A new organisation launched by a group of influential American Hindus, most of them of Indian descent, aspires to emerge as the political platform for all Hindus in the country regardless of their ethnic origin. The American Hindu Coalition (AHC) will be formally inaugurated in May but the group has launched a website and started raising funds online and from selected donors. Though led by Republicans, AHC is a bipartisan platform that will bring together Democrats, independents and anyone who believes in “Hindu enlightenment principles” according to Shekhar Tiwari, chairman of the new organisation.
“Primary aim of AHC is to represent Hindus in America who are U.S citizens, not all of them from India. Hindu Americans are from all nationalities. Americans who have been here for five or ten generations also convert to Hinduism. We want to represent them as well,” said Sue Ghosh, legal counsel for the AHC, an American-born Hindu. Ms. Gosh was an early supporter of President Donald Trump. The Trump campaign had entrusted her with the selection of delegates and all Maryland delegates for the Republican National Committee were handpicked by her last year.
Mr. Tewari has been an active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and an early supporter of the Republican Party while most Indian Americans stayed with the Democratic Party. He stays in touch with the leadership of the RSS. Mr. Tewari says he has learnt from his experience that the notion of ‘Indian’ American does not go well with the American mainstream. “For the Hindus to be part of the mainstream of American politics, they have to give up this notion of being ‘Indian’ Americans. That signals mixed loyalties. Religion is constitutionally protected in America and that can be the legitimate the basis of organisation,” he said.
An organisation called the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) claims to speak for Hindus but leaders of AHC said the new platform would be unique because of the bipartisan character that they plan to bring. “RHC is limited to the Republican Party. We will reach out to Democrats and independents, whoever is willing to support our platform,” said John Jaggers, Strategic Advisor of AHC. The organisation plans to open an office in the Washington area and appoint full time staff to organise events with U.S lawmakers, executive officials and regulators. “Limited governance and strong national defence are our priority. We believe in economic nationalism and we wish to invest in America and make America strong. On the other side we support strong national defence based on the principle of peace through strength,” Ms. Ghosh said. “And Hindu values are family values, that we support.” She said the organisation was planning multipronged measures against the CNN for airing a documentary that portrayed Hinduism in poor light recently.
“We are not going be leaning towards any party. Anybody who supports our platform, we support them. There are Democrats and there are Republicans who support us,” she said. The AHC website has pictures of Mr. Trump and all Democratic members of Congress, including non-Hindus such as Ami Bera. U.S Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also appears on the site though she is a Christian. “They all subscribe to the Hindu enlightenment principles,” said Ms. Ghosh.
AHC will advocate strong strategic relations between the U.S and India, said Ms. Ghosh. “There is a convergence between the two countries, both in terms of threats and interests,” she said. Mr. Tewari said the idea is to convince American policy makers that good relations with India are in the interests of America. “There is no point repeating to Americans what India’s interests are. We have to speak from the perspective of American interests. And we have to bring together all patriotic Americans together to achieve that,” he said.