Coalition of Hindus of North America

CoHNA partners with NYC Mayors Office on Hate Crimes

Jamaica, NY. Saturday, June 8th, 2024. In a first of its kind initiative, the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) collaborated with the NYC Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to organize an event titled “Preventing Hate Crimes Against the Hindu Community.” The event aimed to educate the Hindu community about available resources from these offices and law enforcement concerning hate crimes, discrimination, and racism. It also served as an opportunity for officials to understand the challenges facing this immigrant heavy community, including recent temple attacks across the US, school bullying, misinformation about their sacred symbols such as the Swastika, as well as Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu bias resulting in violence and hate crimes, among other topics.

 

Hosted at the Surya Narayan Mandir, the event commenced with a sacred invocation led by the temple’s spiritual leader, Pandit Hardowar. He extended a warm welcome to both the community and officials, emphasizing the significance of temples hosting such programs to raise awareness about Hindu culture and community challenges.

 

Nikunj Trivedi, President and Co-founder of CoHNA, expressed enthusiasm about collaborating with the Mayor’s Office and the NYPD. He highlighted the organization’s community efforts, including opposing bills that misrepresent the sacred Swastika as a symbol of hate in NYC schools and advocating for Diwali as a school holiday. Trivedi then presented on Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu bias, illustrating the impact of bigotry and intolerance with evidence from Rutgers University’s research, incidents on college campuses, attacks on temples and individuals nationwide, and vandalization of Gandhi statues.

 

Trivedi and Dr. T.K. Nakagaki, the Founder and President of the Heiwa Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of New York and the President Emeritus of the Buddhist Council of New York, delivered a powerful presentation on the history of the sacred Swastika and Hitler’s Hakenkreuz (pronounced Ha-ken-kroytz) or “hooked cross.” They emphasized the Swastika’s significance for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Native Americans, and other communities, distinguishing it from Hitler’s symbol of hate. They discussed their coalition’s efforts to spread education about the Swastika and condemn antisemitism.

 

Eunice Lee, OPHC’s Deputy Executive Director, outlined the agency’s holistic approach to preventing hate crimes and its partnership with communities to address biases related to hate crimes. She discussed initiatives such as Partners Against The Hate (PATH) and community grant projects, encouraging the Hindu community, including the younger generation, to actively engage in these efforts.

 

Orlando Torres, Managing Director of Outreach & Racial Justice at CHR, highlighted its role in enforcing human rights laws and educating communities on resources available through the Mayor’s office. He encouraged community members to report discriminatory incidents and clarified the distinction between discrimination and free speech.

Police Officer Gina Gao from the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau shared her personal motivation for involvement in combating hate crimes. As a relatively recent immigrant of Asian heritage, she described how she faced hate and discrimination and wants to ensure that the Asian American community and all other vulnerable communities have the appropriate resources available at their disposal to combat hate crimes and know where to turn to for help. She provided guidance on identifying and reporting hate crimes and expressed gratitude to the community for educating her on Hinduphobia and related issues.

 

The event concluded with a lively interactive session where attendees engaged with officials, seeking clarification on various topics discussed throughout the afternoon. Many expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interact with officials.

 

CoHNA thanked the Surya Narayan Mandir for hosting the event and providing delicious food and sweets for all attendees. The organization looks forward to collaborating with the agencies to drive education and hold future events across New York City.

About CoHNA:

CoHNA is a grassroots level advocacy and civil rights organization dedicated to improving the understanding of Hinduism in North America by working on matters related to the Hindu community and by educating the public about Hindu heritage and tradition. For more information, please visit https://cohna.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and on Instagram.