Hindu Collective Initiative of North America and FACT

5 01 2008

Courtesy : India Post News Service

December 14, 15, 16 at the University of Central Florida

ORLANDO: A conference of Hindu leaders was held recently at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando by the Hindu Collective Initiative of North America, a collaborative body of Hindu organizations and temples across North America. The conference brought together more than one hundred eminent religious scholars, academicians, authors, intellectual thought leaders and activists from across the US and a number of delegates from the UK, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago.

The conference was hosted by the Hindu University of America The conference opened with a thought provoking discussion on the current situation in India where the central government, and state governments, while loudly proclaiming themselves as secular, exercises total control on Hindu temples, as though they are government properties.

This is even more egregious where the heads of the states and majority of legislators are Christians, communists, atheists, and/or avowed anti-Hindus. While almost universally unknown to the rest of the world, the Government of India ruthlessly tramples on the fundamental principles of separation of church and state, which is the corner stone of the secular form of government in every democratic nation in the world.

Even in non-democratic nations, for example, in Pakistan and Bangladesh, no government controls the religious organizations or the places of worship the way Government of India controls Hindu temples.It was decided that a group of religious leaders, retired Supreme Court judges, as well as academic and legal experts, will hold a conference on the correct relationship between government and religion, in New Delhi next year, following which a petition will be filed against the Indian government for their illegal and immoral control over the management of Hindu temples and the illegal appropriation of their funds.

Alternative models of management were discussed including the option of a Hindu Devalaya Prabandhak Committee in every state that would manage the temples, just as Sikh Gurudwaras are managed by the Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committees in Punjab. The HCINA general secretary, Dr Ved Prakash Chaudhary, asked, “What kind of secularism is this? Why are they taking control of only Hindu temples and siphoning off the money to the treasury?

Why they do not take over the management of a gurudwara, a mosque or a church? What kind of separation of church and state is that? We are unanimous that this is a most egregious situation that must be changed as soon as possible,” Chaudhary said. The Hindu community in the US has been protesting against the takeover of several temples in Andhra Pradesh. During the recent visit to the US, of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Reddy, protests were held at several major cities he visited.

It is well known that corrupt government officials and politicians abuse the funds collected in temples for their own personal use and that this is the main reason why government controls the management of wealthy Hindu temples.There was also extensive discussion and grave concern expressed about human rights abuses of Hindus all over the world, including in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Malaysia. A graphic exhibition on Hindu human rights violations in Bangladesh and Kashmir, prepared by FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism) and organized by Utsav Chakrabarti, was inaugurated by well-known Hindu philanthropist, Braham Aggarwal.

It was decided that Hindu watch dog organizations will monitor the situation very closely, disseminate information rapidly, seek alliances with human rights groups to keep pressure on the governments of these countries and keep this issue in the contemporary media spotlight.The Summit leaders expressed a sense of urgency that the Government of India should pay more attention to the human rights issues in Kashmir, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Malaysia – where the lives of hundreds of thousands of Hindus are involved.

“We will soon be approaching the Government of India with a proposal to protect these endangered Hindus,” Chaudhary said.The Summit also discussed issues affecting Hindus living in North America. A committee of academic experts will be formed to prepare supplementary materials for schools in the United States. The supplementary materials will be distributed to teachers, libraries and schools all over the US so that correct information is presented to students about Hinduism and Indian culture.

An important session on ‘Community Building and Infrastructure Development within Hindu organizations’ highlighted the need to develop sustainable social services connected with the temples, in a culturally and religiously sensitive manner. The temple support is essential as it is a sacred sanctuary and most secure place for a minority group.

The additional social services will bring completeness and affirm that God is with them.The need for a degree program integrating Vedic/holistic healthcare paradigm with the modern healthcare systems and setting standards for Hindu Chaplaincy was also discussed. A Masters program is needed on par with the Board Certified Chaplains of other religions already operative in schools, prisons, military, hospice and modern hospital facilities.

This would take the Vedic traditions beyond temples to reach out to the individuals and families who need support for their physical, mental and spiritual health.A session relating to youth issues such as inter-faith marriages, effects on family, progeny and culture and accepting western (non-born Hindus) as Hindus drew much interest. Another session focused on the USCIS proposed changes to the religious worker visas (the so called R1 visa) and the need for Hindu community maintaining liaison with government and elected officials.

The conference was attended by Paramacharya Palaniswami, editor-in-chief of Hinduism Today, Stephen Knapp, author of more than a dozen books on Hindus and Hinduism, Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago, Chandresh Sharma, Member of Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago, Abhinav Dwivedi, Vice President of Hindu University of America, Janeshwari Devi, Director Public Relations, Barsana Dham, Frank Morales, a scholar in Hindu philosophy and Hindu Temple Acharya, and Jeffrey Armstrong, a Hindu Spiritual teacher, Vedic Astrologer and award-winning author from Canada.Prominent among others who attended the three-day meet were Bawa Jain, secretary general, World Council of Religious Leaders, Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation, Anju Bhargava, President of Asian Indian Women of America and a Community Builder Fellow (President Clinton’s White House initiative), Anuja Prashar, founder of “Transnational Indian Identity” from UK, Dr Piyush Agrawal, national co-coordinator USA of GOPIO; Hindu Students Council president Harsh Vellanki, and executive director Varun Mehta and professors Dr Balram Singh, Dr TS Rukmani, and Dr Siva Bajpai.

The mission of HCINA is to serve as a collective body of Hindu organizations in North America; to facilitate networking and collaboration to address issues of common concern and benefits and to coordinate collective initiatives to promote the understanding, practice and propagation of Hindu Dharma and culture through proper education and public policy. HCINA was formed more than two years ago in August 2005 at the first Dharma Summit held at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Advertisements