Rep. Ro Khanna talks growing Hindu nationalism and visa wait times as he prepares to helm India Caucus


Rep. Ro Khanna might be a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian People, he mentioned in an unique interview final week. Khanna, a Democrat who has been representing California’s seventeenth Congressional District since 2017, will co-chair the caucus with Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla.

“After I began on this journey, in my 20s, there was an enormous novelty to having somebody of Indian origin even enter politics,” he mentioned. “The Indian American diaspora can play such an vital function in serving to strengthen the U.S.-India partnership. … I believe this can be a historic second for our neighborhood. I believe we’re actually rising and coming into our personal as a robust voice.”

The caucus, which was established in 1993 to strengthen relations between the U.S. and India, was beforehand chaired by Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and former Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

Khanna mentioned he hopes to take the caucus past its authentic aim. The Indian diaspora within the U.S. has its personal distinctive wants, he mentioned, and the place may very well be a chance to convey them to the forefront. 

“I’m going to strive to make it about not simply us India, but additionally the Indian American neighborhood and highlighting the contributions of that neighborhood,” he mentioned. “I believe being Indian America and being a part of the neighborhood, understanding so most of the neighborhood leaders, understanding the passions and pursuits of younger folks, I’ll give you the chance to do this.”

Khanna mentioned that, having spent a lot of his profession in Northern California’s Silicon Valley, he has been immersed in Indian American points for years. The rising tide of Hindu nationalism is on the forefront of the diaspora’s collective consciousness; from skilled spheres to school campuses, studies of Islamophobia and casteism abound in South Asian areas. 

Khanna hasn’t shied away from such conversations, and his vocalness has sparked outrage from right-wing Indian People. In 2019, 230 Hindu and Indian American entities wrote letter criticizing Khanna for denouncing Hindu nationalism (additionally recognized as Hindutva) and for advocating spiritual equality on the subcontinent. 

“It’s the responsibility of each American politician of Hindu religion to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and converse for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians,” Khanna tweeted on the time. 

In addition they criticized Khanna for becoming a member of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and for talking out towards Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revoking the state of Kashmir’s autonomy. 

“After all, we’ve to fulfill the strategic partnership and we’ve to respect the democratically elected management in India,” Khanna instructed NBC Information. “I’ll work to strengthen that whereas additionally upholding these human rights values.”

As pandemic aftereffects proceed to impression communities within the U.S. and India, backlogs for inexperienced playing cards and vacationer visas have grown to span years. Khanna hopes with the caucus, he will help alleviate that. 

“We’re making an attempt to work out, how will we allocate the sources to deal with this difficulty?” he mentioned. “However this can be a high precedence for us.” 

Indian youngsters who got here to the U.S. with work visa-holding mother and father are starting to face immigration problems with their very own. As they develop up and age out of protection beneath their mother and father visas, many are left with no clear path to citizenship. Indian American-run organizations like Enhance the Dream have spent the previous couple of years lobbying the federal authorities to move laws correcting that. 

“These children of H1B are just like the Dreamers,” Khanna mentioned. “You’ve gotten children who got here right here once they had been 2 or 3. They don’t have citizenship. … Regardless that they’ve grown up their complete life right here, they’re in a weak place.”

With each Republican and Democratic representatives serving on the India Caucus, together with Khanna’s co-chair Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., Khanna is aiming to mobilize bipartisan help for safeguarding younger adults who discover themselves on this place. 

Khanna held a city corridor on Saturday, bringing consciousness to Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ psychological well being within the wake of the lethal shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California. Although the shooters in each instances had been Asian males, Khanna mentioned they amplified a mounting worry of merely current in neighborhood areas as soon as thought-about secure.

With quite a few high-profile acts of violence towards Asians in the previous couple of years, neighborhood members are feeling extra “distant” from America than ever, he mentioned. 

“We had a lot outreach to our workplace from constituents…folks afraid, involved, anxious about being Asian American in the USA,” he mentioned. “These shootings, although the perpetrator was Asian American, I believe they triggered for therefore many in our neighborhood a way of vulnerability.”

Khanna says taking up this higher function within the India Caucus feels just like the end result of generations of labor within the public sphere. His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar spent his life preventing for India’s independence from British rule, even spending a couple of years in jail for the trigger. Vidyalankar grew to become a member of India’s first Parliament after independence in 1947. 

Growing up with this information has formed Khanna’s sturdy beliefs in equality and spiritual freedom, he mentioned, one thing he hopes to convey with him whereas chairing the caucus. 

“Due to my grandfather, I used to be influenced by Gandhi’s pondering, by Nehru’s lovely speeches about liberal democracy, about pluralism,” he mentioned. “These are the values I champion. … I’ve spoken out the place I believe these values are being challenged.” 

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