IAMC’s Ajit Sahi Receives Inaugural Swami Agnivesh Memorial Award From Hindus For Human Rights

Washington — Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), a US based advocacy group of Indian expats, has awarded its inaugural Swami Agnivesh Memorial Award to Ajit Sahi, journalist and civil rights activist who is Advocacy Director with Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).

“Ajit is a veteran journalist, and he has been a dedicated campaigner for civil liberties, human rights and religious freedom in India for over three decades,” the HfHR said in a statement. “He has been a trusted mentor and close partner to HfHR, and, most inspiringly, being a Hindu, he has worked tirelessly for the rights of Muslim Indians.”

HfHR said Sahi had testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress and “spoken boldly about human rights violations in India.” The award was presented to him at a virtual event organized on December 18.

A Hindu religious leader inspired by the Hindu teaching of vasudhaiva kutumbakam (“the world is one family”), Swami Agnivesh (1939-2020) spoke out against Hindu nationalism and caste, the HfHR statement said. He fought for the “rights of communities who were not necessarily his own: bonded laborers, religious minorities, Adivasis, and caste-oppressed communities,” it added.

“We at IAMC are incredibly proud of Ajit Sahi’s achievements, who is a fearless defender of civil liberties and human rights. Over the years, he has been engaging with the US Congress and Government to bring awareness on issues of civil and political liberties in India. He exemplifies the courage and diversity of the people we are honored to work with,” IAMC President Syed Afzal Ali said.

Receiving the award, Sahi, who is based in Washington, D.C., recalled his association with Swami Agnivesh going back over three decades when as a journalist he reported on Agnivesh’s work in rescuing bonded laborers and later became friends with him.

In recognition of Agnivesh’s fearless commitment to human rights for all, the Award recognizes one individual and one organization continuing his legacy by fighting for justice for all, the HfHR said in a statement.

In the second category, the HfHR awarded Dhanak, a nonprofit organization in India that facilitates interfaith, inter-caste, same-sex, and other non-traditional marriages despite familial, societal and legal obstacles, its statement said.

“(Swami Agnivesh) was a giant. People like him inspired tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, in my generation. And I hope that he’ll continue to inspire many more,” Sahi said while receiving the award at the virtual event.

HfHR advocates for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America rooted in the values of the Hindu faith. It opposes Hindu supremacist ideology propagated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the 96-year-old fascist organization that wants to terminate India’s pluralist Constitution and usher Hindu theocratic rule that will deny non-Hindus, especially Muslims and Christians, equal rights as citizens.

HfHR is critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s policies that discriminate against Muslims and Christians, such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Register for Citizens (NRC), the anti-conversions laws, and the so-called “Love Jihad” laws, and has condemned the complicity of the Indian officials in providing impunity to Hindu vigilante groups that attack and lynch Muslims.


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