In a forceful and passionate interview, where both her anger and anguish are clearly visible, Sunita Viswanath, the executive director of Hindus for Human Rights, a US-based civil society organization, says that her organization 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 that 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 organizations in the US, in lobbying the US Congress against the treatment of Muslims and minorities in India on January 12 and 26. 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 organized, 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 has firmly rejected claims made by the external affairs Ministry’s spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, that the event organizers are biased against India. She said: “India talks of bias? I would say allegations of bias are itself bias.” She said her organization has 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 criticized MEA spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, for giving the impression that the Congressional briefings were organized only by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and deliberately ignoring the fact 16 other organizations 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 organization, 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 elderly statesman” adding “he is grace and dignity personified”.
Sunita Viswanath firmly rejected insinuations made by Arindam Bagchi that 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.”
The above is a paraphrased precis of Sunita Viswanath’s interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire. Please watch the full interview for a better and complete understanding of Sunita Viswanath’s standpoint. She has spoken with great passion and forcefulness. A precis cannot convey either the depth of her emotions or the detail of her answers.