How a Hindutva Faction in the U.S. is Openly Fundraising to Demolish Christian Churches in India
- Texas-based Global Hindu Heritage Foundation is appealing to Hindu Americans to “ensure the survival of Sanatan Dharma” by spreading false claims of “aggressive Christian rampant conversions.”
A couple of weeks back, I received a flyer on WhatsApp. It was colorful and text-heavy from an organization called Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF). I’ll admit I had not heard of this organization up until this point. The flyer was an invitation to a gala dinner in Frisco, Texas. The content seemed innocuous enough until you came to the section that was highlighted for me: “With your help, support & donations, we recommit to protect our Bharat Mata.” And among the agendas mentioned was “Demolition of Illegal Churches in Tirupati, India.”
I admit, I went into some sort of internal paralysis as images of another demolition from 30 years ago ran past my mind — the Babri Masjid demolition by Hindu fanatics in 1992. As well as the repercussions that followed — riots, killings, maiming, as well as the electoral gains that the right-wing political arm of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — the Bhartiya Janata Party gained is still being felt. This incident happened 30 years ago on December 6th and the images of the mob sitting atop the demolished masjid still drive chills down my spine. At that time, we were glued to our TVs at home in disbelief — mute witnesses to the carnage that would soon follow.
Following the WhatsApp message, another tweet was forwarded to me a few minutes later — this one, a letter to its group members where it was more detailed — “…where we are going to present our activities in Bharat to ensure the survival of Sanatan Dharma and also encounter aggressive Christian rampant conversion tactics through Ghar Waapasi, Bala Samskar (Sunday schools), renovation of grama devatas, demolition of illegal churches and other activities.” The letter then goes on to describe in detail about the demolition effort — “every one of nearly 75 churches built without the required permission from the district collector.”
And written in all bold were these lines: It is the dharma of every Hindu to preserve, protect and cherish the ideals of Bharat Mata. let us not be a spectator for the destruction, suffocation, stabbing of motherland. Doing our dharma is the need of the hour. Serving the motherland should be the highest privilege.”
I admit, these words scare me — imagine a powerful orator thundering these words from a podium to its wide-eyed and enthralled supporters somewhere in India and here! The concept of motherland and patriotism and the sense of superiority reminds me yet again of Nazi Germany, the beloved Fatherland of the Reich.
The laughable and nonsensical theory of a “Hinduphobia” that right-wing Hindutva foot soldiers keep espousing would certainly resonate with those who may not know that there is not an iota of truth, nor any facts floated by researchers and historians related to the claims of “destruction, suffocation and stabbing of motherland,” in India. If any, there have certainly been facts and research presented repeatedly of suppression and oppression of minorities in India. Yogi Adityanath’s bulldozer symbol used against the Muslim minorities won him the state elections by adoring masses in Uttar Pradesh. Gujarat is another tale, all by itself.
After a bit of digging and cautious words of wisdom from my friends to make sure the contents were legit and would not lead me down a rabbit hole, I found out that the GHHF is a radical U.S.-based Hindu extreme right-wing group, with close ties to Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samithi based in Hyderabad. According to a news report, the group recently claimed the conversion of five Christians and Muslims in Assam, under its program called “Ghar Waapasi.”
All of this is extremely disconcerting and frightening — and the fact that it is happening right here on U.S. soil, more so. This comes right on the heels of another minority intimidation by Hindutva forces in Piscataway Township, New Jersey. A truck with anti-Muslim sentiments painted all over, slowly drove around the Muslim Center of Middlesex County, NJ, while the congregators were inside. It was clearly an act of intimidation against Muslims. Swift condemnation was followed by State Senator Bob Smith and Mayor Brian C. Wahler and the police met with the MCMC leaders as well. Also in NJ, there was of course the now infamous bulldozer float during India’s Independence Day parade – a nod to the swami-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath who very publicly would demolish homes of Muslims in his state of Uttar Pradesh.
I spoke to Zafar Siddiqui, an Indian American activist based in Minnesota and co-founder of the group India Coalition (this writer is part of this Coalition as well). “When I first saw the flyer that was advertised by Frisco, Texas-based Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) raising money to demolish ‘illegal’ churches in India, my first thought went to how similar efforts were made in India to raze the 450-year old historic Babri Masjid whose 30th anniversary of the demolition at the hands of Hindutva fanatics was just on Dec 6, 2022.”
Everyone I spoke to agrees with Siddiqui — It is a dangerous path that GHHF is taking that can put all Indian Americans at risk of backlash from the Christian community in the United States. “Raising money in the U.S. for violent causes such as the demolition of churches must certainly result in an FBI investigation, criminal penalties, and the cancellation of their 501(c)(3) status by the IRS. “I am grateful that the Indian American community in Minnesota has come together to form the India Coalition to keep this kind of hate out of Minnesota. India Coalition’s efforts to bring together on a common platform, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs to promote peaceful co-existence and to take a stand against hate is something that needs replication in every state in the United States so that we do not allow the importing of hate in the United States,” Siddiqui commented on the need for more organizations such as India Coalition help bring sanity and peace.
While there have been swift condemnations, it is certainly not enough. Hundreds packed the City Hall of Frisco, Texas, to raise awareness about the group GHHF and its willful distain of protecting minorities in India. Akheel Mohammed, a member of the IAMC, says “We had more than 200 people on short notice including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Muslims show up at the city hall to protest this blatant aggression and intent to harm minorities’ interests in India.”
The city also organized a rally on December 11th to protest this fundraising. Civil Rights groups based in the U.S. have now sought the intervention of the FBI, DoJ and IRS to seek an investigation into the GHHF. According to The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) press release, it joined 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the U.S. Senators, Representatives, State Governor and other elected officials demanding the probe into GHHF. “We find it extremely disturbing and dangerous that GHHF would so openly advertise their goal to cause such great harm to Indian Christians, who already face enormous persecution on a daily basis,” said the letter.
Whichever side you are on, we Indian Americans need to understand that our status as immigrants in this country has no scope for bigotry and fueling violence against minorities in another country. The U.S. has always taken a dim view of such fanaticism — read Islamic fundamentalism as well as White extremism. “Indian Americans constitute 1% of the United States population. We should be known for our positive contributions to our adopted country rather than gain the notoriety of raising funds for the destruction of churches in India. It’s time to take a stand against hate and bigotry,” Siddiqui says.
Kuhu Singh lives in Eden Prairie, Minn., a suburb of the Twin Cities. Bidding adieu to journalism a decade ago, she nonetheless loves to write and express her very strong opinions on social media and blogs and sometimes in a few Indian publications. She is a Senior Digital Marketing Manager for a broadcast retail company. Race relations, diversity, and social issues fascinate and roil her into action. She volunteers her time with certain political and community organizations.
Good to make every American aware. You are exactly correct to compare the behavior of this group with Nazi’s. Their so called allegiance to their mother land merely provides cover for a stained and dark heart. A criminally minded herd that needs to be banned for promoting hatred and suffering of fellow humans.