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AHAD Statemen on Kamala Harris Durga Meme

The following statements were issued by American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) and HinduPACT (initiatives of World Hindu Council of America) on Kamala Harris as Goddess Durga meme:

Statement by Ajay Shah, Executive Vice President, VHPA, Convener AHAD and HinduPACT:

“It seems to us that Sen. Harris, a self-acknowledged non-Hindu has now realized that in the battleground states, the Hindu votes matter.  So, Senator Harris is now rapidly discovering her Hindu roots.  Welcome home, Senator, you have now moved on from masala dosas and cleverly inserted reference to “chitti” to donning the dress of Goddess Durga.  Do you want to know what those who practice Hindu dharma think about this cartoonish portrayal of you as Durga Mata?  Before assuming the form of Durga Mata, through your niece, did you bother picking up a book on Hindu Dharma 101 or at least talk to your “chitti?” Hindus are offended, and Hindus are outraged, because you have insulted Hindu Goddess and while you continue to claim to be a non-Hindu, you have the audacity to assume the form of a revered Hindu Goddess during one of the most auspicious Hindu festivals, Navaratri for scoring political points.”

Statement by Utsav Chakrabarty Executive Director, HinduPACT:

“The caricature of Hindu deities wreaks is tokenism that has become a hallmark of Biden-Harris ticket. At best it is cheap and hurtful and at its worst, creates tank Hinduphobia in communities that already have very little knowledge about Hindu Dharma.”

Statement by Rakhi Israni, Executive Director, Legal, HinduPACT

“It’s quite telling that a campaign that won’t even put out an agenda for the Hindu American community when they have done so for other religious communities is misappropriating the religious symbols and pictures of this same community for their own purposes.  In other words, it seems that what the Biden/Harris Campaign is saying is don’t ask what we will do for you, but continue giving your all to us.  It’s about time Hindu Americans wake up.  We can’t afford to be emotionally tied to one party or another lest we are taken for granted.” 

A small sign identifies the hamlet of Swastika, N.Y. When an outsider suggested the tiny northern hamlet of Swastika should change its name, town supervisors quickly rejected a change.
Ben Rowe/Plattsburgh Press-Republican

Newsweek: Swastika, NY Town Board Votes To Keep Its Name, Cites Use In Hindu, Buddhism – Revised with AHAD Comments

Swastika, NY Town Board Votes To Keep Its Name, Cites Use In Hindu, Buddhism

https://www.newsweek.com/swastika-ny-town-board-votes-keep-its-name-cites-use-hindu-buddhism-1533386

[This article from Newsweek was republished with AHAD comments]

BY  

The board members of a small community in northern New York decided last week to keep the area’s controversial “Swastika” name after a visitor proposed a change earlier this summer.

Swastika is an unincorporated area within Black Brook, a small town located in Clinton County. Black Brook’s town supervisor, Jon Douglass, told North Country Public Radio (NCPR) that the board did not think changing the name was necessary because of the term’s meaning prior to its use in Nazi Germany.

The board discussed the name for about five minutes before voting unanimously to keep it, NCPR reported.

Douglass acknowledged that many in the U.S. think of the swastika in terms of its association with white supremacy, but he told NCPR, “I believe there are others that do not associate it with hate.” Douglass pointed to the Hindu and Buddhist religions, both of which have used a version of the swastika icon to represent spirituality. The symbol in Sanskrit that is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism means “well-being,” according to the BBC.

Swastika’s original settlers decided on the name in the 1800s, and those who lived there in the wake of World War II defended the name for its original meaning, Douglass told NCPR. “Some of the residents that were from that area actually fought in World War II and refused to change the name just because Hitler tried to tarnish the meaning of swastika,” he said.

The World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)’s American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) initiative has in recent months argued in favor of differentiating between the swastika used as a “sacred symbol” and the version used by Nazis, known as the Nazi Hakenkreuz. In July, the AHAD encouraged the New York Senate to make the distinction clear while considering a new piece of legislation, which proposed requiring “New York school children be educated regarding the meaning of swastikas and nooses as symbols of hatred and intolerance.”

The proposed legislation would “perpetuate ignorance and promote HinduPhobia in schools across New York state,” AHAD Convener Ajay Shah said in a statement.

Newsweek: Swastika, NY Town Board Votes To Keep Its Name, Cites Use In Hindu, Buddhism

Swastika, NY Town Board Votes To Keep Its Name, Cites Use In Hindu, Buddhism

Published in Newsweek on Sept 21, 2020
 

The board members of a small community in northern New York decided last week to keep the area’s controversial “Swastika” name after a visitor proposed a change earlier this summer.

Swastika is an unincorporated area within Black Brook, a small town located in Clinton County. Black Brook’s town supervisor, Jon Douglass, told North Country Public Radio (NCPR) that the board did not think changing the name was necessary because of the term’s meaning prior to its use in Nazi Germany.

The board discussed the name for about five minutes before voting unanimously to keep it, NCPR reported.

Douglass acknowledged that many in the U.S. think of the swastika in terms of its association with white supremacy, but he told NCPR, “I believe there are others that do not associate it with hate.” Douglass pointed to the Hindu and Buddhist religions, both of which have used a version of the swastika icon to represent spirituality. The symbol in Sanskrit that is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism means “well-being,” according to the BBC.

Hindu religious men from the Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan Maninagar, give final touches to a huge piece of folk art, a Rangoli, ahead of Diwali in Ahmedabad on October 24, 2011. This traditional Rangoli is shaped like a swastika, which Hindus believe is a symbol of progress. Last week, a small town in New York voted to keep the name of one of its unincorporated communities, which was named Swastika by its original settlers in the 1800s.

Swastika’s original settlers decided on the name in the 1800s, and those who lived there in the wake of World War II defended the name for its original meaning, Douglass told NCPR. “Some of the residents that were from that area actually fought in World War II and refused to change the name just because Hitler tried to tarnish the meaning of swastika,” he said.

The World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)’s American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) initiative has in recent months argued in favor of differentiating between the swastika used as a “sacred symbol” and the version used by Nazis, known as the Nazi Hakenkreuz. In July, the AHAD encouraged the New York Senate to make the distinction clear while considering a new piece of legislation, which proposed requiring “New York school children be educated regarding the meaning of swastikas and nooses as symbols of hatred and intolerance.”

The proposed legislation would “perpetuate ignorance and promotes HinduPhobia in schools across New York state,” AHAD Convenor Ajay Shah said in a statement.

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The AHAD’s statement went on to say that identifying the differences between swastikas used in religion and the version used by white supremacists was important in embracing cultural diversity.

“To label the Swastika as a symbol of hate would be a grave insult to 1.8 billion Hindus and Buddhists around the world,” the AHAD said. “Maligning this ancient heritage would be a step backwards in promoting interfaith harmony and would lead to increase in hate crimes and Hinduphobia.”

Newsweek reached out to Douglass and the AHAD for comment.

 

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India Palace Restaurant Break-In must be investigated as a Hate Crime

SF Reporter reports that, “The India Palace restaurant in Sant Fe, NM was broken into and phrases containing threats of violence and derogatory racial slurs were painted and pretty much destroyed. The wine racks were emptied, a statue of a goddess was beheaded

American Hindus Against Defamation an initiative of World Hindu Council of America strongly condemns the vandalism of India Palace. AHAD requests FBI to investigate this as a Hate Crime.

Indian-Hindu-Priest-Swami-Harish-Chander-Puri

AHAD / VHPA Decries Attack on Hindu Priest in New York

The following statement was issued by World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)   

The World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) decries the attack on the Hindu priest, Swamiji Harishchander Puri in Queens, New York.  Swamiji, the priest at the Shiv Shakti Peeth in Glen Oaks, was walking down the street wearing his religious dress, clearly identifying him as a Hindu priest.   

Speaking on behalf of VHPA and American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), Ajay Shah, Vice President of VHPA for Awareness and PR and Conveneer of AHAD said, “The attack on the Hindu priest in Queens, NY is just beyond an attack on a Hindu priest as an individual.  This attack is the manifestation of hate towards Hindu community and mode of worship, and it is clearly intended to intimidate Hindus of Queens.  VHPA and AHAD demand that the NY police immediately investigate this attack on Swamiji Harishchander Puri as a hate crime and prosecute the perpetrator of the crime to the fullest extent of law.”

Sanjay Mehta, General Secretary of VHPA and a key organizer of Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC) stated that, “HMEC condemns the attack on Swami Harishchander Puriji of Shiv Shakti Peeth Mandir in Queens, NY.  While we count on the law enforcement to take action against the perpetrator of crime against Swami Harishchander Puri, the HMEC stands ready to provide legal and other support needed by Swamiji, Shiv Shakti Peeth and the Queens Hindu community.   HMEC and its associated project, HIndu Mandir Priests Conference (HMPC), will continue to fight ignorance of Hindu dharma and hate towards Hindus.  In the upcoming annual meet of HMEC, from Sept 20-22, 2019 in East Hanover, New Jersey, there will be a special workshop on Mandir security and broader community engagement and education.”  

About World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)

World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) is the most prominent organization of Hindus in USA.  Founded in 1970, it has branches across the country.   VHPA runs educational programs for Hindu children and youth in addition to community service (seva) activities.

About American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)

A project of VHPA, AHAD is the first and foremost coalition of prominent Hindu organizations dedicated to the the preservation of the sanctity of Hindu symbols, icons, culture and customs.

About Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC)

An initiative of VHPA, HMEC offers Mandir (temple) Executives’, Priests, Hindu community leaders and Scholars a networking forum for: 

  • Building, preserving and strengthening of Mandirs in North America
  • Engaging youth in temple operations
  • Providing leadership, networking and building a strong community
  • Engaging in interfaith dialog
  • Social Services

Hundreds of mandir executives participate in HMEC each year.

About Hindu Mandir Priests’ Conference (HMPC)

An initiative of VHPA and HMEC, HMPC is forum that brings HIndu priests from North American temples together.

  • The purohits (priests) play an essential role in the spiritual and cultural welfare of North American Hindu society. The conferees will explore ways to make the priests’ roles more effective in meeting the ever changing needs of North American Hindus.
Sanjay Mehta Pittsburgh Gurudwara April 2017

Community Awareness Talk at Pittsburgh, PA Gurudwara by Sanjay Mehta

Namaste and Sat Shri Akal,

We have brought our ancestral heritage, identity, cultural values from Bharat to America. It is important for us here in America to protect and preserve these values, our dignity, self-respect and of course our safely now and for future generations.

There have been recently some hostile and unfriendly incidences happened with some of our community members. A software engineer Srinivas was shot to death in Kansas. One of our Sikh brothers was shot in his own driveway in Seattle. While incidents do not necessarily make a trend, we need to address them, tackle them as they happened and with the help of local law authority. On the positive note, in all incidences, our community received needed support from local law enforcement authority, US and Indian governments.

For some of us these are just handful or small %, but for 30 years old young Sunayana, wife of Srinivas who was shot in Kansas, it is 100%. For a school kid, boy or girl, whose identity is challenged and who is being intimidated in school due to his/her socio-cultural background and practices, it is 100%.  World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) has formed a coalition of many likeminded organizations and institutions to address defamation, discrimination and hate issues. We have a registry created on the website to records incidences of abuse or crime.

We have prepared documents with all the details. Let me read a para from the documents. “The presence and contributions of three million legal Hindu, Sikh, Indian immigrants and the second generation of theirs is a testament to the openness of USA as a nation that has attracted and embraced the universal and peaceful ancient Vedic ideals of ‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः-Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, (May all be happy).” You can obtain a copy of this document from me.

World Hindu Council of America is planning an awareness program across the country on how to handle these issues and how to get involved in county/township level community programs, be it a charity event, 4 th of July parade or a coffee with Cop. We can get help from DC and New Delhi, but we need to work at the grassroots level too.

There is wonderful book titled ‘India Unveiled’ authored by Robert Arnett which unveiled India’s fascinating traditions. There is a book title ‘Explaining Hindu Dharma’ published by World Hindu Council of UK, I am sure there must be a similar book on our Sikh traditions. We should make these books available in public library and schools to bring positive awareness about our community.

We are legal citizens of America, we are Sikh Americans, we are Hindu Americans. Our tradition is rich, we have a diamond to offer. Over the decades, Hindu/Sikh community has contributed to the growth of America. We have positively influenced over 20 million Americans through our values and traditions. We belong to the same roots, let us work together in this awareness program.

Again, it is not just about Srinivas or a Sikh brother, it is not about him or her, it is about ‘us’ as a community. It is about dignity, self-respect and safety of Hindu/Sikh, Indian diaspora, our youth in college campuses and our children in schools. So, please join.

Namaste and Sat Shri Akal!

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EKAl prog - AHAD awarenss talk - Pittsburgh 2017

Community Awareness Presentation in Pittsburgh by Sanjay Mehta

EKAL Fund Raiser Program, Pittsburgh – Community Awareness presentation

– Sanjay Mehta

Friday April 7, 2017

Namaste,

I am going to share something with you now which is as important to us as EKAL prog. Ekal connects us to our ancestral heritage, identity, cultural values of Bharat. We have brought those culture values from Bharat to America. It is important for us here in America to protect and preserve these values, our dignity, self-respect and of course our safely.

There have been some hostile and unfriendly incidences happened with some of our community members. A software engineer Srinivas was shot to death in Kansas. One of our Sikh brothers was shot in his own driveway in Seattle. While incidents do not necessarily make a trend, we need to address them, tackle them as they happened and with the help of local law authority. On the positive note, in all incidences, our community received needed support from local law enforcement authority, US and Indian governments.

For some of us these are just handful or small %, but for 30 years old young Sunayana, wife of Srinivas who was shot in Kansas, it is 100%. For a school kid, whose identity is challenged and who is being intimidated in school due to his socio-cultural background, it is 100%.

World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) has formed a coalition of many Hindu organizations and institutions to address defamation, discrimination and hate issues. We have a registry created on the website to records incidences of abuse or crime.

We have prepared documents with all the details. Let me read a para from the documents. “The presence and contributions of three million legal Hindu/Indian immigrants and the second generation of Hindus is a testament to the openness of USA as a nation that has attracted and embraced the universal and peaceful ancient Vedic ideals of ‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः-Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, (May all be happy).” You can obtain a copy of this document from me or Haribhai Patel or Hitesh Mehta after the program.

World Hindu Council of America is planning Hindu awareness program across the country on how to handle these issues and how to get involved in county/township level community programs, be it a charity event, 4th of July parade or a coffee with Cop.

Please be a part of this awareness program. Organize this in your area in a small or large group. Please contact me, Haribhai Patel or Hitesh Mehta, we will come to your area.

Again, it is not just about Srinivas or Sikh brother, it not about him or her, it is about ‘us’ as a community. It is about dignity, self-respect and safety of Hindu/Indian diaspora, our youth in college campuses and our children in schools. So, please join.

Thanks and Namaste.