New Report Details Hindu Rights Abuses

May 19, 2008

Author: Todd R. Brown

Source: Contra Costa Times

In a scene in the comedy film "Airplane!" the hero struggles to get through an airport lobby, shoving various solicitors out of the way, including an innocuous Hare Krishna offering a flower.

Today airport proselytizing is a folk memory, but the once belittled Hindu sect still faces real-world battles, particularly in Russia, according to a new report of Hindu rights abuses in 2007.

The number of Hindus in Russia is so small that Krishnas and other followers have nearly no political influence and endure legal hassles and even property losses, says the annual report by the Hindu American Foundation, which started in Fremont.

In one case, Krishnas abandoned a makeshift Moscow temple under a redevelopment plan, but the city reneged on building a replacement, the report released Monday says.

One locale the foundation investigated in 2006 but omitted from the latest survey is Afghanistan, where sources could not be found.

"We weren't able to get that much on-the-ground information," said Ishani Chowdhury, the foundation's director of public policy. "The previous year, we talked with people who fled Afghanistan or had relatives still there. We don't know where they are."

Such is the nature of an ever-shifting diaspora. There are more than 800 million Hindus in India, birthplace of the faith, and about 20 million living elsewhere.