Empowering the Hindu Community: CoHNA’s Initiative to Combat Hate Crimes and Bias

By: Shyla Hardowar

Held at Shri Surya Narayan Mandir on June 8th, 2024, the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) organized an event focused on preventing hate crimes and biases against the Hindu community. The event was a collaborative effort involving the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, the NYC Commission on Human Rights, and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. The initiative aimed to address the rising instances of Hinduphobia and foster a more inclusive and safe environment for the Hindu community.

Keynote speakers included Nikunj Trivedi, President and Co-founder of CoHNA, who highlighted CoHNA’s efforts to oppose bills misrepresenting the Swastika in NYC schools and advocating for Diwali as a school holiday. Trivedi additionally discussed Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu bias, citing research from Rutgers University and incidents nationwide. Both Trivedi and Dr. T.K. Nakagaki, President of the Heiwa Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of New York, gave a presentation on the Swastika’s significance for various cultures, distinguishing it from Hitler’s Hakenkreuz. They discussed their coalition’s education efforts about the Swastika and condemnation of antisemitism. 

The NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau was represented by Police Officer Gina Gao, who shared her motivation for combating hate crimes. As an Asian immigrant facing discrimination, she emphasized providing resources to vulnerable communities. 

The event also featured presentations from Orlando Torres, the Managing Director of Outreach & Racial Justice at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, who urged reporting discriminatory incidents and clarified the difference between discrimination and free speech. Eunice Lee, Deputy Executive Director of the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, outlined initiatives like Partners Against The Hate and community grant projects. She encouraged the Hindu community, including youth, to engage in these efforts. 

Overall, the event was a significant step towards raising awareness about Hinduphobia and empowering the Hindu community to stand against hate crimes and biases. The event showcased the commitment of the New York City government and local institutions in supporting the Hindu community and ensuring their safety and well-being.