Sangh Samachar

Some sense (at last) on Shambo!

Posted in Hindu Forum of Britain, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on July 27, 2007

A brief respite from the Hindu forum of Britain (and its allies’) nonsensical comments on the sacred bull. Jay Lakhani is listed as the Director for Education of Hindu council UK, espouses a Sanghi attitude to religious conversion — he calls it an atrocity — and doesn’t puncture the myth of the sacredness of the bull [see The Myth of the Holy Cow], but is reasonable in his analysis of the Shambo fiasco. Here’re some excerpts from two news sources:

icWales: Jay Lakhani, director of the Vivekananda Centre, a Hindu educational body, said that by turning the dispute over Shambo into a major campaign, Hindu leaders have “undermined the credibility of the religion”

Mr Lakhani said: “Some Hindus might see this as a failing of the system to protect sacred animals. In fact, what this issue has highlighted is a failing of greater magnitude; a failure of Hindu leadership.

“Using highly emotive language, like forming a human chain to protect the bull, has churned up Hindu emotions. No consideration was given to the fact that this exercise was undermining the credibility of the Hindu religion.”

Mr Lakhani insisted that Hindu leaders were wrong to plead for the life of one bullock when it may put other cattle at risk.

“If the life of one animal may endanger the lives of other animals or humans then the Hindu teaching on this issue is very clear – we have to take into account the greater good and sacrifice the individual good.

“Such contextual considerations were completely ignored by a misguided Hindu leadership.”

He continued: “Many Hindu youngsters were made to feel that by signing petitions to protect Shambo the bull they were somehow expressing their loyalty to Hinduism.

“The way this thing is unfolding now will no doubt make them feel bitter and let down. Who will explain to them that it is not Hinduism that has let them down but poor Hindu leadership?”

BBC: A Hindu educationalist has said that monks protecting a “sacred” bullock due for slaughter after a positive TB test have interpreted the religion wrongly.

Jay Lakhani told BBC Radio Wales Shambo should be put down for the “greater good” and that farmers had considered that wider picture.

The credibility of the religion had been put on the line by the actions of the Skanda Vale monks, he said.

Their interpretation of Hinduism was “naive” and “simplistic” he claimed.

Mr Lakhani, who is the co-author of the book Hinduism for Schools, said his opinion was this interpretation was “seriously wrong” because it did not take into account the “greater context in which we operate” as Hindu teachings do.

“If the life of one animal may endanger other lives or human lives as well, then we must take into account the greater good and sacrifice the individual good,” he said.

“(The Hindu religion) says that it is necessary sometimes to use violence in order to uphold the greater good.”

Mr Lakhani claimed that farmers, who he said had been paying a heavy price in order to curtail the disease, were better practising Hindus than the monks at Skanda Vale because they considered the greater good over the individual good.

He also criticised The Hindu Forum of Britain for turning a “local issue” into a major story and making thousands of Hindus feel their religion was at stake unless they stood up for Shambo.

While Mr Lakhani agreed that the cull would be “very sad” he urged the Skanda Vale monks to allow Shambo to be slaughtered.

“He should be sent away with full pomp and glory saying that this life has been sacrificed for the greater good,” he said.

“The money that the brothers have collected and used for fighting the legal battles should be given to the local RSPCA in order to alleviate the sufferings of perhaps thousands of other animals.”

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The rise and rise of Ramesh Kallidai

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:

  1. Where Organiser refers to 600 swayamsevaks, Hindu Aid refers to 600 volunteers of SEWA Bharati.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

[If you have read this far, you might also be interested in A lot of bull to save a bull!, The Myth of the Holy Cow, and The myth of the rapacious Muslim]

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Organized Religion and Organized Crime

Organized Religion is like Organized Crime; it preys on peoples’ weakness, generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate — Mike Hermann

Earlier this month, CNN-IBN came out with spectacular exposes on money laundering by Hindu godmen. The culprits included Ram Vilas Vedanti (or more respectfully, Vedanti Maharaj), Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri and Kapil Advait (alias Pilot Baba)

  • Vedanti is a former chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, a former BJP MP, and a star campaigner for the BJP in the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh (where it suffered a humiliating defeat).
  • Surya Nambudiri (also spelled Namboodiri) is apparently famous for making prophecies — what’s a godman without the power to prophecy — and after a tough bargain, agrees to turn 100 million of black money into white money for a 15% commission. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t foretell his own future.
  • Kapil Advait is a former wing commander-turned-godman, engaged in money laundering for commissions ranging from 20% to 50%.

As expected, the Sangh Parivar jumped to the godmen’s defense. The BJP spokesperson said:

The names that your channel has discussed are all respectable people. I am not sure how authentic this sting operation is.

And the VHP Vice-President Giriraj Kishore said:

What is the purpose behind a sting operation? And why are Hindus always maligned?

Confused? Here’s the train of thought: VHP (and the Sangh Parivar) represents all Hindus, the exposed godmen are sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar, so an expose of their fraudulent activities is equivalent to maligning all Hindus. Besides, as Swami Nirliptananda, Secretary of the London Sevashram Sangha and a member of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Spiritual Body Commission, recently observed:

Even among human beings, saintly people occupy a different status from others.

According to former income tax commissioner Vishwabandhu Gupta:

[This is] a fit case for criminal proceedings. Two of the biggest religion mafias are the Ram Janmanbhoomi Nyas and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad amongst the Hindus. They have 10 bogus trusts floated from the same address. The names are there (in our record) and so are the addresses. They are getting money from 50 countries abroad and are also getting tax exemptions. There are no accounts as well. You see, this is a big menace. We have calculated and found that religious leaders annually earn $3 billion which is about Rs 10,000 crore -Rs 15,000 crore worth of money. What they do is they get land at throwaway prices. During the last government, 11 including that Sadhvi Ritambhara – whatever her qualifications are – got a fantastic (sic) piece of land at a throwaway price for the services that she heads today. There have fraudulent names, addresses, existences and expenditures. They use it for spreading communal hatred. Money has been used by Bajrang Dal cadres in Gujarat to purchase Motorola, we have got receipts for that.

For instance, the RSS does not have FCRA clearance and cannot directly accept foreign donations, so has created service wings like the Sewa International and Sewa Bharati which have FCRA clearance. The RSS’s fundraising fronts abroad — IDRF, SewaUSA, VHP of America, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Sewa International UK, Hindu Forum of Britain etc. — divert funds to the RSS through Sewa Bharati and Sewa International. Given the Sangh Parivar’s access to state power and propensity to violence, its brand of fundamentalism poses the biggest danger to a pluralistic India, but the role of Christian fundamentalist groups like World Vision (which apparently disbursed 95 crores in India last year) cannot be glossed over either.

A lot of bull to save a bull!

Posted in Hindu Forum of Britain, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on May 10, 2007

Shambo, a sacred bull in Wales (Britain) is making news these days. It’s heartening to see a black animal being the object of so much love, for similarly pigmented humans typically belong to the lower castes in India and are the object of much upper-caste scorn. Not that black people elsewhere are treated much better.


Getting back to Shambo, this beautiful bull has tested positive for tuberculosis, and the standard practice in Wales is to slaughter any animal suspected of carrying bovine TB. Slaughtering infected animals is probably the best way to prevent epidemics in factory farms, but animals in a domestic setting can easily be kept in isolation, so why resort to slaughter when one of them gets infected with a communicable disease? Is the callousness of a beef-eating culture to blame? A little research threw up interesting nuggets of information.

According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture:

Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, can be transmitted from livestock to humans and other animals. No other TB organism has as great a host range as bovine TB, which can infect all warmblooded vertebrates.

Recent research has suggested that bovine TB might spread between humans. According to Reuters:

British investigators describe 20 cases of humans being infected with Mycobacterium bovis, a type of tuberculosis normally confined to cattle. In six instances, the outbreak appears to have resulted from person-to-person transmission.

Shambo apparently is looking healthy, but acccording to the USDA:

Bovine TB is a chronic disease, seldom becoming apparent until it has reached an advanced stage in cattle, captive cervids, and swine. Some infected livestock seem to be in prime condition, showing no evidence of infection until they are slaughtered, yet they may be found so seriously infected during slaughter inspection that their carcasses must be condemned.

The Skanda Vela temple says that Shambo has been isolated from other bovines and from contact with the public, but the risk of transmission still seems significant. According to the USDA:

Bovine TB can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Although young animals and humans can contract the disease by drinking raw milk from infected dams, the most common means of transmission is through respiration. Invisible droplets (aerosols) containing TB bacteria may be exhaled or coughed out by infected animals and then inhaled by susceptible animals or humans. The risk of exposure is greatest in enclosed areas, such as barns. Inhalation of aerosols is the most common route of infection for farm and ranch workers and veterinarians who work with diseased livestock.

Perhaps realizing that science cannot (or, can it?) be deployed to make a winning case for Shambo, the temple has resorted to mythmaking:

If we were to permit DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to kill Shambo it would be an appalling desecration of life, the sanctity of our Temples and Hinduism as a whole.

And Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain has jumped in with more bull.

  • Telegraph: To have a sacred bull slaughtered strikes at the very core of our beliefs.
  • Guardian: To have a sacred bull from the temple slaughtered is completely unthinkable for us and is a matter of grave concern.
  • BBC: Killing Shambo will violate our faith, tradition and desecrate our temple. It goes against all accepted norms of our faith.

Slaughter of cows/bulls is sanctioned in the Hindu religious texts (including the Vedas). For instance, in the Rgveda, Indra states:

Fifteen in number, then, for me a score of bullocks they prepare, And I devour the fat thereof: they fill my belly full with food. Supreme is Indra over all.
[10-086.14, p466 of the English translation of the Rgveda by Ralph Thomas Hotchkin Griffith]

Elsewhere in the Rgveda, there’s mention of Indra feasting on a vigorous bullock after battle (10-027.2). In The myth of the holy cow, historian DN Jha has convincingly argued against the historical sanctity of the cow/bull in India. The book was banned in India (and probably still is), I’ll post some excerpts shortly.

[Note added on May 15: Here’s some more bull, this time from Swami Nirliptananda, Secretary of the London Sevashram Sangha and a member of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Spiritual Body Commission. As if the human caste system isn’t bad enough, this sick guy wants to replicate it amongst animals!

In the case of Shambo, the Hindus are looking at the difficult but humane way of solving the problem. They are looking at ways and means to protect the sacred bull which can not simply be equated with all other bulls as some are doing. Even among human beings, saintly people occupy a different status from others.

The case of Shambo must be examined differently. It is not an animal that roams about like others, neither can it be generalised with other bulls. It has a special status – a bull in the temple that affords to visitors the honour of being blessed merely by looking at it (darshan)]

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The myth of the rapacious Muslim

The Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) and the National Hindu Students Forum (NHSF) organized a Hindu Security Conference on Feb 21, 2007, and the British media promptly took note of the rapacious Muslim.

Daily Mail: The Hindu Forum of Britain claims hundreds of mostly Sikh and Hindu girls have been intimidated by Muslim men who take them out on dates before terrorising them until they convert. Ramesh Kallidai, of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: “Some girls are petrified because they are constantly being phoned up, having their door knocked. … One girl was beaten up on the street and others have been forced to leave university.

Metro: Ramesh Kallidai, from the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: Extremist Muslims make life miserable for Hindu girls. Some are petrified; they feel these men have complete hold on them. One girl was beaten up in the street and others have been forced to leave university. Mr Kallidai estimated hundreds of girls had been targeted, with some reports of Muslim boys being offered £5,000 commissions.

Guardian: When the Guardian contacted Mr Kallidai he said had been misquoted in Metro. But in a press release by the Hindu Forum of Britain he repeats many of the claims, saying that few in positions of power understand the “high levels of resentment building up in the Hindu and Sikh communities over aggressive conversion techniques and intimidation by radical Islamist groups on campuses.”

About eight weeks after being misquoted in the Metro, Kallidai still didn’t know about it until queried by the Guardian! Was he also misquoted in the Daily Mail (probably by a different reporter, as the Metro and Daily Mail articles have quite different content despite some similarities)? Even now, the HFB has only toned down its rhetoric a bit, but the stereotyping of Muslims males continues. 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. Having done their bit, the HFB and the NHSF are perhaps hoping for the British National Party to take it on from here.

So much for the Hindu Forum of Britain. Consider these:

  • One side-issue of the Muslim religious aggression, which caused a continuous drain on the numerical superiority of the Hindus was the diabolical Muslim faith that it was a religious duty of every Muslim to kidnap and force into their own religion non-Muslim women. This incited their sensuality and lust for carnage and, while it enormously increased their number, it affected the Hindu population in an inverse proportion … The religious fanaticism of the Muslims was not madness at all; it was an effective method of increasing the Muslim population with special regard to the unavoidable laws of nature.
  • With this same shameless religious fanaticism, the aggressive Muslims of those times considered it their highly religious duty to carry away forcibly the women of the enemy side, as if they were commonplace property, to ravish them, to pollute them, and to distribute them to all and sundry, from the Sultan to the common soldier and to absorb them completely in their fold. This was considered a noble act which increased their number.

If you think it’s the British National Party that has gotten into the act, rewind back to a few decades ago, when Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar jotted down these scholarly observations in his book, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History. And no, I’m not about to claim that the HFB and the NHSF have a lot in common with the loony Savarkar, and so all their claims are to be dismissed outrightly. I would much rather go with Awaaz’s view, excerpted below:

Awaaz strongly condemns any attempt to intimidate or threaten students into religious conversion or religious conformity and believes that this must be tackled by university authorities. We condemn, for example, some reported incidents of Islamist groups trying to coerce Muslim women into wearing the hijab. But we believe that the National Hindu Students Forum is grossly exaggerating the issue of ‘aggressive conversions’ as part of its own political agenda. It is indulging in dangerous and divisive scare-mongering.

The National Hindu Student’s Forum is an organisation closely allied to Indian Hindu supremacist groups, such as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The RSS, once banned in India because of its fascist and violent history, has a virulent anti-Muslim agenda and pursues this effectively through its sister organisations abroad. Indian groups with links to the RSS are often also anti-Christian (more information on these groups is available here). Neither the British organisations nor the Indian ones represent the majority of Hindus in either country.

Awaaz believes that the NHSF in Britain is trying to turn any kind of conversion — whether coercive or not — into a matter involving the police and criminal justice system. This agenda has been imported directly from Hindu supremacist groups in India, such as the violent Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an organisation that the Hindu Forum of Britain has defended. A number of anti-conversion laws have been introduced in some Indian states after successful lobbying by these groups. These are part of an anti-Muslim and anti-Christian communal politics which has led to restrictions on religious freedom in India.

Hindu supremacist organisations in Britain have long targeted campuses in order to promote their divisive ideology.

Awaaz’s note focusses primarily on the NHSF, probably because its links with the Sangh have been well documented in its report, In Bad Faith. As for the HFB’s connections with the RSS, here’s the latest from the Sangh mouthpiece Organiser where Kallidai is effusive in his praise of MS Golwalkar (Guruji):

Shri Ramesh Kallidai, general secretary and vice president of Hindu Forum of Britain and Hindu Aid respectively said, “Trying to pay homage to Shri Guruji was like holding a candle to the Sun”. He sighted the expansion of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as one of Shri Guruji’s greatest achievements because he felt that RSS’s promotion of the Hinduvad (doctine/theory) was the only way of making true vision of our sacred seers and saints of ennobling the universe and uniting it.

Shri Kallidai went on to say that the phenomenon of the RSS and Shri Guruji was so exemplary that even some of its opponents praised it. He cited the example of Smt. Indira Gandhi who on the passing away of Shri Guruji had said, “We have lost in Guru Golwalker a famous personality who was not a Member of Parliament but who held a respected position in the nation by his personality and the intensity of his convictions”.

Now it all makes sense, doesn’t it? Stay tuned for more.