Hindu nationalists host world conference in U.S.
CHICAGO (BP) -- An international Hindu confab in the U.S. that organizers describe as a unity initiative will include radical and violent Hindu nationalists, International Christian Concern (ICC) charged today (Sept. 5).
Organizers include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) of America, a CIA-classified "militant religious outfit" that, according to ICC, has defended and promoted attacks on religious minorities in India including Christians, Muslims and socially disparaged Dalits.
"Many who will be participating in the event have extensive track records of calling for violence and discrimination against religious minorities," ICC said in a press release. "The event presents a misleading image of a harmonic and diverse collection of speakers who will tackle issues that span the cultural and governmental fabric of India. However, there is a much more sinister reality at play behind the scenes of the event."
ICC accuses VHP members of committing "extremist vigilante attacks" against religious minorities loosely accused of non-Hindu practices such as using cows for milk, beef and leather. ICC accuses Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of condoning the violence as a member of VHP's parent organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"The radical organizations behind the event represent a direct threat to the values that the United States and much of the world hold dear," ICC said. "Their ideological stance directly violates the human rights of all people and it is not in the best interest of any representative, organization, or company to support this event.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its 2018 annual report, accused the VHP and other Hindu nationalist groups in India of "violence, intimidation and harassment" against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits, and cited governments as supporting the violence.
"Conditions for religious minorities have deteriorated over the last decade due to a multifaceted campaign by Hindu-nationalist groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus," USCIRF said in labeling India a Tier 2 country of particular concern for religious persecution.
"Approximately one-third of state governments enforced anti-conversion and/or anti-cow slaughter laws against non-Hindus, and mobs engaged in violence against Muslims or Dalits whose families have been engaged in the dairy, leather, or beef trades for generations, and against Christians for proselytizing," USCIRF said of India. Mobs killed at least 10 people in 2017 in efforts to protect cows, USCIRF said.
Religious freedom watchdog Open Doors ranks India as 11th among the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
India holds the world's largest population of Hindus, which the CIA World Factbook put at 79.8 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. Christians comprise 2.3 percent of Indians, according to CIA statistics.
The Hindu diaspora included 1.7 million Hindus in the U.S. in 2010, according to the 2010 World Atlas.
The U.S. arm of VHP's parent organization, RSS, is among World Hindu Congress organizers, according to the event's website.