US political candidate Padma Kuppa endorses Hindutva agenda of supremacy

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The news that Padma Kuppa, an Indian-American is running for Michigan’s State House of Representatives, has raised concern among the other Indian Americans because of her right winged ideologies.

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Her writings reflect shades of Hindu nationalism and anti Muslim and anti-Christian stance. She is said to support   Indian laws which criminalize people who change their religion without government permission which is a direct violation of the fundamental constitutional right of religious freedom.

Through her writings she has clearly explained her beliefs. One can see the kind of communal feelings she harbours when she writes about conversion of people into Christianity saying that this actually makes the Hindus intolerant and defensive. Besides she attributes westernization of daughters to conversion to Christianity which is worrying other Indian Americans.

Kuppa has even called the 2002 pogrom of Muslims in Gujrat as “retaliatory violence in Gujarat, where both Hindus and Muslims were killed.”   But the Human rights watch findings say that it was anything but spontaneous. The 2002 genocide was state sponsored according to the HRW findings.

“Padma Kuppa’s support for Indian laws which criminalize people who change their religion without government permission is an assault on the fabric of a free society,” remarks Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “The United Nations and the U.S. State Department have warned about these laws, which lead to violence and pogroms, especially against Indian Christians. But it doesn’t matter to Kuppa: she’s busy demanding American votes and seeking the $70,000 salary of a Michigan state representative.”

In 2018, watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked India as the world’s 11th most dangerous country for Christians, with radical groups and organizations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and even  the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) being behind the persecution of Christians.

“Laws which empower the government to permit or deny a person’s right to convert are the very definition of a denial of religious freedom,” says Valmuci. “Yet there is much more about Kuppa that worries us. Not only does she excuse intolerance in response to people exercising their right to free speech by promoting their religion, but Kuppa glamorizes Hindutva and justifies Prime Minister Modi’s 2002 Gujarat Genocide, which killed thousands of Muslims.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has said that Hindutva is an ideology “which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India.”

Since the BJP took power in 2014, there has been a sharp rise in violence targeting religious minorities as well as India’s 200 million Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables or outcastes). According to 2018 reports by HRW, “Vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government — often carried out by groups claiming to support the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — became an increasing threat in India in 2017. The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence.”

However, Kuppa contradicted HRW by dismissing these concerns. According to her religious conversion is far greater a threat than nationalism.”

Balbir Singh Dhillon, the current president of West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara shared his experience when he was on a pilgrimage to holy sites in India and Pakistan in 1996, he was arrested under false charges, jailed for three months, and tortured. “If I wasn’t an American citizen, I would have been killed for my faith,” says Dhillon.

He was only released after over 50 U.S. congressional representatives signed a letter to the U.S. State Department which pressured India to admit it had no proof he committed any crime.

He further added that Padma Kuppa’s support for anti-conversion laws is a great offense to the First Amendment freedom of religion we have as Americans,”These anti-conversion laws treat people who just want to change their religion like criminals. I know from my own experience of fleeing religious persecution in India that it puts religious minorities in danger to require them to ask the government for permission to convert.”

Besides endorsing anti-conversion laws, Kuppa approves  Ghar Wapsi,”as well which she calls “the effort to bring Hindus ‘back to the fold.’” Like all the Hindutva nationalists she too believes that all Indians were once Hindus and now they need to come back to Hinduism

 “We’re deeply concerned that Kuppa embraces the idea that Indian equals Hindu,” says Maryam Mirza, a Kashmiri Muslim from Michigan. “She has called herself an ‘ethnic Hindu,’ which is not a real thing, and says that India’s Republic Day is part of the Hindu religious heritage — can you imagine a candidate calling America’s Independence Day part of their Christian heritage? She defends use of the ‘Hindutva’ word, and I’ve seen she even quotes from sources like Koenraad Elst, an Islamophobic writer who wants to uproot Islam from India.”

Furthermore, Kuppa writes, “While I often use the term Hindu-American to identify myself, I am nearly as likely to use the term Indian-American. The two terms have much overlap for me as an ethnic Hindu, since faith and culture are so intertwined.” She adds, “India and Hinduism are so intertwined that I must reconsider the importance of celebrating India and in identifying as an Indian-American.” She additionally claims that “proud Hindus of Indian origin” can “celebrate India’s Republic Day as part of their religious heritage.”

In another article, she criticizes an event where Hindu women wore hijab while Muslim women wore sari. “There are many women in America who choose to wear a hijab, but there are activists who don’t – voices from within who may push beyond what people in the Islamic community want to hear,” she writes. “There is in fact no choice for Muslim women in many parts of the world about wearing not only a hijab, but a burka.” Saying the activists should not “sell out” by wearing hijab, she claimed that Muslim women “cannot escape a culture that oppresses them.”

“Kuppa’s writings appear to be lifted directly from the RSS’s talking points.

Valmuci concludes, “Does America truly want or need elected representatives who pen apologetics for religious nationalists, endorse the Hindutva agenda of supremacy, and justify violence against religious minorities and marginalized peoples?”