The inauguration of the Trump Presidency has triggered off a rash of reactions inside India. Most of them are hostile to the businessman-turned-politician. Given the spate of xenophobic episodes following his victory, it isn’t too difficult to discern the nature of such criticism. Some commentators, however, have come out with weird observations. Most of them happen to be members of the Hindu right wing, including organizations which comprise and support the ruling dispensation at the Centre (led by the Bharatiya Janata Party).
One such gentleman is Tapan Ghosh, President of Hindu Samhati, a little known outfit. Supportive of Trump’s hostile policies towards immigrants, Ghosh (like many of his ilk) has absolved the American government of the responsibility of safeguarding the life and property of non-white citizens and migrants. He has, instead called upon Hindus residing in the US to don tilaks and bindis to distinguish themselves from Muslims (who in his eyes are the reason for xenophobic attacks on non-whites). This is a clear indication of the complete lack of historical and political awareness of the Hindu Right.
They seem to be completely oblivious to the troublesome past of white American supremacists. To be precise, of a group known as the Dotbusters – a hate group based in Jersey City, New Jersey that targeted South Asians between 1987 and 1993. And the object of their ire were Hindus, not Muslims. The nomenclature was inspired by the South Asian practice of wearing bindis and tilaks, a very Hindu custom. Dotbusters had a field day during those six years, attacking young and old, men and women, burgling homes, damaging cars, ransacking shrines and vandalizing shops. So bold were they that even issued an open threat in The Jersey Journal (in July, 1987). Reproduced below are the contents:
“I’m writing about your article during July about the abuse of Indian People. Well I’m here to state the other side. I hate them, if you had to live near them you would also. We are an organization called the Dotbusters. We have been around for 2 years. We will go to any extreme to get Indians to move out of Jersey City. If I’m walking down the street and I see a Hindu and the setting is right, I will hit him or her. We plan some of our most extreme attacks such as breaking windows, breaking car windows, and crashing family parties. We use the phone books and look up the name Patel. Have you seen how many of them there are? Do you even live in Jersey City? Do you walk down Central Avenue and experience what it’s like to be near them: we have and we just don’t want it anymore. You said that they will have to start protecting themselves because the police cannot always be there. They will never do anything. They are a weak [sic] race physically and mentally. We are going to continue our way. We will never be stopped.”
These were no empty threats. Exposing the grotesque logic of hostility for Islam being the cause for attacks on non-Muslim South Asians (as parroted by the Hindu Right in India), the Dotbusters mistook non-Hindus for Hindus (most probably on the basis of looks). One particularly grievous example was Navroze Mody, a Parsi man who was beaten to death. According to witnesses, some of the attackers shouted “Hindu, Hindu” as they assaulted him. Mody, a 30 years old Citicorp manager died in a hospital of head injuries, three days later on 27th September, 1987. His anguished father, Jamshid Mody, brought charges against the city and police force of Hoboken, New Jersey but his plea to treat the case as one of hate crime was turned down. Wonder what Mr. Tapan Ghosh would make of it?
Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons shows bindis (decorative lac patches associated with Hindu women). It is based on an illustration from the ethnographic works published by Robert Vane Russell, a British civil servant (1873-1915). The ‘dots’ spoken of by the Dotbusters were these very bindis.