Photo by Hindus for Human Rights

Within two days of a public petition and awareness campaign launched by Hindus for Human Rights, the World Hindu Council of America (Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, or VHPA) has cancelled their virtual events featuring Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, a hate-mongering and Islamophobic Hindu extremist leader in India who has called for the “eradication” of Islam and Muslims in India, the Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) said in a statement.

Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) is a U.S. based advocacy organization that is committed to the ideals of multi-religious pluralism in the United States, South Asia, and beyond.

“Earlier this week, the World Hindu Council of America (Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, or VHPA) announced they would be organizing a series of religious discourses to celebrate the Hindu festival of Chaitra Navratri. These events were scheduled to run from April 13-21, with Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, a hate-mongering, Islamophobic, and violent Hindu extremist, as the featured speaker,” HfHR said.

Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati is the chief priest of the Dasna Devi Temple in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. “He is also the leader of a Hindu extremist organization called Hindu Swabhiman (Hindu Self-Respect),” HfHR said.

HfHR accused Saraswati of making several notorious statements calling for violence and genocide against Muslims, and “publicly declaring that “Islam should be eradicated from Earth … all Muslims should be eliminated.”

HfHR said that just last month, a 14-year-old Muslim boy was violently assaulted for drinking water at Saraswati’s temple in Ghaziabad – “an act which Saraswati praised.”

HfHR further accused Saraswati of “encouraging violence even against the revered Indian saint Shirdi Sai Baba, and has publicly praised Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin.”

For decades, the VHPA has continually tried to downplay its links to Hindu extremists in India, HfHR said

“Under fire from a recent Al Jazeera investigation about Hindu nationalist organizations in the United States receiving federal Covid-19 relief funds, VHPA leaders have argued that they are a benign community organization serving American Hindus and that they are not formally affiliated with Hindu extremist groups in India,” they added.

HfHR said that “VHPA’s invitation of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati is just another example proving the deep ties that exist between Hindu nationalist organizations in the United States and Hindu extremist leaders in India.”

In response to VHPA’s announcement, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) launched an online petition and public awareness campaign on April 12th, which called upon “our fellow Americans and all people of conscience to stand up to Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) and all hate perpetuated in the name of religion.”

HfHR also raised this issue at several forums, including at a briefing for members of Congress on April 14th.

HfHR’s coverage of this issue was shared by figures such as Rutgers University professor Audrey Truschke and Indian journalist Siddharth Varadarajan.

By the evening of April 14th, the VHPA announced that the events with Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati had been “cancelled.”

“The VHPA’s leadership is now trying to downplay its role in the event, arguing that the event series was organized by “a supporter of the VHPA.” However, it was clearly organized by VHPA’s national leadership; the event was posted on VHPA’s national website and was scheduled to be live-streamed on VHPA’s national Facebook page and YouTube channel. The VHPA has claimed that they were unaware of Saraswati’s “controversial statements,” and is trying to portray him as a victim, similar to “the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre,” HfHR added.

Hindus for Human Rights has called on VHPA President Dr Ajay Shah to take full responsibility for organizing the event and to publicly disavow the statements of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, whose calls for murder and genocide against Muslims have incited violence in India.

“If VHPA wants its fellow Americans to believe that it is truly a benign community organization working to serve Hindu American families, then it must disavow its hateful ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) and reject all hate perpetuated in the name of religion. Hindu American families and communities deserve better,” HfHR demanded.

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