Summary of Major Issues with the HAF Report on Caste
- Executive Summary
- A Brief History
- The Political Implications of the Report
- Substantive Flaws in the Contents of the Report
- What now?
Many Hindu community activists and intellectuals are dismayed and appalled at the damage being caused by this report to Hindu interests. The main issues with the report are as follows:
- Authors of the report are not qualified to reject portions of scriptures / change smritis.
- Report will be used by anti-Hindu groups to enhance their conversion activities.
- Serious substantive flaws and misleading use of facts and statistics in the report.
- Lack of transparency and refusal to collaborate with community.
- Lack of the awareness of the geo-political impact caused by the report.
- Influence of radical groups in the writing and the content of the report.
A Brief History
- In August 2010, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) made a presentation on Hinduism & Caste at the World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) Conference in Trinidad and Tobago. Scholars at the Conference cautioned HAF on the prematurity of the Report and advised wider collaboration.
- In December 2010, HAF released a “human rights report on caste” entitled “Hinduism: Not Cast in Caste.” The report was found to be problematic and dangerous in its grave factual errors, its radical anti-Hindu positioning and HAF’s stated intention to use the report as a briefing document for Congress, UN, the media, and the educational system.
- Hindu Community leaders, activists and intellectuals have been dismayed by the report and offered sincere constructive criticisms, which were shared with HAF in hopes of persuading HAF to withdraw the report and work with the wider community in rewriting the report if HAF still insisted upon issuing a report.
- Respected AchAryas and pITAdhipathis from India, including Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati (Convenor of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha and one of the apparent endorsees as claimed by HAF), Dr. Pranav Pandya (Head of All World Gayatri Pariwar), Sri Puthige Swamiji of Udupi, and Swamiji Ramdev have issued letters calling upon HAF to withdraw the report and to reach consensus among all Hindu leaders before issuing any subsequent report. Pujya Pejavar Swamiji (another one of the heads of the Udupi Matha, renowned for his tremendous social work on behalf of Harijans) has also expressed displeasure about the HAF report. Letters are posted at:
- Earlier endorsements of the report were also withdrawn as more people came to learn about the full content of the report and the related issues.
- Over the past 4-5 weeks, several community leaders suggested various initiatives to bring about collaboration and consensus on the issue of the report. HAF has rejected and / or ignored any such initiatives.
- In a recent India Abroad article, in discussing Swami Dayananda’s letter to HAF, the Managing Director of HAF said that HAF “was under no obligation to fulfill [Swami Dayananda’s]request.” Is this an appropriate stance for a self-styled Hindu advocacy organization?
- The only thing that HAF has done is to remove the report temporarily.
HAF invited a three-author team to “rewrite” the report; two of those three members have withdrawn from the process because HAF refused to accept any of their substantive edits as they only wanted “cosmetic changes”; one of the authors has issued a public statement denouncing HAF’s conduct and its arrogant attitude towards swamijis.
The Political Implications of the Report
The report will:
- be exploited by anti-Hindu groups to weaken Hindus politically.
- only fuel the alarming spread of evangelism and conversion by missionaries who equate Hinduism primarily with caste in their propaganda.
- facilitate the calls for UN and foreign intervention in the affairs of India / Hindu society under the ruse of protecting human rights.
- be brandished by non-Hindus to undermine the significant progress made by the Hindu community and the government of India in eradicating caste-based discrimination.
Substantive Flaws in the Contents of the Report
- Calls caste-based discrimination a uniquely Hindu problem and calls upon Hindus to re-analyze and reject certain scriptures that, according to HAF, promote birth-based hierarchy and / or caste-based discrimination.
- In calling for a Hindu “priesthood” open to all, regardless of birth, HAF ignores the long and complex historical basis of practices of the various mathas, sampradayas, paramparas and temples that comprise Hindu religious life.
The policy statements of Navya Shastra – a group that explicitly calls for the creation of a new Hindu scripture and / or a comprehensive reinterpretation of the existing Dharmashastras – are adopted as HAF’s own throughout the report; some prominent Navya Shastra members have specifically called for excising the Ramayana and the Mahabharata from Hinduism because of their alleged caste biases. Why does HAF seek the endorsement of anti-Hindu groups like this?
- While it would not be fair to attribute the views of NavyaShastra to HAF, it is also troubling that HAF’s Human Rights Coordinator recently called the Ramayana a racist narrative in the context of calling for reinterpretations of Hindu sacred texts.
- Many of the incidents of caste violence documented in the HAF report are not supported by any particular citations and are often simply incident reports that have not been proven in a court of law; no evidence that HAF has independently verified or vetted these incidents / statistics, which is irresponsible for a “landmark” report on such a sensitive and complex issue.
- Wrong to blame Hindu society, Hindu Dharma, and Hindu Shastras for law and order issues in India (especially for social ills that mostly came to prominence during the time of Islamic and British colonialism of India, when Hindus were largely disenfranchised).
- This group has pointed out some of the data errors and inaccuracies in the report. One of them is denoting all crimes against backward classes as Caste conflict related.
- HAF Report praises E. V. Ramasamy Naicker (Periyar), a virulently anti-Hindu Dravidian activist from Tamilnadu, (who says such things as if you see a snake and a Brahmin, kill the Brahmin first) is cited in the report as a great reformer of Hindu society.
- Since all efforts have failed for meaningful dialogue and collaboration with HAF, it is unfortunate that critics have no option but to make Hindus all over the world aware of the dangers of this report. HAF supporters, members, and donors need to know what is at stake, as does the larger Hindu community whose interests are affected by the report.
- WAVES Board of Directors has agreed to hold a conference on caste during the summer of 2011. WAVES has invited HAF to participate. WAVES will be inviting wide participation in the discussion of this sensitive and complex issue. It is the hope of the conference organizers that this conference can be one of several steps to move towards consensus and collaboration on the issues related to caste in India today.
More posts by this author:
- The HAF Report on Caste: A Critique,January 25, 2011
- Kalavai denounces Hindu American Foundation Report
- Letters: Aditi Banerjee on HMEC Panel Cancellation
- Puttige Matha’s Open Letter to HAF-LINK
- Gayatri Parivar’s Open Letter to HAF-LINK