- The group is asking the Office of Civil Rights to investigate if the departments involved, create a hostile environment for students and faculty of Indian and Hindu descent.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights against the University of Pennsylvania for its part in co-sponsoring the Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH). In the complaint, filed on Oct. 6, the HAF alleges that by supporting the conference, the university may have violated Hindu students’ rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The “Dismantling Global Hindutva,” conference was held Sept. 10-12, where over 44 scholars, academicians, journalists, and activists discussed various topics exploring the concept of Hindutva. “The conference received a cumulative 30,000 views across the three days, and the conference Twitter account received more than 4.7 million impressions,” organizers told American Kahani at the time. They said they received “many compliments from academics who attended the conference,” adding that “the sessions at the conference were nuanced, informative, and sparked new thoughts in many.” Despite facing a “massive disinformation campaign,” and resistance from Hindu American groups and Hindu supporters for its partisan and Hinduphobic motives, the organizers claimed on the conference website that more than 70 “cosponsoring entities from 53 universities,” supported the event.
The HAF complaint, addressed to Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement Randolph Wills, requests the Office of Civil Rights to “investigate and determine whether the University of Pennsylvania and University of Pennsylvania’s Department of South Asia Studies, South Asia Center (a National Resource Center), and key associated faculty created a hostile environment for students and faculty of Indian and Hindu descent.”
It also wants the office to investigate “whether the same entities and individuals misused any federal funds planning, sponsoring, hosting, and/or participating in a one-sided conference about India and Hindus which promoted negative stereotypes, slurs, and distorted facts.” According to the letter, the aforementioned departments at the university also “developed and promoted a harassment field manual that promotes negative stereotypes, slurs, and distorted facts about Hindus, denies Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred, and specifically targets Hindu students for censure and marginalization.”
The field manual, developed by the South Asian Scholar Activists Collective (SASAC), was launched on July 6. It offers educational and practical resources for the targets, allies, students, and employers of those subjected to Hindu Rights assaults. “A University of Pennsylvania faculty member is listed as one of nine contributing members,” HAF says, adding that “this field manual is also one of four resources promoted on the DGH conference website.”
The HAF complaint notes that not only has the University of Pennsylvania “repeatedly allowed faculty to create discriminatory activities leading to a hostile environment for Indian and Hindu students, “it “has accepted and tolerated these activities despite numerous complaints.”
Before the DGH conference, HAF wrote to the presidents and key administrators of all universities listed as event co-sponsors, asking them to distance themselves from the event, calling it “the antithesis” of their values. In the letter, the HAF urged the university officials to ask the event organizers to remove their university’s name and logo from its website, promotional materials, and social media posts. And “to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Hindu students, faculty, and staff on your campus who may feel targeted, threatened, or face hostility or harassment as a result of this partisan, anti-Hindu event.”