Hindu rightwing group using law firm that represented Donald Trump to silence journalist for writing investigative report.Last month, Al Jazeera published a report regarding Hindu right-wing groups with links to RSS received federal COVID-19 funding of more than 833,000 US dollars. It includes Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Sewa International, Ekal Vidyalya Foundation, Infinity Foundation and Hindu American Foundation.
The article was written by Raqib Hameed Naik, a US-based Kashmiri journalist. Following the article, a coalition of activists and civil rights organisations demanded a US probe on how relief fund was handed to Hindu right-wing groups.
Recently, cease and desist legal notices were sent to Raqib Hameed Naik, Al Jazeera and Audrey Truschke for writing, publishing and sharing the article respectively. The notices were sent through a law firm in California by Hindu American Foundation (HAF) one of the right-wing groups which had received nearly $400,000 (3 crores) in the relief funds.
Audrey Truschke, Historian of South Asia and associate professor at Rutgers University, has been facing several attacks by the Hindu right wing trolls for putting forward historical facts to the right wings propagandist distortion of history and now for sharing an article that exposes the distribution of relief funds to the extremist Hindu organisations.
Soon after receiving the legal notice, Al Jazeera surprisingly retracted all the articles related to the issue from their website. But after a detailed review the articles were put back yesterday, serving a strong rebuke to the Hindu supremacist groups in the US. HAF has hired Harder LLP, a California (US) based powerful lawfirm that represented Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Hulk Hogan among others to silence Raqib and other voices critical of Hindu nationalism in the US.
The case might end up in the court in coming weeks. The trial will be crucial as this is the first time RSS affiliated organisations in US have been at spotlight for their nefarious links. These organisations have been whitewashing Modi’s anti-Muslim polices in US and other western countries.
RSS backed right wing organisations have been terrorising press freedom in India for long. Many journalists have been intimidated by law suits and many are even incarcerated just for doing their job. It is important that this scot-free intimidation of journalist by Hindu right wing must not go unchecked and unchallenged.
Fraternity Movement stands in complete solidarity with Raqib Hameed Naik and Audrey Trushke. We demand immediate retraction of all legal notices sent in the case as they persecute not only Raqib but the very freedom and integrity of journalism. We also urge the civil society groups in US to stand firmly with Raqib Hameed and up against this saffron intimidation to strengthen freedom of press and put in place a free and safe space for journalists reporting on rightwing groups.
Fraternity Movement of India,