A Place of Paramount Peace?

Sometimes a long-ago web post urgently needs an update. In September 2016 I wrote about the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir the beautiful new Hindu temple in nearby Robbinsville, New Jersey. I’ve taken visitors there. It’s fantastic (in both senses) and a multimillion dollar operation.

But, there’s a dark side. Brought to the United States to construct the temple and associated buildings were Dalits, members of the lowest caste in India, also called “untouchables.” The temple has been open since 2014, but only last week was a lawsuit filed in federal court changing that the BAPS sect had recruited the workers under false pretenses, then exploited them. The FBI and other federal agencies are now investigating, according to Annie Correal’s story in The New York Times. It also revealed that the BAPS organization “has strong ties with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi gave a eulogy at the funerl of the sect’s spiritual head.

According to the lawsuit, working conditions were severe. Workers were told they would be working four to seven hours a day and 20 to 25 days per month. Instead they were required to work 13 hours a day and rarely had a day off. For this, they made about $1.20 per hour. Workers had to live in trailers on BAPS’s 162-acre property and not talk to anyone. The lawsuit claims they had to pay their own way to the U.S. and, upon arrival, their passports and visas were confiscated. They were stuck.

“Because so many Dalits are socially, politically and economically disenfranchised, they are more easily exploited by duplicitous individuals and powerful groups,” said Johan Mathew, director of Rutgers University’s South Asian Studies Program.

You can read my original article here.

3 thoughts on “A Place of Paramount Peace?

  1. This is a sad story indeed. So what happened to the workers? Did they get sent back to India? Unfortunately, there seems to be a bit of a time lag in trying to set things right. I’ve heard about the “untouchables’ before. Most people in this country have no conception about how bad things are in a Third World Country unless they’ve been there. Of course, with our homeless problem in the U.S. there’s a lot of problems here as well,

    • The FBI (I think) took about 90 workers away. Previously, those who complained (i.e., about lack of medical care for a worker who subsequently died) were sent back in reprisal and faced an uncertain future back home.

  2. Pingback: “Mandir – A Place of Paramount Peace” | Victoria Weisfeld

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