Following the lines of his Republican counterpart, the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph Biden has also identified the Hindu American coalition in his presidential campaign. President Donald Trump identified the community in his 2016 presidential campaign on religious lines.
Before this, campaigns have been identifying coalitions on the grounds of the region or the country. The earlier recognitions were that of the Indian Americans and South Asians.
The Democratic move is getting a mixed response in political circles. Some analysts see it as an alternative to other identities while others look at it as a form of jingoism. Democrats’ initiative will diversify their political outreach and keep them abreast of Republicans.
Democratic Hindu American coalition
Hindus are a religious majority in India and are spread across the South Asian regions. Democratic campaigns had a coalition with Indian Americans and the Asian American Pacific Islander(AAPI) in the past. The parallel coalition with Hindu American is a new thing.
Campaign categorization of population is dynamic. It changes with the needs of the time. Many Indian American or South Asian origin Americans are living in the United States from long times. They are not able to relate themselves with the Indian subcontinent. But the faith is sometimes that they carry with themselves. This section of American society has a new chance to have a political representation based on their faith.
The Democratic intervention has come at the right time. Also, the step was imperative for them because Republicans were already banking on the voters of the identity.
Hindutva and jingoism
The term Hindu, which earlier denoted particular religious group has now acquired a new meaning. It has more to do with a hardcore radical concept of Hindutva. The sentiment, which is hostile to the Muslim community.
Hindutva is already leading to a polarized social system in the Indian subcontinent. Few American political analysts fear the same divide in their country. Vijay Prashad, who is known for his book Karma of Brown Folk said that the new Hindu is anti-Muslim. It is more negative than positive.
The blame of jingoism on the Hindu community is contested by many Americans. They believe that Hindu Americans should not be solely related to right-leaning groups. The founder of Americans4hindus group, Ramesh Jhopra highlighted the need for political identification of Hindus in America. He said it is not just about people from India. It includes the minority Hindu population in neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
The Hindu American Foundation also negated claims of jingoism on Hindu Identity. The body said the identification of the group will enable them to celebrate their customs and traditions with more confidence. It pointed out that Hindu Americans shy away from celebrating their festivals in schools and colleges.
How is Hindu American different from previous affiliations?
Barack Obama made a great shift when he used the coalition South Asians for Obama. Early people were identified under the Asian American label. South Asia has altogether a different dynamics. They share a similarity in terms of colour, appearance and language.
Asian American Pacific Islander was another broadly accepted label before the South Asian label. The South Asian label is still considered to be a viable alternative that is neutral and inoffensive.
These identity labels hold significance as they provide a well-defined atmosphere for the community to flourish. It provides a sense of political security. The new Hindu American outreach under the Biden-led Democratic campaign will cement votes for him. Whether it will divide or unite the society remains to be seen.