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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Hindu Aggies deserve respect

The+Student+Government+Association+is+located+in+the+John+J.+Koldus+Building.
Photo by File

The Student Government Association is located in the John J. Koldus Building.

It all came down to one word. 
The Student Senate held a heated debate on Oct. 6 over what was expected to be an easily passed resolution. But after going on for a surprising two hours, the conversations were halted until the next meeting on Oct. 20.
What for? Acknowledging the discrimination Hindu Aggies face on campus and recognizing their right to exist and practice their religion — free of judgment and harassment. 

A pretty simple and straightforward resolution, one might think. However, there was one key part of the resolution, one specific word, that resulted in the drawn-out debate. The original resolution states that many Hindu Aggies have experienced “oppression by fellow Aggies who affiliate with Christianity.” 

The keyword — Christianity.

Immediately following the presentation of the resolution on Oct. 6, student senators asked pointed questions about the reasoning for including Christianity. 

“Would this statement have the same effect without [the inclusion of Christianity]?”

“What’s the significance of specifically [including] Aggies who affiliate with Christianity?”

“Are the authors willing to remove [Christianity]?”

As someone who identifies as a Christian, this wasn’t received as an affront, personally. The authors of the bill clearly stated multiple times it isn’t an attack but a call for accountability. I’ve been a member of the Aggie family going on almost four years. In those four years, I’ve predominantly seen Aggies who affiliate with Christianity holding banners and evangelizing outside popular campus buildings. 

This doesn’t go to say it isn’t anyone’s constitutional right. A member of the student senate pointed this out. Our forefathers made it clear that any person has the right to freedom of religion and also the freedom to share it. However, this right doesn’t include the harassment and discrimination of others. In fact, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits it.

But what are Hindu Aggies experiencing exactly on campus? Computer science senior and Hindu Student Association President Anu Khatri said, “People are harassed to attend Bible studies or go to [a Christian] church.” She went on to detail how, “even though [they’ve] expressed that, [they’re] not interested [that they’re] Hindu.” 

“After that, it’s just harassment,” Khatri said. 

Other notable testimonies were shared at the Student Senate meeting. Political science senior and author of the resolution Aktaa Patel described a time when she was explaining to a Christian student why she believed in Hinduism. 

“My values and beliefs were being openly denied, and I was later told I needed to be saved from Hinduism and Christianity was the only proper way of life,” Patel said. 

Biology freshman Khushi Patel said it makes her feel like an outcast at Texas A&M. She detailed the encounters she has had with Christian students and the pressures they’ve put on her to learn about their religion. Of course, these students didn’t bother to learn about hers. 

As the testimonies went on, this was a recurring theme. In total, there were six detailed accounts from Hindu students experiencing harassment and judgment from Christian students. A few alarming examples include shoving Bibles into backpacks, coming to Hindu Student Association meetings and attempting to convert members and blowing up social media inboxes with audio clips of sermons. It’s a no-brainer why the authors specifically mention students affiliated with Christianity. 

It’s never wrong to stand firmly in your own beliefs. It is wrong to wholly dismiss and condemn a 4,000-year-old religion, though.

Out of the 98 recognized and unrecognized spiritual organizations on campus, 87 of them are Christian organizations. Hence, the overload of sharing the gospel and cornering students in Starbucks and Sweet Eugene’s to convert. It makes sense the mass amount of Christian presence on campus given the demographics of religious affiliations in Texas and the United States. Approximately 77 percent of Texans are Christians, and 70.6 percent of Americans identify as Christian as well. 

During this avid Aggie gospel sharing, many need to be reminded that Christians are called not to judge, but to love. This is not what Hindu Aggies are experiencing.

However, after much debate and conversation, S.R. 74-16 recognizing and supporting the Hindu Aggie community passed 29-23 on Oct. 20. The final controversial resolution was revised to “harassment and discrimination by some fellow Aggies, who mostly affiliate with Christianity”. It’s a shame, though, that it took the authors multiple hours defending the validity of their and others’ feelings and experiences. Aggies are called to respect one another, and we need to follow through on that.

While the resolution passed, there needs to be more accountability and respect on campus. Nuclear engineering sophomore Maanya Gulati said, “The conversation [has] just started.” 

It takes more than just having conversations about inclusivity and boundaries. 

“I think the university could do more. They could send a provost message to all of campus. It could be trainings … talking about verbal harassment. It could include [teaching against] religious proselytizing,” Gulati said. 

Here at A&M, we’re known to have a spirit of Loyalty and Respect for one another. We’re lacking in that spirit toward our fellow Hindu Ags. 

They deserve better.

Kaelin Connor is a psychology senior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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