The festive season is upon India and the fervour has spilled over onto the election campaign in the United States. An image that has now gone viral on instant messaging applications, as well as social media, shows Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris as the Hindu goddess Durga, sitting atop a lion with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Bidenâ€™s face, and US President Donald Trump depicted as the buffalo demon 'Mahishasura'.
Senator Kamala Harrisâ€™s niece Meena, who is a lawyer and author, had first shared the image on social media, with a caption that said, â€śI am actually speechless, other than to say that the first day of Navaratri was LIT.â€ť
Someone just sent me this awesomeness on whatsapp.â€” james crabtree (@jamescrabtree) October 20, 2020
The whole kamala-as-durga vibe portends well for November 3rd.... pic.twitter.com/v1gu2CKSKs
However, the image did not go down well with Hindu groups in the US, who have sought an apology.
"Your tweeting a caricature of the feminine divine, Maa Durga, with faces superimposed, deeply aggrieved many Hindus globally," Suhag A Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation said in a tweet on Monday. HAF, which represents the Hindu American community, has issued a guideline for commercial use of images relating to the religion.
Rishi Bhutada of the Hindu American Political Action Committee said the "offensive" picture was not created by Meena Harris herself. It had been circulating on WhatsApp prior to her tweet and the Biden campaign confirmed to him that the image was not created by it.
â€śGiven that, I personally believe that an apology should come from Meena Harris even though she did delete the tweet, and no one else. Our religious iconography should not be used in the service of politics in America â€” I said the same when the Fort Bend County GOP did it in an ad in 2018, and it holds the same here," Bhutada said.
Ajay Shah, the convener of American Hindus Against Defamation, said in a statement the image has offended and outraged the religious community.
Over the weekend, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had greeted the Hindu community in the US on Navratri and wished for the victory of good over evil once again.
"As the Hindu festival of Navratri begins, Jill and I send our best wishes to all those celebrating in the US and around the world. May good once again triumph over evil - and usher in new beginnings and opportunity for all," Biden, 77, had tweeted.
"@DouglasEmhoff and I wish our Hindu American friends and family, and all those celebrating, a very Happy Navratri! May this holiday serve as an inspiration to all of us to lift up our communities and build a more inclusive and just America," 55-year-old Senator Harris had tweeted.
(With PTI inputs)