Tulsi Gabbard Publicly Withdraws From the 2018 World Hindu Congress
“A significant number of Indian Partisan Politicians will be playing an important role in your event,” stated Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
For Immediate Release
September 3: In a major win for the Alliance for Justice and Accountabilty’s #StopHinduFascism campaign, Representative Tulsi Gabbard has responded to call for boycott and has officially withdrawn her participation. In a statement on Rep. Gabbard’s campaign website VoteTulsi.com, the Congresswoman states that she withdrew her participation in the World Hindu Congress 2018 as soon as it became clear that the event was going to be a “partisan political event.”
Gabbard announced her participation and role in the Congress in November 2017. Her withdrawal is the result of a relentless campaign by progressive South Asian diaspora groups who have been raising the issue of her involvement with hardline Hindu fundamentalists over the last two years. From hashtags like #Tusligottago to the recent push led by Organization for India’s Minorities the collective effort led by caste-oppressed South Asian americans has led to this win.
Gabbard is not the only American lawmaker who had aligned themselves with the event. California State Assembly member Ash Kalra, and Jay Chaudhuri of the North Carolina Senate were also scheduled to attend but have, like Gabbard, withdrawn their participation. Unlike Gabbard, neither have issued statements issuing regret and explaining their reasons for declining. Others like U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ohio state representative Niraj Antani and Iowa Senate member Swati Dandekar are still scheduled to attend. As Americans who elected these representatives into office, we are disappointed and outraged that they are participating in a platform for normalizing Indian fascists who are using violence to intimidate and restrict the religious freedoms and humans rights of all Indian citizens in their home countries.
Not just a platform for ideas and inspiration
The WHC 2018 is framed as a space for Hindus to connect, share ideas and inspire one another but it is hard to see it as a benign religious event. A part from being organized by the American arm of Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP), an organization that the CIA has put on it’s watchlist, the Congress will also host speakers like Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), that have a history of inciting hate and violence against Muslim, Christian and Sikh minorities in India and Rajiv Malholtra who has repeatedly attacked American institutions including the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and uses the phrase ‘Atrocity literature’ to derail discussions around minority human rights in India.
The conference is taking place at a time when hate crimes against Dalit, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Ravidassia minorities are at an all time high in India. Amnesty International’s ‘Halt the Hate’ project illustrates that victims of these hate crimes are overwhelmingly from minority communities and cow vigilantism alone accounts for about 70 violent incidents from late 2015 onwards. It is well known that cow vigilante groups are informed by right-wing Hindu ideology and are inspired by and often defended by the RSS and VHP, the organizers of the World Hindu Congress. As progressive South Asians who have witnessed first hand, the intolerance and violence of these organizations, we believe that an event like the World Hindu Congress is not a benign gathering but an effort to popularize their ethno-nationalistic ideology and consolidate soft power in the United States.
AJA demands accountability from those holding political office
AJA urges Raja Krishnamoorthi, Niraj Antani and Swati Dandekar to reconsider their association with an organization with a documented history of inciting hatred and violence and intimidating minorites, journalists and activists.
In a letter to Jeff Sessions, Rep. Krishnamoorti who penned a to Jeff Sessions, writes about his belief in “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.” To those of us who are witnessing and experiencing the intimidation and violence perpetrated by the VHP and it’s many followers, the parallel’s between their ethno-nationalism and white supremacy in the United States is both obvious and chilling. We ask Rep Krishnamoorti to rethink how he can speak out against hate crime under the Trump administration while aligning himself with Indian ethno-nationalists groups like the VHP who are responsible for committing the same degree of discrimination and violence against minorities in their country. We see their participation in the event as not only a diregard for the victims of such violence in India but also as a brazen endorsement of Hindi nationalist/fascist ideologies and demand accountability towards their constituents and their position of power.
Aside from this, the Congress is also hosting speakers from American corporations including Fedex, Walmart and Emmerson Electric while New York Life is a sponsor of the event which is being held in Westin. It should be acknowledged that by supporting and participating in the World Hindu Congress, these companies are aligning themselves with a violent ideology that has been associated with perpetrating hate and violence in their home country.
We respectfully ask these representatives and corporations to publicly withdraw their participation from the event. We also urge California State Assembly member Ash Kalra, and Jay Chaudhuri of the North Carolina Senate to issue public statements expressing regret and ensure their constituents that they do not stand for violence against any religious faith.