August 25, 2023


Child of India's Independence: Raju Rajagopal

Hosted by

Pieter Friedrich
Child of India's Independence: Raju Rajagopal
Dialoguing on South Asia (DOSA)
Child of India's Independence: Raju Rajagopal

Aug 25 2023 | 01:14:33


Show Notes

With Raju Rajagopal, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights. Discussing his passion for humanitarian causes, his 20+ years in advocacy work (including helping to get Narendra Modi's US visa ban in 2005), his childhood influences in Bangalore, Karnataka, and more.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Dialoguing on South Asia, we explore the lives of its people, hear their stories and the histories of the black discover its beauty and encounter, its conflicts, complexities, and harmonies in a search for liberty, peace and prosperity. Interacting with leaders, activists, academics, and common folk from the South Asian sphere about their work and their passions, their dreams and their life journeys, their immigrant experiences, advocacy efforts, religion, politics, and so much more. With this, your host, journalist and author, Peter Friedrich, hand in hand. We meet and stand with South Asia. This is Doza. Welcome to the show, Mr. Roger Rajagopal. And good morning to you. How, how are you doing today? Speaker 2 00:00:50 I'm doing great, Peter. Thanks for having me. Speaker 0 00:00:53 Thank you for, thank you for coming, and I'm looking forward to some dialogue with you, seeing where the conversation unfolds and, uh, I hope, uh, it's What about 11:00 AM where you're at right now, isn't it? Speaker 2 00:01:06 Yeah, it's 1103. Yeah, Speaker 0 00:01:07 It's 1103. I'm, I'm here. It's, uh, about 2:00 PM where I'm at. And I'm actually, uh, deep into problem is my second or my third cup of coffee. I don't know about you. Are you a coffee guy or a chai guy? Speaker 2 00:01:21 Well, I'm al I've already finished with my third cup of coffee <laugh>, but with, with <inaudible>, with very little. Speaker 0 00:01:30 I tend to be, tend to be a little bit of a shy and a coffee guy. I start the morning with Hai and then, uh, but my morning doesn't actually really get going until I get onto the coffee. Speaker 2 00:01:40 So how are you, how are you doing after your 10 day fast and have you recovered fully back to the way you are? You are. Speaker 0 00:01:49 I am doing well. Thanks for asking. Although, um, I have to offer a slight correction. It was nine days, not 10 days. Maybe next time I'll go 10. Um, I'm, I'm doing all right. Um, I am starting to feel back to my normal self still working on getting the pounds packed back on. Um, getting back up to speed with full eating took me a while to get back into the routine. Um, and, um, some of my loved ones commented to me that, uh, they heard that for skinning guys, it's actually easier not to eat than it is to eat. Uh, so now the real struggle, the real battle ahead is to actually, uh, put those, put those meals in front of me, and then get that energy in me so I can put myself to work. Speaker 2 00:02:32 Right. Speaker 0 00:02:34 So what's your deal, Raju? Um, you, uh, you, uh, live in California, um, but you're not originally from California, as I understand. And, uh, you, you're a co-founder of this organization called Hines for Human Rights. Uh, but that's, that's a more recent endeavor of yours. Um, you've done a lot of things before that. What's your deal, Roger? Speaker 2 00:02:57 Yeah. Um, yeah, I've been involved in, um, human rights issues, uh, and rural development issues in India for the last 30 years. Um, and, uh, right at the beginning of that career, I was personally exposed to, uh, what happened in RA under Chief Minister Moti, and had a, uh, deeply affected me, uh, as a person who loves democracy, loves India. Uh, so I think I, I should say maybe that was the beginning of my activism or the human rights front. And, uh, Speaker 0 00:03:39 That was back in 2000. Speaker 2 00:03:40 So as I've seen back in 2002, yes. Yes, sir. Uh, I traveled extensively, uh, in Gura at that time, actually, to, to turn the clock back a year. Uh, 2001, uh, was just the beginning of my activism after I had returned from corporate life. And, uh, while we were in India, the earthquake Speaker 0 00:04:06 Stuck. Can I, can I actually, um, to not interrupt you, but, but to interrupt you, can I put a little bit of a pin in that and, and trace back just, uh, before, so you, you had, uh, just recently, 2001, 2002, before all this happened that got you involved in human rights work, you'd retired or were near retirement, uh, from a career as a healthcare professional. Um, and, and, and, and as I, as I asked, um, uh, you came to, you came to, uh, to the us You're not in California, but you came to the US from India, didn't you? You were, you were born in India. Speaker 2 00:04:41 Yes. Uh, was born in India in 1947, just a few weeks after India's independence. So in some ways, uh, the country of India and I are, uh, uh, siblings, very close siblings. Speaker 0 00:04:55 You're a child of India's independence. Speaker 2 00:04:58 I came to this country in 19 69, 68, actually, September 68. Uh, what, what Speaker 0 00:05:05 Canada Speaker 2 00:05:05 To the us Speaker 0 00:05:06 Okay. And to Canada initially. What, what, what brought you to North America? Speaker 2 00:05:11 Uh, what, at that time, uh, trying to get my advanced degree, uh, master's. Uh, very few of us at that time actually contemplated staying back in the US seeking jobs. We were all, we were all coming here at that time to get advanced degrees. And, uh, that was my intent too. Uh, when I came to the us of course, things changed rapidly after that. Speaker 0 00:05:37 So after, after you came to the US and you came, you know, many, many people who was seeking this, this, this, uh, better life, you came for your educational purposes. You got into this career in, in healthcare, and, um, as you were in this career in healthcare, was there, was there anything, uh, in your life, uh, during this time that, uh, uh, proceeded or connected to, to what you're doing now? Uh, was there any kind of a connection between this involvement in the healthcare industry and your passion for what you do today? Speaker 2 00:06:09 Uh, not really. I don't think my profession had much to do with, uh, what I'm doing now. Um, but it's almost as if, uh, some of my childhood ideas about India and about various social issues had stayed with me, and I had kind of deferred them for a few decades. So as soon as I returned, I was very quick to, uh, uh, get back into what I knew was my calling, which is to work on human rights. So it didn't have anything to do with the career as other than the fact that I think the career gave me the freedom, I, I suppose, the financial freedom to, to actually engage full-time in, uh, human rights work. Speaker 0 00:06:52 Well, that's certainly, at least, uh, one of the things one could desire to get from a career is to finance or give you the financial freedom to go after whatever your true passion really is, whatever's really in your heart. What what was that, um, that was in your childhood upbringing, those ideas that you mentioned, uh, uh, about, uh, these ideas from, from your childhood in India that really, um, stuck with you? I mean, you must have been, what, 2025 when you came to North America? Speaker 2 00:07:19 Uh, yeah. Young, younger than that. Uh, 20. Yeah. So about that. Yeah. Okay. Um, yeah, I think things that stick out in my mind about my childhood education are two things. Uh, one, I was schooled in the local language, Canada, in Bangalore, and, uh, those, and I went, Speaker 0 00:07:43 So you, you grew up in Karnataka? Speaker 2 00:07:45 Karnataka, yeah, in Bangalore. Okay. And I went to a school that was very gandian. You know, we had got, just gotten independence, uh, just 10, 15 years before that. And this school was entirely set up on, uh, admiration for Gandhi and Nru. And, uh, so that was the environment of the school. But more importantly, we were also exposed to, uh, some of the progressive Hindu thought, uh, uh, of people like, uh, 12th century Saint Ban, who actually fought even as long ago as 12th Century had fought against the caste system, uh, and rejected Wayde Hinduism, uh, and wrote a series of poem for the Common Man. And he also had organized at that time, uh, a debate society, if you will, debating society, where people from all casts were welcome, very unusual for such a long time ago. And for that he was harassed, uh, intimidated by the local rulers, and his, uh, his disciples were supposedly trampled by elephants as punishment. So that really stuck in my mind, the entire idea of a caste system and the fact that somebody like Botswana had fought against it. So that's one side, Speaker 0 00:09:02 And that's, that's very vivid imagery also, especially as a young, young man, young boy, to have stuck in your head is this idea of this, this progressive, uh, activist working for civil rights and his followers being trampled by elephants simply for standing up for, for human rights. Speaker 2 00:09:21 Yeah, Speaker 0 00:09:21 Absolutely. So that stuck in your mind. Speaker 2 00:09:23 Yeah. That's one side of the story. The other side is, I was exposed in parallel to my childhood friends and neighbors who were staunch Hindu Maha members and Speaker 0 00:09:37 People. And just, just for the record, for those who may not already be in the know that Hindu, Maha Saba was founded, what I believe, early 19 hundreds, is one of the, uh, initial Hindu internationalist movements in, in India. Speaker 2 00:09:49 Right. Uh, Hindu Maba is a predecessor to the today's, uh, r s s Rash and its founder <inaudible>, uh, wrote a lengthy essay called Hindu, which has become, uh, kind of a Bible, so to speak, for the r s s people. Uh, and it's also one of his Hindu MABA members who was, uh, involved in assassinating, uh, Maha Ma Gandhi. So that's a background. So these, uh, people of my age and, uh, class, my classmates actually were heavily involved in the r s s and r s Shockers. Hmm. And in fact, for a short period of time, I too was in an r sss chaka in Bangalore. Speaker 0 00:10:32 This is actually the first I've heard of this, JE Whitney, at your young age, you were involved in, in an r s s, uh, but chaka, or Shaka is the word Speaker 2 00:10:42 For, for a brief period, no doubt. Because my friend said, uh, had, uh, you know, pressured us to join all of all three brothers. Okay. Uh, but it happened. I moved away from that neighborhood. And, uh, when I joined a new school, I was exposed to the Boy Scouts of America, boy Scouts, basically, of India, uh, which gave me a very different compare and contrast, the, the financial system belief in myths that my friends from the r s s happened to believe in. Uh, and that contrast also helped me kind of ground myself in the idea of universal universalism in, you know, in, in respecting our religions and so forth. So, in a strange way, uh, in a gandian school, exposed to neighbors who are ISTs, and joining the Boy Scouts in that Gandian school all kind of came together to kind of form this imagery in my mind about what India is, should be about, what India is about, pluralism, secularism, respectful of religions. Speaker 2 00:11:50 Uh, and that foundation of r s s stayed with me because we had lot of arguments with this classmate of ours. And to me, it was very clear, this was the late fifties, uh, the fanatics of the r s s, which to this day, uh, their arguments are very, very similar to what I heard from my young friend, <laugh> that long ago. So that, that was kind of a, so this is what I meant by, this is all in my mind, but I had to defer any action or activity on that through my formative, you know, career and marriage and family. And then, Speaker 0 00:12:29 And of course, through, through an immigration journey, which immigration, which is one of the hardest things that anybody in this world can go through as far as, uh, upheaval in your personal life and getting reestablished in a, in a new country, new culture. And, uh, certainly, certainly, uh, a major challenge in and of its own. Speaker 2 00:12:50 And in addition to being exposed to, directly exposed to racism in this country, which I did in Detroit. Yeah. So all of that, Speaker 0 00:12:57 Especially coming over into this country and, and what the, the sixties, seventies, it Speaker 2 00:13:02 Was 69, 69 seventies when I was there in, uh, Detroit and in, uh, Windsor Canada, where, uh, I felt very, very, uh, discriminated against because of the color of my skin. So that also stayed with me. Uh, but anyway, as I said, uh, the time to act upon all of these beliefs came in nine, in 2002. Speaker 0 00:13:27 So, yeah, I can, I can imagine, especially coming over at that time in, even in Canada, uh, especially, perhaps more so in the us, um, that one coming as an Indian, trying to become an Indian American would feel particularly isolated. We, we, we didn't have that kind of like thriving Indian American diaspora presence and culture and pockets that we have today, where you really have a chance to come over and, and, and fit in and, and be, be be, uh, made to be felt, uh, made to feel at home. Um, yeah. And then of course, although we certainly have host of problems today that still need to be dealt with from the perspective of racism in America, issues of especially of white supremacy, of course. Um, thank God, but, and I can only, I can only imagine and, and attempt to empathize. But, but thank God, at least today, like I hope that the situation for people that are coming over from India or anywhere else and trying to, uh, make a better life for themselves here in, in this country and, and become part of our country, uh, find it an easier path in general than it was way back then. Speaker 2 00:14:38 Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes I reflect on that, Peter and I said, uh, we had to fend for ourselves as first generation immigrants. We had to face racism. We went ahead, we went on, made a career. Uh, I sometimes wonder if the current generation of immigrants from India, uh, uh, the path is very easy, but I also sometimes wonder whether the day after they land here, they expect everything to work out for them and all kinds of rights to be guaranteed to them, uh, without realizing that the first generations have had paved the way for them to come here as well as the Civil rights movement. And to come here the very next day and start talking about Hindu phobia sometimes annoys me. But, uh, that's the way it is, <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:15:27 Well, so then, you know, of course, in context of this, this chatter about Hindu phobia, which I know you're oftentimes, despite being a Hindu, despite being a leader in this industry, human rights organization, uh, you oftentimes face this allegation yourself. I, I, I know. And hopefully we can touch on that a little bit, uh, to come, but I know that certainly must feel deeply uncomfortable. Um, but let's, let's talk a little bit about, you know, as you mentioned, uh, even before this 2002, already in 2001, um, you were starting to get involved or pay more attention to what was going on over in India in regards to human rights and, and I guess the internationalist movement. And why was that? And what, what drew your attention there? Speaker 2 00:16:10 Actually, uh, what brought me, um, what brought me to Hindu nationalism was the earthquake. English was in 2001, uh, since we happened to be in India, I was actively pursuing relief and rehabilitation for victims of Gujarat. And, uh, came away with a lot of admiration for the, uh, civil society in Gujarat at that time. And, and exactly a year later, uh, well, maybe slightly longer than a year, 2002, when I went back following the large scale programs against Muslims, I was amazed at the contrast, the same people who, who had come, uh, with all of their heart to help victims of the earthquake who seem to be now, uh, thirsting for, uh, vengeance and blood and so forth, uh, uh, with the programs against Muslims. So that contrast made me aware, there's a huge, huge, deep-seated, deep-seated prejudice against Muslim minorities and Christian minorities that had shown its face in Rab. And I knew that this will not be confined to ard, um, because it had basically succeeded in bringing past history as though it was happening today. In other words, go back to historical Muslim invasions and destruction of temples and so forth, Speaker 0 00:17:38 Reawaken historical grievances, some of which may be legitimate, but from hundreds of years ago in order to justify some kind of, uh, um, uh, spirit of vengeance today. Speaker 2 00:17:49 Exactly. And that, so I knew the potential for that kind of, uh, propaganda to spread to the rest of the country. And that's when I decided to get involved actively working on criminal harmony projects, uh, in the Muslim dialogue, uh, and those kinds of things. So, uh, Speaker 0 00:18:08 That must be, uh, 'cause you saw this 2001, then you saw 2002, and you mentioned the, the same people that were actively working for relief in 2001. Then you saw in 2002, same people involved in, uh, this, uh, March, February, March, uh, 2002 pilgrim, uh, against Muslims. Uh, that must be a very odd dichotomy. Uh, and, and I mean, you know, I was myself as somebody aware of the, um, workings of the internationalist movement, the, uh, organization, uh, structural organization of the Hindu Nationalist groups. That is something that we do see a lot, is we do see, um, many of them do engage in very legitimate and even admirable, um, um, charity or, or, or, or relief work at the same time that they're pushing, uh, this sort of, um, xenophobia or hatred or even violence. What do you think of that? How do you, how do you explain that? Speaker 2 00:19:09 Uh, yeah. First, let me, let me kind of correct the way I put it. Uh, as far as these, uh, significant part of the NGOs that I worked with during earthquake, uh, they were equally appalled at the programms, and they worked on helping the victims. So when I say the same people, I'm talking about in a broad sense, uh, the ti civil society. Speaker 0 00:19:31 Yeah. Not the, not the, not the majority of people offering relief, right? So you have specific segment Speaker 2 00:19:37 And, uh, uh, I mean, take the, take this, uh, take this 2001 earthquake as an example. Uh, we, we didn't make any distinction as to who was getting aid, where the relief supplies would be channeled and all of that. It didn't matter whether they're whom the Hindu or Muslim victims. But what we heard is in, in K R s Ss had R N V H P had kind of a blocked off an area as if it was their own territory to provide relief. And any charitable, any charity, any trucks that came there with supply, they would say, okay, we take it up. We will take it from here. And literally hijack the trucks into their territory. And whoever was Muslim in that area, they would demand that they say rom before they got their supplies. So here is a, here is how you see charity working in parallel with fanatical ideas of forcing Muslims to chant something that they would rather not, uh, and try to exert their superiority. So that, that kind of a parallelism you see now in the US as well, because there is a lot of charity work. They do good work in covid and all of that, but it also comes associated with an ideology of hate. Uh, so it's a consistent thing, and I think it's very well planned, uh, as a larger r s s ideology, sva SVA as a means, as a means to changing the hearts and minds of people, Speaker 0 00:21:14 Save SVA being as idea of service. Yeah. And, you know, but yeah, SVA being a, a a a ideological means of, as you were saying, Speaker 2 00:21:23 Service Yeah, yeah. Speaker 0 00:21:26 Used as a ideological, uh, in, in this specific context by these groups. It's used as an ideological driving force to advance their own causes. Speaker 2 00:21:36 Exactly. Exactly. And, uh, unfortunately in this country, uh, people, since people don't know the flip side of the, that ideology, um, a lot of, a lot of our lawmakers are taken in by all these advances, uh, of, uh, charity and, uh, uh, liaison with, uh, that the Hindu organizations in sist organizations do during various festivals and those kinds of things. So, yeah. Speaker 0 00:22:06 So, well, as they say, it's amazing how much work you can get done if you don't care who gets the credit. But as, as I believe you've seen us, I certainly know I've seen, uh, both in India and, and then here in the US with r ss s uh, or linked to organizations with the R s s itself, um, they, they do a lot of work, uh, on the condition that they get the credit from my perspective. So, but let's talk a little bit more. So this was 2002, and then, um, you, you were already in India in 2001, helping with relief efforts. And then 2002, this pilgrim hits and, and Gujarat, and, and now the chief, or now the Prime Minister of Mo of India, Modi was at the time the chief minister, the head of the state of Gujarat. And he was variously accused of some kind of, uh, involvement in or allowing this pilgrim. Now, along this, along this way, um, you, uh, you know, the pilgrim occurred, all this violence happened, uh, approximately 1000, 2000, uh, Muslims estimated, uh, were killed. But, uh, you ended up after the fact, uh, you, you ended up on the ground in, in Guad, is that correct? Speaker 2 00:23:20 Uh, we were there, see, the programs were in February, March, and we were there in September. And we, being a group of, uh, uh, US-based Indians of all faiths, we went together on a, uh, what we call as a Ana, uh, mission, uh, promoting peace Ana mission. Uh, and, uh, we met with the victims. We met with all kinds of NGOs. We met with politicians. Um, Narin Mohi refused to meet with us. Uh, at that time, we also met in Delhi with the National Human Rights Commission. And the politicians urging them to take, especially the government, uh, the congress governments, uh, congress politicians to take a strong stand against what happened, uh, in Gura. Uh, and unfortunately, uh, uh, their view was <laugh>. I remember one Congress politician telling a Senior Congress politician, uh, telling us, you know, why in the context of Gura and <inaudible>, why go through a surgery when you can cure the problem with an aspirin? Just think about the import import of that, a Congress politician basically saying, it's not such a big deal. Let's not do something drastic with mood pain, Speaker 0 00:24:46 Treating the symptom instead of the disease. Speaker 2 00:24:48 Yeah. Speaker 0 00:24:49 Yeah. Speaker 2 00:24:50 So that is, uh, I'm sure he, this particular gentleman must be thinking about drastic ment today, uh, and what they could have done to stop this, uh, uh, you know, rush to a Hindu rash, to under Modi's rule that's happening today. Speaker 0 00:25:08 Why go through a surgery if you can, if you treat it with an aspirin instead? Now, uh, if that, you were getting that, uh, kind of, uh, mentality, that's sort of response from a senior, uh, opposition politician at the time. Uh, not, they weren't in opposition then they're opposition now, of course. Um, but at the time, um, as, as, um, kind of, uh, outcome of this trip, um, how do you, how do you feel, uh, it went, what do you think was the overall impact of, of this now, uh, whether it was, uh, you know, at the moment, uh, in context of in India, or perhaps even even longer term, because I, as you mentioned, you went there with some, uh, people of multiple multi-faith, uh, group of Indian Americans. Um, I imagine that probably led to the development of, of longer term relationships. Speaker 2 00:25:58 Yeah. Well, I, I would say as far as impact within India, probably minimal, but as far as the impact in the diaspora of us coming together, uh, during that trip and afterwards, has remained with us to the, to the extent that today the very same people who are in that trip, some of the same people are at the forefront of the fight against, uh, more these rule in India. And one of them you're gonna speak to on Friday, um, Speaker 0 00:26:31 Yeah, we'll just name, we'll just name drop him, right? John Johns, Speaker 0 00:26:35 Again, John pr, uh, who's, who's, uh, one of the founders of Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, fona, which, um, again, um, you know, with respect, and I say this a with absolutely with respect, is like yourself, RA an old timer, uh, who's been in this for, for 20 plus years, who's been faithful and, and struggling for, uh, uplifting human rights and upholding human dignity, um, in India. Um, and, uh, that's, uh, certainly, uh, one of the reasons I wanna talk with him. Absolutely. Why I'm so glad to be, be, uh, chatting with you today. Speaker 2 00:27:16 Yeah, yeah. So let me complete my thought on that. The impact, uh, would've been, I think if we had continued with our, uh, with our advocacy, uh, because after coming back from India, I started initiative called Promise of India. Promise of India was simply a pledge to support the Indian democracy, secular democracy, and to speak up. Uh, and it was endorsed by a whole range of people, including the business community here in the Bay Area and elsewhere, uh, endorsed by two former prime ministers of India, one former president of India. So everybody sensed there was a real danger to Indian constitution. Uh, over 250 organizations signed on, signed that Now, that would've been the pathway we would've been on, except for one thing, 20 2004 elections, which ejected the B J P watch by government and brought in sing, suddenly made things look a lot rosier to all of us saying, oh my God, we've already achieved our objective. Speaker 2 00:28:23 This fanatical V J P government has been kicked out, and, uh, sing is in charge. And given his background, I think everything will be fine. So we literally stopped in our tracks, uh, not to, and not do anything except for the visa band that we can talk about in a minute. Uh, so the, the impact of that, uh, trip that we had was more to do with the fact that, uh, uh, group of us have kept in touch and continue to advocate for peace and pluralism in India. But I don't think it had much of an impact in India. So Speaker 0 00:29:03 That's one of the amazing things about, uh, just putting your hand in the plow and trying to do the right thing and moving forward without looking back as you're attempting to do the right thing and lock that good path, is that sometimes it leads to unintended consequences that you don't foresee. As you mentioned, maybe that particular trip in India, as far as the outcome in India itself, doesn't have so much in the moment impact, but it's beautiful to see. One of the outcomes is over, over 20 years later, uh, still having developed in, uh, these relationships which are now flourishing. And just a side note for the listeners, because as I was, um, hearing you speak, Raju, uh, did reminds me that a moment ago, I referred to your meeting with the Senior Congress, uh, politician, and I think you said two, late 2002 as a meeting with, uh, the Congress, uh, now being in opposition, then being, uh, not in opposition. Speaker 0 00:29:59 They were actually in opposition at that time, because as you mentioned, Congress didn't actually take power again nationally until 2004. So, um, as you said, uh, once 2004 hit and Congress did come, uh, into power, I can understand that actually, especially for somebody that has so much else to do, um, you know, for, for an activist that's been applying themselves for, for a while, that must have come as a huge breath of relief. Um, and, and, uh, kind of felt like a moment when you can, you can sit back, you can relax and expect things to go on track. Uh, but, um, well, of course, for a while they, they, they were a lot calmer, but there was, there was this one hiccup and actually a hiccup that turned into, into a victory, uh, for, um, uh, the anti dupa, anti internationalist, um, movements and, and figures here in America, which was in 2005. Speaker 0 00:30:57 Now, in 2005, uh, as I understand it, uh, Modi then Chief minister of Gura had been invited by this Indian American hoteliers group to speak at a con, at a con a conference, a convention in Florida. Um, but there was, uh, concerted effort to, to oppose that. And, um, I understand, uh, John Brass was involved in that. I just spoke yesterday with this gentleman, uh, pastor Ben Marsh, formerly develop Freedom Network, who was involved, all the more peripherally involved with that. Um, but from my understanding, RA, you were kind of a point person, um, and, uh, kind of in the inner circle that what happened, um, how did you, how did you get involved in that? Um, why, and, um, what was your experience? Was it, was it a, a walk in the park? Speaker 2 00:31:50 Um, not exactly a walk in the park. Uh, see, let me, um, my involvement was with a group of people who were trying to highlight, uh, more these, uh, complicity in the 2002 violence. And, uh, his coming to the US was an opportunity to educate the American public about what had happened, because it had been completely forgotten. It wasn't in anybody's consciousness at that time. Everybody Speaker 0 00:32:18 Was, America was busy thinking about the wars in the Middle East instead of about how 2000 Muslims had just been massacred in India. Speaker 2 00:32:25 Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I personally, my was opinion, uh, uh, let him come here and let's show, uh, our, our opposition by protests and so forth, that wherever he's speaking, uh, that to me would've been what my preference would be. But then, uh, as things developed, uh, as the Hoteliers Association actually exceeded to our protest, and more or less, uh, I don't know, the particulars more or less, uh, disinvited him or Disinvited his personal invitation, and I think he ended up still speaking on, uh, on, uh, uh, on the phone or, or, uh, remote video conference or something like that. Uh, so the momentum at that time was built up with a combination of forces. Uh, we didn't know where it was gonna end up, uh, until One, one Fine Day. We heard that the, his visa had, didn't be indeed been revoked. Uh, I think some people give, give me too much credit for that. Uh, there certainly, uh, yeah, I don't deserve that credit. Uh, Speaker 0 00:33:39 Well, I'm, I'm, I'm happy right here, right now to declare that you, that you were the, uh, crucial, uh, linchpin behind the entire thing. But are you saying you don't wanna, you don't, you don't want to go with that title? Speaker 2 00:33:51 Uh, let me put it this way. I was, uh, I was involved more in communication, in letter writing campaigns on behalf of the group of people. Uh, but I was simply, uh, speaking for the group. So in that sense, my name may have been more visible than others, uh, but when the decision, and nobody expected any such decision at all. And so when it came through, it was a bit of a surprise, uh, to us. And, uh, I still don't know exactly what actually, you know, tipped the balance, but I would assume that all of our efforts together, uh, tipped the bounds because the evidence was clear. Reports had come out with all, all the information. Uh, so once that decision was made, I did write a thank you letter to the Bush administration, which was, which kind of went viral in those days, because the person I was speaking to was not exactly my favorite person in the administration, uh, one of the neocons. But, uh, I made it a point Speaker 0 00:35:00 Not exactly your, uh, you know, I'm gonna surmise not exactly your favorite person, and what might not have been exactly been your, your favorite administration. Speaker 2 00:35:09 Yeah. Uh, yeah, because, but, but I did make it a point to say, I disagree with a lot of your foreign policy decision, but in this one instance, I agree with you for doing this, because it is the only option that was left to us, because Indian media had moved away from, from the program they had been silenced. One or two corporate, uh, speaker, uh, business leaders who had spoken up, had been silenced, uh, and there was nothing going on. And the, and the congress government basically actually was not gonna do anything to follow up, uh, in what happened in Gujarat. In fact, Mannon ing after the visa ban actually protested, which is, I guess he is the prime minister of the country. He is supposed to do that protocol or whatever. He actually objected to the US denying Modi visa. Uh, so our point of view then is as US citizens and residents who wanted to do something about highlighting, uh, the danger to democracy in India, we have very few options. Speaker 2 00:36:16 We don't vote in India. Uh, and here, uh, we are voting for a government that's supposed to safeguard democracy all across the world, presumably. Uh, therefore, to us, the only option left was to highlight the fact that Modi was complicit in this massive violence. Uh, and the Visa ban was therefore welcome by all of us. Uh, it's a different matter if he wore it as a, you know, badge of honor. And went, went about boasting some people, uh, fought us for this whole episode saying you guys helped put Modi in power. That I think that's highly exaggerated. I don't <laugh>, I don't think. Speaker 0 00:36:55 Yeah. So, so, so, Speaker 2 00:36:58 Yeah, I'm sorry about the noise outside here. Um, yeah, Speaker 0 00:37:05 That's, uh, interesting point. And, and before we move on to, uh, uh, you know, getting a little bit closer to present day, I have heard this, this argument recently. Uh, I don't, uh, know which side I settle on. Um, certainly, I would argue from my perspective that, uh, the right thing to do in 2005 was to get Modi's visa stripped away from him. And, and, and it was, but I have also heard people, uh, report that maybe it ended up, uh, 20 years later or 17 years later, uh, backfiring in terms of actually, um, helping to popularize him and, and build him up among these internationalist, uh, uh, supporters and devotes both in India and the us. What, what do you think about that? Speaker 2 00:37:55 Yeah, I mean, as I was saying, you know, we had to do what we thought was right at that time, support the right policies, uh, and, uh, things could have gotten, you know, things could have gone completely the other way if the <inaudible> in government had recognized the danger of what had happened in Guita. And as soon as they came to power, if they had implemented certain actions that would prevent this from happening elsewhere, for example, you know, banning the budget on the, I'm just, I'm just picking one example, and they fail to do that. It's almost like they completely, uh, try to erase what happened in Guita from their consciousness. Part of it could well be that even some congress people, Congress party people were involved in, in the violence. Uh, I don't know. Um, but so to say that, uh, the Modi ban was the wrong thing to do, because it actually elevated him as a marcher of sort. I, I don't, I don't, it may have had some role, but I, I, I don't think too much about it. We did what we thought was right at that point, and, uh, things could have gone the other way. Had there been much more, uh, action by the ruling in government, Speaker 0 00:39:17 Maybe a little bit, or a little bit less action too, as in if the waning government hadn't, uh, hadn't, uh, criticize the denial, but had just, uh, either been Exactly, Speaker 2 00:39:28 Yeah. Right. Speaker 0 00:39:29 So that was 2005. Now, now, over the ensuing nine years, Maori came into power, of course, in, in 2014. Um, were, were you mostly, uh, out of the activist game up until then? And I mean, can you repeat that at some, at some, at some point? Uh, I, I would hope that you've had a chance to at least attempt to enjoy your, your retirement. So in those nine years, what was there, was there anything like that, or, Speaker 2 00:39:57 That was my intent, and I did, uh, I, we did spend some time overseas doing other things. Um, but I also got involved in the other project in India, um, because I thought I needed to do something that was potentially could help, uh, uh, millions of poorer people in India who had no access to social, uh, safety network because of lack of identification. And, uh, the other project, uh, promised an identity, uh, identification paper to everybody. Uh, so I got involved in that. Uh, so I was actually a volunteer for the government of India for about a year. And, uh, in fact, the name other was actually suggested by me <laugh>. So, for good or bad, my, my name is stuck with that project. Um, but today, introspect, of course, I, I don't wanna sidetrack, but today I have a very different view of, uh, what an I, uh, identity project with a huge database with people's fingerprints and, uh, uh, could do in the hands of a government that simply doesn't care for any privacy or any laws or rules. Speaker 2 00:41:15 And of course, I had no way of imagining that, uh, in these years, the government would transition to, uh, uh, autocratic, uh, uh, government like we have seen. But anyway, so I did that as part of my, uh, contribution to, to India. Uh, and then pretty much, uh, retired until, uh, 2019. See, in 2014, when Modi got elected that, uh, it wasn't enough for me to give up my return life and come back to activism, because I always hoped that all the division, all the divisiveness during the campaigns were BJ's way of getting to power. And once they acquired power that they would focus on, uh, bread and butter issues, employment issues. Uh, people call me naive, then <laugh>. And I guess I was, uh, Speaker 0 00:42:15 Well, uh, I mean, back when the B J P first came, the national power in, in, in 98, uh, it wasn't, one could argue one way or the other, but arguably the rhetoric that they used may not have been quite as inflammatory to come to power. It was the same type of rhetoric, the same, the same shatter, the same supremacist type of type of talk, wasn't it? And then we had an I eight to 2004 with the B J P in power, and they didn't do, uh, anything like what the government, uh, of the B J P in 2014 onwards ended up doing. So I could that, that, that may have been an understandable sentiment at the time. Speaker 2 00:42:54 Yeah. So, uh, when 2019 elections happened, uh, that's when it was a wake up call to me saying, you know, no, this, these guys have too many IO use to the Hindu supremacist groups, R Ss ss and others, this N V H P, uh, and there is no way this government can get away from quote, unquote, fulfilling those promises. And the moment I heard that Amitha was going to be the home minister to me, the writing was on the wall. This is it, this is what they've been waiting for, uh, for over 90 years. This will be the fulfillment of various promises. Speaker 0 00:43:38 What was it about, what was it about the Amed Shah in particular that, uh, caused you to see the writing on the wall? Speaker 2 00:43:45 Um, because from what I had heard, uh, this is all third hand information, though, what I had heard, uh, of his role, uh, in working with Modi in, in Gujarat, people had a certain reputation for him as a ruthless politician. And, uh, this whole issue of, uh, um, attempted, uh, assassination of Modi and then encounter killings of people that were involved, uh, lot of them, uh, those kinds of things. People kind of, you know, kind of look to Amit Sha as perhaps the architect of the Modi plan, uh, in, in, in many ways. So I think that's repu, it's the reputation. I had no direct evidence of any kind, but just the reputation he brought, uh, from Gujarat, uh, was the writing was on the wall. And, uh, so that's when I, we decided to start Hindus for human rights. Um, because I think I finally came to the realization that all these, uh, 20, 30 years that I'd been working for Indian causes were, I never had to wear my faith on my shoulder. I, it was always, I'm Indian, I'm Indian American, this is what I believe in, this is what I need to do. Never had to say I'm a Hindu, or I'm a proud Hindu. But introspect, it seemed to me that people like me who wanted to do something and didn't claim a Hindu voice, in fact, were leaving a huge vacuum for the Hindu, for people to occupy. Speaker 0 00:45:27 Were you, were you, uh, particularly religious be before then? Speaker 2 00:45:32 I wouldn't say I, I would call myself particularly religious, because as I said, when I influenced by people like, uh, banan others and rejecting the rituals, uh, I always thought of myself as a progressive Hindu, looking to the good aspects of Hinduism, uh, and rejecting aspects like caste and so forth. Uh, wa was I a observing Hindu? Did I do puja every day? No. Um, but I always love the loud visiting temples, learning the history, uh, trying to make connections, uh, and trying to look at, look at history in a positive sense to, to think of what progressive invis means. Yes. So in, in, I'm a practicing Hindu, because that's, I'm not a practicing any other faith. So by default, I'm a practicing Hindu, but I'm not an orthodox Hindu. To answer your question. Speaker 0 00:46:33 So by the time of 2019, though, um, you, you felt this compulsion that, um, as this is happening over in India, as, as, as this especially this idea of, of, of, of being a proud Hindu is turning into this idea of, of the distortion, uh, distortion of, of, of the faith that, that you practice, that you own. Um, you, you felt a compulsion that you had to step forward and, and say something. Speaker 2 00:47:00 Yeah. So that's, uh, so that's when, uh, I accidentally, uh, uh, got in touch with, uh, Sunita, who had kind of traveled the same path in many ways. Uh, and, uh, we seem to have so much in common in terms of we need to speak up with a Hindu voice. Uh, uh, that's when we made the decision to found Hindus for human rights. Uh, the human rights part is exactly what everybody's striving for, whether it's Amnesty International or, you know, uh, any other group. But the Hindu part that makes us different, saying, we will, as much as possible, speak as Hindus to a Hindu audience to say, Hey, is this what you learned? Is this what the Hinduism that you believed in and your grandparents taught you? Uh, is lynching part of that, uh, is dictating what other people can eat? Is, was that part of your Hinduism, uh, to raise these kinds of questions? Speaker 2 00:48:00 Uh, were you, is marrying somebody outside the fate? Uh, is that part of Hinduism, uh, for us to be able to raise those questions legitimately, we need to speak as Hindus. And, uh, so that's what we decided to do in 2019. Uh, at that time, uh, a lot of people were skepticals, uh, especially people from the left would challenge them. Why do you want Hindu in your name? Uh, why don't you just call, call yourself Indians for Hindu, Hindus for human rights, or Indians for human rights? And our answer would be, well, that makes us no different than others who are fighting this fight. Uh, what makes us different? And, uh, even today, some people have those questions, but, uh, I feel very strongly there was a right decision to speak up as Hindus, because we have now been able to reclaim a lot of spaces that was hit to completely occupied by Hindu internationalists, uh, particularly in the us whether it's Infa, interfaith groups, uh, we are participating in the world Parliament of Religions in a major way, which is now talking about today, tomorrow, this Speaker 0 00:49:13 Is happening in Chicago, this week Speaker 2 00:49:15 In Chicago, title as human rights. What is the faith leader's role in human rights, which is exactly what our topic is about. Uh, and, uh, all of this would not have been possible if we had simply been just another human rights organization. And then our welcome in various spaces in dc, uh, our welcome by Congressional offices, who suddenly now see an alternative Hindu voice, uh, to those of, uh, like, for example, Hindu's American Foundation. So I think, which was the right strategic decision to do. But, but we are still a minority, progressive. Hindus speaking for the human rights and religious freedom of all communities, at least visibly, at least publicly, is still a minority. So, <laugh>, I call ourselves the new minority of India <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:50:08 Well, my perspective, um, has been that even to a large extent in India, but especially in the US that this, this far right, this internationalist, uh, uh, element, these groups, um, that they represent, looking for instance, at the Indian American population, and the percentage of them which are Hindus, that they actually represent a pretty small, uh, minority of that population. They just happen to be the most organized, networked, and, and, and deep pocketed and, and, and loudest, um, uh, group within, within that population, even though they're the smallest. Um, certainly as you mentioned, industry, human rights or those, those, uh, within your, your network or certainly who have, uh, um, whether they're directly connected to the organization or not, have that, that, uh, passion in their hearts, that belief in, in, in their hearts, uh, also, um, you know, may not be such a large element. Speaker 0 00:51:05 Do you think, do you think a largest element, um, whether it's in India or or here among the, in India population, is, is, uh, just a, a, a silent passive that, see, because one of my, one of my takes is that whatever the issue is, uh, in India, outside India, anywhere in the world, um, especially when it comes to issues of human rights or issues of, of, um, advocacy, the, the 99.9% of the population are just everyday people who don't wanna have to be bothered to think about this stuff because they're spending too much time trying to live their lives, keep a roof over their heads, put food on their tables, and, and bring up their, their children. Um, but do you think that that is what represents the bulk of the Hindu population? Speaker 2 00:51:53 Yes, I really do, because when you look at the demographics of India, uh, the kind of population that are, that is in the diaspora, uh, probably represent less than 20% of the demographics of India. If you look at so-called, uh, Dalis, you look at <inaudible>, the indigenous peoples of India, uh, or you look at so-called other backward cast, which is the largest segment of Hindu demographics, they're not represented much in the diaspora. So it's almost like 70% of the Hindu population, or somewhere around that number are not represented here. So for this one, this minority of Hindus to claim, uh, that they're the sole voice of Hindus, uh, they mean they can claim to be the voice of Hindu diaspora is fine. That may be statistically correct, but to speak for all Hindus in the world, uh, uh, I, uh, I think it is, uh, it is false. Speaker 2 00:52:56 Uh, it is sad because they simply do not represent, uh, the large majority of Hindus, uh, si as far as silence in India. Uh, yes, uh, uh, as you know, India has, uh, I think the demographics of the younger population, younger generation, anywhere from 18 to 25 is the largest segment of the India's population. Um, their, uh, primary goal is a career, uh, passing exams, careers and so forth. They just don't have time to, uh, get involved too much in, uh, politics as they think of this as more as politics than as a religious strife. And, uh, those of them who are unemployed are directly targets of these hate groups. If you see any image of people being beaten up in the, on the streets of India, you see all those, they're all young men who should be actually at work. They're probably not at work because they don't have a job. Speaker 2 00:53:58 So somebody hands them a stick or a sword, they're out there with, uh, <inaudible> and others picking up Muslims. In fact, I just saw a video where this guy just, uh, writes up on a scooter somewhere in, uh, Hyderabad, or no, somewhere in pol takes out a gun and shoots a father carrying a child because he looks Muslim. And he just unbelievable to me. Anyway. So I, I think that's what it is. It's giving fodder to a large segment of the population who, uh, who don't have any productive work to get involved in. And, uh, that's one of the reasons they also hide, uh, do their best, the rollers to hide statistics on unemployment, because they don't want to publicly share those types of statistics that people will wake up to. Speaker 0 00:54:50 Well, as, as we, you know, begin to wrap up our conversation, Raju, I I did wanna ask you one thing about, uh, industry human rights. Um, and, and especially for your personal experience, um, is, um, as you, as you said, uh, the, especially when it comes to people actually involved in the organization, it's, it, it's, it's a smaller number, but, but growing, um, and there is, there's a lot of backlash I know that I've seen against, uh, Hindu for human rights by a lot of these Hindu internationalist or international sympathetic organizations. And a lot of it could be very vicious. Um, you know, uh, it, uh, to the extent that I would say, basically people are accusing you of being a traitor to your religion, that sort of thing. How do you, how does that make you feel? Um, how do you, how do you handle that on a personal level and, and, and stay strong and, and the commitment to what you're doing and to your, to your beliefs when you're faced with stuff like that? Speaker 2 00:55:47 You know, personally, I made a decision before find founding industry for human rights that I will keep out of all social media, uh, because I've been trolled even in the 2002, 2004, uh, to the, to the point that they outed my street address and basically asking people to harass me. So, uh, so I had made a decision to keep, I still don't have a personal Twitter account, for example. Uh, I seldom use Facebook. So that's one way of, uh, uh, keeping away from the noise, so to speak. Um, but from time to time, other members of Hindus for human rights do, you know, copy some of these tweets that they see. So I tend to largely ignore them. However, if somebody takes the trouble of writing to Hindus for human rights and say, I strongly object to what you're doing, this is the problem, and they have the courage to put their name at the bottom of the letter, then I feel that I owe them a response, and I try my best, uh, to give them a response. Speaker 2 00:56:58 And, uh, and I do ultimately believe that directly engaging with people with different views is the best way ultimately to change the minds of, uh, large segments of, uh, the Hindu population. And I've invited some of these, uh, people for a debate, uh, several times, <laugh> no take so far. Um, but I will continue on that, on that pathway, uh, saying yes, we will do everything that H F H R is doing to bring attention to the evils of, uh, the hin farru. But I'm open to dialoguing with anybody as along as a follower, rules of civility, and that's the objective of our dish Vhh conversations, uh, which we are doing at Silicon Valley, saying, you know, we'll present our point of view. It's called a dish with, just Speaker 0 00:57:53 For our listeners, what does that, what does that mean? Speaker 2 00:57:56 Dish with V actually means, uh, uh, uh, dish is your country, V is outside your country. So the diasporic Indian population, we're talking about India and the US at the same time that dialogue becomes dish VH conversations. And, uh, the idea is to present a set of panelists who, with diverse views on a subject, particular subject, but invite Modi supporters, b j b supporters, anybody who wants to come, they can come to these conversations as long as they promise to be civil and not interrupt the speakers. So that's another, that's an attempt by H F H R to encourage conversations. Uh, and it's been, that idea has been reasonably successful. Uh, like the last meeting, uh, I had invited the h a f supporter of the Cass Bill in California who had debated with me in front of the Sacramento capital. Uh, we strongly disagreed with each other, but he was civil, so I said, oh, come on over, uh, participate in this conversation. So that's something I will continue to do. So ignore the trolls, ignored the noise. Engage with people who have something to say, even they strongly criticize you, and then try to put your point of view is what I feel that, uh, we need to do. And I think Hindus has a special role, given that the majority community is the one, um, that can change things happening in India. Speaker 0 00:59:30 I oftentimes repeat that in conversations about this issue with people, uh, wherever I go is that, you know, of course I'm, I'm an outsider in that I'm not even Indian. Um, but I'm, I'm, you know, I love India. I love, uh, the Indian people that, uh, welcome me to, to work on these issues. Um, but for, for people who, um, wanna work on, make progress on the issue of combating Hindu nationalism in order to, uh, make progress, you don't necessarily have to be Hindu, but in, in order to achieve that final victory that is going to be left, just as it was, for instance, with my own faith with Christianity and what's happening, happening today, but certainly has happened in the past, Christians need to be the ones rooting out supremacy from Christianity. Muslims need to be the ones rooting out supremacy from Islam. Hindus need to be the ones rooting out supremacy from, from Hinduism. And because that's the only way it's going to be effective, otherwise, otherwise, you're never going to actually, uh, reach that point of final victory of, of, uh, fully reforming and, and, um, uh, saving, um, the, the truth and value of that religion. Speaker 2 01:00:43 Yeah, I agree. I agree. You have to speak from within. Uh, but I, I do appreciate, Peter, that, uh, your passion for what's happening in India and trying to bring out facts, uh, and fearlessly sta stating your views. And I know you are being personally trolled and attacked, uh, ceaselessly. Um, but I do appreciate, uh, your role in oftentimes doing things that people from the subcontinent ought to be doing. So thank you for that. Speaker 0 01:01:17 Just a couple last questions, Raju. I thank you for that. Thank you, sir. Um, one is, uh, as far as the work of, of H four HR before I, I I move on to, uh, your hopes, dreams, aspirations for the, for the future, uh, with the work of H four hr. Um, I know that the organization does a lot of engagement on the Hill with, with the US Congress, um, and yet, um, you've also been in this to one extent or another, uh, as an activist for, for 20 plus years, as we've covered what I saw back in the early two thousands, uh, certainly 2005 Moiz visa denial might be one example. Um, but there's others, uh, of back in the early two thousands, US Congress and the US government in general, being much more willing to openly, publicly, uh, criticize, um, human rights violations in India, call them out, uh, speak against them even on rather routinely speak against them on the floor of the house, which was done oftentimes by multiple different members, um, throughout the two thousands. Speaker 0 01:02:29 And that was a time when the human rights situation was nowhere near what it is today, um, under the Modi government. What do you think is wrong? What do you think has changed? So from early two thousands to, to the present day, that has shut the mouths of, of almost all of the US Congress and the US administration in general, and brought them to a point of being willing back when the situation really, uh, as a whole wasn't that bad. Uh, and yet they were still speaking to a point when the situation is awful and they refuse to say anything. Speaker 2 01:03:08 I think the, the short answer is one word answer, campaign donations, <laugh> money. That is, uh, I think the fact that the, uh, the Indian diaspora, uh, has become very strong in terms of their financial strength, in terms of, uh, making our breaking campaigns, uh, has become very important issue in the last decade. And, uh, um, they are emulating, uh, the pro-Israel groups and in fact, uh, emulating a lot of the Zionist policies. Uh, in, in that sense, uh, I would say they've been fairly successful. Uh, I would've never thought what happened, Israel could be copied by people related to such a large country as in India, but in the US they've, there's definitely following that. So that's one issue. Secondly, uh, the fact that the Indian American, uh, congresspeople who are now more visible, uh, have been, some of them have been elected with money from the Hindu, right? Uh, the fact that they are not speaking up against what's happening in moist rule. The same people who everyday Speaker 0 01:04:33 Their presence, these Indian American, or they call it the Samosa Caucus, these Indian American members of, of Congress, um, their presence has, uh, came, uh, long after these early two thousands. I, I believe the first one elected, uh, who was it? Was it Berra was the first one elected, I think in like, it was the first one. 20 10, 20 12. Yeah. Yeah. Speaker 2 01:04:55 So what's happening is when they don't take a lead in, uh, critiquing India, and by no means critiquing means you have to condemn the policy of India, US relationship or friendship. They're not mutually exclusive, but they pretend they are mutually exclusive. And, uh, if they don't speak up, I think the rest of the Congress people, uh, are just holding back saying, you know, oh, what does RO kana think about it? Or What does Raja kh they think about this? Oh, he doesn't want to do it. He doesn't wanna corresponds it. Oh, I'm not going take a risk. Why should I, you know, go out on the limb? That is the, uh, the, uh, you know, we talk about the domino theory, <laugh>, there's something similar to that where when these four people are creating potentially, uh, policies, uh, that are larger than themselves, it's not just their constituency that's involved here. Speaker 2 01:05:50 Um, they're actually helping, um, maintain a distance from Modi's human rights record. So that's the second part. And the third part is, for better or for worse, the Biden administration and the Secretary Blinken coming in with this kind of a Cold War politics that containing China, containing China. They keep talking about ESMO being the important part, and therefore, they openly admit, we're not gonna talk about, we're not gonna preach in India about human rights. Now, it's the same president who campaigned constantly talking about human rights and saying, silence is complicity. I don't know what has happened. Uh, this is the largest example of human rights violations, you know, democracy. And he refuses to speak about it and says, we don't wanna preach India. Uh, and that's a very sad state of affairs. I think the combination of these things, the three things, clout of the Indian American money, the, uh, the, the lead in the wrong direction of our Indian American Congress, people that's preventing others from speaking up and the Cold War type policy of the Lincoln Administration, which, uh, is completely violating its own, its own campaign rhetoric. Uh, I think those are the three things, and that's what we are fighting against. Speaker 0 01:07:19 Well, on that note, um, especially with this whole, uh, theory idea, conception of containing China being what the US is now focused on, which, what the US foreign policy was, is, is focused on, from my perspective, is, uh, constantly shifting sands. Um, I remember, uh, back when, you know, of course you could say Cold War policy, it was containing Russia or the U S S R, uh, then it was containing, uh, uh, global terrorism with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, and the threats against Iran and, and all of this. Now it's containing China. And from that perspective, speaking for myself as an American citizen who has been highly critical of US foreign policy on, on many fronts, uh, not just the India front, um, but especially on the front of, uh, US foreign policy being interventionist, um, and, uh, leading to foreign po uh, meddling, which I, uh, despise as yourself, as someone and myself, as someone who wants to see the US doing something different with, with India. Um, going forward, what do you see? What do you see? What's your hope for the future? Um, you know, what's your, what's your realistic expectation? And then in your wildest imaginings, if everything worked out perfectly, and especially in context of, um, the desire that I, I believe you have, I know I have for, for the US to respect India's sovereignty. Um, what, what, what do you see? What, what do you see as a potential in one's wildest imaginations for what the US can and should be doing? Speaker 2 01:09:01 I think, uh, I think simple as, uh, conveyed to India as a, an a lie and as a staunch friend, uh, conveying that unless, uh, not conveying that disappointment at the Indian government's failure to protect the lives and property of, uh, religious minorities and, uh, allowing for them to practice, uh, their, uh, fate unfettered, uh, I think that's a minimal, minimal one can expect this government to do. Speaker 0 01:09:36 So minimal would be this, this Speaker 2 01:09:38 Talk. So in my, in, in, in my, uh, imagination of hope <laugh>, I hope that, uh, something like that will happen. Uh, and then really energize other people fighting for human rights, uh, in India. Um, but outside of the administration, my hope, just long-term hope, is that we get more and more younger generation of Indian Americans interested in what is happening, to look at both the democracies and be more active. And maybe that'll result in a few years time of, uh, a more progressive Indian American lawmakers. But more than that, they can have a huge multiplier effect in terms of changing attitudes of the community. And, uh, that's the path we are on right now. We just completed our strategy meeting Hindus for human rights, and we are not changing in our major priorities in terms of advocacy, but we're adding youth engagement as a major, major, uh, project moving forward. Speaker 2 01:10:44 Uh, bringing Hindu and Muslim students on campuses, having dialogues, uh, providing a more holistic alternative to youth. Um, besides Hinduism, progressive Hinduism. Uh, the kids are interested also in, you know, uh, uh, the issue of environment, uh, the issue of gender justice. So, uh, indigenous people's rights try to provide a kind of a variety of things that the younger generation is interested in, not just about India issue, so that they will become better spokespeople for the Indian American community than the ones we have now. That is my hope, um, because it's not a short term issue, even if the administration doesn't do anything or say anything, we have to keep moving forward in terms of, uh, what our role in this, uh, community is in this country is, which is to speak up for democracy all over the world consistently. Uh, so that, that is really my hope. Speaker 0 01:11:53 Well, I appreciate that, especially, I, I, uh, very much agree. I oftentimes, you know, come back to this about how all of this political engagement is important. It can be crucial, it can lead to change. But beyond that, far more important, although much more difficult, uh, is this, is this social engagement to really, um, educate people, get people involved to change the hearts of, of the people around the country and, and, and the society and the religions and, and the institutions and the, that has, um, longer term, uh, impact than, uh, just this, this political engagement, as important as that also is. So with that, uh, Raju, any, any final thoughts? Speaker 2 01:12:42 My, my only final thought, Raja, is going through the 77th Independence Day birthday. Uh, I never imagined that, uh, the country, the democracy that was born within a few weeks, or I was born within a few weeks of the democracy being born, uh, would, would now, would be in jeopardy. And, uh, potentially, uh, uh, with serious, uh, uh, possibilities of demise of that secular democracy would actually precede my own, uh, end of my own life. I would've never imagined that. Uh, but I, I hope that, uh, before I go, uh, we'll see the Indian democracy again, speaking up louder, uh, as we did after Inandi emergency, uh, that it'll wake up, learn some lessons from these, uh, eight years of Modi rule, and ensure that we won't be exposed to similar dangers in the future. Speaker 0 01:13:47 Stand there with you on that hope and I, I look forward to the day not too far off when, uh, Indian democracy will be restored back to, uh, what it once was, and even more, uh, beyond that become flourishing beacon of freedom, uh, for the world. And, uh, with you, sir, Mr. Raji al uh, being welcomes there and, and, uh, applauded for the role that you played in, in that, uh, future, which we can trust will come. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for tuning in. If you liked what you heard, please remember to subscribe and follow for more to come as we look forward to dialoguing once again on.

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