NEW DELHI — A number of human rights groups in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe have come out in condemnation of a lawsuit filed by Hindu American Foundation (HAF) against historian Audrey Truschke, journalist Raqib Hameed Naik and several members of rights groups.
“This aggressive lawsuit, filed against these individuals, is an attempt to curtail free speech and free expression exercised by a reputed media house and its readers,” read the letter. “The lawsuit, filed against individuals using a law firm, is a tactic to silence public participation and an attempt to drown out voices and views that do not conform with HAF’s.
It is therefore a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP suit, to shut down critiques of organizations and ideologies, and hurts the first amendment rights of the American people. We, the undersigned organizations, will continue our unstinting support of the individuals and organisations being subjected to this harassment.”
The HAF filed the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) on May 7 in US District Court for the District of Columbia. The respondents are: Indian American Muslim Council executive director Rasheed Ahmed; Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America chairman John Prabhudoss; Hindus for Human Rights co-founders Sunita Vishwanath and Raju Rajagopal; Rutgers University professor Audrey Truschke; and journalist Raqib Hameed Naik. They have been accused of defamation and conspiracy to defame the HAF.
The lawsuit was filed after Al Jazeera published an article highlighting five Hindu American organizations, including the HAF, which received COVID-19 relief funding through loans and grant. Citing data from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the report said that these outfits, which allegedly have “ties to Hindu supremacist and religious groups” have together received $833,000 in federal funding.
Journalist Naik who hails from Jammu and Kashmir says he also received death threats online for the story. He took to Twitter and alleged that a Hindutva activist Rajesh Jhaveri has threatened to kill him for writing the story in Al-Jazeera.
The people named in the suit said the HAF is infringing on their rights.
Rashid Ahmad, the executive director of IAMC, told American Kahaani that he was surprised to see that the HAF took the criticism personally. “This is a frivolous lawsuit, appears to be Bajrang Dal type bullying tactics.”
Similarly Hindus for Human Rights said they are prepared to fight the battle in the court. They rejected the suit saying they have been working on bringing spotlight on groups who oppose their fight against pluralism.
Vishwanath and Gopal said they see the lawsuit as an attempt to silence them.
Prof Truschke, who is an expert on Indian history, said the suit is “a bald-faced attempt to intimidate and silence my scholarship”.
Rasheed of IAMC said the lawsuit has raised awareness about the intolerance culture which will help their cause in the long run.
This story first appeared on clarionindia.net