A Day Before Diwali, Head to the Voting Booth!

A Day Before Diwali, Head to the Voting Booth!
Why It's Important for Hindu Americans to Vote

by Nikhil Mandalaparthy, Sadhana board member

On Tuesday, November 6th, millions of Americans across the United States will turn out to vote in what is sure to be a historic election. With a population of nearly 3 million, Hindu Americans are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the nation. Yet, our community is also one of the least likely to vote. These midterm elections, I especially encourage Hindu Americans to make their voice heard.

Ours is a fairly recent community. We are mostly immigrants, or come from immigrant homes. We come from South Asia, the Caribbean, east Africa, southeast Asia, and indeed all over the world. Racism and xenophobia are not new to the immigrant experience, but the wave of hate and bigotry directed against our families, communities, and places of worship in recent years is truly dangerous. I remember last year’s shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the young Hindu man from Kansas. From last week’s attempted shooting at the African American First Baptist Church in Kentucky to the recent tragedy at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, we must stand together. Our Muslim and Sikh brothers and sisters have been particularly affected by increasing racism and xenophobia. In a popular Gujarati bhajan, 15th-century poet Narsi Mehta reminds us that the mark of a truly religious person is empathizing with the suffering of others: vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je peed paraayi jaane re. “Call that person a Vaishnava, who understands the pain of others.” There is no safety without solidarity, and one way to make our voices heard is through voting.

I urge all eligible Hindu Americans to cast their vote next week. This year, voting takes place just a day before Diwali. As we prepare to light our firecrackers and diyas with friends and family this year, let us also remember our commitments to a just and peaceful world. Hinduism is marked by profound traditions of tolerance and pluralism. Our tradition tells us “atithi devo bhava”, meaning “be one for whom a guest is God”. At a time when immigrants and refugees are targeted and demonized in political rhetoric, let us remember that we too are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, and let that feeling of empathy guide our actions. Our holy scriptures proclaim “vasudhaiva kutumbakam,” meaning “the world is one family.” On November 6th, let us vote to make that world a reality—to make the America we live in an inclusive, welcoming, and prosperous nation.