"Pajeet" And Its Origin As An Anti-Hindu Slur
"You may have noticed the term 'Pajeet' and its accompanying memes being used more often now to attack Indians and Hindus online."
January 17, 2024 | 4 min. read | Analysis
You may have noticed the slur “Pajeet” and its accompanying memes being used more often now to attack Indians and Hindus online.
It was only after right-wing accounts in the West recently started using it on Twitter to make fun of Indians for open defecation, as well as attacking them for other issues like caste violence, that its rise in use caught my attention. Before this, I seldom saw “Pajeet” appearing outside of forums like Reddit or 4chan.
My intrigue about its origins only increased after Indian accounts began to defend themselves by suggesting that “Pajeet” is actually a far-right slur for Sikhs - often sharing a screenshot of a random user entry on Urban Dictionary as proof. But, as a Sikh, I actually have never seen the meme or term directed at us before - not that it makes it any less problematic. Even now, as the slur goes mainstream, the use is clearly directed towards Indians and Hindus, which we will get into more below.
So, it got me asking - what is the actual origin of “Pajeet,” and how has the meme been used historically? An important question, as I fear that the term will grow and become, if it is not already, the new de facto slur for brown folks in general. Essentially the modern-day version of “Paki.”
As Elon Musk once tweeted, "Who controls the memes, controls the universe.”
Origins as an Open Defecation Insult
“A July  2015 thread on 4chan's /int/ or ‘international’ board contains the earliest known meme using the word ‘Pajeet’ in reference to Indians,” Know Your Meme, the popular portal tracking meme use and origins, states.
“The term is sometimes extended to ‘Pajeet Kumar,’” Know Your Meme reports, explaining that the slur was born out of a variation of the “Mehmet My Son” meme, and was first used to mock open defecation in India. Kumar is a common Hindu name found in India.
Open defecation in India has another meme associated with it as well, which just barely predates “Pajeet,” known as “Designated Shitting Streets.” “Pajeet” is just a continuation of that meme.
Again from Know Your Meme, “The earliest use of the phrase [Designated Shitting Streets] comes from a 4chan's international board /int/ thread submitted on July 13th, 2015, where an Indian user complained about the “India smells bad and is dirty” jokes, claiming that people only defecate on ‘designated shitting streets’ and not everywhere. That statement was consequently mocked in the thread and several compilations of reactions from users were made.”
“Pajeet” as a Derogatory Slur for Hindus
“‘Pajeet’ is a word often filling up our timeline,” the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) once tweeted back on November 29, 2022. “A reminder that ‘pajeet’ is an ethno-religious slur referring to Hindus,” they added.
While HAF is an organization with a problematic track record that Baaz has reported on in the past, we have included their assessment of the term to try to understand how “Pajeet” has been used and interpreted historically. Since the slur has been directed at Hindus since 2015, no Sikh bodies, or otherwise, have picked up on its use or addressed it in any way it appears.
“In addition to it appearing on online discussions, social media posts, hashtags, and videos, the term is often accompanied by Hindu symbols like the swastika or Hindu forehead markings,” HAF writes on their website. A search of “Pajeet” almost exclusively brings up results that fit this description. We are not republishing those images here, as they are obviously racist, offensive or crude caricatures of Hindus.
Citti Media, a Hindu Nationalist outlet, has spoken about the use of “Pajeet” as well, namely how it is a slur actually directed at Hindus.
“The term 'Pajeet' is a derogatory word used (in America) for Hindus; memes on Hindus are very explicit, usually of people with a tilak or bindi looking dirty,” they say, also adding that the memes are not directed at Indians of other religions.
“When this type of explicit Hindu imagery is being used, that is how we are able to deduce that this is anti-Hindu in nature and not just about anti-Indian xenophobia,” they discuss in a video.
No Sikh or Punjab Angle
Many Indian and Hindu Nationalist accounts have recently attempted to baselessly claim that “Pajeet” is actually a slur aimed at Sikhs or Punjabis. Others have hypothesized that it may be a play on the Punjabi word for brother, “paaji,” coupled with the common Punjabi name suffix of “-jeet.”
“Pajeet” itself is not a real name, and it is actually unknown what original 4chan users were thinking when they came up with “Pajeet” for a slur directed at Indians that engage in open defecation and Hindus. As noted earlier, “Pajeet” also appears as “Pajeet Kumar” in memes, the latter being a common Hindu name.
As the slur typically targets open defecation, it is important to flag that the issue is most prevalent in the Hindi Heartland and Cow Belt regions of India and not Punjab. The data is actually fairly clear: Punjab is an outlier in India and does not really have an open defecation problem. Especially so in and around the time of “Pajeet’s” origins.
As time progresses, it will be important to see how the use of the slur evolves, including who it is targeting. We have already seen examples of some Indian and Hindu Nationalist accounts attempting to co-opt and use the term against Sikhs and Punjabis.
However, the main purveyors of “Pajeet” remain right-wing actors in the West, and for them disseminating hate and racism is the main goal - something we should all be vigilante about.
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Strategist at the public affairs and relations agency State Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
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