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Countering Mr Vibhuti Jha’s parochial view

I am surprised at the biased and parochial view expressed by Mr. Vibhuti Jha regarding the U.S. Presidential Election in an op-ed published in The South Asian Times (issue dated November 14, 2020). We, the Indian diaspora her, are Americans first, Indians second, and Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Parsi, etc., third. We vote for what is good for the USA – our country – first. Mr. Jha, in his “learning lessons from 2020 elections”, starts by saying, “If Indians need to be counted, then let’s not repeat the mistakes again”. In the very next sentence, he states “Hindus have no institutional backing or support.” Why does Mr. Jha collect all Indians into one group of Hindus? What about other Indian Americans who are NOT Hindus? Many Indian American have multi-religious, even multi-racial families. We Indians here don’t bring religion into politics, and our politics is more issue-based. There are, in fact, Political Action Committees that Indian Americans have created and support that advocate for various causes important to all of us living and working here. Also, just to note, the Hindu American Foundation and Council for American Islamic Relations are both 501(c)(3) organizations and cannot and have not endorsed political candidates.

Second, Mr. Jha points out that about 70% of the Indian American community voted for the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, because of their stance on immigration and that this is usually the only issue that Indians care about. Nothing could be further from the truth. While exact numbers are not known since Indian Americans are counted in the larger “Asian” category, it appears that about 60-65% of Asian-Americans voted for Biden-Harris ticket with the issues of the economy, healthcare, and racism taking top priority. Is immigration reform important to Indian Americans? Of course, just as it is to so many other Americans. This year, however, everyday Americans (including we the Indian Americans) care about the fact that millions of our fellow Americans have lost their jobs, are going hungry, know someone who has suffered from COVID-19 (not the Hunan Virus, as Mr. Jha would derogatively like to call), are concerned about how divided our country has become, and want a President that would unite us rather than one that would further fan the flames of ignorance and hate. As a community that strives for educational excellence, we looked for a President that would tout the benefits of science and not have public health experts fearing for their lives from threats by conspiracy theorists. We Indian Americans did not want to support a President that touts his friendship with India, while tacitly encouraging white supremacist attacks against Indian Americans (and other minority groups) in the United States.

Third, Mr. Jha says that Hindus should follow the lead of Muslims in ensuring they have a “seat at the table” after the election is over. Again, for Indian Americans, this election was about more than religious influence and/or foreign policy. For some, it may even have been about having the first ever Indian American Vice President. In a nation that is proud of its commitment of freedom of religion, it is possible that we Hindus, and all Indian Americans, care more about other tangible issues like those mentioned above than the political influence of their religion. And we do have the seats at the Table. Hasn’t Mr. Jha heard of Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. Atul Gawande & Dr. Celine Gounder. There are Indian Americans in the Federal Judiciary, are Federal Prosecutors, helm several American companies, etc. Similarly, I am sure many more talented Indian Americans will be inducted into the Biden Administration, the same way many Indian Americans helmed several prominent posts in past administrations and will continue to do the same for future administrations.  They all do it because of what they know, not because of who they know.

Kiran Bhatt

East Meadow, NY 11554

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