A large number of Indian Americans turned up at the CNN office in downtown Chicago to protest against a documentary they allege portrayed Hinduism in a negative light. “The documentary aired by CNN portrayed Hinduism in a negative light. This is now what Hinduism is all about,” said Bharat Barai, an eminent Indian-American from Chicago area who attended the peaceful protest against CNN in front of its Chicago office.
Braving light rain, several hundred Indian-Americans turned up for the protest rally. Barai alleged that the documentary on Hinduism produced by special reporter Reza Aslan showed practices of five Aghori Bawas.
“This was his picture of Hinduism projected to the world on CNN,” said a protest letter distributed on the occasion.
“The grotesque practices of five individuals have nothing to do with Hinduism, they are not part of any Hindu scriptures or Hindu teachings,” Barai said.
Hindu-American groups from across the country have held several protests against the CNN after the airing of the documentary on March 5, including New York, Washington, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. This was the largest protest so far.
Vamsee Juluri, an Indian-American professor of Media studies at the University of San Francisco called the show “reckless, racist and dangerously anti-immigrant”.
Pointing out several inaccuracies, mistranslations and mis-characterisations in the show he said, “It is one saddening reality that despite having had immigrants in America for so many decades now, a major news channel like CNN still cannot do better than the old Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sort of story when it comes to India”.
“Far from wanting to experience any spirituality within Hinduism, Reza Aslan seems to have gone to India only to confirm his Orientalist biases,” said Chandrashekar Wagh from the Coalition Against Hinduphobia.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Aslan said his documentary is not about Hinduism, but about Aghori, a mystical Hindu sect known for extreme rituals.
Aslan said there are people who are offended by the episode, especially when it comes to its treatment of such issues as caste discrimination, which remains a touchy subject for many Hindus in America.