7,000 miles from New York City, an unlikely group of passionate Donald Trump supporters threw the presidential candidate a 70th birthday party Tuesday.
Hindu Sena, a small Hindu nationalist group in India, marked the occasion with a 15-pound eggless chocolate cake, balloons, and an orchestra. After a rousing chorus of the “Happy Birthday” song, the group’s founder lovingly pushed a piece of cake into the mouth of a larger-than-life poster of the real estate mogul holding a rifle. Banners around Jantar Mantar, a popular gathering site in downtown New Delhi, read, “Long live Donald Trump…Savior of Humanity.”
For the approximately 20 members of Hindu Sena, it was only natural to celebrate the birth of the man they predict will soon become “the king of the world.”
“He is our hero,” said Vishnu Gupta, the president of Hindu Sena. “We follow every occasion related to him.”
Indeed, last month the group held a havan puja—a sacred fire ceremony—to pray for the billionaire’s victory in November’s United States presidential election. Throwing ghee and other offerings into a fire ringed by statues of Hindu gods, the group chanted mantras in hopes of garnering favor for the candidate.
Hindu Sena’s support of Donald Trump boils down to one key shared interest. “He’s the only man who can put an end to Islamic terrorism,” Gupta said. The nationalist group has praised what they call Trump’s “anti-Islamic” policies—including his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
“Everyone should support that,” Gupta told Reuters.
The group’s animus towards Muslims is part of a long-standing conflict between the religious groups in India. With Muslims representing about 14 percent of the nation’s population, Islam is a religious minority in India. Muslims have often been the target of religiously-motivated violence in the country.
In 2002, a three-day period of violence in the Indian state of Gujarat resulted in the death of over 1,000 Indians, most of them Muslims. Meanwhile, Hindu resentment towards Indian Muslims has grown as the nation’s conflict with neighboring Pakistan continues. Hindu Sena blames Muslims for an Islamic militant attack on Mumbai in 2008 that left over 150 people dead.
Despite the group’s ardent loyalty to the 70-year-old mogul, Trump has given mixed messages regarding his opinion of India throughout his presidential campaign.
In February, The Hindu reports, Trump told supporters at a Las Vegas rally that the United States was being “ripped off” by India, a country he said was poaching jobs from Americans. The Times of India reported that the candidate’s plan to cap H-1B visas for skilled workers would disproportionately affect Indians hoping to work in the United States.
While Hindu Sena might be a fringe group in India, they have found allies in America. The United States-based group Hindus for Trump highlighted the Hindu Sena birthday celebration on their Twitter feed. “Yes, we Hindus are with Trump!” the American group declared.
Despite vocal Hindu groups throwing their support behind the presumptive Republican nominee, Pew Research Center reports that Hindu Americans overwhelmingly tend to lean left politically. As of 2012, 72 percent of American Hindus identified as members of the Democratic Party. 9 percent of American Hindus reported affiliation with the Republican Party.
--by Caroline Matas
Image Source: Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons.