BY WILLIAM HARRIS
Russian religious persecution of Hindus are sparking a call for an investigation from two Queens lawmakers.
Congressman Gregory Meeks and Assemblyman David Weprin are sending multiple letters to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, addressing the problems of persecution, threats and other religious freedom violations that Hindus face while living in Russia.
In an effort in order to create a more Russian identity, the Russian Orthodox Church has intensified their campaign with increasing persecution and threats toward Hindus under President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
The letters are being sent to Daniel Mark, the chairman of the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom. Meeks and Weprin represent some of the largest Indian-American communities in the entire country right here in Queens.
According to a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, there are several reported occurrences of derogatory rhetoric toward Hindus, including one where prosecutors attempted to paint a seminal commentary on a Bhagavad Gita as extremist.
Meeks and Weprin noted that the most prominent Hindu spiritual leader, Shri Prakash Ji, has been experiencing Hindu persecution while living in Russia for the past several years. He and his family over the last several years are victims of threats and unauthorized police raids of both his cultural center and home. Smear campaigns are also being used to turn the Russian population against the Hindu spiritual leader.
According to Meeks and Weprin, the letters call for action on an alarming trend stating, “Your Commission’s mandate is to fully examine religious freedom allegations and make policy recommendations to Congress, the President and the State Department when it comes to pursuing appropriate intervention and/or sanctions.”
Meeks and Weprin also note that under Putin’s leadership, a number of other minority groups have faced similar persecution, including Muslims, Buddhists, Scientologists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This behavior in Russia is becoming more common as time goes on, but the investigation into these matters may provide some relief for Hindus living in Russia sometime in the near future.