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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 project manger in the automotive industry in metro-Detroit, 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 a women’s interfaith organization (WISDOM), and a columnist for Patheos.com.
 
 
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. is the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery in the Department of Urology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA and is an Associate Professor of Surgery (Urology) at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Shukla is co-founder of HAF and focuses on developing an articulate voice for Hinduism in the media. His contributions to the On Faith section of the Washington Post/Newsweek can be found by clicking here. Dr. Shukla is active in developing pediatric urology as a discipline globally and has volunteered frequently teaching surgical and medical workshops as a project of Hindu American Physicians in Seva.
 

Staff

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 she seeks areas of shared interests to advance HAF's objectives 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, is on the editorial team of HAF's groundbreaking human rights report, and blogs for the Huffington Post. Ms. Shukla is actively involved with Chinmaya Mission and serves on the Board of the Bhutanese American Organization of Philadelphia. Previously she served on the Boards of the Nirvana Center, a Bhutanese community resettlement center, as well as the YWCA of Minneapolis, and was 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 and a Bachelors in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. She focuses on developing HAF's public policy strategy, communicating with and expanding HAF’s membership base, fundraising and finances, and building the HAF brand through various means including development of the Foundation’s website. She was instrumental in formulating the Foundation's Take Back Yoga campaign and manages 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 community outreach efforts. She is a blogger for Beliefnet.
 
Murali Balaji, Ph.D. is HAF's Director of Education and Curriculum Reform. A Fulbright Specialist and former journalist, he has taught at Temple University, Penn State University, and Lincoln University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Mass Communications, overseeing assessment and curriculum building efforts. A longtime advocate of minority issues, Mr. Balaji is the author of several books and the co-editor of the seminal anthologies Desi Rap (2008) and Global Masculinities and Manhood (2011). A native of the Philadelphia area, Mr. Balaji earned his B.A. in journalism from the University of Minnesota and his doctorate in Mass Communication from Penn State.
 
SriVani Ganti, Director of Member and Chapter Relations based in Washington, D.C, holds a Masters in Health Communications from Boston University and 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 Chinmaya Yuva Kendras and a committee member of the annual Swami Vivekananda Family Camp, held in Massachusetts. Ms. Ganti is 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 has served as a panelist at the National Press Club and multiple Congressional briefings on human rights and religious freedom in South Asia. In January 2013, Mr. Kalra conducted a one week human rights fact finding mission at refugee camps in Jodhpur, India that house Pakistani Hindu refugees. He authored the Foreword for a book on Bangladesh entitled A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: The Murder of Bangladesh's Hindus. Mr. Kalra authored formal comments to the FBI's Advisory Policy Board to support the addition of an anti-Hindu hate crime category to the FBI's data collection program, and he submitted on the record testimony to a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing in 2012 on "Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism." He serves as a member of Rep. Eric Swalwell's (D-CA) Immigration Advisory Committee and is a member of the American Society of International Law and the South Asian Bar Association. He is also an Advisor/Contributor at The Interfaith Observer Journal and is involved with the Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project. 
 
Jay Kansara, Associate Director of Government Relations 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 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. Mr. Kansara is an active volunteer at his local Hindu temple and is a student of Indian classical and folk music traditions.
 
Harsh Voruganti, Esq., Associate Director of Public Policy based in Washington, D.C., holds a JD from the George Washington University Law School. Mr. Voruganti is responsible for researching and developing the Foundation’s domestic policy priorities. He also works with local chapters to assess state-level legislative priorities and builds relationships with coalition partners, think tanks, and journalists. Before joining HAF’s staff, Mr. Voruganti worked as a fellow at the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Voruganti also serves on the Board of the D.C. Lawyers’ Chapter of the American Constitution Society and is a designated Next Generation Leader with the organization. Mr. Voruganti is a student of both Hindustani and Carnatic music.
 
Zoila McDowell is the Office Manager based in the Foundation’s Washington DC office. Ms. McDowell holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing and a Masters in French.

Executive Council

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.
 
 
Nicholas O'Connell is a research assistant with the Institute for Humane Studies. He has a B.A. in history from George Mason University and blogs regularly at Videshi Sutra. His efforts for the Foundation have centered on research for curriculum reform and the defense of civil liberties.
 
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.
 
 
Rajiv Pandit, M.D. is a board-certified head and neck surgeon, who serves as Clinical Instructor in the Dept. of Surgery at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, while practicing full-time at Dallas ENT – Head & Neck Surgery Center. He is also the director of the Dallas Sinus Institute.  A native of Kashmir, Dr. Pandit has been active in the leadership of various organizations that advocate for Hindus, and specifically the Hindus of Kashmir. He is the co-founder of HAF’s Dallas chapter, and his current focus is empowerment through education, specifically textbook reform and interfaith dialogue.
 
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.