Visible united Hindus in the Twin Cities and other U.S. communities

The author narrates, how an ancient iconic Hindu cultural tradition of Raksha Bandhan has been celebrated in many cities as a civic community event

The author narrates, how an ancient iconic Hindu cultural tradition of Raksha Bandhan has been celebrated in many cities as a civic community event
The author narrates, how an ancient iconic Hindu cultural tradition of Raksha Bandhan has been celebrated in many cities as a civic community event

Hindu communities in US finally making a visible mark

Hindu immigrants in the United States are finally making a visible mark and becoming active in the larger communities they call home. The never before the proclamation of October as Hindu Heritage Month (HHM) across the U.S. has galvanized Hindus in various ways and given Hindus the long-overdue recognition for their accomplishments[1]. This article is about how an ancient iconic Hindu cultural tradition of Raksha Bandhan has been celebrated in many cities as a civic community event.

We start with the community where I live; the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, home to about 15,000 Hindu families (Hindu being inclusive for non-Abrahamic faith believers). I had the privilege of participating in an awesome event on October 22 with a group of local Hindus celebrating their heritage with the Minneapolis police department (MPD). It is worth noting that Minnesota Governor Walz had proclaimed October as HHM which was read by State Senator Hoffman during the Diwali celebration. Hoffman attended the cultural functions including Ram Leela and other traditional dances at the magnificent and largest Hindu Temple[2].

Hindus attending MPD event had an affiliation with or believed in the tenets of, organizations like Hindu compact, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), and/ or Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. One common motivating factor for them was to raise awareness and elevate the image of Hindu culture, traditions, history, and heritage with MPD. This event with MPD is of particular significance because of the turbulent turn of events in Minneapolis in a recent couple of years (more later).

Among many MPD officials in the event, Lieutenant Nelson expressed her appreciation for the event in one word, “ginormous.” She was pleased that the meet and greet was a celebration of ‘cops and community,’ and a culturally meaningful coming together of local Hindus with MPD.

The outreach event was meant to offer gratitude to MPD for protecting and maintaining the law and order in our neighborhoods. Hindu community wanted to honor the police for their extraordinary commitment to the greater good. The cops were served delicious Indian meals and the room was buzzing with conversations about food, cultural practices, their favorite Indian dish, and restaurants. Most cops I spoke with have had Indian food before but never before in a community setting like this one.

The cultural part included tying the traditional “sacred and decorative” thread Rakhi (symbolizing protection), in the right wrist of the willing cops. At home, the sister ties Rakhi to her brother on a full moon day (generally in August) as her way of expressing special love and care and wishing him long life. The brother, in turn, offers a bond and commitment to his sister for lifelong protection against all evils. Hindus in the Twin Cities and many other cities celebrated Rakhi in the spirit of a much broader significance to reaffirm mutual respect, goodwill, building stronger communities, and a sense of protection. Incidentally, the event with MPD was just a couple of days beyond Sharad Purnima, the special full moon day for Hindus.

When asked about the event, four MPD officers said that they were thrilled. They characterized it as ‘beautiful,’ ‘delighted to be adopted,’ ‘happy to be treated like normal people,’ and. ‘beautiful people to meet and talk.’ They appreciated the respect accorded to them and the glimpse of Hindu culture which they had hardly known. Some of them were meeting and talking with a Hindu Indian one-on-one for the first time.

The organizers were pleased with the participation of MPD cops and their friendly overtures. The feeling of being respected and getting to know was mutual. Similar celebrations elsewhere were done under the aegis of HSS. Reportedly, HSS celebrated Raksha Bandhan as a “Universal Oneness Day” in 22 States[3]. They reached out to first responders, community leaders, and elected officials – state representatives, mayors, governors, US Senators, and Congresspersons — tying Rakhi, extending greetings, and highlighting the importance of civic responsibility and universal acceptance.

Understandably, the civic leaders should be pleased with the Rakhi celebration as a sign of positive community building. However, the Hinduphobic vultures are constantly watching to undo Hindu goodness, deeds, and good Karmas. They can’t stand Hindu’s professional accomplishments and the positive nature of Hindu traditions and Dharma. They are perhaps jealous of HHM and hundreds of celebrations by united Hindus. I hope they begin to realize that awakened Hindus are a strong show of strength against them for simply taking peaceful and tolerant Hindus for granted. Hindus know when they must rise if attacked or vilified.

I am aware of two recent examples [Troy City Hall (Michigan) and Irving Police Department (Texas)] where Hindus had celebrated Rakhi. There, the Hindu-hating community hired Pieter Friedrich to spit venom against Hindus and Hinduism. Friedrich, a self-proclaimed journalist, and activist of convenience with a checkered history enjoys notoriety among Hindu haters. I need to say no more about his well-documented Hinduphobic and xenophobic character; reportedly he is a “Christian zealot” groomed as a “Khalistani asset.[4]” I understand, he is readily available for hire to speak in an animated style. Friedrich proudly associates himself with many anti-Hindu, anti-India, and anti-Modi organizations leaving little doubt about his credibility[5].

I wrote to Troy and Irving officials to express appreciation for hosting Hindu groups as a gesture of goodwill and community building. I made the point that the City Halls or the Police Departments are not the venue for discussing India’s politics and policies and the duly elected Prime Minister Modi. The State Department is the appropriate place with diplomatic know-how and resources. The Mayor of Troy acknowledged,“ it is insightful and well received. We are hopeful that the rhetoric inside City Hall will not continue at this point.” Likewise, Irving Chief wrote, “The Irving Police Department has and will continue to be an organization which values the rights of ALL people. We will treat ALL people with dignity and respect.” Minnesota was wiser in organizing the event under the HHM banner and not HSS for undue politicization by Hindu hating groups.

Let me return to the greater Twin Cities and MPD. The city of Saint Paul, the capital of Minnesota, has an uncanny history with a doomsday for democracy for passing the anti-CAA resolution, one of the seven cities[6]. The other six include Albany (NY), Cambridge (MA), Hamtramck (MI), Milwaukee (WI), San Francisco (CA), and Seattle (WA). The meet and greet with MPD in the neighboring Minneapolis, the largest city in Minnesota, we hope, ushers in greater camaraderie between the Hindu community and the broader American community.

How ironic it is for MPD to have been in the spiraling turbulence and negative news cycle since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. First, the video of a White MPD officer, Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck, made by Darnella Frazier went viral. Then, the media blitz of Chauvin’s conviction left the entire MPD demoralized. Next, a campaign by anti-MPD activists for defunding MPD and success having it on the ballot for the referendum in November. If that was not enough, another MPD officer, on the day of meet and greet, was charged in connection with a crash in July killing Leneal Frazier, the uncle of Darnella Frazier[7][8][9]. Floyd’s tragic death appears to have come full circle leaving MPD not only in moral decline but also the officers being fearful of job loss if the defunding gets approved. This fear has led to MPD officers already leaving, making MPD understaffed, and thus Minneapolis residents being more vulnerable. What an unfortunate turn of events and stressful circumstances for MPD?

Personally, I came away convinced that not everything we read or hear about MPD, and police in general, is factual. The cops get a bad reputation for difficult situations and criminals they have to deal with but they are normal beings like us. For MPD, such celebrations between the cop and community are socially significant and uplifting. In these turbulent times, the least we hope is that the meet and greet with MPD will generate mutual respect and trust in the months ahead. If MPD officers were stressed because of the continuing turmoil, to their credit, none showed any signs. As stated earlier, Nelson’s descriptor of the event as “ginormous” was spontaneous and I credit her for an added new word to my vocabulary.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] “Never Before” firsts: Hindu Heritage MonthOct 14, 2021, PGurus.com

[2] Hindu Society of Minnesota – Hindu Temple Minnesota

[3] HSS USA Celebrated Universal Oneness Day with the US Officials NationwideSep 10, 2021, Yahoo

[4] The complete story: How a Christian zealot was groomed as a Khalistani asset, a spider whose web trapped liberals in India and abroadFeb 19, 2021, OpIndia

[5] Eight South Asian Groups Write Letter Supporting Pieter Friedrich’s Hindutva ResearchOct 10, 2020, Counter Currents

[6] A doomsday for Democracy in Saint Paul, MNMay 26, 2020, PGurus.com

[7] Minneapolis police officer charged in July crash that killed Leneal FrazierOct 22, 2021, KSTP

[8] Family remembers Leneal Frazier, man killed after Minneapolis squad car crashed into himJul 07, 2021, KSTP

[9] Darnella Frazier: Man killed in crash involving MPD car is my uncleJul 06, 2021, KSTP

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Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic
administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.
Vijendra Agarwal

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