The HAF is a non-profit, non-partisan human rights group, “promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism,” according to the foundation’s website.
The report, “Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A survey of Human Rights 2006,” listed ten countries and one state in India where Hindus constitute a minority: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago.
Notice of the report’s existence came from a release from HAF Executive Director, Ishani Chowdhury, sent to Newsday by Radio Jaagriti CEO Devant Maharaj. Within this release HAF executive council member and the report’s primary author, Ramesh Rao stated the countries were not “rank-ordered in terms of level of discrimination and human rights abuse” and their listing did not mean that each was an abuser of human rights “to the same extent.”
Its summary stated that “racial and religious animosity between Afro-Caribbean and Indo- Caribbean (people) has been exacerbated over the years.
“Indo-Trinidadians have been systematically denied government benefits and employment in government service. The police have too often ignored attacks on Hindu-Trinidadians.”
Almost seven pages of the 200-plus page report are dedicated to detailing instances where the human rights of Hindu-Trinidadians have been abused.
It stated that contrary to the Constitution, Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago “experience discrimination and violation of their human rights in religion, culture, politics, economics, education, employment, housing, and health.”
“Worse yet, Hindus and Indians are targeted by organised gangs of kidnappers and murderers.”
The report also stated that Hindus were not allowed equivalent sums of money to organise religious and cultural event, as given to Christian groups and are sometimes not allowed outright to hold such events.
The report claims that “the People’s National Movement ruled for 30 consecutive years without appointing a single Hindu as a government minister. The cry of rural neglect, alienation, marginalisation and discrimination affected the political psychology of Indians as they lost hope of ever winning a general election.”
It cited the Trinity Cross issue where a new name and symbol for the nation’s highest award is yet to be commissioned and the seven-year legal struggle by Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Secretary General, Satnarayan Maharaj for a radio broadcast license. Maharaj told Newsday yesterday, he read the report and said that Hindu discrimination in TT “ is not an invention but a fact of life which we see happening all around us.”
“A number of US congressmen are alerted to the fact that Trinidad and Tobago discriminate against Hindus. There is no question that this report is accurate as it is on court record that the Hindu community was discriminated against in the radio license case.”
HAF recommended that the United States should encourage the TT Government to abide by the Constitution and guarantee safety and security to Hindus and Indo-Trinidadians.