Indian-American Congressman Shri Thanedar has announced plans to form a 'Hindu Caucus' in the United States Congress that will bring like-minded lawmakers under one umbrella to ensure that there is no hate and bigotry against Hindus in the country.
Thanedar, who represents the 13th District of Michigan, made the announcement on Wednesday at the first ever Hindu American Summit at the Capitol Visitor Center.
"It is important that every person has a right to choose a religion, pray (to) a God that he or she chooses without persecution, without discrimination, without hate or for those who may choose not to pray to a God.
"These are freedoms that are fundamental. These are fundamental human rights," Thanedar said.
Congressional caucuses are groups of members of the US Congress that meet to pursue common legislative objectives. Caucuses are formed as Congressional Member Organisations through the US House of Representatives and governed under the chamber's rules.
Leaders of the Hindu community from across the country gathered at the US Capitol for the summit, organised by Americans4Hindus and supported by 20 other organisations.
"With that thought in mind, I am pleased to work with Dr (Ramesh) Japra, I am pleased to work with Americans4Hindus to form a 'Hindu Caucus' in the United States Congress," Thanedar said amid applause from the scores of Indian-Americans gathered at the Capitol Visitor Center here.
California-based Japra is the founder of Americans4Hindus and the driving force behind the idea of a 'Hindu Caucus'.
Thanedar, a member of the US Congress from the Democratic Party, said, "The purpose of this caucus is not only to ensure that there is no hate against Hinduism, to ensure that there is no bigotry and no discrimination towards (the) Hindu religion and those who practise Hindu religion."
He also clarified that the caucus is not against anybody or any religion.
"This caucus believes in religious freedom. This caucus is about freedom. This caucus is about fairness. This caucus is about helping people to live their life the way they want to live," the Congressman said.
"This caucus is about helping people pray (to) the God they choose to pray. This caucus is about letting people be free and live without hate and bigotry," he added.
Community leaders applauded Thanedar for taking the lead in forming the caucus, which will be open to members of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Indian-Americans now plan to reach out to their local representatives to join the caucus.
"Everybody's welcome. This is an inclusive caucus. This is a positive caucus, not a hate caucus. We are not against anybody. We are for all the people and for improving the quality of life, opportunities for all. That is what we are going to focus on," Thanedar said.
When asked about how far the caucus has progressed, Thanedar said it is at the early stages and they are inviting all members of the Congress to join.