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Hindu American Foundation

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The Hindu American Foundation (HAF, founded September 3, 2003) is a Hindu advocacy group operating in the United States. It presents itself as a human rights organization, providing a voice for the Hindu American community. It publishes annual surveys of human rights of Hindus in South Asia and overseas. The organisation has links to the Hindu nationalist organisations Vishva Hindu Parishad and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. It backed the Hindu groups in the California textbook controversy over Hindu history.


The Hindu American Foundation has also worked with organizations like the American Jewish Committee to counter biases against Hindus and Jews in college campuses like Stanford University.


The Hindu American Foundation was founded in 2004 in Fremont, California. The organisation describes itself as a "human rights group" and provides "a voice for the 2 million strong Hindu American community." It also describes itself as an advocacy group that aims to educate the government and the public about Hinduism and the issues concerning the Hindus globally. It emphasises the "Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism." According to Harvard professor Diana L. Eck, the foundation has emerged as "the first major national advocacy group looking at Hindu identity." Scholar Vinay Lal has noted that the organisation draws on the claims of Hinduism being unique in its tolerance and religious pluralism as well as the enormous goodwill created by Gandhi in the West.

The founding members of the organisation were Mihir Meghani, an emergency care physician, Aseem Shukla, an associate professor in urologic surgery at the University of Minnesota medical school, Suhag Shukla, a legal expert and three others. Meghani is the former founder of the Hindu Students Council (HSC) at the University of Michigan in 1991, a nationwide network of student societies affiliated to the Vishva Hindu Parishad America (VHPA). He also authored an essay titled "Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology," on the web site of the Bharatiya Janata Party, where he claimed that Hindus and Hinduism were denigrated by the Indian National Congress and that Hindus rose up to demand a "true secularism." He drew a parallel between the Hindu experience and that of Jews, African Americans and colonized groups. He defended the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which he called the release of "thousands of years of anger and shame." According to the Coalition Against Genocide, Meghani served on the Governing Council of the VHP America. He is also known to have been a member of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Several other leaders of the HAF are known to have had backgrounds in the other organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar.

The HAF board member Shetal Shah, however, defended the group saying that a few of its leaders had participated in VHPA-affiliated student groups during their high school and college days. But the board membership was drawn from a wide spectrum and they shared a firm commitment to uphold pluralism.


During 2004-05, the organisation held events to educate the legislators about the issues of concern to Hindu Americans. These included the abuse to Hindus in the Muslim majority regions of South Asia, including Kashmir, Bangladesh and Pakistan. During the visit of Pervez Musharraf to the US in 2006, the organisation issued a press release holding the Musharraf regime complicit in the "forced religious conversions, temple destructions and intimidation of Hindus" in Pakistan.

The organisation took part in a court case challenging the public display of the Ten Commandments in Texas, where it has appeared as amici curiae (friend of the Court). It argued that the display represented an "inherent government preference" for Judeo-Christian religions over others and the state must be reminded of its obligation to maintain religious neutrality.

The organisation supports strong ties between India, Israel and the US to create an axis of countries aiming to fight Islamic terrorism. In 2005, it joined the American Jewish Committee to jointly sponsor a program at Stanford on "countering biases against Hindus and Jews on the College campus." In a meeting with the American Jewish Committee, Mihir Meghani drew parallels between the supposed endangerment of Hindus in India and that of Jews in Israel, and "the shared risks they face from neighbors with long histories of terrorism."

In 2010, the organisation has issued a report on the caste system, asking Hindus to acknowledge that caste is not an intrinsic part of Hinduism even though it is a feature of the Hindu society and labelling caste-based discrimination as a major human rights problem. The report declares that only Hindus, through reform movements and education can rid Hindu society of caste-based discrimination. It also castigates organisations like Dalit Freedom Network for arguing that Dalits are not Hindus. The Hindu activist scholar Rajiv Malhotra has called the report flawed and pointed out that the jatis (birth groups) that have been relabelled "castes" in modern times are an integral part of the Indian social structure and that jatis have enabled collective bargaining of rights.

In another controversial move, the Foundation launched a Take Yoga Back campaign as a reaction to the secularisation of Yoga. They contended that Raja Yoga was an integral part of Hinduism and it could not be practised independently, inviting criticism from Deepak Chopra and Meera Nanda. The supporters have clarified that the campaign is meant to emphasize that Yoga is very much a part of Hinduism.

Human rights report

The Hindu American Foundation, released a report in 2005 on the status of the human rights of Hindus, mainly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Kashmir valley. The report attempts to increase awareness of anti-Hindu views that they say are used to justify violations of the human rights of many Hindus in the region. The report introduces as

The 71-page report compiles media coverage and firsthand accounts of human rights violations perpetrated against Hindus because of their religious identity. The incidents are documented, often quoting from well-known international human rights organizations. The Hindu American Foundation presented the report to the co-chairs of the US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and Gary Ackerman, a Democrat. Both of these members of Congress endorsed it. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and co-founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised the HAF for the report.

Several academics on campuses around the U.S. also reviewed this year’s report. Florida International University Professor of religious Studies, Nathan Katz, remarked on the promulgation of various anti-Hindu sentiments recorded in the report:

Since then, the Foundation has expanded the scope of its human rights report and continues to release an annual report entitled Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora. The report covers Hindu human rights in eight countries plus India's state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The report documents the long history of anti-Hindu atrocities in Bangladesh, a topic that many Indians and Indian governments over the years have preferred not to acknowledge. Such atrocities, including targeted attacks against temples, open theft of Hindu property, and rape of young Hindu women and enticements to convert to Islam, have increased sharply in recent years after the Jamat-e-Islami joined the coalition government led by the Bangladesh National Party.

The report concludes with:

The people whose persecution is amply documented in this report are being persecuted because they are Hindu, not because they are poor or because of their political views. Human rights activists in Bangladesh and Pakistan, many of whom are not Hindus, have painstakingly documented the violations of basic human rights of Hindus in their country.

The Human rights was endorsed by members of congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and Gary Ackerman, a Democrat.

California textbook dispute

The HAF was actively involved in the Californian Hindu textbook controversy. On March 16, 2006, it filed a lawsuit contesting the California's Curriculum Commission's decision to reject many of the Vedic Foundation and Hindu Education Foundation's suggested edits to California's textbook curriculum on Hinduism and India. The proposed changes had been publicly opposed by Indologists organized by Michael Witzel, who renounced them as "politically and religiously motivated", as well as by various Hindu groups, including organizations of Dalits.

As of September 1, 2006, the HAF case has been resolved. The HAF won the case as the judge ruled that the CA State Board of Education violated its textbook approval process. But, the court ruled to retain the textbooks, noting the significant expense associated with reissuing the textbooks. HAF has launched a circular confirming the decision by the courts and expressing a certain measure of satisfaction at the recognition of the illegality of the proceedings. The brief published by HAF says that the judge ruled in favor of retaining the edits on the grounds that he did not wish to disrupt the process of disseminating the revised editions at this stage. The legal team of HAF has posted an assessment of the result.

Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation, described the judgment as a "mixed victory". He says:

"This ruling now forces the California Board of Education to comply with the law — to have a fair and open public process to benefit all California students."

as well as:

"The (foundation) is disappointed that ... (the judge) has not ordered the textbooks on hand to be modified to be more accurate ... and a flawed and illegal procedure leads to flawed textbooks"


Hindu American Foundation Wikipedia

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