Civil Society Groups Call on VHPA, HSS to disinvite Hindu extremist leader Sadhvi Ritambhara
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Atlanta, GA (August 29, 2022): A coalition of leading multi-faith and civil society organizations have called on the US-based Hindu rightwing groups to denounce anti-Muslim hate and disinvite a Hindu extremist leader from India.
Sadhvi Ritambhara, the leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), one of India’s largest Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) organization described as a “militant religious outfit” by the CIA, has been invited by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) as a speaker for a series of satsangs and pravachans (religious gatherings and discourses) in various US cities including Atlanta.
Both groups are the international offshoots of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu supremacist paramilitary organization in India.
Ritambhara’s hateful speeches have been described as “the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence” in various Indian states.
Timeline of Ritambhara’s anti-Muslim hate, bigotry, and violence:
- Ritambhara founded Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu supremacist organization that has openly incited and participated in violence against Muslims and Christians. In 1992, during the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition, her speeches calling for a Hindu war against Muslims were made into audio cassettes and sold across the country. It played a major role in the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The riots that followed the mosque’s demolition saw 2,000 killed, mostly Muslims.
- In 2003, the Justice Liberhan Commission, a government-appointed inquiry, indicted her for being among the 68 persons responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the subsequent slaughter of approximately 2000 innocent citizens.
- Ritambhara has vilified and demonized Indian Christians. Suggesting that the Christian missionaries were attempting to convert people, she said, “If a single choti or janeu (a Hindu thread) is cut, Christians will be wiped out from the face of India.”
- Ritambhara’s student Sadhvi Pragya Singh was arrested for masterminding the 2006 Malegaon Blasts in which 37 people were killed and over 125 injured. Ritambhara vehemently protested Pragya’s arrest.
Over the last three decades, Ritambhara has been invited multiple times by the US-based Hindu rightwing groups to normalize her politics of hate and bigotry among the Indian-American diaspora.
The coalition members have called on the event organizers to cancel Sadhvi Ritambhara’s speaking engagements and refrain from inviting her and other Hindu extremist leaders from India in the future.
- Zameer Khan, board member and Atlanta chapter president of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a Washington DC-based advocacy group, wrote a letter to Shiv Agarwal, the owner of Global Mall in Norcross, Atlanta urging him to cancel the event with Hindu extremist leader Sadhvi Ritambhara. Mr. Khan said in a statement “I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of peace-loving Hindus reject Ritambhara’s politics of hate. I urge them to distance themselves from a person responsible for inciting murderous mobs and advocating genocide.”
- Sunita Viswanath, co-founder and executive director of Hindus for Human Rights (HFHR), a US-based diaspora group said “We are disappointed, but not surprised, to see Hindu nationalist organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) providing a platform to yet another Hindu extremist leader. Hindus for Human Rights calls on the VHPA and HSS to cancel the event with Sadhvi Ritambhara and to formally denounce her comments and the hateful ideology of Hindu nationalism.”
- Nikhil Mandalaparthy, advocacy director of Hindus for Human Rights said “as Hindus, we call upon our fellow Americans and all people of conscience to stand up to Hindu nationalism and all hate perpetuated in the name of religion. We also call for the U.S. government to investigate VHPA and HSS for their ties to extremists in India. Any registered 501(c)3 nonprofit receiving federal funding should not be allowed to propagate Islamophobia and genocidal hatred among Americans.”
- Biju Mathew, the co-founder of India Civil Watch International (ICWI), a membership-based civil rights monitoring and campaign organization, called on the media outlets sponsoring this event – TV Asia, Rashtra Darpan, Atlanta Dunia, NRI Pulse, and S&S Digital Media USA – to issue a formal apology to their readers and audience.
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