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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:

Vikram Masson

navyashastra@shastras.org

(www.shastras.org)

Global Hindu Organization Protests UNESCO Decision

Vedas not a folk art. Program promotes the caste system. Urges schools who receive UNESCO funds to follow caste-blind policies.

Jersey City, New Jersey--November 16, 2003--Navya Shastra, a global Hindu organization of scholars, activists, priests and laypeople whose mission is to promote spiritual equality for all Hindus, has protested the United Nation Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization's (UNESCO) recent decision to name the Vedic chanting tradition a "Heritage of Humanity" along with twenty seven other cultural expressions, including the Belgian Carnival of Binche and the Indonesian Wayang Puppet Theater. The organization believes that the Vedas, which deserve a place alongside the Bible and Koran as seminal texts of a world religion, should not have been placed on this list. "While we laud the preservation of all cultural forms, the Vedas and its chanting tradition represent the epicenter of the Hindu religion, and do not belong in this category, which seems to showcase folk arts," said Jaishree Gopal, Navya Shastra Chairman.

Navya Shastra believes that UNESCO has also endorsed the caste system by propagating a five year plan that encourages preservation of the tradition in its Brahmin-only format. "The Vedas should be open to all Hindus, and not just Brahmins" said Rahul Saxena, Navya Shastra Executive Committee member, "one of the defining features of the caste system is that the Vedas are to be chanted by upper caste males only. Lower castes, untouchables and women are forbidden to take part in the chant."

Navya Shastra urges all organizations who receive UNESCO funding to select candidates on a caste-blind basis.