The HAF Team

Board of Directors | Staff | Executive Council 

Board of Directors

Rishi Bhutada is the Vice President of Finance at Star Pipe Products in Houston, TX and holds an MBA from Rice University and a Bachelor's of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His efforts focus on textbook reform, Hindu political awareness, and intrafaith advocacy training, as well as strategic planning for the Foundation. Mr. Bhutada also serves as the primary writer for the HAF blog. He won the India House Houston's Young Leader of the Year Award in 2013.

Padma Kuppa, an IT professional in the automotive industry based in Michigan, holds a Bachelors degree from REC Warangal. She focuses on interreligious cooperation at HAF and is a community activist. In addition to her work with HAF, she is also a co-founder of Troy-area Interfaith Group, an Advisory Board member of Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro-Detroit (WISDOM), and a columnist for

Mihir Meghani, M.D., an Emergency Physician, is a co-founder of HAF. He has provided medical care in India after the 2001 earthquake, in NY after 9/11, and in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami with The Permanente Medical Group. A member of the US Department of Homeland Security's Disaster Medical Assistance Team and former member of the East Bay Regional Parks Advisory Committee, Dr. Meghani has received numerous awards for his community service. He also serves on the Board of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council.

Aseem Shukla, M.D., Associate Professor of Urologic Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, is a co-founder of the Foundation.  His efforts for the Foundation focus on developing a professional, articulate and credible voice for Hinduism through interactions with mass media. His frequent contributions to the On Faith section of the Washington Post/Newsweek can be found by clicking here. Dr. Shukla also volunteers his time to host several pediatric urological surgery workshops throughout India.


Suhag Shukla, Esq., Executive Director and Legal Counsel, is a co-founder of HAF.  She holds a BA in Religion and JD from the University of Florida. As Legal Counsel, Ms. Shukla has helped launch the Foundation as a leading voice for religious freedom. She is tasked with cultivating strategic intrafaith and interfaith relationships, the latter for which seeks areas of shared interests and has forged diverse collaborations in the realms of church/state advocacy and issue-specific dialogue.  She has been instrumental in the development of a broad range of educational materials and position papers, and has overseen HAF’s groundbreaking reports, including the annual Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights and the first-of-its-kind, Hinduism: Not Caste in Caste - Seeking an End to Caste-Based Discrimination. Ms. Shukla is actively involved with Chinmaya Mission, has served on the Boards of the Nirvana Center, a Bhutanese resettlement center, as well as the YWCA of Minneapolis, and is a member of the Planning Committee of the St. Paul Interfaith Network. Nationally, she serves on religious advisory committees for the Department of Homeland Security and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sheetal Shah, Senior Director based in New York City, holds a Masters degree from the London School of Economics.  She focuses on communicating with and expanding HAF’s membership base, fundraising and finances, and building and promoting the HAF brand through various means including the Foundation’s website.  She was instrumental in formulating the Foundation's Take Back Yoga campaign and developing the Hindu American Congressional Internship.  A former member of the Foundation’s Executive Council, Ms. Shah is well-experienced in HAF’s human rights campaign and various community outreach efforts.  Ms. Shah is also actively involved with the MATCH charter school in Boston, MA.  She is a regular blogger for Beliefnet.

SriVani Ganti, Director of Member and Chapter Relations based in Washington, D.C, is currently earning a Masters in Health Communications from Boston University and holds a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Northeastern University. At HAF, her primary focus is on building and strengthening member relations as well as developing local HAF chapters across the country. Ms. Ganti is active within her Hindu community as a member of the DC area Chinmaya Yuva Kendras (CHYKs) and a committee member of the annual Swami Vivekananda Family Camp, held in Massachusetts. Ms. Ganti is also a student of Carnatic classical music, playing the Veena since the age of 9.

Samir Kalra, Esq., Director and Senior Human Rights Fellow based in the Bay Area, CA, holds a JD from Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Kalra leads the Foundation's human rights advocacy efforts and produces HAF's human rights and public policy documents and reports. Mr. Kalra recently authored the Foreword for a book on Bangladesh entitled, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: The Murder of Bangladesh's Hindus. He is also a member of the American Society of International Law and the South Asian Bar Association, serves as an Advisor/Contributor at The Interfaith Observer Journal, and is involved with the Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project. Mr. Kalra is licensed to practice law in the state of California and previously worked as a public interest attorney representing low-income communities.

Jay Kansara, Associate Director based in Washington, DC, holds a BA in Government and Asian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.  He develops and maintains strategic relationship with leaders in public policy and the Foundation in various fora, including congressional briefings, interfaith and human rights roundtable meetings, and official government functions. He also serves as the Foundation's liaison to the Hindu community in the greater D.C. area. Jay is an active volunteer at his local Hindu temple and is a student of Indian classical and folk music traditions.

Zoila McDowell is the Office Administrator based in the Foundation’s Washington DC office.  Ms. McDowell holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing and a Masters in French.

Executive Council

Arvind Chandrakantan, M.D., is a Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesiologist and Intensivist whose focus within the Foundation includes Hindu Chaplaincy, Hindu youth awareness, and Hindu temple reconstruction and renovation. Dr. Chandrakantan is also a member of the Loka Dharma Seva Foundation and Trust, which promotes Vedic values in India.

Pooja Deopura is a software professional in Silicon Valley.  She holds a Bachelor's in Computer Science from  the University of California, Davis, where she was also a campus news writer for the California Aggie. Her work with the Foundation focuses on membership development campaigns and student outreach.  She also assists in publicizing HAF's advocacy work at the local level. 

Pawan Deshpande, CEO of Curata, Inc., holds a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and a Master’s of Engineering from MIT.  His role at HAF currently focuses on human rights and caste-based discrimination.  As one of the senior most Executive Council members, Mr. Deshpande has been involved in launching the Foundation’s internship program and was the Foundation’s key technology advisory.

Sachi Edwards is a doctoral student at the University of Maryland researching Peace Education and Interfaith Dialogue in the higher education setting. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies and a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from California State University, Chico, and a Master's Degree in Religion from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Her focus at the Foundation is largely centered around environmental and animal welfare efforts. Ms. Edwards is also the Coordinator of Outreach and Volunteer Programs for Sahayog Foundation.

Nikhil Joshi, Esq., a  labor and employment attorney and partner at a Florida based law firm, is a co-founder of HAF and holds a JD from the University of Florida.  His efforts for the Foundation have largely centered on administrative, legal, and operational matters.

Raman Khanna, M.D., is a hospitalist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at UCSF, where he studies Health Information Technology. He studied religion as an undergraduate at Northwestern University, where he also completed his medical degree and residency training. He has been an active member of HAF's Northern CA Working Group and is currently focused on academic outreach and data analysis.

Kavita Pallod is a first grade teacher in Houston, Texas. She holds a dual degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Psychology and Education. She is active in the Hindu community of Houston and serves on the steering committee for the Hindu Heritage Youth Camp. She is also the 2011 winner of the Hindus of Greater Houston's Youth Leader award. Kavita's work at HAF is focused on K-12 curricular issues.

Ramesh Rao, Professor of Communication Studies, Department of Communication Studies and Theatre at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, holds a PhD in Communication Studies from Michigan State University.  He has led the Foundation’s annual human rights report effort for over five years.  Dr. Rao is the author of two books on Indian politics and society and has written numerous op-eds for newspapers and magazines in India, U.S., and U.K.

Vineet Sharma, M.D., a practicing Neuroradiologist, is Director of Imaging Services and President of the O'Connor Imaging Medical Group.  He studied molecular biology at U.C. Berkeley and completed his Residency and Fellowship at Stanford University.  He has been an active member of HAF's Northern CA Working Group and is currently leading the Foundation's government outreach at the state level and outreach to national policy institutes and think tanks.

Swaminathan Venkataraman, Director of Project and Export Finance at Standard Charter Bank, is HAF's Director of India Strategic Relations.  He focuses on strategic interactions with policy leaders, think tanks, and media in India.  Formerly a Director at Standard & Poor's in San Francisco, Mr. Venkataraman used to  lead the Foundation's interfaith efforts.  Mr. Venkataraman was born and raised in India and earned a Bachelors in Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta. He is currently based in Mumbai, India.