HAF response to Hinduism Calls for an Armed and Vigilant Society

In his response to HAF’s letter to the President, Mr. Parag Tope makes a salient point with which HAF would agree — namely, that Hindus should resist oppression, and in many cases, actively rebel against a tyrannical regime. In fact, HAF makes the same point in the first and second paragraphs of its letter — that the desirability of ahimsa as a general rule should be balanced against the necessity of himsa in the service of Dharma. We share his veneration of those warriors who have taken up arms in this way, from Arjuna and Rana Pratap to Mr. Tope’s own great-grandfather, Tatya Tope.

Where we disagree is in the generalization Mr. Tope tries to draw. Unlike him, perhaps, we do not believe that the lessons of colonial India can be directly applied in a modern, democratic America. The American government is neither tyrannical nor oppressive, neither to Hindus nor to the broader public. It is a functional, accountable government deriving its legitimacy from the democratic process and the consent of the governed, a government to which the Hindus living within its borders have sworn either an explicit or implicit oath of citizenship to honor and defend. Hindus are in no way barred from joining the government at any level, as evidenced by Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu-American in Congress and in fact a veteran herself, and by numerous Hindus who have served in the U.S. armed forces and have worked in police departments. Hindus are not barred either from legitimate and peaceful methods of dissent. In this context, there is no justification for Hindu Americans betraying our oaths and even contemplating rebellion against the U.S. government, much less planning for it, as there was during the British Raj.

Balanced against the miniscule likelihood of needing to rebel against the U.S. government should it turn tyrannical is the very real harm done by automatic weapons. Members of the Hindu American community have seen the senseless, real, and often-repeated harms done to human beings by the free availability of weapons of war–weapons whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of individuals in a short period time. We have seen the repercussions in emergency rooms, in operation theaters, in courtrooms. Too often, we have seen the repercussions in funerals we attend for co-workers, colleagues, friends, or family members.

Nor is HAF’s request anywhere near as expansive as Mr. Tope makes it out to be. As noted in the letter to the President, we are asking for a ban on two kinds of weapons: assault rifles and guns that can be smuggled through metal detectors. We are also asking for a better universal background check system to ensure those who do own guns can be reasonably trusted to use them responsibly and safely. There is nothing in HAF’s letter about confiscation.

We at HAF strongly reiterate the stand on all of the issues raised in our letter. The very real himsa of allowing criminals and the mentally ill to continue to buy weapons of war, or any weapons without background checks, far outweigh the benefit of maybe, someday, somewhere in the U.S., a Hindu being able to resist a tyrannical — and curiously ill-equipped — government by having an AR-15 at his or her disposal. There is no ideology in this statement — simply common sense.