Investing in Tomorrow's Leaders - HAF Interns on the Hill
This year brought HAF its inaugural class of Hindu American Congressional interns - five college students who were selected through a highly competitive process and placed into congressional offices to serve as interns for six weeks this summer. In addition to placing the students in various congressional offices, the Foundation also provided the interns with room and board and coverage of incidental expenses for the full six weeks of the program. The Foundation also organized a half-day event for the interns to learn more about HAF’s advocacy efforts and become more involved with HAF.
Hindu Americans Laud Senate for Unanimously Passing Diwali Resolution
The Hindu American Foundation commended the United States Senate for passing S. Res. 291, which recognizes the historical and spiritual significance of Diwali. The resolution, introduced by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), was cosponsored by Senate India Caucus co-chairs John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Warner (D-VA). Additional cosponsors included Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). With bipartisan support, it passed the Senate by unanimous consent on October 21, 2011. HAF assisted Senator Menendez’s office to draft the language of the resolution.
Capitol Hill Briefings Focuses on Human Rights Struggle of Kashmiri Hindus & Malaysian Hindus
New attention was focused on the forced religious cleansing of an estimated 400,000 Hindus, known as Pandits, from the Kashmir Valley in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir at a Capitol Hill briefing entitled “Kashmir 101: Hindu Human Rights.” Sponsored by the Hindu American Foundation, the September 19 briefing held in a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs hearing room featured Rahul Pandit, M.D., past president of the Indo-American Kashmir Forum; Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow at Asia Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation; and Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF’s Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights. The panel discussion was moderated by Milan Dalal, Esq., Legislative Director for Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). Kalra highlighted House Resolution 387 introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) that recognizes the human rights violations against the Hindu Pandits in Kashmir and demands that the terrorist infrastructure in the region be dismantled.
Continuing to generate awareness of the human rights violations faced by Hindus, Christians, and other ethnic minority groups in Malaysia, the Hindu American Foundation sponsored a Congressional briefing, Institutionalized Racism and Religious Discrimination in Malaysia, on November 9, featuring exiled Malaysian Hindu civil rights leader, Waytha Moorthy, and Dr. Ramesh Rao, HAF’s Human Rights Coordinator. The briefing, held in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building, was attended by congressional staffers, think tank and human rights activists, and embassy officials.
HAF Speaks Directly with Kentucky Senate President David Williams about Intolerant Remarks
The Hindu American Foundation sought clarification and an apology from Kentucky Senate President David Williams (R-16) in a telephone conversation on November 3, after his latest remarks about Governor Beshear’s “participation” in a Hindu ground-breaking ceremony. Williams, the GOP Nominee for Governor, initially made waves on Tuesday for criticizing Beshear and expressing his hope that Hindus accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. His comments were met with disappointment and shock from the Hindu American community and were strongly condemned by HAF.
HAF Testifies for First Time at USCIRF: Alleges Bias in Listing of India "Watch List"
The Hindu American Foundation strongly criticized the listing of India, the world’s largest secular democracy, with the likes of Russia, Afghanistan, and Cuba on a U.S. State Department advisory group’s “watch list” of violators of religious freedom. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced its censure of India for the third consecutive year at a news conference on April 28. India's inclusion came despite spirited testimony by HAF in support of India’s track record on religious freedom. Although USCIRF reported that measures to improve religious freedom are ongoing in India, it argued India should be kept on the watch list “because justice for past communal violence continues to be slow and ineffective and because of concerns about the state ‘Freedom of Religion Act(s).’”
Exiled Malaysian Human Rights Activist Addresses Large Crowds on U.S. Tour
The exiled Malaysian human rights lawyer and founder of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), Waytha Moorthy, completed a seven city tour of the United States sponsored by the Hindu American Foundation on April 10. Moorthy was jailed and then exiled from his native Malaysia, and HINDRAF was banned after organizing a peaceful rally of more than 50,000 in 2007, protesting the country’s persecution of ethnic Indians and Hindus. Moorthy’s speaking tour took him to several meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as well as stops on university campuses and community events. He called for international attention to be focused not only on the mass movement of Hindus and other religious minorities that was crushed by the Malaysian government in 2007, but also on the ongoing systematic discrimination.
Hindu Advocacy Group Updates Landmark Report on Caste-based Discrimination in India
HAF released an updated edition of the report, Hinduism: Not Cast in Caste - Seeking an End to Caste-based Discrimination, after an unprecedented second review process that included some of the most prominent contemporary Hindu spiritual, community, and academic leaders. The report highlights HAF’s perspective that discrimination based on the caste of one’s birth is against Hinduism’s core teaching of the divinity inherent in all beings; that caste-based discrimination is an unfortunate reality for many, especially the so-called Scheduled Castes -- also known as “Harijans” or “Dalits”--in many parts of India today; untouchability has absolutely no sanction in any of Hinduism’s sacred texts; Hindu spiritual leaders are actively engaged in ending this practice in Indian society; and that political leaders and missionary organizations routinely exploit the issue for vote-bank advantages and through predatory proselytization, respectively.
HAF Hires Fulltime Director/Senior Fellow for Human Rights
HAF welcomed Samir Kalra, Esq. as its new Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights. Kalra, based in Northern California, is the Foundation's fifth fulltime staff member and also formerly served on the Executive Council where he was the editor of HAF's 2008-2009 human rights report. He holds a JD from Santa Clara University School of Law and previously worked as a public interest attorney representing low income communities.
HAF's Take Back Yoga Airs on CNN and NPR
In 2010, the New York Times featured the Hindu American Foundation's Take Back Yoga campaign on the front page of its Sunday edition and generated waves of discussion in the yoga community. That tide continued into 2011 when both CNN aired a special feature, "What is Yoga?", and NPR aired a segment, featuring HAF Senior Director Sheetal Shah, entitled "Has Yoga Strayed too Far from its Hindu Roots?" The discussion continued on various blog sites as well as at Princeton University, where a five-person panel, which included Shah, debated "The Politics of Yoga."
HAF Submits Testimony on State of Religious Liberty in the U.S. to House of Representatives
The Hindu American Foundation, along with other faith-based and civil liberty groups, submitted on the record written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, following a hearing on October 26, 2011 on the State of Religious Liberty in the United States. The testimony laid out a Hindu American perspective on religious liberty in the U.S. and provided a summary of cases where HAF has directly participated as a litigant or an amici (friend of the court).
A Blow to India's Secular Democracy - HAF Weighs in on Proposed Communalism Prevention Bill
The Hindu American Foundation delivered a scathing critique of the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill of 2011 yesterday. The National Advisory Council (NAC) of the Government of India recently announced its publication of a draft bill intended to address the pressing issue of inter-religious and communal tensions and violence in the subcontinent.
HAF's legal team urged withdrawal of the Bill from legislative consideration on behalf of non-resident Indian members of the Foundation as well as Indian citizen relatives, friends, and colleagues of members. Amongst numerous fatal flaws, HAF argued, that on its face, the Bill unfairly singled out Hindu citizens and violated basic principles of equality under the law, separation of powers, innocent until proven guilty, fairness, and due process. Click here to view the letter online.
Hindu Americans Promote Pluralism at PantheaCon 2011
Over 2300 people from around the world gathered at the Double Tree Hotel in San Jose, CA this President’s Day weekend to attend PantheaCon 2011, an event dubbed to celebrate and honor the Pagan and Ethnic Religious Traditions. This year’s program also featured presentations by the Hindu American Foundation on Hinduism, the Hindu American community, how Hinduism and Paganism converge and differ, pluralism, predatory proselytization, and common goals for future collaboration.