Hindu Sect Accused of Using Forced Labor at More Temples Across U.S.

Source: NY Times

BAPS, a prominent sect, faces accusations of exploiting low-caste laborers from India to run massive temples around the country.

By Annie Correal, Nov. 10, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

A prominent Hindu sect that operates a New Jersey temple raided by federal authorities earlier this year is facing new accusations that it forced hundreds of low-caste workers to labor at worship sites across the United States under dangerous conditions for little pay.

In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey federal court and amended last month, lawyers representing the workers accused the sect, known as BAPS, of luring laborers from India to work on temples near Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles, as well as in Robbinsville, N.J., paying them just $450 a month.

The suit was originally filed in May, on the same day that federal agents descended on the New Jersey temple, removing about 100 workers in an early morning action that was said by several people with knowledge of the matter to be connected to possible violations of labor and immigration laws.

At the time, the lawsuit focused only on the temple in New Jersey, claiming men were brought into the country under false pretenses and then worked seven days a week to build and maintain the sumptuous structures and grounds for as little as $1.20 an hour. The amended lawsuit expanded those claims to include temples around the country where some of the men said they were also sent to work. Hundreds of workers were potentially exploited, the lawsuit claimed.

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