AN OPEN LETTER TO REPRESENTATIVE RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI
September 5, 2018
Dear Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi,
We are writing as the Alliance for Justice and Accountability, a coalition of over 20 different South Asian organizations from across the country and the world. We want to bring your attention to the disturbing agenda of the World Hindu Congress taking place September 7–9 (2018) in Chicago, at which you are scheduled to present.While this event is framed as a faith gathering, on closer inspection this event is meant to normalize violent hindu nationalism and bring it to the global stage. We strongly believe no American elected official should be participating in such an event and are joining constituents in his district who are demanding Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district, recuse himself immediately.
This Congress is hosted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America ((VHPA) — Chicago — one of many American chapters that have developed from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). As is widely recognized, the VHP has a well-documented history of openly advocating for violence against Dalits, Muslims, Buddhist and Christians. In 2018, the World Factbook published by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) listed the VHP along Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) as “militant religious outfits.”
From burning bibles, mob lynchings, destroying places of worship for Christians and Muslims, forced religious conversions of Indian religious minorities, the and the prevention of interfaith marriages, the VHP and RSS has been solely responsible for instigating a volatile cultural war that has created chaos in communities all over India. They also were crucial the leaders other 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and the infamous Gujarat riots which led to the murders and rapes of scores of Muslims..
Furthermore, the former secretary general of the VHP, Pravin Togadia, a 2014 World Hindu Congress speaker, has not hesitated to deploy hate speech against religious minorities in India at a time when atrocities against these groups are rising. Togadia has called for violence against Indians who choose to follow Christianity, blatantly stating his intent to end religious freedom by putting them to death by decapitation.
To put it bluntly, Religious intolerance is woven then throughout the conference. The gathering’s most prominent speaker is Mohan Rao Bhagwat, who has openly suggested armed violence by warning that he could raise a vigilante militia in 3 days if necessary. Furthermore, in response to the ongoing anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit lynchings in the name of “cow protection”, Bhagwat went out of his way to reassure “cow-protectors” (the group responsible for these killings) not to worry about India’s Supreme Court or even the Indian government. He has also made disturbing comments about women and diminished the rape epidemic in India.
Other speakers include well-known hate-mongers like Rajiv Malhotra, who most recently called for his followers to not send relief support to Kerala in response to the massive and ongoing flood disasters — unless the recipients were Hindu.
Rajiv has also continuously disparaged American congressional institutions like the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, arguing this is a group “overseen by Abrahamic religions to create atrocity literature” about Indians.
This now begs the question, why Representative are you sharing a platform with a speakers who incite violence and who attack a congressional body designed to support the rights of religious minorities around the world?
Even more important what message does that send to your district on your commitment to protect the religious freedom of all your constituents?
None of these readily available and public stances from these prominently featured WHC speakers point to religious freedom or a commitment to interfaith principles of peace. In other words, it is critical to recognize the violence and bigotry that forms the core fiber of the WHC.
We hope you recognize that this event, its ideologies, and your participation directly contradict the stated values of your district, its constituency, and much of your past advocacy work. Further we are concerned that your continued association with these organizations have made you partial to groups who are espousing bigoted positions against members of other faiths. All your constituents deserve better, and to rebuild trust we ask that you refuse to attend the conference and release a public statement acknowledging its violent and troubling nature.
Examples of your endorsement of discriminatory policies against caste-oppressed South Asian immigrants start with your support of content changes in California textbooks that were casteist, Islamophobic, and ahistorical, as supported by the evidence provided by over 100 established South Asian Scholars from around the World. An example of a change you advocated for is below:
Not only is this statement deeply offensive to both Black and caste-oppressed peoples, it is not in fact how these communities see each other. In fact Cornel West recently emphasized “the parallels between the struggles of Black Americans and those of South Asians on the lowest rungs of the caste system.” Angela Davis traces the “inter-connection between the lives of African Americans in the US and the Dalits in India.” Moreover, This statement aligns you with Hindu fundamentalist groups who used intimidation and manipulation to falsify the history of Dalits, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ravidassias, and Muslims.
Additionally, we are concerned about the fact that you spoke and sponsored the Hindu American Foundation’s India: Democracy in Diversity Briefing. This hearing (as well as the briefing document) was designed to mitigate and undercut the serious concerns many Indian caste-oppressed religious and cultural minorities have brought forward to the US Commission on International Religious freedom. The briefing in whole was incredibly offensive but one citation below shows the tenor of denial that it presented,
“In addition, while Christian leaders have suggested that attacks on churches have increased under Prime Minister Modi’s administration and have been religiously motivated, police statistics indicate that this has been the result of a general surge in crime, including the targeting of all places of worship.”
This excerpt is disturbing to the millions of the caste-oppressed who fight for religious freedom and human rights in India, as by every measure and according to every international body, the situation for India’s caste-oppressed religious and cultural minorities is in decline under the Modi administration. And yet you were part of a briefing that was intentionally set to undermine the lived realities of millions of Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ravidassias, and Christians. Even more relevant to you, Rep. Krishnamoorti, immigrants from these communities make up your district, and they and the American public deserve answers.
In many ways this decision is a litmus test for Raja Krishnamoorthi. For none of these readily available public stances from these prominently featured WHC speakers point to religious freedom or a commitment to interfaith principles of peace. All of the remaining Democratic speakers who were connected to this event have dropped out including Tulsi Gabbard, Ash Kalra, and Jay Chaudhari.
With their departure Raj Krishnamoorti now only shares the platform with Republican legislators including Ohio state representative Niraj Antani and Connecticut state representative, Prasad Srinivasan former Iowa Senate member Swati Dandekar.
AJA urges urges Raj Krishnamoorti to follow the example of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and decline to attend the World Hindu Congress and release a public statement to explain why you no longer endorse this event. We also call on him to be more inclusive of all his constituents no matter their faith, caste, race, or creed. He has broken the trust of his constituency and the American public deserves answers.
When writing to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about hate crimes, you wrote, “for more than two hundred years, the United States has stood as a beacon of freedom from tyranny, oppression, and persecution. A fundamental promise of our nation is that any American — regardless of where you come from, the color of your skin, or how you pray — can trust the federal government to preserve, protect, and defend their rights.” If this sentiment is in fact your belief, we hope you will act in line with it and stand on the right side of this issue.
We ask that you immediately decline to attend the World Hindu Congress and release a public statement to explain why you no longer endorse this event. We hope you will follow the example of your colleague Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who has dropped out of the conference citing the summit as a “Partisan” event.
We hope that, knowing the full context and organizational ties of the World Hindu Congress, you will act in alignment with your party, as a person of conscience, and with the accountability your constituents expect from you and reconsider your participation. We look forward to hearing from you and engaging with you on these issues in the future. Feel free to e-mail the coalition at email@example.com.
Alliance For Justice and Accountability
Cc: Representative Nancy Pelosi — Minority Leader
Representative Steny H. Hoyer — Minority Whip
Representative Judy Chu — Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus