Bulldozer symbolizing destruction of Muslim homes present at Indian Independence Day Parade in New Jersey


Date published: Tue, 23 August 22

There has been a documented rise of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, in the US. ICNA CSJ has recently published a two-part series on Hindu nationalism in India and the US. Read more here, and the following relevant excerpt: 

Hindu nationalism has steadily become more and more entrenched in the social and political landscape and fabric of the US. According to the [Jasa] Macher report, the Hindutva agenda in the US focuses on consolidating power for Hindutva groups through networks of groups that “organize Hindu communities by capturing the righteous frustration at experiences of racism.” They further wish to direct diaspora Hindus to engage with upper caste cultural repertoire – accepting Hindus as the “true owners of land in India.” 

Through accessing US transparency laws, court documents, lobbyists, and archives, Macher reports on a variety of ways that Hindutva has entrenched in the US, which you can read here.

Since the BJP’s ascension to power in India in 2014, the emphasis on transforming India to a Hindu-first state was accelerated through a rise in violence against Christians, Dalits, and Muslims. There have been many reports of tech companies in Silicon Valley and the US engaging in caste discrimination, discriminating against lower-caste Indians. 

Hindutva influencers in the US include the Hindu American Foundation, Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora, the Bhutada Family Foundation, the Dharma Civilization Foundation, and more.

During the Indian Independence Day on August 15, a bulldozer featuring prominent BJP politicians was brought to a celebration in the US in the state of New Jersey. Human rights groups in the US have argued that displaying this bulldozer is a display of hate – at least three rights groups have issued statements that are calling upon two local mayors and the Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly to criticize the use of the bulldozer. Bulldozers in India are used to destroy homes and shops of the minorities of India, which includes Muslims, Christians, and Datit people. The bulldozer is a symbol now of state repression and violence against minorities.

CAIR executive director Salaedin Maksut said, “While we support Indian Americans’ right to celebrate their heritage and independence from British colonial rule, we condemn the use of a bulldozer and the glorification of Hindu nationalist figures who have a deeply anti-Muslim track record.” 

The celebration was attended by local politicians and a national spokesperson of the in-power BJP. 

After criticism from local communities, the mayor of the Edison township in New Jersey criticized the inclusion of the bulldozer, saying that “any symbol or actin that represents discrimination is unwelcome.” 

The situation stands as a constant reminder that Hindutva is on the rise in the US, entrenching itself in the institutions of the country. New Jersey itself is a state that has been known for its rising Hindutva in its Indian population. In 2021, a Hindu group was accused of using forced labor to build a Hindu temple. The lawsuit asserted that lower caste men had been brought from India to work for $1/hour. The workers were brought on religious visas – temporary visas used for clergy and religious workers (such as missionaries). NYTimes reports the workers were on site for nearly 13 hours a day, lifting stones, operating cranes and heavy machinery, building roads and storm sewers, digging ditches and shoveling snow. Three federal agencies, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor, were all involved in the action back in 2021.

We urge you to call your representatives to condemn the rise of Hindutva in the political and social spheres in the US. We also urge you to educate yourself about Hindutva and its symbols. As discrimination and anti-Muslim hate increases in Hindutva supporters’, it’s important to understand symbols that indicate something hateful.