Sangh Samachar

Orissa police in service of Hindutva (and POSCO)

Posted in hindu fundamentalism, hindutva, neoliberalism, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh by ravi on December 11, 2008

The Orissa police has arrested writer Lenin Kumar and two of his associates, Ravi Jena and Dhananjay Lenka, for publishing his book Dharma Naanre Kandhamalare Raktanadee (Bloodshed in Kandhamal in the name of religion). They have been charged under Sections 153A, 295A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony

Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Section 34: Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention [When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone]

For those who have been following recent events in Orissa, sections 153A and 295A read like a description of the Sangh Parivar’s activities. However, Lenin Kumar and his associates have been arrested for raising their voices against the Parivar. According to Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor of PUCL (Bhubaneswar Unit): The specific section of the book – pages 38 to 41 – (which has been cited by police) relates to a letter allegedly written by the RSS to its members for anti-dalit, anti-minority activities.

A report in the Indian Express has more details:

Quoted in these pages are parts from a piece written by CPI leader D Raja and first published in the June 18-24, 2000, issue of the party’s mouthpiece New Age. This piece, say the police, makes various allegations against the RSS, including that the Hindutva outfit asks followers to store firearms for use in riots, coerces Dalit Christians to chant ‘Shri Ram’ and ‘Om’ and forces Dalit, Muslim and Christian girls into prostitution.

Apparently, the same objectionable (for whom?) material has been published in various outlets in and outside Orissa. The Indian Express report also quotes a civil rights activist, Sudhir Patnaik, on violations of due process in the arrests:

The two sections under which Lenin was held warrant that police take permission from either the state Government or Centre before an arrest is made. How can Lenin be arrested for writing against communal violence while organisations like the RSS and VHP, which incited communal disharmony in Kandhamal through their writings and press statements, have not? (emphasis mine)

While the stated reason for the arrests is the printing and publishing of the said book, and the police also confiscated about 700 copies of the book and shut down the press, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Bhubaneswar) Himanshu Lal has claimed that some Maoist literature was also seized from the press and more charges will be pressed against Kumar. A confusing report in The Hindu also insinuates a Maoist connection, though the logic escapes me:

The police had swung into action and booked Mr. Kumar in the wake of the appearance of Maoist posters in different localities of the Capital city. The posters, which bore the name of Communist Party of India (Maoist), warned people against joining organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The police had seized some posters and registered a case, but no one has been arrested in this connection so far.

The Orissa police seem to have taken a leaf out of their Chhattisgarh colleagues in harrassing and imprisoning dissenters as Maoists and Maoist sympathizers. This August, advocate Protima Das, anti-displacement activist Pradeep and U.S.-based educator Dave  were detained while on a fact-finding trip. Upon his return to the U.S., Pugh wrote:

At approximately 8 pm, the car transporting us was pulled over by local police for a traffic-related reason.  My translator Pratima Das, my guide Pradeep, our driver, and I were taken to a police station for questioning.  For the next eight hours, all of us were interrogated, first by the local police, and then by the chief police official of the state of Orissa.  The latter was particularly hostile, accusing me of being an “anti-government agitator.”  When I insisted that I was a teacher researching the issue of forced displacement in India, he insisted that only “communists” would be interested in speaking with villagers. (emphasis added)

These arrests triggered a debate on whether the police was seeking to muzzle the voices of anti-displacement activists by dubbing them as Maoists.  Interestingly, the police seem to have attempted to concoct a Maoist link with Lenin Kumar at that time, by placing reports in the media that the arrested suspects (whose links with Maoists were not proven) had named Kumar’s magazine Nishan. Kumar’s observations then have now proven prescient:

[Kumar] alleged that of late voice of protest against government policy or system in Orissa has been branded as an act of treason or terrorism. He referred to the Dr Binayak Sen case and noted Orissa may soon witness many more Binayak Sens being put behind bars.

Related articles (to be updated):

Catching them young!

Posted in education, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on December 10, 2008

Fifteen years ago, Lalit Vachani’s “The Boy in the Branch” documented the recruitment of young boys into the RSS. Times haven’t changed much, if one goes by the mushrooming of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams, Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Ekal Vidyalayas and Vidya Bharatis. Besides lending financial support to these (and other) Sangh Parivar projects in India, Sanghis in the U.S. have also established their own indoctrination centers such as Balvihars. I don’t know what kind of intellectual abuse Hindutva families in the U.S. subject their kids to, but the photos below suggest Hindu victimhood (and, as a corollary, Islamic/Christian aggression) ranks pretty high in their curriculum. Empathy for the victims of terrorism, to the extent that it even exists, seems masked by an all-consuming hatred for ‘Others’.

The photos are from user Savetemples’ public gallery on picasaweb, but I’ve nevertheless blacked out the kids’ faces.

Why do they hate us?

'We' are the victims. Why do they hate 'us'?

Even Gandhi opposed conversions!

Look! Even Gandhi opposed conversions, just like Togadia uncle.

Their religion is the problem

'We' are the victims. 'They' are the perpetrators, 'their' religion is the problem.

And, finally, here’s psychologist Nicholas Humphrey on WHAT SHALL WE TELL THE CHILDREN?

Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.

In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.

That’s the negative side of what I want to say. But there will be a positive side as well. If children have a right to be protected from false ideas, they have too a right to be succoured by the truth. And we as a society have a duty to provide it. Therefore we should feel as much obliged to pass on to our children the best scientific and philosophical understanding of the natural world—to teach, for example, the truths of evolution and cosmology, or the methods of rational analysis—as we already feel obliged to feed and shelter them.

Letter to President-elect Obama

Re: US Policy on Hindu Nationalist Groups in India and the US

Dear President-Elect Obama,

As Indian-Americans working for human rights, peace and justice, we are elated with your agenda on civil rights, which includes expanding hate crimes statutes, ending racial profiling, and combating workplace discrimination. And we welcome the diversity of talents in your transition team, including the appointment of several fellow Indian-Americans.

As a coalition representing India’s diversity, and committed to promoting the secular and pluralistic nature of its democracy, we are particularly sensitive to the status of Muslim and Christian minorities in India, who have been facing growing hostility from Hindu nationalist groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and their various affiliates, in several states of India. Unfortunately, every terrorist incident directed against the people of India, like the heinous attack on Mumbai last week, seems to only strengthen the hands of these groups, who relentlessly propagate religious stereotypes and commit violent acts against minority communities with impunity. We are writing to you to share our deep concerns in this regard, before your administration shapes its policy priorities towards India.

The alarming rise of Hindu nationalists and the consequent increase in bigotry, violence, and violations of religious freedom have been extensively documented by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as by the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Reports. To cite just two glaring examples:

  • RSS and VHP led widespread pre-planned attacks against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, ostensibly in ‘reaction’ to the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in which sixty people died. In the ensuing days, with the full connivance of the state, rampaging mobs gruesomely murdered over 2,000 Muslims, destroyed their businesses, gang-raped women, and expelled thousands of Muslims from their villages. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat has been widely held responsible for the worst communal violence in post-independent India. Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, who scornfully justified the massacres as a “lesson” to the Muslims, has been censured by India’s Supreme Court as a “modern day Nero” and denied entry into the US by the State Department on grounds of “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

  • VHP and its affiliates have been orchestrating a systematic hate campaign for years against India’s tiny Christian minority, in response to what they allege are ‘forced’ religious conversions of Hindus and tribal people, despite the fact that even in states with anti-conversion laws on the book there have been virtually no complaints of coercion. The violence against Christians and their places of worship touched new heights recently, when Hindu militias in the state of Orissa (with a BJP supported government) forcibly evicted thousands of tribal Christians from their villages, molested nuns, targeted pastors/priests, and coerced people to ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism. India’s National Commission for Minorities has indicted the state government for failing to curb the violence. The central government too has done very little to prevent the spread of anti-Christian violence to other states and has ignored calls for banning the VHP and its violent street militia, the Bajrang Dal. Members of VHP have been recently accused of terrorist attacks against Muslims in 2006 in the state of Maharashtra and are being investigated by India’s Anti-Terrorism Squad, some of whose members lost their lives in the recent Mumbai attack.

We cite these two examples to underscore the role of the Hindu nationalist groups in endangering human rights and peace in India, through their insidious combination of politics and the threat of violence. When faced with the escalating terrorist attacks from within and outside India, such as the recent carnage in Mumbai, they tend to further target the most vulnerable sections of the minorities. Indeed, the two types of terror seem to constantly feed off each other. The crucial difference, however, is that violence instigated by Hindu nationalist groups against minorities often have not led to fair investigations or justice. As your administration works to strengthen US-India relations and develops strategies to combat terrorism, it is imperative that it exerts all its diplomatic leverage with the Government of India to stem the politics of hatred, through clear signals such as continuing the current policy of denying entry to Mr. Modi.

Our second concern relates to mounting evidence that Hindu nationalist groups have been receiving considerable patronage from certain Indian-American NGOs and related charities in the U.S., ostensibly for legitimate social and educational work, which brings them considerable recognition and support from the community. We are specifically concerned with organizations such as VHP America, India Development and Relief Fund, and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, all of which claim to be independent of RSS and VHP in India, but are indeed connected with them through shared ideology and project partnerships. We urge your administration to closely scrutinize these organizations for their linkages to forces spreading communal hatred and violence in India.

In this context, we would like to bring to your attention the case of Ms. Sonal Shah, whose appointment to the Transition Board was widely applauded by sections of Indian and Indian-American community, but who has been less than candid about her connections with the VHP. We have written a letter to her (attached) seeking answers to a number of questions raised by her recent public statement and are awaiting her response.

In the meantime, we sincerely hope that your Transition Board will put in place a process to fully vet all South Asian appointees to the new administration for any direct or indirect association with hate mongering, violence-prone groups; and, if they are found to have had such connections, to restrict their role in any South Asia-related policy matters and as interlocutors of their community (along similar lines as the ethics rules laid out for lobbyists on the team).

In closing, we would like to reiterate our full support for your plans to enhance equal opportunities at home and to end human rights abuses abroad. And we particularly hope to be of service in your efforts to further strengthen bilateral ties with India by addressing mutual national security goals in a way that safeguards civil liberties, especially those of minorities. We wish you all success in meeting the extraordinary challenges ahead and we look to working with your incoming administration.

A Coalition of Concerned Indian Americans

Endorsing Organizations
American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI), Farmington, MI
American Muslim Physicians of Indian Origin (AMPI), IL (
Association of Indian Muslims in America (AIM), Washington DC
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), CA (
Friends of South Asia (FOSA), San Jose, CA (
India Foundation, Okemos, MI
Indian Minorities Advocacy Network (ImanNet), New York
Indian Muslim Council (IMC), Morton Grove, IL (
Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America (IMEFNA), (
Indian Muslim Relief and Charities (IMRC), Palo Alto, CA (
International Service Society, MI
Network of Progressive Muslims
Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), MI
Sikh American Heritage Organization, Wayne, IL
South Asia Forum, Madison, WI
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), Greater Vancouver, Canada (
Supporters of Human Rights in India (SHRI), MN
The Coalition for a Secular Democratic India (CSDI), Chicago, IL
Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, MI
World Tamil Organization, Inc., Cary, NC

Individual Endorsements
George Abraham
Girish Agrawal
Habeeb Ahmed, Long Island, NY (member Long Island Peace coalition)
Rasheed Ahmed
Dr. Syed S Ahmed, Chicago, IL
Dr. Waheeduddin Ahmed, Milwaukee, WI
Shahid Ali M.D, Chief, Dept of Medicine, Schuyler Hospital, New York
Aliuddin Azam, Binghamton, NY
Khalid Azam
Dr. Chinmoy Banerjee, Secretary, SANSAD
Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
Nasir Chippa
Gautam Desai
Shalini Gera
Sapna Gupta
Ammar Husain
Nishrin Hussain, Daughter of congress MP Ehsan Jafri killed in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat
Mohammad Imran
Imtiazuddin, D.I.C. London, Consultant and Social Activist
Dr. Pushpa Iyer, Assistant Professor, Monterey Institute for International Studies, CA
Kaleem Kawaja
Attaulla Khan
Hyder M. Khan, MD, Ph. D.
M. A. Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Director of Islamic Studies, University of Delaware
Wasim Khan, MD, MPH
Dr. Alex V. Koshy, Founder General Secretary of World Malayalee Council and Board Member of MLK Commission of New Jersey
Thillai Kumaran
Khursheed A. Mallick, M.D.
Anu Mandavilli
Gulamrasul Mansuri, Former President Gujarati Muslim Association of America, Chicago, IL
Biju Mathew, Associate professor of Business, Rider University, NJ
A. R. Nakadar, M.D.
Saeed Patel
Shrikumar Poddar
Raju Rajagopal, Entrepreneur and Social Activist
Ravi Ravishankar
Shaik Saad, Long Island, New York
Dr. Sornam Sankarapandi, Ellicott City, MD
Dr. Shaik Sayeed, Milwaukee, WI
Dr. Svati Shah, Postdoctoral Fellow, Duke University
Dr. Hari P. Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Simon Fraser University and President, SANSAD
Ramkumar Sridharan
Raja Swamy
Syed Azmatullah Quadri, Founding Chairman, ImanNet, Chicago, IL
Dr. Shaik Ubaid, Founding President, ImanNet, Chicago, IL
Firoz Vohra

Mumbai’s Horror (EPW Editorial)

Posted in religious fundamentalism, terrorism by ravi on December 7, 2008

The reality India confronts is of a terrorist threat that has climbed to an entirely new dimension.

Scenes of horrific violence, conducted with cruel and deliberate premeditation, elicit anger and indignation. Mumbai’s continuing (at the time of writing on 28 November) ordeal of terror, covered in real time by the country’s numerous news channels, unleashed spasms of rage across the country. The fury is only likely to intensify when security operations are concluded and a true measure obtained of the horror that was let loose on Mumbai that fateful night of 26 November.

More than all the serial bombings that India has seen, the siege of Mumbai poses, in terms of its continuing ramifications, a clear danger to every value on which the country rests: openness, diversity and tolerance. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first address to the nation after the crisis began, seemingly sounded the retreat from his party’s long-standing insistence that it would not countenance any fresh abridgement of civil rights to combat terrorism. Several media commentators have joined in with calls for extraordinary legislative measures and the empowerment of the security agencies.

An alternative mode of seeing is illustrated in the life and death of Hemant Karkare. The chief of the Anti-Terrorism Squad in the Maharashtra Police, the highest ranking Indian official to fall to terrorism in many years, was among the first to engage the armed desperadoes as they began to cut a swathe of destruction through Mumbai. He was cut down, along with trusted colleagues, by the lethal firepower that the terror-ring managed to smuggle onto Indian shores. He leaves as an abiding legacy the sterling sense of duty he displayed in his final hours.

The last month of his life, Karkare was engaged in the high profile investigation of a network involving a supposed sadhvi, the self-proclaimed head of a religious foundation, a serving army officer and sundry others, which had allegedly carried out a string of bomb attacks in various parts of the country. He had earned the bitter ire of the principal national opposition party and its allies, which accused him of leading a politically motivated investigation and inflicting thoroughly unconscionable indignities on persons of the true faith.

There was grim irony then, in seeing the same political dignitaries jostling to offer tribute to the fallen officer, in a cynical effort to leverage his death for maximum advantage. Narendra Modi, the champion of Hindutva, was not one to let pass the opportunity to bask in the public limelight, turning up at one of the scenes of a gunbattle on November 28, to criticise Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response and announce a cash award for the families of police officers killed in Mumbai. He had, in the preceding days, heaped vituperation on the same policemen while on the election campaign trail in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Such brazen political cynicism is clearly something the country can do without in these trying times.

Once the shock and horror subside, the reality the nation confronts is of a terrorist threat that has climbed to an entirely new dimension: from stealth attacks carried out by faceless protagonists, to frontal operations carried out by individuals who do not hesitate to show themselves in full public view. Reflexively, the security and intelligence community in India has held out the dire warning to Pakistan, that it would be expected in the days ahead, to prove its innocence, or risk a painful retribution. This threatens the faltering and tenuous Pakistani state which is evidently losing control of the many fanatical groupings that have flourished on its territory under a variety of patrons, including the superpower that is today sworn to their destruction. To challenge the Pakistani state to mortal combat would risk destroying the last potential buffer that stands between the entire South Asian region and a descent into anarchy.

At the same time, there is much that India needs to address in the fundamentals of its approach to terrorism. Late October, the Hyderabad police released four Muslim youth who had been held in custody, tortured and humiliated, for suspected complicity in the bombing of the Mecca masjid in the city in May 2007. They had been arrested, it turned out, merely on a whim.

Around the same time, an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation established that officers of the Special Cell in the Delhi Police had conspired with the Intelligence Bureau, to implicate two Kashmiri youths in a terrorism plot. The two had, in fact, been police informers who had fallen out of favour after an internal power struggle in the police force. Again, the two were held in custody for a needlessly long period of time and tortured, after incriminating evidence was planted on them.

The bare fact is that since terrorism became a consuming concern all over the world, India has consistently failed the test of evolving an approach that is even remotely likely to command the allegiance of the larger public. Where a broad public consensus is a vital component of a successful engagement, India’s approach has stigmatised one community, undermined social solidarity and created new wellsprings of resentment from which terrorism gains nourishment.

At the same time, a discourse that is patently antithetical to democratic policy dialogue has been promoted on the ground that combating terrorism trumps all other concerns. Whatever may be the culpability of agencies and non-state actors based in Pakistan, India needs to ensure that domestic concord holds. That cannot be achieved by shutting off all critical voices in civil society and insulating the security and intelligence agencies from scrutiny. To suppress the democratic debate at home is to hand victory by default to alien forces of terrorism.


Posted in politics by ravi on December 5, 2008

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

Act 1 (Tragedy):  May-June 1999

  • CPI(M) State secretariat member G. Ramakrishnan said that his party’s “central task” was to defeat the communalism of the BJP. Describing the elections as “a fight between communalism and secularism”, he said: “Any other issue is secondary.”
  • Defending the ties with the AIADMK, CPI(M) State secretary N. Sankaraiah said corruption would be a non-issue on a national platform.

Act 2 (Farce):  December 2008

CPI(M)-AIADMK tie-up for 2009 Lok Sabha polls

CPI(M)-AIADMK tie-up for 2009 Lok Sabha polls

Resources on the Mumbai terrorist attacks

Posted in islamic fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, terrorism by ravi on December 2, 2008

Analyses of the ghastly attacks

Calls to Action

Asian Human Rights Commission on the Mumbai attacks

Posted in islamic fundamentalism, terrorism by ravi on December 2, 2008

December 02, 2008

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

INDIA: ‘Super cop’ is no solution to terrorist threat

The Mumbai terrorist attack was one more occasion for the Indian politicians to call for calm, peace and national unity. Political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) convened a special Politburo session and repeated the rhetoric, in addition to demanding that the Government of India approach the UN Security Council. The Hindu fundamentalists like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made use of the incident to stir up further anti-Pakistan, essentially anti-Muslim, sentiments.

The Union Home Minister Mr. Shivraj V Patil resigned. The Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh convened urgent meetings with high-ranking officers, ministers and defence chiefs. The meeting decided to speed-up the formation of a Federal Investigation Agency and to set up four new centres of the National Security Guards (NSG) in the country.

The final word was that of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress. Mrs. Gandhi gave the ultimatum that her party will tolerate no more terrorism and called upon the Indians to eradicate it from the country. The question is whether the Government of India has any responsibility to prevent such incidents, or whether the people has to embark upon justice delivery themselves?

Among many other things, the Mumbai terrorist attack serves as the latest reminder of the condition of the law and order apparatus in the country, and of the police in particular. As stated after many other former incidents of similar nature, India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), claimed that it had passed over information to the Maharashtra State Police well in advance that a terrorist attack on the city was very likely. The RAW further put the blame upon the local police for its lack of preparedness.

The fact remains that the Maharashtra State Police, like any other state police force in the country, can hardly do anything to avert these incidents. The state of policing in the country is in such demise that it has completely severed its contact with the people. Most police officers contact the members of the public only to demand bribes. Corruption in the police service is at such levels that even in order to lodge a complaint the complainant has to pay a bribe.

Police brutality is so rampant in the country that the sight of a police uniform is enough to scare an ordinary person, particularly among the poor population. Information, independent of its nature, has to be forced out of the ordinary people. Information obtained under the threat of violence is tainted and cannot be acted upon. Terrorists are different from the ordinary people in the sense that they have money, better training and equipment at their disposal to achieve their goals. They can bribe the police and are in fact doing so.

To expect an ordinary Indian to approach the local police with information is an impossibility in the country. An example is the statements made by the parents who lost their children in the infamous 2006 December Noida serial murder case. The case began after the recovery of the skeletal remains of missing children in Nithari village in the outskirts of Noida city close to New Delhi.

The investigation of the case relieved that when the parents approached the Noida police to lodge complaints about their missing children, the police refused to register their complaints. When the parents persisted, they were chased away by the police with the threat that if they returned false cases would be registered against them accusing them of selling their children. The parents went away from the police station, since they were poor and could not afford to pay bribes to the police to get their complaints registered. An administration that expects the ordinary public to freely approach the local police with information is consciously ignoring the reality.

The public mistrust in the local police is not the result of an overnight incident. It is the crystallization of years of experience. Without drastic changes in policing, this mistrust will not only continue, but will increase. Every incident of police failure brought to the people’s attention will further isolate the police from the people. A law enforcement agency which lacks the trust of the people cannot maintain law and order. An officer who serves in such a police force essentially suffers from demoralisation.

No government, state or central, that has governed the country has ever tried to address the deep-rooted problems of policing, and thereby the law and order in India. Politicians across the board use the police for their short-term political interests. The police reciprocate their affinity to the people in power by letting them to be exploited.

Today in India, the police serve the rich and the powerful. The police is a demoralised state agency that lacks the hope of improving their own condition. A police force that cannot investigate a petty crime efficiently cannot prevent terrorism, it can only promote it.

The Mumbai incident like many other former incidents will soon be forgotten. Those who will remember it are those who lost their loved ones. But unfortunately they do not have the political or financial clout to influence the policy makers in India.

The windfall of the Mumbai incident for the Government of India is evident. The Federal Investigation Agency will soon be formed. They will also assume the role of a ‘super cop’. The super cop and the Agency he represent will be an additional reason for the ordinary policeman for further demoralisation. India does not need a super cop. It rather requires a normal and people-friendly police force.

Otherwise people will increasingly start taking things in their own hands. One need not look very far to see examples of this. The day before yesterday, in Khatoli town of Muzzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh state, a person was lynched by the public for suspected theft. In 2008 there were more than a dozen cases of public lynchings reported in India. Hence, people have started taking things in their own hands long before Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s request. There is no doubt that the Indians are united – in their distrust of the police and the politicians.

The national media and the civil society groups in the country have a greater responsibility in this juncture. If the media and the civil society groups in the country try to reflect more of the people’s voice than vested interests, there is an increased possibility for these institutions to in fact persuade policy makers and politicians to meet the people’s demand. The relatively lesser degree of impartiality and openness of the media and the civil society in India are the two serious impediments that prevent these institutions from reaching out to the people. On this front they somewhat equate themselves with the Indian police.

The Government of India is likely to initiate farcical policies on the pretext of countering terrorism in the country without addressing the deep-rooted problems in policing. The continuation of these policies also means the failure of the media and the civil society organisations in the country. It will be a n unfortunate reflection of their lack of understanding of the realities at the grass roots.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

Indo-Pak condemnation of Mumbai bloodbath

Posted in islamic fundamentalism, terrorism by ravi on December 2, 2008

This Joint Statement was released to the press simultaneously in Pakistan and India on November 30 2008.

Mumbai bloodbath
We are deeply shocked and horrified at the bloody mayhem in Mumbai, which has claimed more than a hundred and ninty lives and caused grievous injuries to several hundred people, besides sending a wave of panic and terror across South Asia and beyond. We convey our profound feelings of sorrow and sympathies to the grieving families of the unfortunate victims of this heinous crime and express our solidarity with them.

As usual, all sorts of speculations are circulating about the identity of the perpetrators of this act of barbarism. The truth about who are directly involved in this brutal incident and who could be the culprits behind the scene is yet to come out and we do not wish to indulge in any guesswork or blame game at this point. However, one is intrigued at its timing. Can it be termed a coincidence that it has happened on the day the Home Secretaries of the two countries concluded their talks in Islamabad and announced several concrete steps to move forward in the peace process, such as the opening of several land routes for trade – Kargil, Wagah-Attari, Khokhropar etc –, relaxation in the visa regime, a soft and liberal policy on the issue of release of prisoners and joint efforts to fight terrorism? Again, is it just a coincidence that on this fateful day the Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in the Indian capital holding very useful and productive talks with his Indian counterpart? One thing looks crystal clear. The enemies of peace and friendship between the two countries, whatever be the label under which they operate, are un-nerved by these healthy developments and are hell bent on torpedoing them.

We are of the considered opinion that the continued absence of peace in South Asia – peace between and within states – particularly in relation to India and Pakistan , is one of the root causes of most of the miseries the people of the region are made to endure. It is the major reason why our abundantly resource-rich subcontinent is wallowing in poverty, unemployment, disease, and ignorance and why militarism, religious and sectarian violence and political, economic and social injustice are eating into the very vitals of our societies, even after more than six decades of independence from colonial rule.

At this moment of unmitigated tragedy, the first thing we call upon the Governments of India and Pakistan to do is to acknowledge the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of India and Pakistan ardently desire peace and, therefore, the peace process must be pursued with redoubled speed and determination on both sides. The sooner the ruling establishments of India and Pakistan acknowledge this fact and push ahead with concrete steps towards lasting peace and harmony in the subcontinent, the better it will be not only for the people of our two countries but also for the whole of South Asia and the world. While the immediate responsibility for unmasking the culprits of Mumbai and taking them to task surely rests with the Government of India, all of us in South Asia have an obligation to join hands and go into the root causes of why and how such forces of evil are motivated and emboldened to resort to such acts of anti-people terror.

It is extremely important to remind the leaderships of Pakistan and India that issuing statements and signing agreements and declarations will have meaning only when they are translated into action and implemented honestly, in letter and spirit and without any further loss of time. It assumes added urgency in the prevailing conditions in South Asia , with the possibility that so many different forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction. The bloodbath in Mumbai must open the eyes of our governments, if it has not already happened.

We urge upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately take the following steps:

  1. Cessation of all hostile propaganda against each other;
  2. Joint action to curb religious extremism of all shades in both countries;
  3. Continue and intensify normalization of relations and peaceful resolution of all conflicts between the two countries;
  4. Facilitation of trade and cooperation between the two countries and in all of South Asia. We welcome the fact that the Srinagar-Muzaffarab ad and Poonch-Rawlakot borders have been opened for trade and that the opening of the road between Kargil and Skardu is in the pipeline.
  5. Immediate abolition of the current practice of issuing city-specific and police reporting visa and issue country-valid visa without restrictions at arrival point, simultaneously initiating necessary steps to introduce as early as possible a visa-free travel regime, to encourage friendship between the peoples of both countries;
  6. Declaration by India and Pakistan of No First Use of atomic weapons;
  7. Concrete measures towards making South Asia nuclear-free;
  8. Radical reduction in military spending and end to militarisation.



1. Kuldip Nayar, journalist, former Indian High Commissioner, UK., Delhi
2. S P Shukla, retired Finance Secretary, former Member, Planning Commission, Delhi
3. PEACE MUMBAI network of 15 organisations, Mumbai
4. Seema Mustafa, Journalist, Delhi
5. Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
6. Dr. Ramesh Awasthi, PUCL, Maharashtra
7. Jatin Desai, journalist, Mumbai
8. Prof. Ritu Dewan, University of Mumbai
9. Prabir Purkayashta, DSF, Delhi
10. Prof. Pushpa Bhave , Mumbai
11. Paromita Vohra, filmmaker, Mumbai
12. Achin Vanaik, CNDP, Delhi
13. Meena Menon, Focus on the Global South, Mumbai
14. Romar Correa Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai
15. Anjum Rajabally, film writer, Mumbai
16. Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
17. Kamla Bhasin, SANGAT, Delhi
18. Dr. Padmini Swaminathan, MIDS, Chennai
19. Sumit Bali, CEO, Kotak Mahindra Prime Limited
20. Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Assam ,
21. Rabia, Lahore Chitrkar
22. Rakesh Sharma, filmmaker, Mumbai
23. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
24. Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
25. P K Das, architect, Mumbai
26. Neera Adarkar, architect, Mumbai
27. Datta Iswalkar, Secretary, Textile Workers Action Committee, Mumbai
28. Madhusree Dutta, filmmaker, Majlis, Mumbai
29. Amrita Chhachhi, Founding member, PIPFPD
30. Mazher Hussain, COVA, Hyderabad
31. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi
32. Prof. M C Arunan, Mumbai


1. Mr. Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairman, Human Rights Commission Pakistan and former federal Minister of Pakistan
2. Dr. Tipu Sultan, President, Pakistan Doctors for Peace & Development, Karachi
3. Dr. Tariq Sohail, Dean, Jinnah Medical & Dental University , Karachi
4. Dr. A. H.. Nayyar, President, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Islamabad
5. Justice (Retd) Rasheed A. Razvi, President, Sindh High Court Bar Association
6. Mr. B.M.Kutty, Secretary General , Pakistan Peace Coalition, Karachi
7. Mr. Karamat Ali, Director, PILER, Karachi , Founding member, PIPFPD
8. Mr. Fareed Awan, General Secretary , Pakistan Workers Confederation, Sindh
9. Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman , Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Karachi
10. Mr. Zulfiqar Halepoto, Secretary, Sindh Democratic Front, Hyderabad
11. Professor Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Area Studies Centre ( Central Asia), Peshawar University
12. Syed Khadim Ali Shah, Former Member National Assembly, Mirpur Khas
13. Mr. Muhammad Tahseen, Director, South Asia Partnership (PAK), Lahore
14. Mrs. Saleha Athar, Network for Women’s Rights, Karachi
15. Ms. Sheema Kermani, Tehreek-e-Niswan, Karachi
16. Ms. Saeeda Diep, President, Institute of Secular Studies, Lahore
17. Dr. Aly Ercelan, Pakistan Labour Trust, Karachi
18. Mr. Suleiman G. Abro, Director, Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Organisation, Hyderabad
19. Mr. Sharafat Ali, PILER, Karachi
20. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, PILER, Karachi
21. Mr. Ayub Qureshi, Information Secretary , Pakistan Trade Union Federation
22. Ms. Sheen Farrukh, Director, Interpress Communication Pakistan , Karachi
23. Mr. Zafar Malik, PIPFPD, Lahore
24. Mr. Adam Malik, Action-Aid Pakistan , Karachi
25. Mr. Qamarul Hasan, International Union of Food Workers (IUF), Karachi
26. Prof. Muhammad Nauman, NED University , Karachi
27. Mr. Mirza Maqsood, General Secretary, Mazdoor Mahaz-e-Amal
28. Ms. Shaista Bukhari, Women Rights Association, Multan

Peace Is Doable

An open letter to Sonal Shah

Posted in hindutva, Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad by ravi on November 21, 2008


“Your recent statement on Hindu nationalist groups raises more questions than it answers.”

November 20, 2008

Dear Ms. Shah,

We are a coalition of Indian-American groups and individuals representing diverse faiths, interests, and political affiliations, who are looking forward to working with the administration of President Obama to ensure that the interests of all Indian-Americans have a place in its policies. We represent families who have grievously suffered from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) led pogroms against Muslim minorities of Gujarat in 2002; Christians, whose communities and places of worship are under assault by VHP and its various creations for no other reason than the faith they were born in, or chose; Hindus and human rights activists who have been fighting, often at great peril to their persons, against religious bigotry and violence being fanned by the VHP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and their various incarnations in India as well as in the United States (the Sangh Parivar).

As you can understand, we are legitimately concerned about reports of your personal links with the VHP — whose social values, politics, and actions are antithetical to President-elect Obama’s message of hope and inclusiveness — and how those links might possibly influence your role in the transition team and the new administration’s policies towards India and Indian-Americans.

Your recent public statement, therefore, that your “personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization” is a welcome one, and we fully expect that your actions on the transition team will be faithful to that assertion. However, your statement does not allay all of our concerns, given the irrefutable public record of your and your family’s linkages to the VHP and other Sangh Parivar organizations, as confirmed in recent utterances by RSS circles in India and by VHP America. We would like to share those concerns with you in the hope that you will respond to them:

To begin with, like you, many of us were engaged in relief work in the aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, when we came away with admiration for Gujarat’s civil society, despite persistent allegations that VHP and RSS were cynically using the disaster relief efforts to further their sectarian agendas. Many of us returned to Gujarat promptly in 2002 to provide relief and succor to battered Muslim (and Hindu) families, following the unprecedented violence directed against them — this time despite the openly obstructionist tactics of the Gujarat government. This period was followed by systematic intimidation of activists by the state: e.g. frivolous lawsuits against Ms. Mallika Sarabhai, a renowned artist and community activist, which prompted the Supreme Court of India to intervene on her behalf. And more recently, emboldened by their impunity in Gujarat, the Sangh Parivar has been orchestrating wide-spread violence against Christians in several BJP and BJP-partnered states of India, which has renewed the public demand for a ban on the VHP and its affiliate, the Bajrang Dal.

We remind you of this recent history to express our dismay and disappointment that at no time during this terrible period are we aware of any statement from you dissociating yourself from these dreadful acts of VHP and RSS, especially given your proximity to these organizations: As a person associated with VHP/RSS’s earthquake relief efforts in 2001, we are not aware of any acknowledgment from you of their widely reported sectarian bias in providing relief. We are not aware of any assistance from you or by Indicorps to the thousands of families affected by the 2002 communal pogroms, nor are we aware of your speaking out against the funding of organizations implicated in these hate campaigns by charities in the United States, with some of whom you have been partnering. And, more recently, we have not heard any condemnation from you of the spate of violence against Christian Adivasis being orchestrated by VHP, for which the BJP-partnered government in Orissa has been severely indicted by India’s National Commission for Minorities.

In the face of these facts, your bold assertion that you have “always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool” is deeply troubling. Furthermore, the revelation that you were part of the inner circle of VHP America at the time of the Gujarat earthquake indicates that your role was not confined only to humanitarian relief — an important detail that you did not address in your statement. And your consistent support for Ekal Vidyalayas (a VHP-founded movement with the major objective of countering Christianity among Adivasis), which has been found by the Human Resources Ministry of Government of India to be conditioning the minds of young children against religious minorities, adds to our fear that you have not fully distanced yourself from VHP’s intolerant, anti-minority ideology.

As you know better than most of us, President-elect Obama set a high standard of openness and personal accountability for himself during the campaign. We note from recent events that he is setting a similar standard of transparency for the transition team. In that spirit, we hope that you too will take personal responsibility for your undeniable past links with the Sangh Parivar and reconcile your recent statement against the VHP and the RSS with your silence amidst the most egregious human rights violations by them in Gujarat and elsewhere. We further hope that you will unequivocally disown and repudiate your and your family’s past and current associations with the VHP and all other Sangh Parivar organizations.

And, as a prominent Indian-American, we hope that you will join us in our call to the governments of India, Gujarat, and Orissa to speedily bring justice and rehabilitation to the thousands of victims of the Sangh Parivar’s anti-minority violence and to take immediate and effective measures to prevent such violence in the future. These steps will lend much credence to your statement that you do not subscribe to the views of Hindu nationalist groups.

As for your comment that you have been the subject of “ridiculous tactics of guilt by association”: Being everyday victims of guilt by association in the US as well as in India for being Muslims, especially in Gujarat, many of us can and do recognize the insidious nature of blog postings that you may be the subject of. Others among us have been the target of preposterous accusations by supporters of VHP and RSS and have been labeled as anti-Hindu, anti-Indian, pro-terrorist, etc., for seeking justice for India’s minorities.

In contrast, your family’s connections with the Sangh Parivar have been long, deep, well documented, and presumably continue to this day. So we must respectfully reject any parallels drawn between attempts during the campaign to find President-elect Obama guilty by association and legitimate questions about your past affiliations.

In closing, the Indian and Indian-American media have widely covered your appointment to the transition team with justifiable pride, and have spoken very highly of your credentials. We join them in congratulating you and in applauding President-elect Obama for demonstrating his commitment to true diversity by appointing an Indian-American woman to his closest advisory board. We have no doubt that you will bring your expertise to bear upon the many difficult decisions that the transition team will have to make in the next few weeks. But we also sincerely hope that your actions on the team will be mindful of the welfare and aspirations of all Indians, including minority communities, which are under unprecedented attacks by Hindu nationalist groups.

We wish you all the best in your endeavors and we look forward to your response.

A Coalition of Concerned Indian-Americans

Endorsing Organizations
American Muslim Physicians of Indian Origin (AMPI)
Association of Indian Muslims in America (AIM), Washington DC
Friends of South Asia (FOSA), San Jose, California (
India Foundation, Michigan
Indian Muslim Council (IMC), Morton Grove, Illinois (
Indian Muslim Education Foundation (IMEFNA), North America
International Service Society, Michigan
Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), Michigan
Sikh American Heritage Organization, Wayne, Illinois
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), Greater Vancouver, Canada (
Supporters of Human Rights in India (SHRI)
The Coalition for a Secular Democratic India (CSDI), Chicago. Illinois
Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Michigan

Personal Endorsements
George Abraham
Girish Agrawal
Rasheed Ahmed
Shahid Ali, M.D.
Khalid Azam
Dr. Chinmoy Banerjee
Dr. Angana Chatterji
Nasir Chippa
Gautam Desai
Shalini Gera
Sapna Gupta
Nishrin Hussain
Mohammad Imran
Kaleem Kawaja
Attaulla Khan
Wasim Khan, MD, MPH
Alex V. Koshy
Kursheed A. Mallick, M.D.
Saeed Patel
Shrikumar Poddar
Raju Rajagopal
Ravi Ravishankar
Dr. Svati Shah
Dr. Hari Sharma
Ramkumar Sridharan
Raja Swamy
Dr. Shaikh Ubaid

Sonal Shah on the VHPA Governing Council

Posted in hindutva, Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad by ravi on November 15, 2008

[Note: Here is a description of the Governing Council from the VHPA website: [It] is the main policy making body of the Parishad. Meets annually to review the progress of programs and projects, and plan for the future. Members elected from different regions for a period of three years. With over 50 elected members this is the body that sets the direction for the Parishad.]

This document, hosted on (a VHPA/HSC creation), is self-explanatory.

# VHP Governing Council & Chapter Presidents/Coordinators List
# (

# Updated on 04/30/1998 (GGV)

# Added Barai, Gajjar, Gajanan Joshi,Waghmare. Changed S. Gupta, S. Shah (GGV).

# Updated on 06/03/1998 (GGV)

# Added Shiv Agarwal

# Ajay : changed Babubhai Gandhi’s address 11/22/98

# Ajay : changed Jitendra Goel’s address 12/14/98 (Shiv Agarwal) (Anand Agarwala) (Abhaya Asthana) (Chandan Bandopadhyay) (Kanchan Banerjee) (Bharat Barai) (Yashwant Belsare) (Dilip Desai) (Bharat Gajjar) (Babulal Gandhi) (Girish Gandhi) (Sharad Gandhi) (Veena Gandhi) (Brij Garg) (Sunil Gokhale) (Ram Sewak Goswami) (Uma Gulani) (Arun Gupta) (Subhash Gupta) (Gajanan Joshi) (Vinod Jhunjuhnwala) (Vrushali kene) (Jwalant Lakhia) (Yash Pal Lakra) (Renu Malhotra) (Mihir Meghani) (Mahesh Mehta) (Nayana Modh) (Sushim Mukerji) (Yogesh Naik) (Vijay Pallod) (Anjlee Pandya) (Harish Pandya) (Jyotish Parekh) (Virendra Parikh) (Rajesh Patel) (Vijay Ruikar) (Ajay Shah) (Sonal Shah) (Nand Kishore Sharma) (Vimal Sodhani) (Satu Somani) (Mandayam Srinivasan) (Shyam Tiwari) (removed 06/03/98) (Rajiv Varma) (Prakash Waghmare)
# Chapter Presidents & Coordinators (Jitendra Goel) (Subhash Gupta) (Hasit Parikh) (Girish Gandhi)

While Sonal Shah’s email address suggests an affiliation with, in 1998 was a treasury department email address. (See, for instance, this PR from the Treasury.) As further confirmation, VHPA general secretary Gaurang Vaishnav has admitted Sonal being a part of the Governing body. With a paternalism typical of the Sangh Parivar, he claims “she was taken into our governing body … [while] she was just coming out of college”.

NDTV caught up with Gaurang G Vaishnav, general secretary, VHP-America who confirmed that not just was Sonal Shah a member of the organisation she was also on the governing body of the VHP-A.

Q. What was your reaction to the news of Sonal Shah’s induction into the transition board of the Obama administration?

It was a feeling of joy and pride that my country person, from Bharat is in that position.

Q. But, this is also a person who is a member of your organization the VHP, so was there more reason to be proud?

She used to be member of the VHP-America but more than that I have known her for many years. Father was my personal friend so it is a very joyous occasion.

Q. In what capacity was she a member of the VHP-A? How involved was she in the organization?

She was just coming out of college. We were trying to get the younger generation involved in the VHP-A. So she was taken into our governing body. Then the earthquake happened in Gujarat and she worked on that. She was there for 3 years.

Q. What is your response to the criticism that says she should not be part of the Obama team because of her connections with the VHP. Your response?

My response is that this is absolute hogwash. First of all is it a crime to be associated with the VHP or VHP-America, or the RSS? VHP America is an independent body of this country. It is not part of VHP-Bharat. Sonal Shah, from what I know was not a part of VHP-Bharat. Even if she were I would say there is nothing wrong with that. Even if she were I would say why should she be stopped. Has the VHP B or A been convicted of any crime? This is nothing but reverse McCarthyism.

Q.So, will there be more reflection of your ideology in the US administration?

I do not think so because she is an economist. That is what she is hired for, not for her Hindu values. In the United States, the President takes his oath on the bible. The President has weekly breakfast with church leaders. Obama goes to church. Would that disqualify him from being President? Religion is something very personal to a person. Without religion we would all be animals.

Q. She gave a statement where she says she does not identify with the ideology of the VHP. Does that hurt you?

No, everybody does not have to stand up for everything. You have to see the forces running against you. There is something called wisdom. It is very clear what is going on. Known characters from the Left. Leftist, Communist, Marxist well-known Hindu baiters, Hindu haters are coming out of the woodwork. So you do not have to fall in their trap. No matter what you tell them they are going to sing the same song so I think what Sonal has done is correct.

Thanks to VHPA general secretary Gaurang Vaishnav, media secretary Shyam Tiwari, and the archived vhpgc-l list (three Sangh Parivar sources!) it is clear that Sonal was a member of the VHPA Governing Council at some point. It’s not clear how long she was on the Council, but it could have been for any duration between her graduation and now. The primary concern of many who are protesting Sonal’s presence in the Obama team is this: if she can seamlessly transition from a membership in the highest decision making body of the VHPA to the Obama  team, does it not serve to mainstream/legitimize Hindutva ideology? To let it pass would be to sanitize the criminal past and present of the Sangh, as Gaurang seeks to do when he asks: Has the VHP B or A been convicted of any crime?

All this is on one side. On the other side, it is not fair to hold anyone a prisoner of their past. Our views evolve with time, and we should allow for the possibility that having observed the Parivar from up close, Sonal perhaps was grossed out and got out of the Parivar. Sonal’s recent statement distancing herself from the Sangh is encouraging, but is hardly sufficient given new revelations of her long linkages with the Sangh Parivar. Speculations about her Sangh affiliations — how extensive they were, how long they lasted, when & why they ended etc. — are bound to continue until she decides to put a stop to them. As to what she can do, for now I’ll just repeat the suggestions laid out in the CSFH statement:

  1. acknowledge her past organizational associations with the Sangh Parivar
  2. distance herself from the public reception reportedly planned by the RSS in her native village in Gujarat
  3. categorically condemn the role played by Hindutva forces in anti-minority violence in India, and the facilitation of this violence by funds sent through various Sangh Parivar affiliates in the United States

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