Caste-Aways: Hinduism and Social Discrimination
HAF is asking Christian missionaries to (i) cease the denigration of Hinduism as part of evangelization efforts; (ii) desist from engaging in predatory proselytization, where humanitarian work is only a means to the real goal of conversions. Humanitarian aid should be unconditional, just as it is when provided by Hindu or secular organizations; and (iii) cease attempting to influence international bodies to pass laws interfering in India's internal affairs
How has this report been received?
The first version of our report was released in December 2010, with the same message but with somewhat lesser detail on areas such as the terminology of varna and jāti, details of Hindu scriptures, and modern social reformers and reform movements. The initial report was meant to serve as an introductory advocacy document coming from a human rights organization. But after its release, the report was met with massive outpourings of support, suggestions, and critiques from around the world, highlighting the truly international scope of the report, and the burden we carried, as a prominent voice, to tackle a subject as complex, yet urgently relevant.
Our revised report released in July 2011 not only incorporates more details in the areas mentioned above; it was also reviewed by over three dozen additional experts representing a broad swath of Hindu communities in India, Europe, and the Americas, including religious leaders, academics, social workers and prominent community leaders. The revised report has been warmly welcomed as a resource for HAF's interactions with media, interfaith forums, policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the American public at large. Importantly, it allows HAF to provide a Hindu voice in the debate on caste in international forums currently dominated by non-Hindu or anti-Hindu spokespersons, who often identify as Leftists, Socialists, or Marxists, or are invested in the multi-billion industry of predatory proselytization. Several interfaith leaders and academics have already written to us promising to use the report as their reference on caste in classes or discussions on Hinduism.
What else is HAF doing to work on these concerns?
Advocacy is the primary purpose of this report, as it seeks to educate HAF's target audience in the U.S. about the history and modern realities of the caste system. However, the report also has an important, introspective focus. HAF believes that it is the collective responsibility of all Hindus to end this sad chapter in history and asks Hindus to recognize the importance of the issue, encourage more Hindus to actively voice opposition to caste-based discrimination and inspire new and re-doubled efforts to end such discrimination.
HAF seeks to improve awareness among Hindus of the Diaspora, and some even in the urban areas of India, who may be unaware of the complexity and depth of the problem as it exists today, or who appear overwhelmed by it. To this end, HAF has sponsored a series of talks in various parts of the U.S. by Mr. Bhagwati Charan Bhatpare, a community leader belonging to the erstwhile "untouchable" Satnami caste from the Indian state of Chattisgarh. Mr. Bhatpare, whose article "Why I am a Hindu" appears in an Appendix to our report, speaks about how most "untouchables" remain committed Hindus and only want the end of discrimination. At the same time, he also highlights the need for the Hindu community to come together to support their emancipation and is raising funds for his Sahayog Foundation, which provides health and human services for his community.
HAF has also instituted the Narayana Guru award for social reform, named after a famous Hindu spiritual leader and social reformer, which would provide recognition and direct financial support to an individual or institution working towards the elimination of caste-based discrimination.