On Monday, India marks 75 years since its independence from British rule. Growing up in Orange County, I was taught that observing Hindu religious traditions made me a proud Indian. My family is Brahmin, the upper caste of Hinduism’s ancient hierarchy. I learned South Indian classical dance, attended Hindu Sunday school and spent summers at my grandparents’ home in Bengaluru, in southern India.
At the same time, my upbringing was relatively progressive. My grandfather had been a civil servant in India and taught me how corrupt governments could become. During the years he lived with us in America, I would come home from high school to newspaper clippings about global politics that he shared with me. In 2000, when I voted for Ralph Nader for president, he told me he would have too. And in 2014, he shared my grief at the election of Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister. My grandfather believed that equality and plurality were the riches of a society, and Modi represented the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ultra-conservative right-wing party supported by Hindus in India and abroad.
These two sides of my identity bred a contradiction. At community gatherings in California, I avoided politics like everyone else and smiled politely. I enjoyed being anonymous in a sea of Indian faces. Yet I was also involved in progressive causes with a multiracial group of activists and debated a lot with my family about racism, classism, misogyny and homophobia in the U.S.
It’s become harder to hold on to that contradiction. I want all the aunties, uncles and young people I’ve been raised around to know that I can’t stay silent about what is happening in the name of our faith in India. How can I speak out about injustice in the U.S. while ignoring India?
Modi has waged a political war against poor people, farmers, Indigenous and caste-oppressed groups and Muslims, and because of that, Hindu nationalists now feel free to brutalize those communities. In 2019, he abrogated the semi-sovereign status of Kashmir, the territory trapped between Indian and Pakistani military rule. Thousands of people protested when Modi’s government approved a bill that set religion as a condition for citizenship by only granting citizenship to non-Muslims fleeing neighboring countries.
In March, a school district in the southern state of Karnataka — where my family’s roots are — banned students from wearing hijab. Every day reports pile up on social media of Muslims being murdered or sexually assaulted in India at the hands of Hindu nationalists. Meanwhile, journalists critical of Modi have been silenced, incarcerated and harassed. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and other non-governmental organizations have had to halt or limit operations in India.
This story was originally published in latimes.com . Read the full story here