US Hindu org accused of violating human trafficking law, exploiting Indian labourers

News Network
November 11, 2021

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New York, Nov 11: A prominent Hindu organisation is facing new allegations in an updated lawsuit that it lured labourers from India and forced hundreds of workers to work for low wages at its temple sites across the United States.

In May this year, a group of Indian workers had filed a lawsuit in US District Court alleging violations of human trafficking and wage law against Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), saying they were confined and forced to work for about USD 1 on constructing the massive Swaminarayan temple in New Jersey.

The New York Times said in a report on Wednesday that in the lawsuit filed in New Jersey federal court and amended last month, BAPS has been accused "of luring labourers from India to work on temples near Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles, as well as in Robbinsville, New Jersey, paying them just USD 450 a month.”

“The amended lawsuit expanded those claims to include temples around the country where some of the men said they were also sent to work. Hundreds of workers were potentially exploited, the lawsuit claimed,” the NYT report said.

The report had in May said that the complaint had named six men who were among over 200 Indian nationals brought to the US starting from around 2018 on religious visas ‘R-1 visas'. The men were made to work "gruelling hours under often dangerous conditions on the New Jersey site", the NYT report had said.

India Civil Watch International (ICWI) had said in a statement in May to PTI that starting in the early hours on May 11, an FBI-led raid rescued around 200 workers, “most of them Dalits, Bahujans, and Adivasis”, from the premises of the Swaminarayan Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey, reportedly the largest Hindu temple in the US.

The amended complaint accused BAPS officials of “violating state labour laws and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, better known as RICO, which was created to go after organised crime,” the report said.

The complaint lists allegations including “forced labour, trafficking with respect to forced labour, document servitude, conspiracy, and confiscation of immigration documents with the intent to engage in fraud in foreign labour contracting ”as well as failure to pay minimum wage."
    
ICWI had said the workers were being paid USD 1.2 per hour, well below the current US federal minimum wage of USD 7.25 per hour, and below even the minimum wage going as far back as 1963.

The NYT report had said the workers "lived in trailers hidden from view and had been promised jobs helping to build the temple" in Robbinsville with "standard work hours and ample time off.”

However, the workers did manual labour on the site, "working nearly 13 hours a day lifting large stones, operating cranes and other heavy machinery, building roads and storm sewers, digging ditches and shovelling snow, all for the equivalent of about USD 450 per month. They were paid USD 50 in cash, with the rest deposited in accounts in India.”

BAPS officials have denied any wrongdoing.

In May, Lenin Joshi, a spokesman for BAPS, also disputed the accusations, saying the workers did complicated work connecting stones that had been hand-carved in India, the report had said.

 “They have to be fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. In that process, we need specialised artisans. We are naturally shaken by this turn of events and are sure that once the full facts come out, we will be able to provide answers and show that these accusations and allegations are without merit,” Joshi had said in the report. 

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January 8,2022

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Mangaluru, Jan 8: Coastal district of Dakshina Kannada today woke up to covid curfew as per government guidelines after months of relaxation.

The law enforcers started the preparations in the morning itself as they vowed to crack down on violators of the curfew, which is aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19. 

The weekend came into across the state last night and will be in force till 5a.m. on Monday. 

As per guidelines, except emergency, grocery, food items sales and parcel service in hotels, no other services are allowed. Government, semi-government and corporation offices which offer emergency services will be open. 

Both the government and private bus services remained unaffected in the region and people were seen travelling one place to another. 

However, thanks to strict police patrolling prominent streets in Manglauru were partially deserted.

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News Network
January 8,2022

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New Delhi: In an open letter, a group of students and faculty members from the Indian Institute of Management requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak up against hate speech and caste-based violence in the country.

The signatories said that the PM's silence on these issues was emboldening the hate-filled voices.

"Your silence, Honourable Prime Minister, emboldens the hate-filled voices and threatens the unity and integrity of our country. We request you, Honourable Prime Minister, to stand firm against forces that seek to divide us," the students and the faculty said in their letter.

The letter comes in light of the recent Haridwar Dharam sansad event where some Hindu religious leaders urged people to take up arms against Muslims and called for genocide.

"Hate speeches and calls for violence against communities based on religion/caste identities is unacceptable," the letter said.

The signatories said that even though the Indian Constitution provided the right to practice one's religion in dignity, there was a sense of fear in the country.

"There is a sense of fear in our country now - places of worship, including churches in recent days, are being vandalised, and there have been calls to take arms against our Muslim brothers and sisters. All of this is carried out with impunity and without any fear of due process," they wrote.

"Your silence, Honourable Prime Minister, emboldens the hate-filled voices and threatens the unity and integrity of our country. We request you, Honourable Prime Minister, to stand firm against forces that seek to divide us," the students and the faculty said in their letter.

The letter was signed by 183 signatories, including 13 faculty members, students and faculty members of IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Bengaluru.

At the Haridwar event, a Hindu religious leader, Sant Kalicharan Maharaj, declares that the aim of Islam is to capture the nation through politics.

In the controversial speech, clips of which have gone viral, Kalicharan Maharaj also urged people to elect a "staunch Hindu leader" to "protect" Hinduism.

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News Network
January 6,2022

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Founder of Ittehad-e-Millat Council Tauqeer Raza Khan's call for a 'Dharam Sansad' on Friday has got support from All India Tanzeem ul Islam, which on Thursday asked the community members to gather in large numbers. The protest has been called to offer 'mass sacrifice' in protest against hate speeches delivered in Haridwar.

Raza Khan appealed to muslims of Uttar Pradesh to gather in large numbers at the Islamia School in Bareilly on Friday for "mass sacrifice" in protest against recent hate speeches made in Haridwar.

The announcement was made on Saturday where he said, "the recent Dharam Sansad against which objections were raised by our community was not the first one but it has been happening for many months, but the present government was never ready to hear anything."

"Our ulemas have conducted three meetings but we never called it Dharam Sansad, but the language used in Haridwar can never be used by our ulemas and the ulemas show the path of peace, patriotism and love to disciples," he added.

The cleric said that the hate mongers want to kill 20 lakh Muslims. "We have decided that we are ready for it. I urge the government that they can send their people to kill us and on Friday at least 20,000 Muslims will surrender before them. The best way is that Muslims sacrifice their lives to ensure peace in the country."

Khan has got support of Tanzeem which recently advocated united India as it was in medieval period. Mujahid Hussain Qadri of Tanzeem said that people want to create disharmony between Hindus and Muslims but they will not succeed.

The hate speech was reportedly made during an event in Haridwar held from December 17 to 20. Video clips of the event, circulated on social media, say that "Hindus should arm themselves like those seen in Myanmar, every Hindu must pick up weapons and conduct a Safayi Abhiyan."

The event was organised by Yati Narasimhanand, a controversial religious leader who has been accused in the past of inciting violence.

The Uttrakhand Police have lodged an FIR in the case against Jitendra Narayan Tyagi -- former Shia Waqf board chairman, who recently converted to Hinduism.

In a similar incident, Chhattisgarh Police had arrested Kalicharan Maharaj for allegedly using derogatory language against Mahatma Gandhi from Madhya Pradesh's Khajuraho.

The police had registered an FIR and arrested the religious leader and others for allegedly making derogatory comments on Mahatma Gandhi and praising Nathuram Godse.

The Congress is criticising the delay in action against the accused in Haridwar.

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