Splainer

Friday, September 18 2020


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I can think of no better person to name a street for, to symbolize a welcoming community and nation ... no one who better exemplifies generosity of spirit, than my grandmother.

That’s Rani Bagai celebrating the decision to rename a street in downtown Berkeley after her grandmother, Kala Bagai—who tried to move to the city in 1915 with her husband and children. The family was blocked from moving into their newly purchased home by racist neighbours. Bagai’s husband died of suicide in 1923 when the US government nullified his citizenship. The reason: a new law reclassified Indians as ‘non white’. But Kala would go on to become a prominent community activist. This is Berkeley making belated amends. Illustration: Parth Savla

Big Story

The BJP’s ‘foreign agents’ in America

The TLDR: Recently, the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) registered itself as a ‘foreign agent’ as per the US law. It was an overdue acknowledgement of the organisation’s fervent political lobbying—aimed at influencing members of Congress and the White House. But what got less attention: The OFBJP’s links to election campaigns in the US—which is trickier and not-quite-legal territory. Nope, this isn’t about ties to Donald Trump.

 

Wait, what’s this OFBJP?

It is the international arm of the BJP party. It was first launched in 1992 in the midst of the party’s Ram Janmabhoomi campaign which was attracting unfavourable global attention. The organization was created “to educate American lawmakers, the American people and the Indian American community about the true principles of the BJP.” 


By 2013, the group had 40 chapters around the world. In the US, it has 4,000 members and about 300,000 supporters. All of them are volunteers.

 

So why are they ‘foreign agents’ now?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • US charges five Chinese hackers
  • A new sexual assault allegation against Trump
  • Why India's death rate is likely fiction
  • Everyone’s talking about ‘Evil Eye’

 

Smart and Curious

  • A collection of wonderful pop culture essays
  • The pandemic has brought with it anxiety and depression. But can it also offer joy?

 

Life Advisory

  • A brilliant new Hari Kunzru podcast
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