HAF Addresses Defamatory and False Statements in India Abroad Letters

In the February 17, 2006 issue of India Abroad, several letters to the editor from Girish Agarwal of the Friends of South Asia (FOSA) and Raja Swamy were published containing defamatory and blatantly false statements about the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). In response, HAF sent the letter below to the editor of India Abroad. In addition, the president of HAF sent an independent letter to specifically address accusations against him. Both letters were printed in India Abroad.

February 21, 2006

Dear Editor,

Out of deference to India Abroad’s decision to cease publishing letters concerning the textbook issue, this letter only addresses patently false, defamatory statements against the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in letters by Girish Agarwal, et al, and Raja Swamy (IA, February 17, 2006). A summary of the actual proposed edits and revisions—free from distortions found in those letters—may be found at the websites of the California State Board of Education www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/science022706.asp or HAF www.hinduamericanfoundation.org.

It is very interesting that while HAF has built strong relationships with such progressive groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, the raison d’etre of radical groups represented by Agarwal and Swamy is attacking Hindu organizations and irreverent defamations of sants and mahatmas such as the Shankaracharya. While HAF welcomes the ostensible votaries of “progressive” South Asian groups to respond to their absence from the progressive scene in the American dialogue, HAF takes great offense to the falsities and accusations contained in these letters.

To wit, the following are verifiable fabrications and ad hominem attacks that call into question the entire content of the letters:

a) HAF never published, announced or disseminated any statements of support for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi vis a vis the Gujarat riots. No such statement is found on its website or on an internet search. Indeed, HAF in its press release condemned the Godhra massacre and the murderous riots that followed throughout Gujarat leaving Muslims and Hindus dead.

b) HAF never took a position on the Tulsa Zoo’s exhibit of Lord Ganesha. We can only assume that the “progressive” writers sought to excuse their own absence from the very important debate over the 10 Commandments in public places with the smokescreen of this outright lie.

c) HAF has absolutely no links to any Hindu nationalist social, political or religious groups in the United States or India. HAF does not advocate for Hindutva, Maoism, Communism or any other political ideology. None of HAF’s founders or leaders is a member of any nationalist organization. Swamy’s non-contextual reference to an article ostensibly written by Dr. Mihir Meghani, fifteen years ago as a teenager, in no way reflects HAF’s current guiding philosophy and is a tired attempt to deflect attention from the real issues that affect practicing Hindu Americans.

As one of the second-generation Indian American co-founders of HAF, I can categorically state that our organization is committed only to the provision of a professional, credible and unaffiliated Hindu American voice for the society in which we were born and raised—the United States. The endorsement and support we receive from the Council of Hindu Temples of North America (representing well over 600 temples), every major Hindu sampradaya and spiritual leader in the U.S., and thousands of members throughout this country confirms our representation of a broad segment of the practicing Hindu American population. The California textbook issue is too critical to allow blatant lies and innuendo to preclude reasoned debate.

Sincerely,

Nikhil N. Joshi, Esq.
Member, Board of Directors
Hindu American Foundation

March 9, 2006

Dear Editor,

Since launching in 2003, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has worked with groups representing most major religions and mainstream ideologies to promote understanding, tolerance and pluralism. HAF continues to serve the community as demonstrated by its strong track record in taking a Hindu American voice to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress in matters involving religious liberty and human rights, and to the media in presenting balanced coverage of Hinduism.

HAF seeks to be objective to external problems facing Hindus such as terrorism and fraudulent conversion while at the same time being honest about problems within Hindu society such as caste discrimination and violence such as that witnessed in Gujarat in 2002. HAF's track record includes expressing sadness over the death of Pope John Paul II, condemning Indian temples that ban entry of Dalit/Harijan ("untouchable") Hindus and Hindus of non-Indian descent, and more recently, supporting an accurate and fair portrayal of Islam in European newspapers.

It has been claimed that I wrote an essay for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) entitled, "BJP: The Great Hindu Nationalist Ideology." As a history major at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, I did write an essay that reflected my personal thoughts on the Hindu nationalist movement that was sweeping India. This essay was neither for public distribution nor written for the BJP. I have no knowledge of how a similar essay with my name was later published on the BJP website nor can I verify that similar versions appearing on the web have not been altered or modified. The BJP did remove my name from the essay on its website per my request as I do not stand by what is written.

After graduating from medical school and beginning my career, I left Hindu groups I was earlier involved with and came together with other Hindu Americans who shared my belief in the need for an independent, moderate and credible Hindu American voice not associated with Indian politics that would work to correct problems within Hindu society itself as well as promote a balanced understanding of Hindu traditions in the west. From these interactions, HAF was formed.

I am but one member of a large team of dedicated Hindu Americans at HAF. The essay I wrote nearly fifteen years ago representing some of the views I held as a teenager cannot be held up as representative of my views now or the views of the Hindu American Foundation. The recent personal attacks against me are false and are clearly meant to divert attention from real issues facing the community today such as terrorism, social problems, human rights, and the portrayal of our culture, religions, and history.

Sincerely,

Mihir Meghani, M.D.
President
Hindu American Foundation