Reject Hindu nationalism and all hate perpetuated in the name of religion
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This week, many Hindus around the world are celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri, dedicated to the Goddess in Her many forms. Many Hindus in northern India also celebrate Navaratri through Ramayan Path: the recitation of the Ramayana epic, most commonly the Ramcharitmanas, the 16th-century Awadhi retelling of the epic by Goswami Tulsidas.
This year, the World Hindu Council of America (Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, or VHPA) has organized a virtual Ramayan Path, taking place from April 13-21, 2021.
VHPA's featured speaker, who will be reciting and explaining each verse of the Ramcharitmanas, is Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati: a hate-mongering, Islamophobic, and violent Hindu extremist.
Saraswati is chief priest of the Dasna Devi Temple in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. He is also the leader of a Hindu extremist organization called Hindu Swabhiman (Hindu Self-Respect). Saraswati has made several notorious statements calling for violence and genocide against Muslims:
- "Islam should be eradicated from Earth ... all Muslims should be eliminated." (Source)
- "If we don’t remove an evil like Islam from society, how will we survive?" (Source)
- "Humanity can be saved only if we finish off Islam" (Source)
These aren't just empty statements. Just last month, a 14-year-old Muslim boy was violently assaulted for drinking water at his temple in Ghaziabad. And an affiliate of his organization provides children as young as nine with arms training in order to "fight Muslims who are exploiting Hindu women."
Saraswati has encouraged violence even against revered saints and Hindu temples. In particular, he has targeted Shirdi Sai Baba, a saint who preached "sab ka malik ek" ("everyone's lord is one") and was revered by Hindu and Muslim devotees alike. Saraswati has described Sai Baba as a "jihadi" and "pakhandi" (fraud), and personally congratulated a man who demolished a Sai Baba idol in a Hindu temple in Delhi. There are dozens of temples in the US for Shirdi Sai Baba. As a self-proclaimed Hindu organization, what kind of message is VHPA trying to send to its fellow Hindus?
Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati's bigotry is rooted in a political ideology called Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). Advocates of Hindutva argue that only Hindus are “true” Indians, and Muslims and Christians and other minorities should be treated as second-class citizens. The VHPA's Indian affiliate (with whom it shares a logo and motto, among other connections) is one of India's largest Hindu nationalist organizations, and its founders were more inspired by Nazi Germany than by Hindu teachings:
To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races — the Jews … a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
- M.S. Golwalkar, Co-Founder of the VHP, in We, or Our Nationhood Defined (1939)
For decades, the VHPA has continually tried to downplay its links to Hindu extremists in India. Under fire from a recent Al Jazeera investigation, VHPA leaders have argued that they are a benign community organization serving American Hindus, and that they are not formally affiliated with Hindu extremist groups in India. This is contradicted directly by the statements made by Hindu nationalist leaders such as HV Seshadri, who insisted that the VHPA is very much part of the "family" of Hindu nationalist organizations.
VHPA's invitation of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati is just another example proving the deep ties that exist between Hindu nationalist organizations in the United States and Hindu extremist leaders in India.
Hindus for Human Rights calls on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) to disinvite Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, and to formally denounce his comments and the hateful ideology of Hindutva. We also call for the U.S. Government to investigate VHPA for its ties to extremists in India. Any registered 501(c)3 nonprofit receiving federal funding should not be allowed to propagate Islamophobia and genocidal hatred among Americans.
As Hindus, we call upon our fellow Americans and all people of conscience to stand up to Hindutva and all hate perpetuated in the name of religion.
- Sign our petition!
- Tweet at VHPA (@VHPANews) using the hashtag #RejectHate!
- If you are Hindu: Consider attending VHPA's virtual Ramayan Path and make it clear through the Zoom chat that you reject the bigotry and violence of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati and the ideology of Hindutva.
Date: Apr 13-21, 2021
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Note: Apr 17-18 Weekend from 6:00 AM EST to Noon
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