A little birdy gave me a copy of the materials Hindu American Foundation is using to lobby U.S. Congresspeople. Lobbying is a process involving visiting with policymakers that groups like corporations and non-profits use to push their agendas on the American government. HAF is a ‘soft’ right Hindu nationalist organization that uses human rights rhetoric. Critics argue that HAF is linked to militant Hindutva organizations in India such as the RSS by forming an arm of the sangh parivar, or, family, of groups.
As you will see in the materials, there are some surprises (jointly lobbying for religious worker visas with Council on American-Islamic Relations, among others) and some of the old, familiar Hindutva rhetoric (“India first faced Islamist violence, dating as far back as the 8th century, to the time of the Mughal invasions…”)
A quick and dirty assessment: the rhetoric is often fine and might work perfectly well to inform an American congressperson of, say, the most salient points of anti-minority violence in Bangladesh; at the same time, the materials are one of several ways that the slanted agenda and
ideas the intellectual framework of virulent sangh organizations can make their way into American policymakers’ minds. Why, after all, does one need to lobby U.S. Congresspeople on the alleged need for a uniform civil code in India or defend Narendra Modi against claims that he was involved in religious pogroms? The answer is that one doesn’t need to. So why is HAF doing it, if all it cares about are human rights of Hindus?
Bonus: a list of donors to the HAF is included on the last page of their newsletter, including someone with the same name as Obama appointee Sonal Shah, whose nomination was controversial in South Asian progressive circles exactly because of alleged ties to Hindu right organizations.