Indian Americans, Hindu Groups Protest Against CNN

Venkata Kondubhatla
Washington(D.C.): Indian Americans have turned up in large numbers on Monday at the CNN building in Chicago to protest against the network for airing the documentary “Believer With Reza Aslan,” which they allege promoted hatred against Hindus in America.

Similar protests took place immediately after the airing of the documentary on March 5 in the cities across America including Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco. So far, this is the largest protest.

The documentary ‘Believer’ is a six-part spiritual adventure series, with each episode focusing on a particular faith, sect, or a belief system. The host, Reza Aslan, has been studying world religions for more than 23 years, and in this series he tried “to live” a few of these belief systems, and hence adventure series.

The episode on March 5 on “Aghoris” reaches culmination when one Aghori offers a piece of human brain to Aslan and asks him to eat it, and later asks him to drink beer in a human skull, and finally dances while drinking his own urine.

The sadhus’ sect, as Aslan explains, goes against the Hindu caste system and the belief that the societal status of all individuals depends on their birth. On the other hand, these Aghoris believe that everyone is equal, and all that is created is equal, Aslan goes on. They don’t distinguish between purity and pollution and hence they treat everything equally including eating human flesh.

Aslan explores the values between Aghoris and the values he believes in, and in general, the commonalities between them (remote believers) and the viewers. The episode also shows an Aghori ashram where about 300 children are being brought up with the values of equality and in a society with no caste system.

What made Aslan choose this topic when there are many other interesting elements in Hinduism? Why to pick a topic that is peripheral and remote, and practised by only a few as opposed to millions of other Hindu followers. Undeniably, the conflict, controversial content, and the danger involved in it make “Aghoris” an interesting story to tell.

However, the protesters argue that the story puts the religion in a bad light. The Hindu groups also see the episode as hatred and racism against Hindus, and hence the placards in front of the CNN office in Chicago, screaming of racism and hatred.

Racism is relevant in the present Trump America. With the rise of hate crimes against minorities, the country is seeing racism going up. Ironically, CNN has been on the liberal end standing for immigrants and minorities.

Coming back, “Aghori” is the only episode that dealt with Hinduism. Individuals exposed to Hinduism by this episode may not be able to wrap their heads around the religion, as they only see the dangerous and extreme end of the religion and not know the tenets of the religion. But one may argue that that’s certainly not incumbent on the makers of the documentary.

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NASA Chooses New Astronauts, Indian-American Among The 12

Lt Col Raja G Chai, an American Indian is one of the 12 trainees selected by NASA American Spaceflight in its 22nd batch. They will be sent to space after two years of training.

Houston: An Indian-American was selected by NASA American spaceflight trainee. NASA selected 12 persons for its 22nd batch of American spaceflight trainees, which is termed as the largest batch in two decades. NASA received 18,300 applications after it announced open astronaut call. The twelve people were selected from among them.

The selection criterion was based on physical requirements as well as certain education and experience criteria, like having a bachelor’s degree in STEM field or accumulating up to 1,000 hours of piloting jets. All the selected candidates surpass the minimum skills NASA requires.

The twelve candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at Space X and a NASA research pilot. Lt Col Raja ‘Grinder’ Chari, 39, belonging to Indian origin, is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He hails from Waterloo, Iowa. Chari completed his Master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School. His father is from India.

After completion of two years of training, the new candidates could be assigned to mission performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and flying on deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

U S Vice President Mike Pence was in Texas along with NASA officials to announce the new astronaut candidates or ‘ascans.’

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Indian-American Appointed To US Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit

An Indian-American Anil Thapar was appointed judge by President Donald Trump to the Court of Appeals for the sixth circuit. Thapar, son of migrant. Indians, practised law becoming a judge.

Washington:  US President Donald Trump appointed  another Indian-American to a prestigious position. The White House said that Amul Thapar, an Indian-American legal luminary was appointed a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Before his latest appointment, Judge Thapar, 48, served on the District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

His appointment was confirmed last week by the Senate 52-44 in a vote on party lines.

The son of Indian- American immigrants, Thapar was the nation’s first Article III Judge of South Asian descent.

Before his career on Federal Bench, Thapar has served as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky and as an Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio and the District of Columbia.

President Trump nominated 10 judges to lower courts, including Thapar, who is Trump’s first judicial nominee to be confirmed by the Senate, apart from Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Thapar began his legal career in private practice, after clerkships with two district judges.

He received his BS from Boston College in 1991 and JD from the University of California, Berkeley. Thapar is also the member of the South Asian Bar Association of North America’s (SABA) National Advisory Council. SABA awarded him its Pioneer Award in 2010.

Besides this, Thapar also taught at the University of Virginia School of Law, Vanderbilt Law School and Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law.

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యూ ఎస్ కాంగ్రెస్ కు ఎన్నికైన భారతీయ అమెరికన్లు

  • ఈ సారి రికార్డ్ సంఖ్యలో ఎన్నిక
  • అభినందనలు తెలిపిన ఐ ఎ ఎఫ్ సి

అమెరికా రాజకీయచరిత్రలోనే మొదటిసారిగా ఈసారి రికార్డ్ సంఖ్యలో భారతీయ-అమెరికన్లు యూ ఎస్ కాంగ్రెస్ కు ఎన్నికయ్యారు. ఇందుకు మేము ఎంతో థ్రిల్ అవుతున్నామని ఇండియన్ అమెరికన్ ఫ్రెండ్ షిప్ కౌన్సిల్ (ఐ ఎ ఎఫ్ సి)అధ్యక్షుడు డా. ప్రసాద్ తోటకూర అన్నారు. ఎన్నికైన అందరికీ తమ హృదయపూర్వక అభినందనలు తెలియజేస్తున్నామన్నారు.

“ఎలాంటి లాభాపేక్ష లేకుండా పనిచేసే ఐ ఎ ఎఫ్ సి, ద్వైపాక్షిక పద్ధతిలో యూఎస్ విధాన నిర్ణేతలకు మద్దతు ఇస్తూ వారితో కలసి పని చేస్తోంది. భారత్-అమెరికా సంబంధాలను బలోపేతం చేయడానికి యూ ఎస్ రాజకీయ నాయకులతో దశాబ్దాలుగా కలసి పనిచేస్తున్న సంస్థగా ఐ ఎ ఎఫ్ సి సుపరిచితం. యూ ఎస్ ఎన్నికలలో పోటీ చేసే భారతీయ-అమెరికన్లను వారి రాజకీయ అనుబంధాలతో నిమిత్తం లేకుండా ఐ ఎ ఎఫ్ సి ప్రోత్సహిస్తోంది. 2017లో ఈ సంస్థ తన రజతోత్సవాలను నిర్వహించుకుంటోంది” అని ఆయన తెలిపారు.

2016 నవంబర్ 8న ఎన్నికైన భారతీయ-అమెరికన్ల గురించి సంక్షిప్తంగా…

రాజా కృష్ణమూర్తి(43): న్యూ ఢిల్లీలో జన్మించారు. ప్రిన్స్ టన్ యూనివర్సిటీ, హార్వర్డ్ లా స్కూల్ లలో గ్రాడ్యుయేట్ అయ్యారు. శివనాథన్ లేబరేటరీస్ అండ్ ఎపిసోలార్ ఇంక్,. కు అధ్యక్షుడుగా ఉన్నారు. ఇలినాయిలోని 8వ యూఎస్ కాంగ్రెషనల్ డిస్ట్రిక్ట్ నుంచి డెమోక్రటిక్ అభ్యర్థిగా పోటీ చేసి తమ ప్రత్యర్థిపై 58 శాతం ఆధిక్యతతో మొదటిసారి ఎన్నికయ్యారు.

ప్రమీలా జయపాల్(51): చెన్నైలో జన్మించారు. నార్త్ వెస్టర్న్ యూనివర్సిటీలో గ్రాడ్యుయేట్ అయ్యారు. ఫైనాన్షియల్ ఎనలిస్ట్ గా ఉన్నారు. వాషింగ్టన్ లోని 7వ యూ ఎస్ కాంగ్రెషనల్ డిస్ట్రిక్ట్ నుంచి డెమోక్రటిక్ అభ్యర్థిగా పోటీ చేసి తన ప్రత్యర్థిపై 57 శాతం ఆధిక్యతతో మొదటిసారి ఎన్నికయ్యారు.

రో ఖన్నా(40): ఫిలడెల్ఫియా, పెన్సిల్వేనియాలో జన్మించారు. యేల్ లా స్కూలునుంచి గ్రాడ్యుయేట్ అయ్యారు. న్యాయవాదిగా ఉన్నారు. కాలిఫోర్నియాలోని 17వ యూఎస్ కాంగ్రెషనల్ డిస్ట్రిక్ట్ నుంచి డెమోక్రటిక్ అభ్యర్థిగా పోటీ చేసి తన ప్రత్యర్థిపై 60 శాతం ఆధిక్యతతో మొదటిసారి ఎన్నికయ్యారు.

డా. అమీ బెరా(53): లాస్ ఏంజలిస్, కాలిఫోర్నియాలో జన్మించారు. యూనివర్సిటీ ఆఫ్ కాలిఫోర్నియా, ఇర్వైన్ లలో గ్రాడ్యుయేట్ అయ్యారు. వృత్తి రీత్యా ఫిజీషియన్. కాలిఫోర్నియా 7వ యూఎస్ కాంగ్రెషనల్ డిస్ట్రిక్ట్ నుంచి డెమోక్రటిక్ అభ్యర్థిగా పోటీ చేసి తన ప్రత్యర్థి పై 51 శాతం ఆధిక్యతతో మూడవ సారి ఎన్నికయ్యారు.

తుల్సి గబ్బర్డ్: లెలొవలోవా, అమెరికన్ సమోవా లొ జన్మించారు. హవాలి పసిఫిక్ యూనివర్సిటీలో గ్రాడ్యుయేట్ అయ్యారు. మాజీ యూ ఎస్ ఆర్మీ మేజర్. హవాలి 2వ యూఎస్ కాంగ్రెషనల్ డిస్ట్రిక్ట్ నుంచి డెమోక్రటిక్ అభ్యర్థిగా పోటీ చేసి తన ప్రత్యర్థిపై 81 శాతం ఆధిక్యతతో మూడవసారి ఎన్నికయ్యారు. భారతీయ వారసత్వం లేకపోయినా తుల్సి యూఎస్ కాంగ్రెస్ లో మొదటి హిందూ సభ్యురాలు.

కమలా హారిస్(52): ఓక్ లాండ్, కాలిఫోర్నియాలో జన్మించారు. యూనివర్సిటీ ఆఫ్ కాలిఫోర్నియాలో గ్రాడ్యుయేట్ అయ్యారు. ప్రస్తుతం కాలిఫోర్నియా స్టేట్ అటార్నీ జనరల్ గా ఉన్నారు. కాలిఫోర్నియా సెనేటర్ గా పోటీచేసి తన ప్రత్యర్థిపై 63 శాతం ఆధిక్యతతో మొదటిసారి ఎన్నికయ్యారు. కమల తల్లి డా. శ్యామలా గోపాలన్ చెన్నైకి చెందినవారు. బ్రెస్ట్ క్యాన్సర్ స్పెషలిస్టు. కమల తండ్రి డొనాల్డ్ హారిస్ జమైకన్-అమెరికన్. స్టాన్ ఫర్డ్ యూనివర్సిటీలో ఏకనామిక్స్ ప్రొఫెసర్.

ఎన్నికైన వీరందరికీ ఐ ఎ ఎఫ్ సి తన పూర్తి మద్దతును తెలుపుతోందని ప్రసాద్ తోటకూర అన్నారు.

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IAFC congratulates elected Indian Americans

Dallas:  The President of Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC), a national non-profit organization, Dr Prasad Thotakura, has congratulated Indian Americans who got elected in the elections. A record number of six persons of Indian origin – five to the House of Representatives and one to the Senate –have been elected.     

Prasad said in a press release: “We are thrilled to see a record breaking number of Indian Americans got elected for the first time in the US political history — Mr. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Mrs. Pramila Jayapal, Mr. Ro Khanna, Dr. Ami Bera, Mrs. Tulsi Gabbard and Mrs. Kamala Harris. We have extended our heartfelt congratulations personally to all the elected officials after their victory.”

IAFC supports and works with the US policy makers on a bipartisan basis and is well known for its efforts in working with US politicians in establishing better and stronger Indo-US relations for several decades. IAFC, which is celebrating its Silver Jubilee in 2017, encourages Indian Americans who contest in US elections irrespective of their party affiliations.

Here is the brief profile of Indian American elected officials on November 8, 2016:

Raja Krishnamoorthi, 43, born in New Delhi, graduated from Princeton University & Harvard Law School; President of Sivananthan Laboratories and Episolar Inc., who contested from Illinois’s 8th US Congressional District, got elected for the first time as member of US Congress as a Democrat with 58% majority over his opponent.

Pramila Jayapal, 51, born in Chennai,  graduated from Northwestern University; Financial Analyst, contested from Washington’s 7th US Congressional District, got elected for the first time as member of US Congress as a Democrat with 57% majority over her opponent.

Ro Khanna, 40, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, graduated from Yale Law School, Lawyer by profession, contested from California’s 17th US Congressional District, got elected for the first time as member of US Congress as a Democrat with 60% majority over his opponent.

Dr. Ami Bera, 51, born in Los Angeles, California, US, graduated from University of California, Irvine and Physician by profession, contested from California’s 7th US Congressional District, got elected for the third time as member of US Congress as a Democrat with 51% majority over his opponent.

Tulsi Gabbard, 35, born in Leloaloa, American Samoa, U.S, graduated from Hawaii Pacific University. Former US Army Major, contested from Hawaii’s 2nd US Congressional District, got elected for the third time as member of US Congress as a Democrat with 81% majority over her opponent. Even though Tulsi is not of Indian heritage, she is the first Hindu member of the United States Congress.

Kamala Harris, 52, born in Oakland, California, US, graduated from University of California, current Attorney General of California State, contested as Senator of California got elected for the first time with 63% majority over her opponent.

Kamala is the daughter of an Indian-American mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer specialist, who immigrated from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and a Jamaican American father, Donald Harris, a Stanford University Economics professor.

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NaMo moment in Dubai

S Madhusudhana Rao

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to a mammoth crowd of over 50,000 Indian expatriates at Dubai Cricket Stadium on Monday was described as a repeat of New York’s Madison Square Garden event last year when the PM wowed a similar number of Indian-Americans.

modi dubai-18

Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, presenting a Hindi translation of his book to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In fact, the number of Indian expats present at Dubai meet to hear Modi was a fraction of the total Indian expat population working/living in the United Arab Emirates. Had the organizers found a bigger venue than the limited capacity cricket stadium, it would have been a record of sorts for Modi meetings overseas. With extra seats provided inside and outside of the stadium, the organizers had restricted the entry through a strict registration process.

For most of the Indian expats – 30 per cent of the UAE’s total population of 9.2 million – it is their second home. For many, the seven Emirates that constitute the UAE, the Gulf country is first home because they have been living and working or doing business for generations. Though there is no concept of granting citizenship to expatriates, they feel at home because of liberal socio-economic policies of the UAE in general and Dubai in particular.

So, when Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Abu Dhabi-Dubai in 34 years, his visit could be termed historic in many ways. The last visit an Indian PM made to the Emirates was in 1981 by Indira Gandhi. Since the 1980s, the Emirates has progressed phenomenally and the two chief architects of the federation – Dubai Ruler Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Abu Dhabi Ruler Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – and Rulers of other Sheikhdoms had given way to young, progressive and western-educated royal scions.

In other words, the current leadership has a better understanding of geo-political situation and the UAE’s strategic importance in the Arabian Gulf region. Despite Modi’s surprise visit –it was announced just about a week back – on August 16 and 17, the UAE leadership went out of its way to accord him an unprecedented welcome and attached great importance to his visit.

As usual, Modi proved to be an instant hit with the royalty and the laity, thanks to his judicious use of selfie diplomacy. His visit to the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, the third biggest in the world, raked up a controversy and triggered needless nitpicking back home. But it was a PR exercise that impressed the Islamic country with a healthy dose of tolerance for other religions. Moreover, the tour of the mosque, which is also an architectural wonder, must have sent a message to those who harp on Modi for his Hindutva credentials.

Similarly, his visit to zero-carbon futuristic city of Masdar on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi was yet another proof that he was ready to embrace new technologies and in the coming days, we need not surprise if he adopts some of the cutting-edge knowledge projects being developed at Masdar and seek Indian partnership in them there.

However, the icing on the cake was the Dubai event. A majority of Indian expats work in and around the most modern metropolis in the Middle East. It’s a magnet that attracts skilled and unskilled manpower and billions in investment from around the globe. It’s a mini India as well as a mini world. Its commercial importance could be gauged from the fact that most of the business is in the hands of Indian expats. Those who have gone there and prospered in hospitality, education, health, import-export trade, industry, realty and retail sectors are legendary.

smr

S Madhusudhana Rao

With $60 billion trade turnover in 2014-15, India is the second largest trading partner for the UAE and for India it ranks third after China and the US. While 45,000 Indian companies operate in the seven Emirates, UAE companies have their presence in Indian real estate, energy, ports, and other sectors. More importantly, the number of flights between the UAE and India –a staggering 950 per week – shows how closely the two countries are air-linked and connected by traditional relations. At the same time, expat remittances from the UAE to India, estimated to be between $12-15 billion in 2014, were a source of foreign exchange for the government while they help improve the economic conditions of families of lakhs of Indian migrant workers back home.

Considering these facts, why closer ties with the Arab Gulf countries in general and the UAE in particular have been relegated to the backburner by India? Until the NDA government came to power, Indian foreign policy had been West-centric. First, the US followed by Russia and others and then the balancing act to give our non-aligned status a veneer of uprightness.

With Look East policy, there is a tectonic shift in India’s foreign relations but the volatile Middle East has been largely left out despite the fact the Gulf countries have the mass of Indian workforce which is instrumental in the region’s economic and infra development.

The Indian government’s standoffishness has only helped Pakistan to fill the space, invoking brotherly ties. Incidents like Babri demolition and communal riots had also helped Pakistan to stoke anti-India feelings in the  Gulf country. Until recently, these were very strong and now the perceptions are changing with Pakistan emerging as the hotbed of militancy. The Gulf region itself is facing threats from Islamic militants and terrorist groups. The raging wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq and the spread of Islamic State have serious security problems for oil-rich Sheikhdoms. In such a scenario, the UAE seeking strategic partnership with India to fight terrorism is a significant and important development for India.

UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has summed up what his country is looking up to during Modi’s visit in an article published in local press.

He wrote: “From a foreign policy and regional security perspective, the UAE has placed India at the forefront of its international partnerships and recognises the importance of broadening a comprehensive dialogue with India that deepens and diversifies our areas of engagement. There are particularly strong opportunities for UAE-India security cooperation in combating terrorism, which both our governments condemn in the strongest terms in all its forms and manifestations, as well as in the maritime domain.

“The UAE feels strongly about the need to counter extremism and incitement to violence, and has recently passed legislation that bans hate speech and the promotion of violence. India shares our concerns over the rise of extremism. The barbaric ideology that extremists embrace threatens values that the UAE and India hold dear, and both our countries have a mutual desire to see the region and the entire world free of the scourge of extremism.”

The article seems to be a catalyst for Modi’s full-throttled lambast at terrorism in his one-hour Dubai speech. From good Taliban, bad Taliban to good terrorism and bad terrorism, Modi took a dig at Pakistan. This was the first time that a foreign leader has hit out at Pakistan, which considers itself close to the UAE and other Gulf States and assiduously cultivates them, on the Emirates’ soil. In a way, it’s a strategic move to convey the message in unambiguous terms. Earlier, the UAE had never allowed anyone to directly or indirectly criticize Pakistan from within the country. Thus Modi’s reference to terrorism and militancy shows the UAE has come on to India’s page to tackle the terrorism menace.

The understanding or the strategic relationship for which the foundation was laid has some other benefits for India. For a long time, Dubai is known to harbor elements that are inimical to India’s interests. It also has been a transit point for Pak-trained Jihadists to sneak into India through Bangladesh. Criminals wanted in India find Dubai a safe place or use it as a springboard to move out. A case in point was Dawood Ibrahim. The new partnership will help Delhi to ferret out ‘rats’ from the UAE.

Besides elevation in UAE-India relations, Modi’s trip would be remembered by expats for the Abu Dhabi government’s munificent gesture: Land for a temple, a long-standing demand of Hindu community. And, the Prime Minister’s announcements of a welfare fund, a portal to address expats’ grievances and other problems were music to their ears.

On the economic front, the UAE has agreed to invest $75 billion in India’s development and open more avenues for Indian companies to take part in the Emirates’ growth. Modi’s statement that India’s investment potential is more than a trillion dollars should enthuse potential Emirati investors. But they will also be wary of our notorious red-tape and bureaucracy, the two demons that spoil the party.

Modi has done well, but the momentum he has given to Indo-UAE ties has to be maintained in the coming years to tap the huge investment the Emirates has offered. Otherwise, it becomes another wasted opportunity to cash in on goodwill generated by Indian expats in the UAE.

(The writer has worked over two decades with Dubai-based Khaleej Times)

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