Hindu American Foundation Condemns Hinduphobic Resolution in House of Representatives

DATE: March 21, 2005

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed grave disappointment over omissions in House Resolution 160 introduced by Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) on March 16, 2005. According to the preamble, the purpose of the resolution was "to condemn all violations of religious freedom in India." In letters written to both Congressmen, HAF criticized the resolution for its complete neglect of violations and persecution against Hindus in not only India, but also other countries of South Asia.

The resolution represented a political agenda, according to HAF, as it was submitted in advance of a planned visit by Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, India, to the United States. The visit was cancelled on March 18, 2005 when the United States State Department abruptly revoked Mr. Modi's tourist visa and declined granting him a diplomatic visa. There is speculation that the resolution, in addition to a coordinated campaign by members of the Forum of Indian Leftists, Indian Muslim Council, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, Coalition Against Genocide, and others to vilify not only Modi, but his political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, led to the unexpected decision.

HAF expressed concern to Congressmen Pitts and Conyers about their criticism of India for alleged violations of religious freedom. As the world's largest democracy with a constitution influenced by the Hindu ethos of tolerance and pluralism, combined with a mature judiciary and human rights monitoring mechanisms, HAF felt that India hardly deserved to be a target of such a resolution. HAF also expressed frustration that the Congressmen made India a focus of a resolution condemning religious persecution in South Asia while Pakistan and Bangladesh escaped mention.

"The heinous tragedy that befell Gujarati Muslims in riots after the murder of 58 Hindus burned alive on a train by terrorists must be denounced. But if the Congressmen were sincere in their censure of violations of religious freedom, they would not have ignored the situation in India's Jammu & Kashmir state, where thousands have been massacred, and where religio-ethnic cleansing by Islamist extremists supported by Pakistan has resulted in an exodus of 400,000 Hindus, Sikhs, and Indian Muslims from their ancestral homes," said Dr. Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation.

"HAF presented evidence during a Capitol Hill reception and Congressional visits in May 2004, of the tens of thousands of Hindus murdered, raped and driven from their homes in Bangladesh beginning as recently as 2001, and religious cleansing of millions of people continuing even today," said Swaminathan Venkataraman, member of the HAF Executive Council. "Ignoring those figures and the contemptible human rights record within Pakistan renders this resolution hopelessly deficient," he added.

Perhaps most outrageous to many Hindus, according to HAF, is the implication inherent in a line in the submitted resolution "…that those arrested in connection with the bombings and retaliatory attacks on Hindus in India have claimed that they carried out their actions in revenge for the state-assisted killings of Muslims in Gujarat…"

HAF denounced the statement in strong terms. "It is this very rhetoric—that terrorism and atrocities committed against Hindus is by some perverse logic justifiable—that has left Hindu victims ignored," the letter stated.

HAF members pointed out that the genocide and forced exodus of surviving Hindus from the Kashmir valley, the deaths of over 50,000 Indian citizens due to the Pakistan sponsored insurgency in the valley and the 2001 attack on India's Parliament by Islamist terrorists predated the tragedy in Gujarat.

In addition, the involvement of Congressman Pitts, known for his championing the Pakistani rhetoric about Kashmir, despite that country's support for terrorism in Kashmir, was a source of consternation for many Hindu Americans.

"Congressman Pitts has a history of ignoring the suffering of Hindus everywhere, especially in South Asia," said Dr. Meghani. "His personal biases against Hindus and India are disappointingly transparent in this resolution."

HAF also announced a campaign to educate the nearly 2 million Hindus in the United States of the efforts by Congressman Pitts, a small minority of others in the House of Representatives, Islamist groups, and radical communist groups to systematically promote a Hinduphobic and anti-India agenda within the United States.

“This pro-active campaign furthers HAF's mission of promoting tolerance, pluralism and understanding,” Dr. Meghani said. “We need to come to terms with the reality of terrorism in South Asia and urge justice for all victims of religious and ethnic violence."