US Hindus protest against jhandi-burning in NY

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A group of Hindu Americans held a rally to condemn an incident of anti-Hindu arson in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, New York, over the Thanksgiving weekend. According to reports, a man was caught on camera setting fire to dozens of iconic jhandis (small flags) outside a Hindu residence. Guyanese and Trinidadian Hindus often use jhandi flags to commemorate auspicious occasions.

Co-Founder, Sadhana, Coalition of Progressive Hindus, US, Sunita Viswanath told TOI on Sunday that “Over 40 Jhandi (flags) were burned in the front yard of a Hindu’s house”. The White House had chosen Indian-American Sunita Viswanath among 12 faith leaders as “Champion of Change” for their continuous efforts towards climate change.

She said the Indo-Caribbean American community comprised of Hindus who had migrated to the United States via countries like Guyana and Trinidad, and had imbibed Caribbean influences. “This community is extremely devout and visits temples often. Their pandits conduct the prayers in English but the community members also learn to recite prayers in Indian languages like Sanskrit, Hindi and Tamil,” she said.

The flags were put up at the end of a puja. She said they didn’t know who were the perpetrators of the crime, but the police was investigating the incident as a hate crime.She said there have been many more hate crimes against Muslims and Sikhs than Hindus. “Nevertheless, Hindu temples are vandalized sometimes.”

Another Sadhana co-founder Aminta Kilawan said that they were shocked by the Paris terror attacks and observed a moment of silence for the victims. She said the Narine family, whose home was targeted, shared a message of fear and bewilderment at the attack, and expressed their desire to meet the perpetrator so that they could explain about their culture and religion. “We want to build dialogue and trust to help the racism disappear. We have it in our hearts to forgive,” read the message of Narine family. In March, the US authorities had said that hate crimes against Arab Americans, Sikhs and Hindus will be more closely monitored by the FBI and the Department of Justice.

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