Ram Sidhaye’s Critique of HAF Report

Editor’s Note: This critique was issued in the form of an email to HAF in the immediate aftermath of the report that was published late Dec 2010



Friends:

I have carefully read HAF’s recent report on CASTE.

For me, there is no need to do chapter by chapter, page by page analysis because it has been done by few and shared with HAF.

Here are my general observations and comments for HAF to take into account for future course of actions:

  1. It is my understanding that HAF is an advocacy organization for Hindus in America. If that is correct then what was the necessity to write report on Caste discrimination in India and make it part of Human rights issue.     Govt. of India, spiritual leaders and other social entities are taking necessary actions thru legal processes and social programs to address the issue in India.
  2. Why HAF report is silent on discrimination by Govt. of India taking control over Hindu temples only? Other religions are free to practice and maintain their worship places. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right which encompasses maintaining worship workplaces too. ……………
  3. Here are few suggestions for HAF to stay actively involved in:
  1. textbooks issue(s) in USA,
  2. challenging books distorting Sanatan/Hindu Dharma,
  3. making sure that chair at University of Chicago by Govt. of India is set up to promote Hindu/Sanatan Dharma properly and not used to distort Hindu Dharma and its history by people like Wendy Doniger. (By the way, GoI has taken steps to have a chair at Univ. of Chicago. No one know what will happen.)
  4. challenge caste based organizations in USA:-
  • There are “Caste” based organizations in USA and they hold conventions in USA
  • Brahman Samaj of North America had their annual convention in NJ in the 1st week of December, 2010
  1. HAF report gives an impression the support of several prominent personalities for its report. If HAF had letters from senior leaders of any organizations in USA and India then I am sure they would have made that as part of the report. Since HAF has not included such letters is an indication that such support from spiritual, social or community leaders does not exist for this report.
  2. What is the intent of HAF for bringing out this issue in American media (Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Hinduism Today) before giving opportunity for Hindu community in USA to review its report?
  3. I requested couple of my long time American (White and Black) friends to read the report and comments posted by readers on Washington Post and Huffington Post. They are amused with the discussion on at Washington Post and Huffington Post. They are surprised to see that Hindu organization washing dirty laundry in public. They also wonder whether Hindus in USA still practice “Caste” discrimination among Hindus in USA. Now, Hindus in USA may have to deal with such perception among some Americans. In last 42 years, I have never heard any American wondering if Hindus practice “Caste” discrimination in USA. For Americans, it is like Muslims practicing Sharia law in USA among Muslim community.
  4. Scholars like Prof. Subash Kak, Ambassador (retired) O. P. Gupta and several others have written in the past that Caste is not part of Hinduism. Even Ashok Chowgule of VHP/RSS has also commented on this issue. I will be surprised if HAF does not have vast amount of material written in last 10+ years on Caste, Sati, Dowry and other social ills in India. HAF is last in line to create awareness of social ills in India.
  5. Did HAF do anything when American visa was denied to Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi? If not, why not? Was that not advocacy for Hindus in USA?
  6. Why HAF wants to use narratives of the “Colonial” vocabulary of “Caste” to define Hinduism?
  7. Why HAF wants to go to US congress with this report? What they want US congress to do?
  8. Is HAF planning to go to UN with this report? What HAF expects from UN?
  9. Every society has issues and they try to solve and to not publicize it saying, “Look at the issues we have”.
  10. I come from a very small village in Maharashtra. Majority in the village were non-Brahmins, whatever Brahmin means. Absolutely no one in the village knew Sanskrut or any Hindu Scriptures. We had several temples and owned (mostly by non-Brahmins) and each temple had a pujari. Most pujaries were not Brahmins. They learned basics from learned Pujari and could perform puja including reciting what other Brahmin pujari taught them and you could not tell that pujari was not Brahmin. All pujaries performed puja for anyone in the village for a fee. More the fee, longer the puja. No one understood what pujari was saying but there was the peaceful atmosphere in temple or house and people enjoyed it. I am narrating this to make a point that knowledge of Sanskrut was not necessary for people in village to understand Hindu religion or to be successful in life. In last 40+ years, several of my friends (all non Brahmins) have been very successful. In fact, one of them has more than 50 acres developed (not a commercial facility but just garden and fruit trees) which is out of this world. He organized 1 week Sat-Sang of Mr. Oza. Organizer provided with transportation and food for villagers coming from neighboring villages. So, the argument that lack of knowledge of Sanskrut held back so called lower caste is not a valid argument.
  11. All Smruties including Manu Smruti provide a snap shot of governing principles at that point in time for society to function in harmony. So, Smruties have changed with time and hence cannot always be used as calibrated yard stick standard to define Hinduism at present time.
  12. If ST/SC, .. are discriminated because of their “Caste”, then can HAF explain why converted people in India are encouraged by Christians, Muslims, .. to keep their Caste?
  13. HAF analysis does not write much about “Reverse Caste” discrimination in India. This has been going on since independence.
  14. If HAF is so concern about the well being of India then why HAF does not write about serious corruption taking place in every walk of life in India hampering growth. If HAF says, Indians have to solve that problem then same is true that discrimination under any banner in India will be solved/addressed by Indians.
  15. In last 20+ years, Indians have become very proud of their heritage and economic progress and they absolutely hate some NRIs advising them how to solve the problems in India. They are polite and hence they do not insult you and tell you to get lost. After several years in USA, I have stayed in India for 5 years, and I have heard them what they say after NRI has left or off the phone.
  16. Before publishing the report and launching media BLITZ, did HAF ever think of impact of its report on Hindu image in USA?
  17. Has HAF down loaded all the comments by readers on its Washington Post and Huffington Post BLOG? If not, why not? If yes, will HAF load all those comments on its WEB site?
  18. Will HAF load all the letters/comments it has received, via e-mail, on its WEB site?
  19. I requested 2 Hindu Americans (born and raised in USA), who are in demanding professions, to read this report and their reaction is why fight battles in India. We, Hindu Americans, want our parents and grandparents take battles for Hindus in USA. That says it all.

A personal note:

I am not associated with any organization. For those who may note my participation for Hindu causes in USA, as a core member of Atlanta team I have been involved in the past in challenging book on “Ganesha” by Porf. Courtright and launching the internet campaign to stop NBCC award to Prof. Wendy Doniger for her latest

book on Hinduism and its history. Both these campaigns were successful.

 

Hope, HAF takes these comments with open mind.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ram Sidhaye

Hari OM!

 

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