On May 11th, 2021, a news item that was carried by AP and other mass media channels, outlined allegations against the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) regarding its temple construction project in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
While we cannot comment on the legal matters, we understand that BAPS is cooperating with the relevant law enforcement agencies and the truth will eventually prevail. However, the attack on BAPS for caste discrimination is nothing short of bewildering. BAPS is known for pristine and exemplary history of working for the upliftment of all Hindus regardless of caste, creed or race. Those familiar with the tradition know that dismantling caste differences has been a central priority of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the gurus of BAPS. Noting BAPS’s five-decade long commitment to justice in their religious, social, and charitable work in North America, we believe that they deserve the basic presumption of innocence until the conclusion of the legal proceedings with all the facts out in the open. These attacks fit the recent pattern of characterizing American Hindus as practitioners of casteism in various forums.
Caste is not a Hindu concept and ideas about caste among Hindus have never been monolithic or static. This does not diminish the fact that Dalit, Bahujan, and Vanavasi communities have unjustly suffered from mistreatment, both historically and today. As practitioners of the many diverse traditions that constitute Hindu faith in North America, and Inspired by the values found in the ancient Upanishadic mantra “vasudhaiva kutumbakam,” that the whole world is our family, the Hindu society strives for justice for all members of that family, regardless of caste, religion, race, and gender. Thus, as is true of many faith communities, Hindus are committed to addressing instances of injustice whenever and wherever they appear.
These are difficult times for the American Hindu community. These unproven allegations challenge our core values, portraying them in public discourse as fact in a way that perpetuates misinformed and damaging stereotypes about Hindus and Hindu dharma.