The South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network has opposed the ‘Hinduphobia’ petition stating that the Bill will be used as a weapon to silence and harass caste-equity and minority rights activists in Canada.
ON September 10, the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network (SADAN), Canada, issued a press release expressing their deep and serious concerns over the ‘Hinduphobia petition e-4507’ which is before the House of Commons in Canada.
SADAN also circulated a letter among members of the Canadian Parliament to the same effect.
The Hinduphobia petition aims to introduce the term ‘Hinduphobia’ in the glossary of terms in theHuman Rights Code, 1990, to recognise and describe the anti-Hindu prejudice and discrimination.
The petition also aims to recognise the definition of Hinduphobia which includes any anti-Hindu sentiments or denial, negation, prejudice or vilification against Hindus or Hinduism.
Lastly, the petition seeks funding for the development of educational and training materials along with a plan to educate Canadian citizens about Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu sentiments to raise awareness and address systematic and institutional Hinduphobia.
According to the press release, claims of Hinduphobia have been used to persecute, harass, delegitimise and silence the fight against casteism and the oppression of minorities in India and Canada for many years.
“We caution that supporting this petition will have a disastrous impact on the safety of religious minorities, caste-oppressed communities and human rights defenders in Canada, India and beyond,” the statement averred.
About the letter
In an 11-page detailed letter, SADAN has claimed that the campaign for the petition is a part of larger efforts to suppress discussion about the human rights violations in India and in Canada by using Hindu religion as a shield.
As per the letter, the campaign to recognise Hinduphobia is spearheaded by the dominant caste-privileged South Asian diaspora who aim to obfuscate any discussion about the violence against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in India.
The letter states: “Allegations of Hinduphobia will be weaponised to have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression and association of Indian-origin communities in Canada that has faced historical and continuing discrimination and oppression by the Indian State and Hindu supremacy, including journalists and academics.”
The letter says that journalists, scholars, academics and social justice activists in Canada are safe due to the country’s strong democratic foundations and protection of freedom of expression.
However, the same cannot be said of India, where anyone who has tried to report on human rights violations against oppressed caste and minority populations has been persecuted and imprisoned without bail for years, on spurious charges, including that of ‘fomenting hatred’ against the majority dominant Hindus.
The letter talks about how the attacks, discrimination and untouchability of Dalits and Adivasis are growing under the “Hindu nationalist” Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule.
The letter notes: “Human Rights Watch’s 2023 reportstates that in the last nine years, India under Hindu nationalist party rule is experiencing unimaginable violence against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, journalists, academics and social justice activists. Violent punishment of those who transgress or threaten Hindutva beliefs has been normalised; vigilante justice for ‘hurting Hindu feelings’ is condoned and encouraged.”
As per the letter, the Hinduphobia campaign in Canada is an extension of this strategy for undermining and attacking those that followers of the Hindutva ideology see as threatening a unified Hindu state in India.
“We strongly believe that the Hinduphobia Bill will seriously endanger the lives and careers of anti-casteism and human rights defenders in Canada and India, including academics, activists, development professionals and journalists,” the letter avers.
Referring to the letter in its press release, SADAN states that the Hinduphobia Bill asking for special treatment for Hinduism will be severely traumatising and threatening for vulnerable members of Dalit and Adivasi communities, including children who are at risk of facing Hindu supremacy and casteist discrimination every day.
The press release states: “The letter also points out the numerous ahistorical, inaccurate assertions about Hinduphobia in the petition, including the blatant co-optation of our indigeneity, the forced assimilation and denigration of our Dalit and Adivasi practices, and the denial of the intergenerational trauma our communities have faced and continue to face because of certain Hindu practices.”
Through the letter and the press release, SADAN has requested all the elected representatives to oppose the petition as a step towards ensuring that some of the most fundamental rights of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, in Canada and globally, remain protected.
Twenty-six organisations have endorsed the letter.
SADAN is a non-profit organisation working for the Dalit, Adivasi and oppressed caste ethnic descent communities of South Asia in Canada.
They seek to address various forms of caste-based discrimination faced by historically oppressed communities in Canada.
The main focus of SADAN is advocacy against caste-based discrimination and for justice, equality and dignity of caste-oppressed diasporic communities and persecuted minorities.