Businessman Yogi Chugh was picked for championing the community, lawyer Garth Pickett for his interfaith work
The Hindu American Foundation’s Silicon Valley chapter honored businessman Yogi Chugh with the 2018 HAF Pride of the Community Award for consistently addressing the concerns of Hindu Americans and other minorities.
Garth Pickett, who practices law, and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, was awarded the 2018 HAF Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Pluralism for his work in increasing interreligious understanding and strengthening interfaith relations.
About 275 people attended the HAF’s annual Silicon Valley gala held September 30 at the India Community Center in Milpitas. These included political, community and interfaith leaders.
Chugh, who works in real estate, is also a member at large of the Fremont’s Economic Development Commission and a member of the Bay Area Indian American Democratic Club, told indica the honor was unexpected.
“I have been doing this [community service] for a long time, I asked why would I need an award for this. I was a little bit surprised,” Chugh said, adding that the honor was gratifying all the same.
He spoke about his respect for HAF’s advocacy work.
“I think they are recognizing that we have our story to tell,” he said. “People have to understand our values, our beliefs, our faith and way of life. Having an organization to do that that certainly has a profound impact.”
Chugh said he supported HAF when it weighed in on proposed edits in the K-12 textbook curriculum about Hinduism. He had also worked with the organization’s interfaith efforts.
Founded in 2003, HAF is a non-profit advocacy organization for the Hindu-American community and educates the public about Hinduism, speaks out about issues affecting Hindus worldwide.
Samir Kalra, HAF’s managing director, told indica, “While we have achieved a lot in the past 15 years, we still have a long way to go to increase awareness about HAF and the importance of advocacy and speaking out for our community.”
Kalra said that they have been advocating on policy issues that matter to Hindu Americans, such as showcasing human rights abuses from Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Pakistan and helping the Bhutanese refugee grant program.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk (20th Assembly District), a first-timer at the gala, told indica, “I have admiration for Indian and Hindu culture. I am pleased to be here because Hindu, Muslim, Sikh we can all be together with Christians and Jews and other groups and celebrate life together. Because in the end we all want one thing, a good life for our family.”
“We know half the CEOs in Silicon Valley come from outside the US and many are from a Hindu ethnic background,” Quirk said, adding,“When people from other countries are given full rights they give great benefits to the country.”
Keynote speaker Dr Jeffery D Long talked about Hindu themes the Star Wars movie series.
“I don’t think [creator George Lucas] was trying to set out to present Star Wars but it happened accidentally,” Long told indica. “If you watch Star Wars with Vedanta in mind you can see all kind of connections.”
Long, a professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, said he is a Hindu, being attracted to its inclusive philosophy.
He added a caveat:
“There are challenges when religion becomes an excuse of tribalism, my community, my group with no actual philosophy. Like a sports team…you see this sometimes and even Hindus are not immune to this – that I am the best. That is happening all over the world now and many traditions are plagued by this.”
Long, who has lived in India for two years and is married to an Indian, expressed concern about lynchings associated with protecting cows.
“Anytime that people harm each other and say they are doing it in the name of dharma – that is not right,” Long said.