Hindu groups inform lawmakers about hate crimes on 3rd  Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

The CoHNA Team at Capitol Hill for the 3rd National Day of Hindu Advocacy, June 28, 2024. PHOTOS: CoHNA

Lawmakers, Hindu students, researchers, and community leaders came together June 28, 2024, in a packed room during the 3rd National Hindu Advocacy Day on the Hill, to discuss their concerns.

Close to 25 lawmakers (a mix of congressional representatives and staffers both Democrat and Republican) attended the event  organized by the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), a press release from the organization said.

Hindu Students Panel at CoHNA’s event on Capitol Hill saw moving personal testimony of Hinduphobia on college campuses, June 28, 2024, on Hindu advocacy day.

Lawmakers got to hear about the “multi-pronged attacks “ Hindus face ranging from “the continued usage of stereotypical colonial frameworks, to gaslighting and verbal slurs, and all the way to the vandalizations of multiple temples,” organizers said.

More than 100 delegates (including a large number of Hindu youth) from 15 states attended the event and 40 plus core CoHNA volunteers visited over 115 congressional offices to advocate support for H.Res.1131, which condemns Hinduphobia and attacks on temples, while celebrating the contribution of the Hindu American community.

“From students to retired community members of diverse backgrounds, CoHNA’s Advocacy Day has grown steadily to become an important mechanism through which our community engages with lawmakers on the Hill,” CoHNA President Nikunj Trivedi is quoted saying in the press release. “We are also glad to see other organizations as well as non-Hindu allies join us in support of the causes that matter to our community and especially our youth.”

Attendees heard personal testimony from a panel of Hindu students from Stanford, UC Berkeley, and University of Georgia, who spoke of challenges they face on campus, in academic settings, and even in their dorm rooms.

“Their voices and stories brought home the prevalent Hinduphobia on campus and the way it shapes their lives and the choices they make,” CoHNA said.

Among those who related their personal experiences were Rutvij Holay, Aryan Sawant, and Anvita Yerramsetty. Youth Director for Hindu on Campus Surya Naga, presented data collected from student testimonials across the United States and the impact of such experiences on a student’s psyche – from students being told to wipe off the bindis on their foreheads and attempts to rip off their sacred threads, to being made fun of for worshiping Hindu deities with “weird names,” and being accused of supporting extremism and oppression of minorities just because of one’s Hindu identity, etc.

According to CoHNA, data shows a rise in hate against Hindus, including at least 6 Hindu mandirs being attacked in California between Nov. 2023-Jan. 2024, with no resulting action and little lasting outrage. A detailed list of the incidents was published in April.

Congressional Support

Congressional Reps from both sides of the aisle and from different states addressed the gathering on Hindu advocacy day on Capitol Hill, June 28, 2024.

The event began with Congressman Max Miller (R-OH), talking about the importance of freedom of religion and sharing how proud he was for supporting H.Res 1131. “If anything were to happen to your community, I’ll be there standing shoulder to shoulder with you,” Miller said.

CoHNA hosted those strongly behind H.Res 1131, Congressmen Shri Thanedar (D-MI) and Rich McCormick (R-GA). Thanedar stressed he will not tolerate Hinduphobia, discrimination, or other forms of hate. “We are here and we are fighting,” he said.

McCormick welcomed the continued and growing engagement of the Hindu American and Indian American community in policy making and its potential to transform the future of America.

Both Thanedar and McCormick called on lawmakers to support H.Res. 1131.

Other lawmakers like Congressman Glen Grothman (R-WI) also expressed solidarity with the community.

Closing out the day, Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) celebrated the growth of the community’s advocacy over the past decade, and lauded CoHNA’s efforts in ensuring the community has a growing voice on Capitol Hill via advocacy events. He exhorted everyone to be proud of who they are and congratulated the audience on making time to come to Washington, D.C., for an event that exemplified pride in their heritage and roots.

Several lawmakers also spoke about the importance of tackling immigration – especially problems like the Green Card backlog – an issue that has an outsized impact on the Hindu American immigrant community.

In addition to lawmakers and staffers, the event was also attended by community leaders and representatives from various organizations such as HinduACTion, Howard County Jewish Advocacy Group (HoCoJAG), ISKCON, Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples, Americans for Hindus (A4H),  Indian Cultural Association of Howard County, etc.

Other speakers who threw light on data and research into the issues included Aaron Gross, Research Fellow at Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who also addressed dangers from radical Indian groups, and Rana Reddy, CoHNA’s Policy Fellow.



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