Indian-American Congressman Shrinivas (Shri) Thanedar helped inaugurate the Congressional Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain American Caucus (HSBJ) in the United States Congress on September 29. More than two dozen lawmakers, including Republicans and Democrats, have joined the initiative, which focuses on the central interests and concerns of South Asian religious and cultural communities in the United States.
At a press conference, Thanedar expressed the caucus' mission, saying, “We are not coming together simply to start another caucus; we come together to start a movement that strives to promote understanding, inclusion, and positive political action. (The Hindu)
A key goal of the caucus will be to help Americans embrace diversity by highlighting the many prominent Indian-Americans serving in various roles in the United States. Additionally, the group will work together to combat religious discrimination and encourage inclusion in American culture. To do this, caucus members will facilitate formal discussions, draft legislation, speak out against misinformation, and advocate for members of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain communities.
“Thanedar believes that an inclusive America is a stronger America,” according to a press release announcing the caucus. (Herald of the Deccan)
Anti-Asian violence and bias have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily targeting people of Chinese descent. However, these prejudices have also affected people misidentified as Chinese, including people of Korean and Vietnamese descent, among others. Similarly, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, many Sikhs in America were attacked because their custom of wearing turbans led uninformed and bigoted members of the public to assume that they were affiliated with the community Muslim and sympathized with the Taliban.
Thanedar, a Democrat representing Michigan's 13th District, immigrated to the United States in 1979, after being born in the Indian state of Karnataka in 1955. Thanedar announced plans to start a Hindu caucus in June.
In a statement, Thanedar spoke about the importance of the caucus: “A movement that affirms that every religion, 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 make up only 0,7% of the U.S. population, or about 2,3 million people for each religion. The Sikh and Jain populations are too small for research groups to determine a precise figure, but estimates vary into the hundreds of thousands for each group.