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HURTFUL?

A Kamala Harris meme has kicked up a storm with Hindu groups

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Speed bump.
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Hindu groups in the US have demanded an apology from Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ niece for tweeting a morphed image showing her as Goddess Durga. They said the image aggrieved Hindus across the world.

The tweet by Meena Harris, posted on Oct. 17, has now been deleted. The image showed Kamala Harris killing president Donald Trump with a trishul (trident). Trump was depicted as the buffalo demon “Mahishasura,” while Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was a lion or the goddess’ “vahana” (vehicle).

“I am actually speechless, other than to say that the first day of Navaratri was LIT,” Meena Harris wrote along with the picture.

Suhag A Shukla, the executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, said the tweet had upset Hindus across the world. “Dear Meena Harris, by now you know that you are tweeting a caricature of the feminine divine, Maa Durga, with faces superimposed, deeply aggrieved many Hindus globally,” she said in a tweet on Monday. She advised Meena Harris to follow the organisation’s guidelines on the commercial use of religious images.

Rishi Bhutada from the Hindu American Political Action Committee demanded an apology from Meena Harris, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. “Given that, I personally believe that an apology should come from Meena Harris even though she did delete the tweet, and no one else,” he said. “Our religious iconography should not be used in the service of politics in America. I said the same when the Fort Bend County GOP [Grand Old Party or the Republican Party] did it in an ad in 2018, and it holds the same here.”

Bhutada added that the image had been circulating on WhatsApp before the tweet. He said the Biden campaign had also denied creating the image.

Author Shefali Vaidya also expressed anger over the tweet.

American Hindus Against Defamation Convener Ajay Shah, meanwhile, said that image had offended and outraged the religious community.

Harris is the first Indian-American woman to get a major party’s vice-presidential nomination. On Oct. 17, she and Biden took to Twitter to wish Hindus for the Navratri festival. Both Biden and Harris have been sending out greetings on Twitter to the Hindu community, one of the critical voting blocs in the US presidential election slated for Nov. 3.

There is an estimated four million Indian-American population, of which about 2.5 million are potential voters in the upcoming presidential elections, according to PTI. Over 1.3 million Indian-Americans are voters in key battleground states, including Texas, Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

Earlier this month, a survey on the expected voting behaviour showed that Indian-Americans are likely to support Biden in the elections. According to the survey, 72% of registered Indian American voters are planning on voting for Biden, while 22% said that they will vote for Trump.

This piece was first published on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

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