Why does Trump declare his love for Hindus? And why did right wing Hindu Indian-Americans so strongly support the campaign for Trump’s candidacy? Trump and Indian president, Modi want to make their nations great again, by keeping the terrorists out and holding onto global capital in their destructive ways, even at the expense of marginalised communities. Ultimately, right wing Hindu Indian-Americans support a Trump presidency as they see it aligns with their own nationalist ideas of a Hindu India.
I am not shocked at Donald Trump winning. I am not shocked that a racist, upper-class, misogynistic white man who fueled his campaign with hate, won the election in a nation built on the genocide, exploitation, and degradation of indigenous peoples and enslaved black peoples. I am angry that people from marginalised communities will now face even more violence and white people, who have built and sustained oppressive structures, will continue the violence in insidious ways. I am angry at how these systems built on black and brown bodies will continue to stomp over them. I am angry that during this time multiple evils will join hands.
The hysteria around the 2016 US election is similar to one that I witnessed in 2014, when Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, is a member of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the strongest right wing Hindu nationalist group on the ground in India. The hegemonic agenda of the Indian state has already seen beef bans and an increase in caste-based sexual violence and murders, and communal violence. Extreme nationalism, centuries of oppressive systems, and demonizing narratives allow for this modern day romance between Modi and Trump to be possible.
Modi loves Trump and Trump loves Modi. Both promote big development, are supported by large right wing groups on the ground, and back up Islamophobia. The possibility of this alliance is not something new or unexpected, but has developed through years of Brahmanism, colonialism, and capitalism. Like many modern day romances, theirs is complicated, intertwined, and long-distance.
The growing Hindu nationalism in India is tied to its complex indigenous, colonial, and partitioned history. Hindu nationalism is a part of the long historical discourse to Brahmanise indigenous and lower caste communities. Brahmanism is essentially the systemic annihilation of anything or anyone who doesn’t fit under the moral code of conduct and pure religious culture of upper caste Brahmin society. It predates British colonialism and gave rise to Hindu nationalism. Currently, who is Indian and what does it mean to be Indian is tied directly to being Hindu. Therefore, India as a nation-state becomes the land of the Hindus. Dalits, Adivasi peoples, and Muslims within India are impacted by continuous state violence, killings, displacement, and discrimination on a daily basis. This rhetoric in India link it to the Indian-American right wing support for Trump in the US.
Considering this then, why wouldn’t folks who applaud Modi, an RSS member, support Trump, a celebrated figure among the KKK?
The heart of right wing Hindu Indian-American support for Trump lies in its Islamophobia. Not only are Muslim communities a problem for a Trump nation, they are also a problem for a Hindu India. Modi is notorious for his involvement in the massacre of Muslim communities in the 2002 Gujarat Riots, while Trump was ready to place a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S. What is pure, morally right, truly American, and truly Indian does not only disregard people’s complex identities but also dehumanises them at the same time.
These fascist and racist narratives further enable capitalism and imperialism in the US and in India. Not only does it include getting rid of people who don’t belong, but also at the same time allows the nation to move forward and progress. But who is this progress for?
The urge to play the white man’s game in order to move up in the global economic hierarchy is real and alive. Modi is a long-time business player who wants to build on big development and neoliberalism. He wants all the states in India to be like the big business success story of the state of Gujarat, while right wing Indian-Americans want a fascist Hindu-only India to succeed in the US as well. Both men rose to power through the mobilisation of far right groups, with crossover between the two symbolised in the Republican Hindu Coalition’s support of Trump. The majority of right-wing Indian-Americans are middle to upper class folks from higher caste communities who are also first generation immigrants to the US, hoping to find their seat at the table. They want to build their own empires at the expense of marginalised communities, while being the poster children for a Hindu India. What more could businessman Trump want? A capitalistic collaboration with a dab of culture that won’t threaten him.
It seems like Tinder just got a new match and we can’t go back. The connection between the world’s “largest” democracy and the world’s “oldest” democracy was bound to have sparks flying. Keep in mind that these faces are the production of centuries of destruction and domination. When nations are built on systemic violence, exploitation, and capitalism, right wing nationalism rises and unites people who might not be so different from each other after all.
Marginalised communities in the larger South Asian diaspora and on the ground in the subcontinent have always resisted and will continue to resist. The struggle for liberation can only be effective when we acknowledge all oppressive structures and their interconnectedness.
Challenging fascism in the US is an extension of challenging the idea of a Hindu-only India under Modi. Not only are we here to challenge and fight the white man’s systems, we have to break down the upper caste and class hegemony for those of us tied to the subcontinent. Liberation does not mean taking the seat at any table, but rather burning it down.