We are writing to express our disappointment with a letter published in The Lantern on Feb. 26, titled "Understanding the political situation in Kashmir," written by Dr. Pranav Jani. In this letter, Jani has accused Hindu YUVA, a registered Ohio State student organization, of demonizing "Kashmiris and Pakistanis as a whole," without any proof. We would also like to express our concerns that his letter discourages freedom of expression on a vibrant and diverse university campus like Ohio State's and effectively encourages intellectual bullying against a racial and cultural minority community composed mostly of immigrant students.
We would like to bring to the attention of your readers that Jani has not attended any of our events, including the candlelight vigil for the Valentine's Day terror attack victims, and all his accusations are politically motivated and biased. While there are several angles to the history of terrorism in India, none of those can and should justify a suicide bomber detonating hundreds of pounds of explosives killing 40 security personnel. Is Jani in effect arguing that Hindu students at Ohio State have no right to express their concerns about acts of terrorism? We would like to reiterate this part of the United Nations Security Council's statement on this attack here: "all acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed."
For the record, we would like to clarify that Hindu YUVA has been operating on Ohio State's campus since 2010, and our events have always been peaceful, open and welcoming to all members of the campus community. Here is an overview of some of our recent events:
– Celebrating Hindu festivals: we celebrate Ganesh Festival, Navratri, Diwali, and Hindu New Year on campus, giving the Hindu students, most of whom are from India, an opportunity to keep practicing the traditions even when they are away from their families.
– Interfaith events: During the past academic year, we have celebrated some of the above-mentioned festivals in collaboration with other faith-based organizations. In spring 2018, we organized a Hindu New Year and Passover dinner with Hillel OSU, and in fall 2018, we celebrated Diwali and Hanukkah together, both being festivals of light. More than 100 members of different religious and ethnic backgrounds attended each of these events.
– Service/Volunteering: we have worked with the Bhutanese-Nepalese refugees in the Morse Road area to help the middle-school children in the community with their homework. Our volunteers have put together dozens of volunteering hours in this and other similar activities.
– Awareness about our culture: We routinely invite speakers from different backgrounds to spread awareness about Hindu culture. Some of our recent speakers were Professor Lavanya Vemsani, History and Religious Studies, Shawnee State University, and Professor Pankaj Jain, Philosophy & Religion, University of North Texas.
It is very unfortunate that a faculty member is trying to impute political motivations to a student organization representing a small religious minority on campus. It is also worth highlighting the fact that it is Jani, who is politicizing the issue by sharing his Lantern letter with Kavita Krishnan, a leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist faction on Facebook. It should be noted that the communist parties have a history of violence in India and elsewhere.
We would like to request the campus community to not be influenced by the political agenda of some faculty members of the university who misuse their academic pulpits to promote a political agenda and stifle free speech on the campus. We invite the larger campus community to engage with our organization and celebrate the Hindu culture with us.
Hindu YUVA Executive Committee