US Elections 2016

There's more to the Hindu Republican Coalition than its love for Donald Trump

The group points to a very real feeling among large swathes of Hindu-Americans that they are unfairly neglected. It may not be wise to ignore it.

With less than a week to go for the American elections, one can reasonably conclude that the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton contest has been a lowbrow horror show, featuring the ugliest aspects of competitive politics and the basest of human instincts. And one of its more overtly bizarre aspects – especially for Indians and Indian-Americans watching it with the perverse satisfaction that American politicians are not quite different from ours – is the support of the Republican Hindu Coalition and its founding chairperson, Shalabh Kumar, for Trump. Kumar is also a major donor to the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign, contributing close to $900,000 to it.

The group garnered significant attention on October 15 when Trump attended an event it had organised in his honour in New Jersey. The seemingly incongruous title of the event, Humanity United Against Terror, referred to one main reason why the Republican Hindu Coalition has thrown its support behind Trump. It sees him as the world’s only hope against the scourge of Islamic terrorism. Featuring a skit with the Navy Seals, a Michael Jackson impersonator, and Bollywood celebrities, the event, in its resplendent tackiness, recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s over-the-top stadium performances to enraptured non-resident Indian audiences over the past two years.

The phenomenon represented by the group has been viewed, on the one hand, with bemused puzzlement. In this view, its actions are seen as similar to the shenanigans of the Hindu Sena, an obscure Hindu nationalist group that has conducted pujas for Trump and celebrated his birthday in Delhi by feeding cake to a cardboard cut-out of the Donald and his musket. The journalistic commentary on the event has drawn attention to confused Indian-American attendees bussed in by zealous relatives, folks there only to see the performances or celebrities, or desis motivated by unrealistic hopes of getting a green card post-haste.

On the other hand, South Asian civil society groups, opposed to the values the Republican Hindu Coalition espouses, have located the organisation’s endorsement of Trump in a deep-seated anti-Muslim sentiment that is pervasive in sections of the Hindu-American community. They rightly see a similarity between Hindu-American support for Trump and Modi, both of which are predicated on the attractions of a conservative authoritarianism.

Yet, beneath the distractions of this comic sideshow in this silly – and ominous – season of politics lurk other factors that explain the very existence and appeal of the Republican Hindu Coalition and indicate why the sentiment it represents is here to stay. One, it points to a very real feeling among large swathes of the Hindu-American population that it is unfairly neglected or ignored by the American media and public discourse, especially when compared to Muslim-Americans. This grievance is not entirely unjustified. Indeed, 2016 marks the first year when the Hindu-American experience can truly have been said to have been mainstreamed, with messages from both presidential candidates, the president of the United States, and the White House, and corporations that otherwise have been quiet about it in the past. Interestingly, none of the universities I have been associated with, for the better part of two decades, have ever sent a message or greeting about Diwali, unlike for Christmas, Ramzan and Eid, and Rosh Hashanah.

There is a real belief among many Hindu-Americans that, paradoxically, the Muslim-American community gets more attention than other groups precisely because of the international visibility of Islamic terrorism, that leaders of various institutions take pains to distinguish between Islamic terrorism and the average, ordinary Muslim, and that liberals in particular overcompensate for anti-Muslim prejudice by condemning all criticism of Muslims and Islam as Islamophobia. The same courtesies, it is felt, are not extended to Hindu-Americans, whose use of the term Hinduphobia is seen as a defensive Hindu nationalist gesture.

Desire for visibility

The Left response, somewhat mean-spiritedly and unfairly in my view, has reduced the Hindu-American desire for greater visibility to anxieties about caste and religious identity. In this the Left mirrors the Right, by implicitly proposing a prescriptive notion of what an authentic Hindu-American identity must look like and who the Hindu-American community necessarily must ally with, for example, by suggesting it embrace the construct of South Asianness as an overarching frame. The imperative that drives the Republican Hindu Coalition may be seen as a reaction to this notion of Hindu-American identity.

In a sense, then, the group represents the political coming of age of the Hindu-American (as well as the Indian-American) community in the US, suggesting that it possesses enough internal diversity for a spectrum of views or even a fringe, depending on how you see it. And rather than view Kumar and the group as Trump’s useful idiots, it may be worth considering that their support for the presidential candidate is as much instrumental as ideological. Rather than see Kumar and his fellow Republican Hindu Coalition members as VS Naipaul’s mimic men, colonised sorts seeking to impress their colonial overlords in the Pax Americana, it may be more useful to see them as exemplifying what Homi Bhabha described as “sly civility”, the strategy of mimicry by which the natives camouflage their true intentions and aspirations.

It is easy to mistake Shalabh Kumar’s poorly written Wikipedia page, the vainglorious pomposity of his biographical description on the Republican Hindu Coalition site, and the naïve political aspiration of the group as worthy of nothing else than mockery. No observer of Indian politics in the US should make that mistake.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Han Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.

Play

To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.