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HomeNewsOver 300 Writers, Academics and Scholars Repudiate Hindu American Foundation’s Attempt to Silence Hindus for Human Rights

Over 300 Writers, Academics and Scholars Repudiate Hindu American Foundation’s Attempt to Silence Hindus for Human Rights

Over 300 academics, scholars, and writers from across the world have endorsed a statement expressing solidarity with two co-founders of Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and other individuals who have been targeted by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) with a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit.

We are immensely grateful for the outpouring of support beyond our expectations. Each one of the endorsements is a vote of confidence in our important work in resisting Hindutva and working against racism and casteism in the diaspora. We are hopeful that this massive display of public support will galvanize others to stand with us as we successfully resist this case of intimidation and push back against efforts to curtail free speech. We offer a special thank you to all those who have supported us from India, where they are themselves facing unprecedented attacks on freedom of speech and press freedoms.

Here are some of the notable names among the 300+ endorsers (access the full list of endorsements here):

  1. Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

  2. Amitav Ghosh, Writer; Honorary Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford

  3. Anand Grover, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India; Founder Member, Lawyers Collective

  4. Anand Patwardhan, Filmmaker

  5. Anita Desai, Writer, Author and Emerita John E. Buchard Professor of the Humanities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  6. Apoorvanand, Professor, University of Delhi

  7. Cornel West, Philosopher; Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University; Professor Emeritus at Princeton University

  8. Deepa Mehta, Filmmaker; Doctor of Letters, York University

  9. Hari Kunzru, Writer; Professor, New York University

  10. Harsh Mander, Human Rights Activist, Karwan e Mohabbat, India

  11. Kiran Desai, Writer

  12. Lalita Ramdas, Citizen Activist, LARA

  13. Laxminarayan Ramdas, Admiral, Former Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy

  14. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Director, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, Union Theological Seminary

  15. Lord Meghnad Desai, British economist and former Labour politician

  16. Mallika Sarabhai, Writer and Dancer

  17. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Former Member of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), and former Union Cabinet Minister (2004-09)

  18. Manu Pillai, King’s College London

  19. Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago

  20. Martin Macwan, Managing Trustee, Navsarjan Trust

  21. Medha Patkar, Veteran Social Activist

  22. Meena Kandasamy, Writer

  23. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (Emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Laureate Professor, University of Arizona

  24. P. Sainath, Founder Editor, People’s Archive of Rural India

  25. Philip Weiss, Senior Editor, Mondoweiss.net

  26. Rajmohan Gandhi, Research Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  27. Romila Thapar, Historian; Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

  28. Sheldon Pollock, Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies, Columbia University

  29. Simran Jeet Singh, Visiting Professor, Union Theological Seminary

  30. Suraj Yengde, Senior Fellow, Harvard University

  31. T M Krishna, Musician and Author

  32. Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of the History of Religions, University of Chicago

Full Statement:

We stand in solidarity with Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and deplore efforts to silence an important alternative and inclusive Hindu voice in the diaspora.

We are alarmed by the news that Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), specifically co-founders Sunita Viswanath and Raju Rajagopal, have been sued by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). They, along with Indian American Muslim Council executive director Rasheed Ahmed, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America chairman John Prabhudoss, and Rutgers University professor Audrey Truschke, have been accused of defamation and conspiracy to defame HAF.

Viswanath and Rajagopal exercised their right to free speech by commenting on the matter of disbursement of federal COVID relief federal funds to several Hindutva-aligned organizations. (See HAF’s complaint here: https://tinyurl.com/5hcxdrnk)

Almost every minute, India’s Covid stories send us deeper into grief, but Covid is not the only poison attacking India. Equally troubling is the drive of “Hindutva,” or Hindu nationalism. Going directly against constitutional guarantees of equality and democratic rights, Hindutva wants supremacy for India’s Hindu majority and acceptance by Muslims, Christians, and others of second-class citizenship. Moreover, Hindutva is an authoritarian ideology, having no tolerance for peaceful dissent or debate, the very qualities that underline a democracy.

Many are aware that the Hindutva thrust is worryingly similar to the rise of white supremacy in the U.S. But a clear majority of Indian Americans believe in equal rights and voted for a change in the US administration. And now, a considerable section of Indian Americans also oppose Hindutva and demand equal rights for all citizens of India. HfHR is a crucial voice on their behalf. Unfortunately, given the support for Hindutva in influential sections of the Indian American community, attempts are being made to legally harass or discredit HfHR.

These efforts must be resolutely opposed. In the U.S. and in India, forces working for exclusionary and majoritarian forces must be resisted and defeated. In particular, the resources of the U.S. should not be allowed to directly or indirectly aid the anti-democratic project for Hindutva-supremacy in India.

HfHR and other organizations are fully justified in asking for scrutiny to ensure that aid from U.S. tax payers, whether for Covid-related assistance in India or for any other purpose, to U.S.-based community organizations, do not end up supporting supremacist causes in either country.

The parallel battles in the U.S. and in India to preserve democratic rights are very closely interconnected. Everyone in the U.S., including Hindu Americans, must have the fullest freedom to support efforts for equal rights and democracy everywhere, and especially in India, the country where Hindu traditions emerged. We applaud the steps taken by the Biden administration to aid of India as the second wave of Covid is threatens to destroy the social fabric of India. Speaking out against the threat to human rights and religious freedom in India are no less important.

We strongly condemn any efforts to curb or restrict HfHR’s activities or to silence HfHR and its allies, and we earnestly hope that the courts will quickly rule in favor of HfHR’s First Amendment right to free speech.

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