The author of the report, Raqib Hameed Naik, confirmed to Clarion India receiving legal notice but refused to comment on ‘the pending legal notice’
Waquar Hasan | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a Hindutva group in the United States, has sent legal notices to a US-based journalist, news group Al Jazeera International and Indian-American activists over a news report that revealed that Hindu nationalist groups received Covid-19 relief funds from the US administration.
The legal notice sent on April 19 was in response to two reports “Hindu right-wing groups in US got $833,000 of federal COVID fund” and “Call for US probe into Hindu right-wing groups getting COVID fund” published on the website of Al Jazeera English in the first week of April.
Apart from Al-Jazeera and the author Raqib Hameed Naik, Hindus for Human Rights Co-Founders Sunita Vishwanath and Raju Rajgopal, Rasheed Ahmed of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations’ John Prabhudoss and Rutgers-Newark Associate Professor Audrey Truschke were also sent the notices.
In the notice, the HAF claimed that the reports have “defamatory statements” and demanded from Aljazeera to withdraw the reports after issuing an apology.
The author of the report Naik confirmed to Clarion India that he and Al Jazeera received the legal notice from the HAF but refused to comment on “the pending legal notice”.
“I did receive. Al Jazeera legal team is reviewing it. My story is based on facts and evidence,” said Naik on the allegations of defamatory.
Citing data released by US federal agency the United States’ Small Business Administration (SBA), Naik’s report revealed that five groups which have links with Hindutva groups have received funds amounting to $833,000 from the SBA as part of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDLA), Disaster Assistance Loan (DAL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
These programmes meant to provide economic relief to distressed businesses and keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis. Massachusetts-based Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), RSS-linked groups Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, Infinity Foundation and Sew International and Hindu American Foundation are the groups which reportedly received funds.
Underlining 17 statements from the report, the HAF in its legal notice claimed that these statements are “defamatory”.
“The Defamatory Statements falsely accuse HAF of contributing to and/or perpetuating heinous and despicable crimes against humanity – acts of massacres, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, forced-conversions, and other forms of violence against, and subjugation of, religious minorities in India. The Defamatory Statements falsely claim that HAF not only serves as a ‘front’ for the Hindu nationalist and supremacist organizations, but that it used US Government COVID relief funds to funnel money to those organizations. These false accusations are defamatory per se and are highly damaging to HAF,” claimed the HAF.
The US Hindutva group has demanded from Aljazeera to remove these statements from the stories as well other places and to publish “a full, fair and conspicuous retraction, correction and apology on your website(s) and social media account(s)”.