Sonal Shah on the VHPA Governing Council
[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.]
# 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
firstname.lastname@example.org (Shiv Agarwal)
email@example.com (Anand Agarwala)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Abhaya Asthana)
email@example.com (Chandan Bandopadhyay)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Kanchan Banerjee)
email@example.com (Bharat Barai)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Yashwant Belsare)
email@example.com (Dilip Desai)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Bharat Gajjar)
email@example.com (Babulal Gandhi)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Girish Gandhi)
email@example.com (Sharad Gandhi)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Veena Gandhi)
email@example.com (Brij Garg)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Sunil Gokhale)
email@example.com (Ram Sewak Goswami)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Uma Gulani)
email@example.com (Arun Gupta)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Subhash Gupta)
email@example.com (Gajanan Joshi)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Vinod Jhunjuhnwala)
email@example.com (Vrushali kene)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Jwalant Lakhia)
email@example.com (Yash Pal Lakra)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Renu Malhotra)
email@example.com (Mihir Meghani)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Mahesh Mehta)
email@example.com (Nayana Modh)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Sushim Mukerji)
yogi_naik@py_cyanamid.com (Yogesh Naik)
email@example.com (Vijay Pallod)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Anjlee Pandya)
email@example.com (Harish Pandya)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Jyotish Parekh)
email@example.com (Virendra Parikh)
rajpatel@ix_netcom.com (Rajesh Patel)
Ameya@worldnet.att.net (Vijay Ruikar)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Ajay Shah)
email@example.com (Sonal Shah)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Nand Kishore Sharma)
email@example.com (Vimal Sodhani)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Satu Somani)
email@example.com (Mandayam Srinivasan)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Shyam Tiwari)
email@example.com (removed 06/03/98)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Rajiv Varma)
email@example.com (Prakash Waghmare)
# Chapter Presidents & Coordinators
firstname.lastname@example.org (Jitendra Goel)
email@example.com (Subhash Gupta)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Hasit Parikh)
Girish.Gandhi@stn.siemens.com (Girish Gandhi)
While Sonal Shah’s email address suggests an affiliation with sprint.com, in 1998 treas.sprint.com 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:
- acknowledge her past organizational associations with the Sangh Parivar
- distance herself from the public reception reportedly planned by the RSS in her native village in Gujarat
- 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