A shocking new lawsuit has claimed that at least 200 workers were lured from India to the United States to build a Hindu temple in conditions of modern slavery.
Hindu religious organization Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), which oversaw the construction of the temple in New Jersey, stands accused of running the illegal operation as far back as 2012.
BAPS is accused of classifying the exploited migrants as religious workers and volunteers in order to get them into the U.S., where their passports were confiscated upon arrival.
On the construction site, workers were allegedly paid just $1.20 an hour to work 12 hours per day under constant surveillance, with no freedom to leave the fenced and guarded compound.
The minimum wage in New Jersey is $12 an hour, while for those working over 40 hours overtime pay is required.
According to the lawsuit, workers were also coerced into cooperating with threats of pay cuts, arrest, and deportation back to India, where they largely belonged to the Scheduled Cast— traditionally the most marginalized in India’s still-pervasive caste system.
The Independent reports:
Indian American actor Monica Gill tweeted: “Slave labo(u)r in the United States. That’s what these ppl (people) are doing. That’s how deeply the caste system is rooted within them.”
Delhi-based Dilip Mandal, who is the founder of the Centre For Brahmin Studies, said “with Hindus settling abroad, the caste is now becoming a global problem.”
“Wherever the Hindu diaspora go, they take their caste with them, and so, therefore, that discrimination goes with them. Hindus will make America sick,” he tweeted.
The legal case was filed by five of the workers on behalf of more than 200 fellow construction workers in the US District Court of Newark, seeking “full value of their services” in addition to other compensation and damages.
On Tuesday, the FBI searched the temple in Robbinsville, which has now been open for several years with continued construction work on its extension.
The case remains ongoing.