In a forceful and passionate interview, where both her anger and anguish are clearly visible, the Executive Director of Hindus for Human Rights, a US-based civil society organisation, says that her organisation will “certainly intensify and escalate” efforts to lobby the US Congress and Biden Administration to speak out against Hindutva and India’s treatment of minorities and muslims in particular.
Sunita Viswanath says the Modi government stands for “a fascist India” and added that it’s important for Hindus to combat Hindutva. “The majority community must wake up”, she said. “The fact Hindus are silent is alarming and dangerous … if Hindus don’t participate it’s impossible to fight Hindutva.”
In a 30-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Sunita Viswanath explained why her organization played a lead role, alongside 16 other civil society organisations in the US, in lobbying the US Congress against the treatment of muslims and minorities in India on the 12th and 26th of January. She said she did this because “the world needs to understand something is wrong in India … India is on a very dangerous path”.
Speaking further about the two Congressional briefings on India’s treatment of muslims which she organised, she said: “We are US citizens. We have the power to influence and move US lawmakers and the Biden Administration to speak out.” She added “it hasn’t happened enough”.
Sunita Viswanath firmly rejected claims made by the External Affairs Ministry’s spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, that the event organisers are biased against India. She said: “India talks of bias? I would say allegations of bias are itself bias.” She said her organisation had a moral duty “to raise awareness of deteriorating democracy and human rights in India.” She added: “We are concerned because we deeply love India.”
She also said she was speaking out in defence of true Hinduism, a religion she loves, which would not condone or accept the othering of muslims.
Sunita Viswanath specifically attacked and criticised MEA spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, for giving the impression that the Congressional briefings were organised only by the Indian American Muslim Council and deliberately ignoring the fact 16 other organisations were involved. Her own, Hindus for Human Rights, played a key role. She firmly rejected claims that IAMC is prejudiced and anti-Indian. She said of them: “They are our close partners. We trust them. We have a close partnership. They are not anti-Indian.”
Sunita Viswanath clarified that the invitation to former Vice President Hamid Ansari to speak at the US Congressional briefing was extended by her organisation, Hindus for Human Rights: “I personally phoned Hamid Ansari” she said. “Our video team went to his home to do the recording”. She said he is “an elder statesman” adding “he is grace and dignity personified”.
Sunita Viswanath firmly rejected insinuations made by Arindam Bagchi that Mr. Ansari spoke with bias against India. She said he spoke in a truthful and balanced way.
Speaking of the treatment of muslims, Sunita Viswanath said : “Muslims in India are under existential threat.”