WASHINGTON DC, USA—Pawan Singh, an advisory director to Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI), joined speakers from several other advocacy groups at a Nov. 29 briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to discuss the issue of religious freedom in India.
The event, hosted by Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), featured keynote speaker Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, the former chairperson of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Other speakers included Rev. Sarah Anderson-Rajarigam, a Dalit Christian pastor; Jeff King of International Christian Concern; Vishvajit Singh, a survivor of the 1984 Sikh Genocide; Dr. Mike Ghouse of the Center for Pluralism; and Khalid Ansari of the Coalition for Defense of the Constitution.
Describing himself as “an average American citizen who has common sense,” Pawan Singh opened his remarks by recalling the upcoming 20th anniversary of the death of Graham Staines, a Christian missionary who was murdered by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). “On January 23rd, 2019, it would be 20 years since he was burned to death along with his two juvenile sons while they were sleeping in their car in the Indian State of Odisha,” said Singh.
Remarking that “communities of faith have to work together,” he suggested that violence threatens ethnic as well as religious communities in India. “It’s not that Christians are killed,” he said. “It’s not that Muslims are killed. It’s not that Sikhs are killed. It’s not that moderate Hindus are killed. Tamils are getting killed. Kashmiris are getting killed. Gorkhas are getting killed. Assamese are getting killed.”
Singh questioned: “What is the root cause?” The root cause, he concluded, is “Brahminism, which has the fascist ideology that somehow a small group of people are born superior to others.” Furthermore, he explained that “one of the biggest problems within that ideology — the Brahmanical system — is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).”
Noting that RSS Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Leader) Mohan Bhagwat was the keynote speaker at the World Hindu Congress 2018 in Chicago, Singh warned, “We have these right-wing, saffron terrorists roaming in the free world, threatening our free institutions.” Denouncing Bhagwat for “crimes against humanity,” he urged Americans to call the U.S. State Department to “tell them not to issue visas for the likes of Mohan Bhagwat and other right-wingers who come to our free land to spread hatred and hate-mongering.”
Pawan Singh’s full remarks follow:
Good afternoon, everyone.
I would like to start off by thanking the organizers of this event, who have given me the time to speak my mind. I am amazed with the amount of knowledge and the in-depth research that these experts have brought to my attention because I am not an expert. I am just an average Joe, an average American citizen who has common sense. I look at the world around me, I read our Constitution, and I follow my Sikh faith.
I would like to go ahead and start my speech by remembering Father Graham Staines. On January 23rd, 2019, it would be 20 years since he was burned to death along with his two juvenile sons while they were sleeping in their car in the Indian State of Odisha.
Thank you so very much for bringing it to the table that the communities of faith have to work together. A wise man once said, “You see God in all, or you do not see God at all.” That has to be our motto. At least, that is what I have been taught, and that is what I have understood by following my Sikh faith.
It does not matter what promises are made after life. What matters is what we see here with our physical body right now. That is the priority.
That is why we have the tradition of langar. “Langar” is a Persian word which literally means “anchor.” How the ship is anchored in the sea and the waves cannot move the ship, that is how we get anchored as individuals. We become parts of society.
Langar also means “free kitchen” because Sikhism has a fundamental rule that all people are created equal — regardless of your gender, your sexual orientation, your race, your faith, you’re tall, you’re short, you’re educated, you’re not educated. All that does not matter. So everybody sits on the floor and shares the meal because that is the priority — the need of the physical body. After that, then we go to the prayer hall. That’s where the needs of the soul are met. That’s where we get the soul food.
I do not want to take too long. I have so many things that I want to share with you folks, but considering the time limit, I will go on with the agenda.
It’s not that Christians are killed. It’s not that Muslims are killed. It’s not that Sikhs are killed. It’s not that moderate Hindus are killed. Tamils are getting killed. Kashmiris are getting killed. Gorkhas are getting killed. Assamese are getting killed.
But what is the root cause? As the young lady who gave the presentation at the beginning said, if you can look at the problem and find that there is a fundamental error, point to it.
That fundamental error is Brahminism, which has the fascist ideology that somehow a small group of people are born superior to others. That is the root cause of our problem. That thinking, that ideology needs to be checked, and it needs to be kept at bay.
We have mentioned all the problems. We can literally fill this room with the amount of literature if we were just to record the atrocities that have been committed by the Brahmanical forces. There’s the curtain of democracy that they use, and then they go on with their business of killing individuals who are of the dissenting opinion — or just because you do not like them. You do not like the way they are born into a different family.
With that being said, one of the biggest problems within that ideology — the Brahmanical system — is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It is a shell organization. They do not have any bank accounts. They do not have any names of their members. They are run by tentacles such as the RSS, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Bajrang Dal, Hindu American Foundation (HAF). All these people just got together and they have formed these pseudo institutions that are a threat to our freedom.
It’s not just India’s problem anymore. In September, there was an event that got held at Chicago, Illinois under the banner of “World Hindu Congress.” That is what gives me shivers. We have these right-wing, saffron terrorists roaming in the free world, threatening our free institutions. And what is of utmost shame — I will not mince my words because truth needs to be said and heard — it is an act of shame when American elected politician Raja Krishnamoorthi goes and shares the stage with Mohan Bhagwat, who should be tried for crimes against humanity. What is even more shameful is that he got elected on a progressive agenda. He belongs to the Democrat Party. That is very upsetting.
These people are wearing facades while they carry big knives to kill us, to kill the dissenting opinion, to kill anybody and everybody who will speak for equality, for justice, and freedom for all.
I would like to go ahead and say, this is the land of the free and home of the brave. If an average American can say these words, I’m sure the experts have a lot more to offer. But it’s not about the knowledge we have. It’s about doing. Following through. Write your congressman. Tell them. Call the State Department. Tell them not to issue visas for the likes of Mohan Bhagwat and other right-wingers who come to our free land to spread hatred and hate-mongering.
With that, all that I have to say is: God bless America. God bless all. Thank you.