In a deeply concerned and detailed open letter addressed to Members of Parliament and Ministers in Canada, the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network Canada (SADAN) has expressed its serious concerns regarding Petition e-4507, which seeks to introduce the concept of "Hinduphobia" into the Canadian Human Rights Code. The organization, representing the South Asian diaspora in Canada, specifically from communities historically subjected to caste-based violence and oppression, has raised several points of contention regarding the petition. Over 26 organizations have endorsed this letter of condemnation within just one week, with more expressing support daily.
The contentious petition seeks to introduce the concept of "Hinduphobia" into the Human Rights Code, framing it as a response to "anti-Hindu prejudice and discrimination." However, those opposing the petition argue that claims of Hinduphobia have been employed to persecute, harass, and silence the fight against casteism and the oppression of minorities in both India and Canada for many years.
The open letter begins with the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network Canada (SADAN) emphasizing its commitment to oppose any form of racism and standing in solidarity with all racialized communities facing prejudice and discrimination. While acknowledging the existence of racism faced by South Asians in Canada, SADAN's central concern revolves around the Hinduphobia bill, which they perceive as part of larger efforts to suppress discussions about human rights violations in India and Canada, using the Hindu religion as a shield.
SADAN contends that the campaign for the Hinduphobia bill is primarily led by privileged members of the South Asian diaspora who aim to obstruct discussions about violence against Dalits (formerly untouchables), Adivasis (Indigenous communities and tribes), Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians in India. They argue that claims of Hinduphobia are being used to persecute, delegitimize, and silence the fight against casteism and the oppression of minorities in India.
SADAN raises concerns that supporting the Hinduphobia petition will have a detrimental impact on the safety and freedom of expression for religious minorities, caste-oppressed communities, and human rights defenders in both Canada and India. They argue that allegations of Hinduphobia will be weaponized to create a chilling effect on the Indian-origin communities in Canada, who have historically faced discrimination and oppression by the Indian state and Hindu supremacy, including journalists and academics.
The open letter read, " Even though Canadian space is safe due to our strong democratic foundations and protection of freedom of expression, in India, journalists, scholars, academics and social justice activists who have tried to report on human rights violations against oppressed caste and minority populations such as Gautam Navalka, Siddique Kappan, Irfan Mehraj, Umar Khalid etc have been persecuted and imprisoned without bail for years, on spurious basis including that of fomenting hatred against the majority dominant Hindus.
For example, Siddique Kappan is a young Kerala journalist who was investigating the brutal gang rape and murder of a Dalit teenager in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh by dominant caste Hindus. He was charged with sedition, terrorism, and for outraging and insulting Hindu feelings, ie Hinduphobia, among other charges. Mohammed Zubair a fearless journalist was arrested on charges of hurting Hindu sentiments for exposing the disinformation campaigns by Hindu supremacist organizations."
The open letter criticizes the petition for making incorrect and ahistorical assertions about Hinduism. It highlights that the caste system, an integral part of Hinduism, has led to centuries of discrimination and violence against Dalits and Adivasis. They emphasize that Hinduism is based on Brahmanical ideology, with a hierarchical caste structure, leading to the dehumanization of caste-oppressed people in South Asia.
SADAN expresses concern about the definition of Hinduphobia in the petition, which includes the "negation of Hinduism and Hinduness." They argue that this definition denies the inherent right of those oppressed by Hindu caste practices to protest and dissent, and it goes against the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression. They stress that criticism of oppressive religious practices should be protected and that the Hinduphobia petition seeks to silence legitimate grievances.
Elected representatives have been called upon to oppose the petition as a critical step toward safeguarding the fundamental rights of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians in Canada and around the world.
The various organisations who endorsed the petition are Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha Ontario and Calgary, Dr. Ambedkar International Mission Toronto , Ambedkarite International Coordination Society of Canada (AICS), Ambedkarites International Mission Society- Canada (AIMS- Canada), South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC) , North America Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), Feminist Critical Hindu Studies Collective , Justice For All Canada , Ontario Education Workers United Poetic Justice Foundation, Canadian Council of Indian Muslims (CCIM) , Punjabi Literary and Cultural Association, Winnipeg , India Civil Watch International (ICWI) , Queer Tamil Collective (QTC) , International Socialists, International Council of Indian Muslims (ICIM), Canadians Against Oppression And Persecution (CAOP), International Council of Indian Women Canadians for Indian Democracy , Canadians for India Democracy, International South Asia Forum (Insaf Bulletin) , Navodaya Global Fellowship, Calgary , Hindus for Human Rights , South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) , West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR) and Tamil Nadu Multicultural Association of Canada (TMAC)
The caste system, which exists globally but predominantly in South Asia, establishes social hierarchies based on inherited status. It has long been an integral part of Hinduism in both law and practice. Dalits (formerly untouchables) and Adivasis (Indigenous people) are often considered outside Hindu society and subjected to untouchability, discrimination, and dehumanization. Privileged castes with higher social status maintain these divisions through practices such as hereditary assignment of "polluted" or menial work, everyday violence, humiliation, and oppression. These forms of systemic discrimination have persisted in Canadian society through the biases and practices of privileged caste members within the South Asian community.
Caste discrimination affects vulnerable individuals across various facets of life, from schoolchildren to workers in various industries who experience untouchability, bullying, harassment, wage theft, sexual harassment, housing discrimination, and hate crimes. The UN Convention on Racism and Discrimination recognizes caste as a form of racial discrimination, as have cities like Seattle and Brampton, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), and the California legislature.