"Only a REAL INDIAN Can Defeat the Fake Indian."
The words, emblazoned on two signs that hang off U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai's campaign bus, appear next to two images: one of a stoic Ayyadurai looking into the camera, and another of a closeup of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wearing a Native American headdress.
Ayyadurai, a 54-year-old scientist born in Bombay, India, told the Washington Times the city of Camridge, Mass., had ordered him to remove the signs because they were placed "without approvals and permits." He believes this was instead a case of the city trying to clamp down on his right to free speech.
“This is a political vendetta by city officials who are supporters of Elizabeth Warren, Ayyadurai told the paper. "“We will not remove the slogan from our bus,” Ayyadurai told the paper. “We will defend the First Amendment, and we will fight this egregious attack on the First Amendment, at any cost.”
He has since filed a lawsuit demanding the court prevent the city of Cambridge from imposing a fine on his campaign, saying that the same signs were in place for months and that he was only served a notice when the wording was changed. The suit also makes a case that the signs cannot be in violation because they are on a moving vehicle, not a building.
"They didn’t say anything when we had the first sign,” he told the Washington Times. “It was only when we put, ‘Only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian,’ so it’s clearly trying to censor speech.”
Warren, the Democratic senior senator for Massachusetts, has claimed Native American heritage somewhere in her family line — though Warren speaks about a Cherokee ancestry, not "Indian" ancestry from the country of India. Critics say she has used the claim as a token to advance her career, which she denies, CNN reported.
There have been several attempts to trace her heritage, none of which came through with decisive evidence one way or another, The Washington Post reported. Warren cites family lore as her reasoning behind the claim, according to CNN.
Ayyadurai, a Trump supporter who is running as an independent, told Boston Magazine he thought Warren was among those elites who had forgotten most Americans. He compared it to India's notorious caste system.
“Since the day I was born as a low-caste Indian,” he told the magazine. “I’ve had to fight. So for me, running for this is really not about running against Elizabeth Warren. What I see happening to this country is a neo-caste system.”
Ayyadurai is no stranger to controversy. The scientist is perhaps most well known for claiming to have invented email as a teenager before going on to earn several degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Some experts have disputed that, saying the elements of email were around years before Ayyudurai claimed to have coded them in the late 1970s, according to ArsTechnica. The Washington Post ran a lengthy correction following a report it did on a Smithsonian exhibit that included some of Ayyadurai's work clarifying that Ayyudurai's claims were not supported by the institution.