In our report, Lying Religiously (LyR): The Hindu Students Council and the politics of deception, we have documented in detail the links between the HSC and the Sangh Parivar. We have relied primarily on sources internal to the Sangh Parivar so as to ensure that the evidentiary basis of the conclusions drawn is of the highest standards. This week, we look at contradictory claims made by the HSC and the VHP of America about their relationship.
The National HSC claims to be independent of the Sangh Parivar. The facts page on the National HSC website says:
When HSC was started in 1990 by few students, they got very little support from adults in the Indian-American community. There was no national Indian/Hindu organization that could provide HSC with resources like intellectual speakers/Swamijis, books, etc. The only non-sectarian Indian organization with a pan-American presence that offered to help them was the VHP-America (VHPA). The leaders and members of the VHPA offered to support HSC as a project, helping HSC with resources like speakers/swamijis, books, etc. Once HSC was started up, it become an independently run organization within 3 years, in 1993.
However, this is contradicted even by HSC’s own statements. Last week, we presented as evidence two sources:
- A HSC announcement in 1994 for the Yuva 94 conference which included the admission that HSC is sponsored by the VHPA.
- A HSC announcement in 1995 for the Northeast Regional Youth Conference which also admitted that HSC is sponsored by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and requested applicants to Please make checks payable to VHPA.
Despite all disavowals by the National HSC leadership about their relationship to the Sangh Parivar, the VHP of America has repeatedly, and most recently in 2003, said that the HSC was its project. Here is an extract from an archived VHPA page from 2003:
The programs and projects are defined by the local community needs within the broad framework of the Parishad mission. The ongoing projects are: Hindu Student Council: It is the youth wing of VHPA functioning in 50 universities and colleges in the USA.
Given the official HSC position that it severed all links with VHPA in 1993, this amounts to a minimum of ten years of deception. Does the National HSC deny that this link existed at least until 2003 officially? The VHPA website still lists the HSC as an Organizational Component that it facilitates and promotes. Is the VHPA website based on inaccuracies and outdated information?
Our question to the National HSC for Week #4: How does the National HSC explain such links with the VHPA, years after it claimed to have become an independently run organization?
More recently, in Fall 2004, a core team with representatives from both Hindu Students Council and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh joined in spirit, strength, and resources to coordinate the Midwest Hindu Youth Retreat in Illinois. Again, in Fall 2005, the HSC of Florida Institute of Technology and the HSS jointly conducted a Yuva Sangam. One of the themes of the conference was to promote Hindutva.
CSFH continues to urge all concerned individuals and groups to engage in a substantive public discussion on the issues we have raised in our LyR report. Such open discussions are important within the South Asian community, especially among Indian-American youth, who we believe have been deceived by the National HSC leadership. It is incumbent upon all HSC chapters to begin sorting out the truth from the lies by asking the National HSC leadership to respond to the concrete challenge we have raised above and not produce random distractions.
A few weeks ago, I had written about the Hindu Forum of Britain’s rumor-mongering against British Muslims (the alleged forcible conversions of Hindu and Sikh girls by Muslim men) and the underlying anti-Muslim sentiment.
The HFB’s concern about mistaken identities leading to Islamophobic attacks on Hindus suggests that it’s pretty well aware of the painful manifestations of Islamophobia, so its broadside against Muslim males can only be interpreted as a malicious act intended to whip up more Islamophobia.
I had also pointed to the similarity between the HFB’s stereotyping of Muslim men with that of the Hindutva ideologue Savarkar. And Kallidai’s eulogizing of RSS sarsangchalak Golwalkar clearly showed where his sympathies lay.
Shortly thereafter, Awaaz issued a PR on the irony of having such a guy on the Secretary of State’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion. And Andrew Gilligan of the Evening Standard has now come out with a report on Kallidai (The rise and rise of the Hindu fundamentalist father). The ES report has some interesting nuggets, here’s a summary and more:
- Kallidai defended the VHP while testifying to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2004. Here’re some excerpts:
Q: VHP, as I understand it, is an organisation of Hindu extremists. Would that be right?
RK: No, that, of course, we would vehemently deny. There have been a lot of media reports about the VHP, of course.
Q: What is the VHP?
RK: The VHP is an organisation that works with social and moral upliftment of Hindus and the VHP UK is a totally autonomous body from VHP India. The VHP had issued a public statement in 2002 saying that terrorism of any form is to be condemned. I think it is wrong, on the basis of media reports, to adjudicate an organisation … VHP has never had in any court of law any evidence proved or provided to link them to a terrorist organisation. So, on the basis of media reports, we should not quickly judge and label an organisation.
Q: It is simply a bona fide organisation concerned with the welfare of Hindus?
RK: Most of the Hindu community in the UK and the world consider the VHP to be a peaceful organisation.
- Hindu Aid and the Hindu Forum of Britain share an office and a lot of top-ranking personnel. Kallidai is the Vice-Chair of Hindu Aid, and Secretary General of HFB. Arjan Vekaria is Chair of both Hindu Aid and HFB, Mahendra Pattni is Treasurer at both Hindu Aid and HFB, Sanjay Gadhvi is an Executive Member at both Hindu Aid and HFB, Venilal Vaghela is an Executive Member at Hindu Aid and Trustee & Vice President (London and South) of HFB.
Hindu Aid’s campaigns page lists some flood relief work done by Sewa Bharati, and a little research reveals that the Hindu Aid’s report on Sewa Bharati’s flood relief activities is very similar to reports by Sewa International UK, Sewa USA, India Development and Relief Fund, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Organiser. A few noteworthy differences follow:
- Where Organiser refers to 600 swayamsevaks, Hindu Aid refers to 600 volunteers of SEWA Bharati.
- Where Organiser says: According to Shri Lalit Bansal, Vibhag Karyavah in Surat, more than 80,000 packets of food, 4,500 milk pouches and 1,11,000 pouches of drinking water have been provided to the flood affected people by August 9; Hindu Aid says: Till date the volunteers of Sewa Bharati (partner organisation of Sewa International UK) have distributed 80,000 food packets, 4,500 milk sachets, 1,11,000 water sachets in the flood affected areas.
- Where Organiser says: In Surat, the RSS has set up four relief centres for collecting and distributing relief material under the supervision of senior Sangh activists Shri Nandkishore at Jainnagar, Shri Rajeshbhai Shah at Miranagar-Udhana, Shri Rajkumar Sharma at Bathar Road and Shri Ajaybhai Desai at Station Road; Hindu Aid says: Relief centres at four places in Surat have been started to meet to the needs of the people & attend to the victims without delay.
- Where Organiser says: In Ahmedabad collecting and packaging of relief material is being carried out at 55 centres and swayamsevaks of the entire city are engaged in the collection and preparations of the relief material; Hindu Aid says: 50 centres at Ahmedabad are busy preparing food packets under the supervision of SEWA volunteers.
In short, Hindu Aid has deliberately removed all mentions of RSS, swayamsevaks etc. in its report back on the flood relief activity. This is because thanks to the RSS’s well-deserved notoriety, identifying oneself with the RSS would mean relinquishing the well-trodden ground of multiculturalism, something that the Sangh Parivar organizations abroad are loath to do. Therefore, the RSS’s fundraising fronts abroad raise funds in the name of proxies — Sewa Bharati, for instance. As I mention elsewhere, Sewa Bharati is the service wing of the Sangh and was inaugurated in 1979 by Balasaheb Deoras, the then supremo of the RSS. At the local level, Sewa Bharati and the Sangh merge into one; a distinction between the two is made solely for the purpose of raising funds abroad.
In short, Hindu Aid deceptively provides material and/or public relations support for the Sangh Parivar. Sewa International UK (SIUK) is no different, as is evident from a similar analysis of its report. However, even as the SIUK website only mentions Sewa Bharati, photos of relief work done at Surat clearly show RSS banners.
Such deception is not new to Ramesh Kallidai. In fact, after Awaaz released In Bad Faith, a report documenting SIUK’s links with the RSS in India, Kallidai quickly jumped to SIUK’s defense and sought to discredit the report saying:
If you look at Awaaz’s report, they never substantiate their claims with facts and figures.
Ha! None so blind as those who refuse to see. When the British Charity Commission launched a probe, SIUK/HSS wriggled out claiming there is no formal organisational links with RSS and that there is only an ideological commonality between the two organisations. Not surprisingly, Kallidai has now adopted a similar stance and claimed that the HFB and VHP have no formal relationship. Will he stay afloat with such partial truths (that hide more than they reveal)? Or will he get away playing the aggrieved Hindu? Stay tuned for more.
I just found that the Organiser carried the Hindu Students Council‘s second press release (laden with ad hominems). Besides the content, perhaps the style was also to its liking 🙂 The PR as such doesn’t merit a detailed response, but it was nice to see an official publication of the RSS ganging up with the National HSC. (Interestingly, the Stanford chapter of the HSC has called on the National HSC to retract this PR)
Just for the heck of it, I googled for other mentions of HSC in the Organiser. And sure enough, there was one more.
Last October, the HSC participated in a Grand Hindu Sangam in Silicon Valley. The Hindu Sangam was organised by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh with the support from over 40 SF Bay Area organisations including Sunnyvale Hindu Temple as one of the grand sponsors … to celebrate the birth centenary of Shri Guruji, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
RSS Sarkaryavah Mohan Bhagwat was the chief guest. Keenly aware of his new ambience, he deviated from the Indianise/Hinduise Islam & Christianity mantra and extolled diversity:
Diversity is to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what Bharat stands for seeing diversity as the expression of unity.
On terrorism, he toed the USINPAC line. Here’s what the Organiser report says:
He further said the world has been shaken by religious intolerance and the resulting effects of terrorism. The answer to this problem can be given to the world by the two great nations—India and America, together. “They have to come together, stay together and work together to address this issue,” he added.
N.V. Raghuram of SVYASA, one of the ideologues on board HinduYuva’s Speaker on Campus project, was the keynote speaker at the yoga track. HinduYuva, by the way, is a HSS project. Its homepage exhorts the reader to join a shakha and become a swayamsevak:
Shakha is the place where we practice our traditions, values, connect with the past, present and work for a better future. Join us in this sacred mission of ennobling the world through the traditions, values of SANATANA DHARMA. So, all you have to do is – just attend Shakha, because once a Swayamsevak, always a Swayamsevak!
It’s all in the family, eh? Wait, I’m not done yet. The Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, one of the grand sponsors, has hosted Sangh Parivar dignitaries in the past (Ashok Singhal in October 2004) and has held at least one joint event with the VHPA and HSS. Sri Sri’s Art of Living was also a participant in the Hindu Sangam, and so was the VHPA (which along with the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple and a local restaurant ensured a never-ending supply of food and water). Most interestingly:
Hindu Students Council (HSC) from UC-Berkeley and UC-San Diego chapters and Hindu Awareness Club (HAC) of Monta Vista High School presented some of the issues faced by Hindu students and the importance of maintaining ones Hindu identity.
What were these HSC members doing in a function organized by the Sangh Paivar to celebrate the birth centenary of Shri Guruji, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)? What exactly in Golwalkar do they find laudable? Or, were/are they not aware of his antecedents? Did they know the antecedents of those they were rubbing shoulders with (in the Hindu Sangam)? It’s questions like these that Lying Religiously seeks to pose.
S Anand makes a very pertinent point in his recent Tehelka article.
Confronting the extremist fringe of the Right comes easy to the liberal-secular set but it ignores the more widespread casteist slurs by other sections of society.
This has been one of my pet peeves for some time now. It is true not just in India, but also in the United States. Academic conferences on secularism are relatively frequent, but caste continues to be relatively invisible. While this is particularly shameful of desi academics (who ought to know better), their white counterparts don’t fare much better either. For instance, in a lengthy article expressing her Fears for Democracy in India, Martha Nussbaum only makes three cursory references to caste and none at all to Ambedkar. As if caste and Ambedkar had/have little to do with democracy in India!
In the wake of the California textbook controversy, where the Sanghis insisted on referring to Dalits as Harijans (a moniker hated by the Dalits), I couldn’t help wondering how much of this brazen arrogance had to do with the lack of discussion on caste in the diaspora. I did a cursory search on the websites of several South Asia programs (a partial list of programs is available here), and found that caste wasn’t on their agenda. An occasional event here and there on caste (for instance, a talk by Sainath when he is on a US tour), but no prolonged, substantive engagement with caste.
In recent years, Title-VI funded programs in Middle Eastern Studies that don’t toe the official Zionist line have come under fire (see articles in The Nation and Counterpunch), and Palestinian advocacy has become increasingly risky even within the academia (see articles by Madiha Tahir and David Green) — the recent denial of tenure to Norman Filkelstein is a case in point. Are the Title-VI programs on South Asia similarly vulnerable to ideological pressures from their funders? Unlikely, since the neoconservative hawks that control American foreign policy are most likely indifferent to caste; the Christian fundamentalists amongst them might even be perversely interested for they see in the vicious system of caste an opportunity to salvage some souls.
How then does one explain the paucity of research on caste in the South Asia programs in the US academia? I don’t have a definite answer, but the caste composition of faculty in such programs might be a factor. The silence of Hindutva groups like the Hindu American Foundation (whose annual reports on Hindu Human Rights are notoriously silent on caste) is understandable, but that of liberal academia is not. As Martin Luther King rightly observed:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Last week, we had pointed to the National HSC changing the domain registration details for hscnet.org and the contact page on Hindunet in an effort to distance itself from the Sangh Parivar’s electronic infrastructure that it had set up and continues to maintain (see our Week #2 question to the National HSC). This week, we look at yet another belated and unsuccessful attempt by the National HSC to hide its ideological affinity with the Sangh Parivar.
Before the world wide web became popular in the mid-1990s, Usenet newsgroups were used for communication and sharing information. Through the early 1990s, the Hindu Students Council’s announcements and discussions were carried extensively on the Usenet newsgroup alt.hindu. GHEN/Hindunet maintains an archive of alt.hindu, and this was one piece of evidence we used in our report to establish the ideological and/or material linkages between the National HSC and the Sangh Parivar. This archive was public when our report was published, but now it requires a password for access. If one goes by the dates on Google caches of alt.hindu messages, this change happened some time in May 2007. The timing of this change coincides with changes made to the WHOIS domain registration pages of the National HSC website (we discussed these in our last week’s question to the National HSC, but there has been no response yet).
Our question to the National HSC for Week #3: Why has the National HSC password protected the alt.hindu archives? Why has it NOW sought to hide discussions that happened in the public domain in the mid-1990s?
The most plausible explanation is that the National HSC is trying to hide virulent Hindutva content in the alt.hindu archives. As we scan through the archives, we find that even as HSC chapters posted announcements about meetings and so on, National HSC leaders and other Sangh ideologues posted Hindutva propaganda including strong statements of support on the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the programs of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and VHP of America, as well as glowing tributes to Hindutva (samples). Besides, alt.hindu messages in 1994 and 1995 acknowledged HSC as being sponsored by the VHPA, even as the HSC’s history page says that in 1993, “HSC becomes an organization by itself is run independently of VHPA.”
The alt.hindu archives going back to 1994 are available on the Internet archive and an incomplete archive of the newsgroup is also available on Google Groups. We will be glad to share the archives, as a zip file, with anyone interested.
P.S. Last week, the Stanford HSC held a discussion on our report. We thank them for inviting us to the discussion, and for reading out our letter. In days to come, we will address some of the issues raised in the discussion. A video of the discussion is available here.
Last week (05/26/07), the Campaign to Stop funding Hate had promised one question every week for the National HSC to respond to. The first question read: Why did the National HSC build the Sangh Parivar’s Global Internet infrastructure and why does it continue to maintain it? As evidence, CSFH had presented material from Lying Religiously in the form of an IP Map.
CSFH had noted that apart from sharing contiguous IP addresses, several important Sangh websites, including those of the RSS, HSS, VHP, VHP-America and ABVP list
Hindunet Inc as the Admin Organization and/or Ajay Shah (the first president of the HSC) as the Admin Name. And the copyright notice on Hindunet says: Please note that entire collection of GHEN websites is copyrighted 1989-1999, Global Hindu Electronic Networks, Hindu Students Council.
CSFH’s question to the National HSC for Week #2: Why has the National HSC NOW changed the Admin information for hscnet.org and also changed the contact page on Hindunet? Does it believe that by changing the admin/contact information NOW, the chapter level membership will fail to see the connections between the National HSC and the RSS? Why is it continuing on this path of further deceit and deception?
Read the full question here