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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