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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Hindu Heritage Month celebrations in the US and Canada to counter anti-Hindu hate and propaganda

Despite the alarming increase in the number of hate crimes against Hindus in the west, it’s heartening to see that Hindu culture is making its presence felt strongly in the western countries through initiatives that celebrate Hindu culture and heritage.

Hindu Heritage Month is the umbrella term for month-long celebrations dedicated to Hindu customs, rituals, traditions, and identity in the US and Canada. Most US states celebrate the Hindu Heritage Month in October. In Canada, the Hindu Heritage Month is being celebrated in November.

In most of the US states, the Hindu Heritage Month has been recognized through resolutions passed by the different US states. Most US states recognize October as the Hindu Heritage Month but the US state of Florida has recently recognized November as the month to celebrate Hindu heritage.

The Hindu Heritage Month in the US is marked by various cultural events commemorating the significance of Hindu Dharma and culture, and events recognizing the achievements of Hindu Americans in diverse fields.

The official designation of October by several US states as the Hindu Heritage Month also sends a strong political message. It’s an unequivocal rejection of the politics that is being played out in the name of caste by the woke lobby in the US. The US is witnessing a slew of Bills being introduced to exclusively prohibit caste discrimination, and thus targeting Hindu Americans, when all kinds of discrimination including the one based on ancestry, ethnic origin, etc is already covered by the existing laws. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently vetoed a resolution seeking to exclusively ban caste discrimination in the US. The Governor vetoed it on the grounds that the existing laws in the US already cover caste discrimination, so the bill is unnecessary.

The official recognition of Hindu Heritage Month by these states gives Hindu Americans a strong platform to showcase the strengths of Hindu Culture and challenge the anti-Hindu toxic narrative peddled by the woke leftists.

Hindu American organizations like CoHNA and Hindu American Foundation have played a pivotal role in increasing the global visibility of the Hindu Heritage Month, and have taken multiple initiatives to celebrate the month in unique and engaging ways.

“Hindu Heritage Month has grown into an important time for Hindus living in the US to showcase their festivals, traditions, and beliefs and drive education and understanding around them. Here at CoHNA, we got an early start on the celebrations when our Atlanta team helped secure recognition for Hindu Heritage Month for the entire state of Georgia. This was followed in short order by states like Nevada and numerous towns across America, including 12 in the state of New Jersey alone. AS PART OF Hindu Heritage Month, we have run education programs on Diwali at several city libraries and also hosted the first ever Diwali with the Mayor in the city of Atlanta GA”, said Shobha Swamy, CoHNA Board Member and General Secretary.

Coming to the Hindu Heritage Month celebrations in Canada, the Ontario Legislative Assembly declared November as Hindu Heritage Month in 2017 to recognize the positive contributions made by Hindu Americans in Canada. Since then, the celebrations of Hindu heritage in Canada have been marked by a series of activities showcasing Hindu culture and sharing Hindu traditions and beliefs through a coordinated network of Hindu groups, organizations, and individuals. A major part of these celebrations is devoted to increasing awareness about Hindu culture amongst local communities and schools.

Canada-based organization Canadian Organization for Hindu Heritage Education or COHHE has played a pivotal role in promoting Hindu Heritage Month in Canada and initiating celebrations in Canadian schools and amongst local communities.

“We have been collaborating, training, supporting, and promoting parent involvement with celebrating HHM in Schools. We encourage them to go into their child’s school to decorate a display board, do rangoli, tell stories, do a Puja, or engage with students and in schools in any way they can. Parents have also taken in Mithia and gifts like Diyas to teachers, etc. We also work directly with school boards to provide Daily announcements, educational materials, and support to school boards to hold poster competitions and other activities to invite students to participate in the program”, said Dr Ragini Sharma, President of COHHE.

With the petition calling for the recognition of Hinduphobia having been recently tabled in the House of Commons, the Hindu Heritage Month celebrations in Canada assume special significance. As hate crimes against Canadian Hindus are on the rise and they are increasingly becoming victims of prejudice, discrimination, and negative stereotypes in schools, local communities and workplaces, the state recognition of Hindu heritage can send a strong counter message to Canadian society and pave way for the safety and security of Canadian Hindus.

The Canada chapter of CoHNA has also played a very important role in raising awareness of Hindu Heritage Month in Canada and taking up the struggle against Hinduphobia in Canada upfront.

Rishabh Saraswat, President CoHNA Canada shared detailed insights into the backdrop of hate crimes against Hindus in Canada and the role played by Hindu Heritage Month in changing the narrative:

“In recent times, many Hindus, particularly those with young families are facing very real and concerning harassment. In 2021, a young family faced a disturbing assault in a Mississauga park. Just a couple of months back a Hindu Grandpa was brutally stabbed multiple times in broad daylight while taking a walk with his granddaughter. In another horrifying occurrence last year, a young university student from India was kidnapped, stripped naked, repeatedly kicked in the face, and told, ‘You don’t belong here’. Despite repeated attacks, Hindu-Canadians have struggled to find adequate support. There has been no interest in studying the broader reason for these repeated attacks. Instead, a favorite tactic is to deflect violence against Hindus as”anti-India sentiment” versus calling it what it is – Hinduphobia. CoHNA Canada is working to educate the public about Hindu Heritage and tradition, as well as advocate for the rights of Hindu Canadians”.

Even as Hindu festivals are being ruthlessly secularized back home and many Hindus in Bharat feel compelled to passively step into these “secular” spaces and annihilate the specifics of their culture and identity, it’s heartening to see that the Hindu diaspora in the west is playing a crucial role in reclaiming Hindi culture and heritage.

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Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri is an independent journalist and writer currently based in Dehradun (Uttarakhand). Rati has extensive experience in broadcast journalism having worked as a Correspondent for Xinhua Media for 8 years. She was based at their New Delhi bureau. She has also worked across radio and digital media and was a Fellow with Radio Deutsche Welle in Bonn. She is now based in Dehradun and pursuing independent work regularly contributing news analysis videos to a nationalist news portal (India Speaks Daily) with a considerable youtube presence. Rati regularly contributes articles and opinion pieces to various esteemed newspapers, journals, and magazines. Her articles have been recently published in "The Sunday Guardian", "Organizer", "Opindia", and "Garhwal Post". She has completed a MA (International Journalism) from the University of Leeds, U.K., and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Miranda House, Delhi University.


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