At the Hindu Lord of the Rings gathering connected with the September 2018 World Hindu Conference in Chicago, were incensed at how US politician Tulsi Gabbard withdrew from not just being the chair of the conference, but any participation in it.
Open and unashamed about her Hindu beliefs, this may surprise many as to why Gabbard disowned the whole fiasco that was yet to unfold. Despite having taken her vow of office on the Bhagavad Gita she was never the less was accused of cowardice.
Accused of buckling under pressure by anti-Hindu forces so prominent in American society and politics, the truth is a bit more complex than that.
Judging by her decorated and distinguished service in the American military and her trip to war torn Syria, it is clear even to her erstwhile political opponents that Gabbard is far from being cowardly, sheepish or mediocre. Indeed as the Syria trip shows this American politician does not stick to the safe conformity so evident in the country’s dominant narrative and mainstream media.Her actions demonstrate she consistently lives up to the ethics of the elucidated in the Bhagavad Gita.
Tulsi Gabbard represents a district in Hawaii in the US House of Representatives, where she serves on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. Gabbard is also a military police officer with the Hawaii Army National Guard, and has served tours of duty in Iraq, and trained with the Indonesian army.
In 2002 she was a martial arts instructor. On October 12, 2015, Captain Gabbard was promoted to major at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. On the political front she has supported US-India ties, praised Modi and opposed the visa ban to which he was once subjected.
At the same time she has opposed the powerful elements in Pakistan’s government which openly support terrorism, has lambasted arms deals with Saudi Arabia due to Riyadh’s support for Islamic terrorism, and said that America should stand by India in the face of aggression from Pakistan. She came under much criticism for her 2017 visit to Syria where she met with Bashar al-Assad, and has opposed military strikes, regime change and above all support for the jihad opposition, believing there are no ‘moderates’.
But it is her support for Modi and ties with India that have led to Gabbard being accused of harbouring Hindu extremist tendencies. In September 2014, the new Indian prime minister made it a point to meet Gabbard following his historic post-election speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
And the congresswoman gave Modi a gift—a copy of the Bhagwad Gita that she swore by when elected to office—and assured him of her support for a Modi pet project of declaring an International Yoga day. After this she spoke with Quartz magazine:
“Throughout the world, Hindus are victims of discrimination. Recently, a Hindu priest in Bangladesh was brutally hacked to death by ISIS terrorists and two others were injured trying to help him. Unfortunately, even in the United States, as well as different pockets of India, such discrimination exists.”
“There are many Hindus in America who feel they need to convert to Christianity or take “Christian” names if they or their children are to succeed in this country. I have found that simply being the first Hindu elected in Congress has been liberating to so many because it shows that every American, regardless of their background, race, or religion, has the opportunity serve our community in any capacity he or she may choose.”
Hence it came as a surprise and shock to many that Gabbard withdrew from appearing at the World Hindu Congress held in Chicago in September 2018. Indeed she withdrew from her participation in that event on April 26, 2018 when it became apparent that the event was going to be a partisan political event. Billed as having “several high-achievers and experts from the world of economy, education, politics, social work, media, and blessed by revered spiritual & religious heads”, it proved to be yet another gathering populated mostly by individuals whose main problem is keeping their larynxes under control.
The WHC did however attract a small vocal minority of protests from South Asians for Justice highlighting what they saw as the intolerant nature of rising Hindu fundamentalism in India and the fact that it was effectively an RSS dominated event.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and its joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosbale and six other top Hindu religious leaders were participating in a panel discussion on collective efforts for Hindu resurgence when the protesters seated at two different places in the hall suddenly stood on their chairs and started raising slogans such as “Stop Hindu Fascism” and “RSS turn around, we do not want you in town.“
While the Left in America joins the extremist-right wing Christian Bible thumpers to oppose what they see as dangerous, superstitious, backward pagan Hinduism, Gabbard is essentially correct in one respect at least. These conferences are merely fronts and mouthpieces for an RSS agenda.
The Sangh groups are only one of many Hindu organisations. Yet the impression they give is that they are the sole spokesman and sole standard. Other Hindu groups have to conform to this or be exiled as untouchables. In this no greater contrast could exist between Gabbard and the WHC. The latter, going by the prevailing trends which is only exaggerated by the RSS emphasises linear thinking, lack of foresight and above all emphasis on status.
If the hinduphobe protestors had any sense of reality they would just sit back with popcorn and let such events die a natural death.
Every few years these Hindu organisations have another conference where there is a lot of smugness and delusion equivalent to someone constantly liking their own social media posts. They achieve nothing apart from another conference a few years later. So the pattern repeats.
The rich spiritual heritage is hardly used and they are as bereft of art work as they are of meaning, in a manner equivalent to the gang infested wasteland of Chicago housing projects. What matters to such people is questioned and blind obedience to the ‘tribe’ which in India means the political party such as Congress, BJP or CPI which doles out jobs and business contracts, and in this case the uninspiring and dead weight speakers who addressed the over priced and spiritual disaster which was the World Hindu Congres.
Gabbard on the other hand has stood her ground against all criticism and at great personal risk to herself. This is most evident on her recent trips to Syria where she exploded the myth of there being ‘moderate’ terrorist opposition to Assad, while at the same time not defending his despotic regime. On balance, it is not hard to recognise which would be the better role model for Hindus. In 2102, Gabbard told First Post:
“On my last trip to the mainland, I met a man who told me that his teenage daughter felt embarrassed about her faith, but after meeting me, she’s no longer feeling that way”.
Unlike politicians Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, Gabbard is not even of Indian origin. Unlike the aforementioned figures she did not see a need to disown Hindu culture in order to forge a political career and take on the inconvenient issues other politicians (and indeed so called community leaders) would rather ignore. It does not take much eevaluation to recognise which will be more effective: Gabbard or the Chicago conference.