Indian American Congressman Shrinivas (Shri) Thanedar helped to inaugurate the Congressional Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain American Caucus (HSBJ) in the United States Congress on 29 September. More than two dozen lawmakers, including Republicans and Democrats, have joined the initiative, which focuses on interests and concerns central to South Asian religious and cultural communities in the US.
In a press conference, Thanedar expressed the mission of the caucus, stating: “We are not merely congregating to initiate another caucus; we’re assembling to pioneer a movement—one that strives for understanding, inclusion, and affirmative policy actions.” (The Hindu)
A major goal of the caucus will be to help Americans embrace diversity through highlighting the many prominent Indian Americans serving in various roles in the US. Furthermore, the group will work together to combat religious discrimination and encourage inclusion in American culture. To do this, members of the caucus will facilitate formal discussions, draft legislation, speak out against misinformation, and otherwise advocate for members of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain communities.
“Thanedar believes that an inclusive America is a stronger America,” according to a media release announcing the caucus. (Deccan Herrald)
Anti-Asian violence and prejudice spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily targeting people of Chinese heritage. However, this prejudice also affected people misidentified as Chinese, including people of Korean and Vietnamese descent, and others. Similarly, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, many Sikhs in America were attacked because their custom of wearing turbans led poorly informed and bigoted members of the public to assume they were affiliated with the Muslim community and sympathetic to the Taliban.
Thanedar, a Democrat representing the 13th district in Michigan, immigrated to the US in 1979, having been born in the Indian state of Karnataka in 1955. Thanedar announced his intentions to create a Hindu caucus in June
In a statement, Thanedar spoke of the importance of the caucus: “A movement that says every faith, every culture, and every community has a place in America— the land of the free and the home of the brave. My name is Shri Thanedar. I am proof of America’s diversity in Congress.” (The Hindu)
According to data from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), Buddhists and Hindus each account for just 0.7 per cent of the US population, or about 2.3 million people for each religion. Sikh and Jain populations are too small for research groups to pinpoint an accurate figure, but estimates range in the hundreds of thousands for each group.
Congressman Shri Thanedar formally launches Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain American Caucus in US Congress (The Hindu)
Congressman Shri Thanedar launches Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain American Congressional caucus (Deccan Herald)
Diaspora Dharma: Indian American Congressman Launches Caucus for Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain Americans (Swarajya)
PRRI 2022 Census of American Religion: Religious Affiliation Updates and Trends (PRRI)
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