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 Is the VHPA website based on inaccuracies and outdated information?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.
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.
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
Six weeks after the CSFH report — Lying Religiously (LyR) — was published with conclusive evidence that the National HSC was part of the RSS family of organizations (Sangh Parivar), the National HSC has failed to refute even a single piece of evidence in our report. Far from providing any substantive counter evidence or argument, officers of the National HSC have resorted to ad-hominems against the CSFH collective.
This strategy is not new. It is typical of the Sangh Parivar. The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate has done investigative work on the Sangh since 2002. In our first report, The Foreign Exchange of Hate, which exposed the flow of dollars from the US to the RSS in India, we used a similar structure of evidence as the current report on the HSCs — a majority of the evidentiary documents were drawn from the Sangh itself. In response, the Sangh Parivar attacked the collective and NOT the report, just like the National HSC leadership has done now. Our response from 2003, entitled Deceit as a Core Value: The RSS Method, is archived here. We urge all HSC members and the Indian-American community at large to take careful note of this pattern — when completely unable to deal with the evidence against it, the Sangh resorts to ad-hominem attacks against its opponents.
In our two earlier press releases, we pulled out evidence from our report and framed it in a simple and easy to understand format and challenged the national HSC to refute the evidence. They have failed to do so in both their press releases. Do we take the national HSC’s silence on the issue as its inability to deny its close links with the Sangh Parivar?
In our effort to keep the focus on the substantive evidence presented in the LyR report, CSFH will in the next 12 weeks send out one question every week to the national HSC leadership with a single issue or piece of evidence for them to respond to. Our reason for this is simple: we want to make absolutely clear to every reader –- and especially, every HSC member past and present — that the National HSC has been deceptive about its connections with the RSS family and its only strategy is to distract from the evidence presented in the report.
Week #1: Why did the National HSC build the Sangh Parivar’s Global Internet infrastructure and why does it continue to maintain it?
In our report, we have documented how the National HSC has built and continues to maintain the Sangh’s Global Internet infrastructure. The evidentiary source for the IP Map is a neutral site, DomainTools. The IP Map is probably the most damning piece of evidence against the National HSC that establishes deep, systematic and undeniable links to the rest of the Sangh Parivar. It is not an incidental set of connections, but a deliberate and carefully built infrastructure. The National HSC has of course remained silent on this. However, some concerned HSC chapter members have written to us directly asking questions. The most often repeated question is whether the IP map shows anything more than some electronic links, and this needs further explanation.
Allow us to explain in some detail: Every machine on the Internet has a unique IP address that reads something like: 220.127.116.11, that is, four numbers separated by periods. Each set of numbers in an IP address that is separated by periods is called an octet (because it is represented in the binary form by a set of eight zeros and ones). Thus an IP address is made up of four octets. For brevity, we will represent an IP address as A.B.C.D where A,B,C and D represent numerical values and are each an octet. How the octet pattern is arranged says a lot about the organization that is using an IP address. For instance, a large network like AT& T will typically have an octet structure where every single machine that it owns on the internet will share the exact same value in the first octet. That is, all of AT&T’s computers on the internet share the same first octet. Such addresses with a common first octet are called Class A addresses.
So also, a large to medium size business could ask for a Class B address where the first two octets (in our scheme, A and B of the A.B.C.D structure) are common for every machine it has on the internet anywhere in the world. Many MNCs have Class B addresses. Finally, smaller organizations could seek and be allotted a Class C address where the first three octets – A, B and C are fixed. Every machine they have on the internet will then have the first three octets repeated and the last octet will change. This is the case for most of the Sangh Parivar organizations hosted by the HSC — they share the first three octets and have CONTIGUOUS fourth octet (as in, say 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124). Furthermore, most of these websites, including those of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (126.96.36.199), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (188.8.131.52), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (184.108.40.206), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (220.127.116.11), India Development and Relief Fund (18.104.22.168), Sewa International (22.214.171.124), Organiser (126.96.36.199) and Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad (188.8.131.52) 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.
In short, the HSC supports the electronic infrastructure of the Sangh Parivar. There is no way for all this to be an accident or a coincidence. In other words, there is no other explanation for this phenomenon but the fact that the national HSC, under the leadership of Ajay Shah, was given this task by the Sangh which they executed faithfully. (For a brief organizational overview of the Sangh Parivar, see here).
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 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.
Resume: The Elusive Holy Cow
(concluding chapter of DN Jha’s The Myth of the Holy Cow)
Several points emerge from our limited survey of the textual evidence, mostly drawn from Brahmanical sources drawn from the Rgveda onwards. In the first place, it is clear that the early Aryans, who migrated to India from outside, brought along with them certain cultural elements. After their migration into the Indian subcontinent pastoralism, nomadism and animal sacrifice remained characteristic features of their lives for several centuries until sedentary field agriculture became the mainstay of their livelihood. Animal sacrifices were very common, the most important of them being the famous asvamedha and rajasuya. These and several other major sacrifices involved the killing of animals including cattle, which constituted the chief form of the wealth of the early Aryans. Not surprisingly, they prayed for cattle and sacrificed them to propitiate their gods. The Vedic gods had no marked dietary preferences. Milk, butter, barley, oxen, goats and sheep were their usual food, though some of them seem to have had their special preferences. Indra had a special liking for bulls. Agni was not a tippler like Indra, but was fond of the flesh of horses, bulls and cows. The toothless Pusan, the guardian of the roads, ate mush as a Hobson’s choice. Soma was the name of an intoxicant but, equally important, of a god, and killing animals (including cattle) for him was basic to most of the Rgvedic yajnas. The Maruts and the asvins were also offered cows. The Vedas mention about 250 animals out of which at least 50 were deemed fit for sacrifice, by implication for divine as well as human consumption. The Taittiriya Brahmana categorically tells us: Verily the cow is food (atho annam vai gauh) and Yajnavalkya‘s insistence on eating the tender (amsala) flesh of the cow is well known. Although there is reason to believe that a brahmana’s cow may not have been killed, that is no index of its inherent sanctity in the Vedic period or even later.
The subsequent Brahmanical texts (e.g. Grhyasutras and Dharmasutras) provide ample evidence of the eating of flesh including beef. Domestic rites and rituals associated with agricultural and other activities involved the killing of cattle. The ceremonial welcome of guests (sometimes known as arghya but generally as madhuparka) consisted not only of a meal of a mixture of curds and honey but also of the flesh of a cow or bull. Early lawgivers go to the extent of making meat mandatory in the madhuparka — an injunction more or less dittoed by several later legal texts. The sacred thread ceremony for its part was not all that sacred; for it was necessary for a snataka to wear an upper garment of cowhide.
The slaughter of animals formed an important component of the cult of the dead in the Vedic texts. The thick fat of the cow was used to cover the corpse and a bull was burnt along with it to enable the departed to ride in the nether world. Funerary rites include the feeding of brahmanas after the prescribed period and quite often the flesh of the cow or ox was offered to the dead. The textual prescriptions indicate the degree of satisfaction obtained by the ancestors’ souls according to the animal offered — cow meat could keep them content for at least a year! The Vedic and the post-Vedic texts often mention the killing of animals including the kine in the ritual context. There was, therefore, a relationship between the sacrifice and sustenance. But this does not necessarily mean that different types of meat were eaten only if offered in sacrifice. Archaeological evidence, in fact, suggests non-ritual killing of cattle. This is indicative of the fact that beef and other animal flesh formed part of the dietary culture of people and that edible flesh was not always ritually consecrated.
The idea of ahimsa seems to have made its first appearance in the Upanisadic thought and literature. There is no doubt that Gautama Buddha and Mahavira vehemently challenged the efficacy of the Vedic animal sacrifice, although a general aversion to beef and other kinds of animal flesh is not borne out by Buddhist and Jaina texts. Despite the fact that the Buddha espoused the cause of ahimsa, he is said to have died after eating a meal of pork (sukaramaddava). Asoka’s compassion for animals is undeniable, though cattle were killed for food during the Mauryan period as is evident from the Arthasastra of Kautilya and Asoka’s own list of animals exempt from slaughter, which, significantly, does not include the cow. The Buddhists in India and outside continued to eat various types of meat including beef even in later times, often inviting unsavoury criticism from the Jainas. In Lahul, for example, Buddhists eat beef, albeit secretly, and in Tibet they eat cows, sheep, pigs and yak.
Like Buddhism, Jainism also questioned the efficacy of animal sacrifice and enthusiastically took up the cause of non-violence. But meat eating was so common in Vedic and post-Vedic times that even Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, is said to have eaten poultry. Perhaps the early Jainas were no strict vegetarians. A great Jaina logician of the eighth century tells us that monks did not have objection to eating flesh or fish given to them by the laity. In spite of all this, there is no doubt that meat became a strong taboo among the followers of Jainism. Its canonical and non-canonical literature provides overwhelming evidence on the subject. The inflexibility of the Jaina attitude is deeply rooted in the basic tenets of Jaina philosophy, which, at least in theory, is impartial in its respect for all forms of life without according any special status to the cow. Thus, although both Buddhism, and, to a greater extent, Jainism contributed to the growth of ahimsa doctrine, neither seems to have developed the sacred cow concept independently.
Despite the Upanisadic, Buddhist and Jaina advocacy of ahimsa, the practice of ritual and random killing of animals including cattle continued in the post-Mauryan centuries. Although Manu (200 BC-AD 200) extols the virtue of ahimsa, he provides a list of creatures whose flesh was edible. He exempts the camel from being killed for food, but does not grant this privilege to the cow. On the contrary, he opines that animal slaughter in accordance with Vedic practice does not amount to killing, thus giving sanction to the ritual slaughter off cattle. He further recommends meat eating on occasions like madhuparka and sraddha. One may not be far from the truth if one interprets Manu’s injunctions as a justification for ritual cattle slaughter and beef eating, as indeed a later commentator does.
Next in point of time is the law book of Yajnavalkya (AD 100-300) who not only enumerates the kosher animals and fish but also states that a learned brahmana (srotriya) should be welcomed with a big ox or goat, delicious food and sweet words. That the practice of flesh eating and killing cattle for food was customary right through the Gupta period and later is sufficiently borne out by references to it found in the Puranas and the Epics. Several Puranic texts, we are told, bear testimony to the feeding of brahmanas with beef at the funeral ceremony, though some of them prohibit the killing of a cow in honour of the guest and others recommend buffalo sacrifice for the goddess at Durga Puja, Navaratri, or Dasara.
The evidence from the epics is quite eloquent. Most of the characters in the Mahabharata are meat eaters. Draupadi promises to Jayadratha and his retinue that Yudhisthira would provide them with a variety of game including gayal, sambara and buffalo. The Pandavas seem to have survived on meat during their exile. The Mahabharata also makes a laudatory reference to the king Rantideva in whose kitchen two thousand cows were butchered each day, their flesh, along with grain, being distributed among the brahmanas. Similarly the Ramayana of Valmiki makes frequent references to the killing of animals including the cow for sacrifice and for food. Rama was born after his father Dasaratha performed a big sacrifice involving the slaughter of a large number of animals declared edible by the Dharmasastras. Sita, assures the Yamuna, while crossing it that she would worship the river with a thousand cows and a hundred jars of wine when Rama accomplishes his vow. Her fondness for deer meat drives her husband crazy enough to kill Marica, a deer in disguise. Bharadvaja welcomes Rama by slaughtering a fatted calf in his honour.
Non-vegetarian dietary practices find an important place in the early Indian medical treatises, whose chronology broadly coincides with that of the law books of Manu and Yajnavalkya, the early Puranas and the two epics. Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata provide an impressive list of fish and animals and all three speak of the therapeutic uses of beef. The continuity of the tradition of eating beef is also echoed in early Indian secular literature till late times. In the Gupta period, Kalidasa alludes to the story of Rantideva who killed numerous cows every day in his kitchen. More than two centuries later, Bhavabhuti refers to two instances of guest reception, which included the killing of heifer. In the tenth century, Rajasekhara mentions the practice of killing an ox or a goat in honour of a guest. Later Sriharsa mentions a variety of non-vegetarian delicacies served at a dazzling marriage feast and refers to two interesting instances of cow killing. At that time, however, Somesvara shows clear preference for pork over other meats and does not mention beef at all.
While the above references, albeit limited in number, indicate that the ancient practice of killing the kine for food continued till about the twelfth century, there is considerable evidence in the commentaries on the Kavya literature and the earlier Dharmasastra texts to show that the Brahmanical writers retained its memory till very late times. Among the commantators on the secular literature, Candupandita from Gujarat, Narahari from Telengana in Andhra Pradesh, and Mallinatha who is associated with the king Devaraya II of Vidyanagara (Vijayanagara), clearly indicate that, in earlier times, the cow was done to death for rituals and hence for food. As late as the eighteenth century Ghanasyama, a minister for a Tanjore ruler, states that the killing of cow in honour of a guest was the ancient rule.
Similarly the authors of Dharmasastra commentaries and religious digests from the ninth century onwards keep alive the memory of the archaic practice of beef eating and some of them even go so far as to permit beef in specific circumstances. For example, Medhatithi, probably a Kashmiri brahmana, says that a bull or ox was killed in honour of a ruler or anyone deserving to be honoured, and unambiguously allows eating the flesh of cow (govyajamamsam) on ritual occasions. Several other writers of exegetical works seem to lend support to this view, though sometimes indirectly. Viswarupa of Malwa, probably a pupil of Sankara, Vijnanesvara who may have lived not far from Kalyana in modern Karnataka, Haradatta, also a southerner (daksinatya), Lakshmidhara, a minister of the Gahadwala king Hemadri, Narasimha a minister of the Yadavas of Devagiri, and Mitra Misra from Gopacala (Gwalior) support the practice of killing a cow on special occasions. Thus even when the Dharmasastra commentators view cow killing with disfavour, they generally admit that it was an ancient practice but to be avoided in the kali age.
While the above evidence is indicative of the continuity of the practice of beef eating, the lawgivers had already begun to discourage it around the middle of the first millennium when society began to be gradually feudalized, leading to major socio-cultural transformation. This phase of transition, first described in the epic and puranic passages as the kaliyuga, i.e. kalivarjyas. While the list of kalivarjyas swelled up over time, most of the relevant texts mention cow slaughter, as forbidden in the kaliyuga. According to some early medieval lawgivers a cow killer was an untouchable and one incurred sin even by talking to him. They increasingly associated cow killing and beef eating with the proliferating number of untouchable castes. It is, however, interesting that some of them consider these acts as no more than minor behavioural aberrations.
Equally interesting is the fact that almost all the prescriptive texts enumerate cow killing as a minor sin (upapataka), not a major offence (mahapataka). Moreover, the Smrti texts provide easy escape routes by laying down expiatory procedures for intentional as well as inadvertent killing of the cow. This may imply that cattle slaughter may not have been uncommon in society, and the atonements were prescribed merely to discourage eating of beef. To what extent the Dharmasastric injunctions were effective, however, remains a matter of speculation; for the possibility of at least some people eating beef on the sly cannot be ruled out. As recently as the late nineteenth century it was alleged that Swami Vivekananda ate beef during his stay in America, though he vehemently defended his action. Also, Mahatma Gandhi spoke of the hypocrisy of the orthodox Hindus who do not so much as hesitate or inquire when during the illness the doctor … prescribes them beef tea. Even today 72 communities in Kerala — not all of them untouchable perhaps — prefer beef to the expensive mutton and the Hindutva forces are persuading them to go easy on it.
Although cow slaughter and the eating of beef gradually came to be viewed as a sin and a source of pollution from the early medieval period, the cow and its products (milk, curds, clarified butter, dung and urine) or their mixture called pancagavya had assumed a purificatory role much earlier. Vedic texts attest to the ritual use of cow’s milk and milk products, but the term pancagavya occurs for the first time in the Baudhayana Dharmasutra. Manu, Visnu, Vasistha, Yajnavalkya and several later lawgivers like Atri, Devala and Parasara mention the use of the mixture of the five products of the cow for both purification and expiation. The commentaries and religious digests, most of which belong to the medieval period, abound in references to the purificatory role of the pancagavya. It is interesting that the medical treatises of Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata speak of its medicinal uses. The underlying assumption in all these cases is that the pancagavya is pure. But several Dharmasastra texts forbid its use by women and the lower castes. If a sudra drinks pancagavya, we are told, he goes to hell.
It is curious that prescriptive texts that repeatedly refer to the purificatory role of the cow, also provide much evidence of the notion of pollution and impurity associated with this animal. According to Manu, the food smelt by a cow has to be purified. Other early lawgivers like Visnu and Yajnavalkya also express similar views. The latter in fact says that while the mouth of the goat and horse is pure that of the cow is not. Among the later juridical texts, those of Angirasa, Parasara, Vyasa, and so on, support the idea of the cow’s mouth being impure. The lawgiver Sankha categorically states that all limbs of the cow are pure except her mouth. The commentaries on different Dharmasastra texts reinforce the notion of impurity of the cow’s mouth. All this runs counter to the idea of the purificatory role of the cow.
Needless to say, then, that the image of the cow projected by Indian textual traditions, especially the Brahmanical-Dharmasastric works, over the centuries is polymorphic. Its story through the millennia is full of inconsistencies and has not always been in conformity with dietary practices current in society. It was killed but the killing was not killing. When it was not slain, mere remembering the old practice of butchery satisfied the brahmanas. Its five products including faeces and urine has been considered pure but not its mouth. Yet through these incongruous attitudes the Indian cow has struggled its way to sanctity.
But the holiness of the cow is elusive. For there has never been a cow-goddess, nor any temple in her honour. Nevertheless the veneration of this animal has come to be viewed as a characteristic of modern day non-existent monolithic Hinduism bandied about by the Hindutva forces.
- I’ve retained the British spelling for words like honour. All emphases are mine.
- The myth of the holy cow has at least on one occasion helped the Sangh reap an economic bonanza — McDonalds’ $10 million settlement in the beef-in-vegetarian-fries controversy included liberal dole-outs to several Sangh groups in the United States, including the Hindu Students Council.]
The HSC press release of April 20, 2007 is a classic instance of shooting from the hip. Four days had passed since the release of the report, Lying Religiously: The Hindu Students Council and the Politics of Deception (LyR), and one could only remain silent for so long! But how do you react when the evidence is stacked against you? Shoot from the hip, seems to have been the advice from the VHPA head-honchos, for that’s what the HSC has done.
The HSC PR starts by misusing three adjectives: inaccurate, misleading, anonymous.
- If the LyR report was inaccurate/misleading, how about at least one refutation of the core claims?
- CSFH has been around since November 2002, I can’t see how this squares with the HSC’s understanding of anonymous.
Next, the PR asserts that LyR‘s claim that the HSC has been deceiving its members about its activities is erroneous, but don’t hold your breath for the HSC to substantiate its assertion. Proof by assertion, with a liberal dose of ad hominem, has served the Sangh well all these years, and the HSC has taken the same route.
The PR also claims that LyR is a mix of outdated information (some of which is 15 years old and presented as currently accurate) and inaccurate claims. LyR is a longitudinal study starting from the early 1990s and going all the way up to 2007.
By adopting this longitudinal strategy, two objectives are accomplished: (1) making it impossible for HSC to claim that the connections were merely in the past and not in the contemporary moment; and (2) making visible the specific nature of HSC strategy to cynically reveal or conceal its links to the Sangh Parivar as a way to expand its organizational base with incoming students on campus and to cement infrastructural connections with the Sangh.
Perhaps the Sanghis don’t know the difference between outdated information and a longitudinal study? However, as anyone that has dealt with them knows, such ignorance is willful.
After a banal paragraph comes this juicy bit, reproduced below in full:
HSC members are encouraged to reach out to a wide variety of organizations in the United States that share an interest in promoting a stronger, more educated Hindu community. Such organizations include the Art of Living, BAPS, Chinmaya Mission, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, the Gayatri Parivar, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, International Society of Krishna Consciousness, the Vedanta Society, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, and various Hindu temples and ashrams.
The HSS acknowledges that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [is] the parent body of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS acknowledges that [outside India], Sangh’s full name is Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. As for the VHP of America, the VHP acknowledges that “[t]here are VHP Units, registered under its name according to the laws of the respective countries, in USA, U.K” and lists VHP of America as one such unit. In short, the evidentiary loop between the HSS, VHPA and the RSS is complete. As per its own press release, the HSC encourages its members to reach out to … the RSS! Now, the HSC could justifiably claim that the information here is dated (for it depends on an almost week-old HSC press release), but you get the point, don’t you?
As for the HSC’s rant about the timing of LyR’s release, LyR was released on April 15, a day before the tragic Virginia Tech shooting. I quote below CSFH’s fitting response to HSC’s hypocrisy.
The HSC National leadership accuses CSFH of insensitivity in launching such a campaign at a moment when they are busy offering solidarity to the Virginia Tech HSC chapter after the tragic events of April 16. We find this diversionary tactic most hypocritical, for the HSC has stood by in stony silence after each riot carried out by its sister organizations in India. In 1993, the HSC rationalized and celebrated the destruction of the Babri mosque (and the anti-Muslim violence that followed) as “the beginning of the new age of Hindu Renaissance, a new Hindu Revolution”. Again, after the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the National HSC promptly (and rightly) called for apprehending the perpetrators of the Godhra carnage, but was understandably silent about justice for the families of the more than 2000 Muslims massacred in what was probably the worst carnage since 1947. In fact, in the post-genocide days, the National HSC was busy oiling the machinery of the Sangh’s global propaganda network (by maintaining the electronic infrastructure of the Sangh). Is the National HSC not complicit in the cover up that has ensued since 2002?
The Sangh is known to profit from disasters — natural or man-made — and the HSC’s attempt to hide behind the Virginia Tech shooting is just another manifestation of its crassly instrumental use of human tragedy. Will the HSC leadership dig its own grave and stand exposed to its rank-and-file? Only time can tell. But until then, lets do our bit and try get the individual HSC chapters dissociate from the national HSC (that’s under the supervision of the VHPA’s Youth Programs Coordinator).
On Sunday, April 15, 2007, the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH) released a 65-page new report titled Lying Religiously: The Hindu Students Council and the Politics of Deception, (LyR) that comprehensively documented the links between the North American campus based organization, the Hindu Student Council (HSC) and the ultra-right, violent, Hindu chauvinist network of organizations in India-the Sangh Parivar. The report was released at the “2007 Organizing Youth (OY!) Conference” held in NYC from April 13-15 and was enthusiastically received by South Asian American youth at the OY conference.
In its response to the report, the HSC press release of April 20, 2007 characterizes the CSFH report as a smear campaign that is based on inaccuracies and outdated information. Beyond these assertions the press release only repeats banal platitudes about itself and its vision without denying even one item of evidence presented in the LyR report.
The first charge is curious since almost all information presented in the CSFH report are drawn directly from official HSC or Sangh Parivar sources. This leaves no room for claiming that the sources are invalid or the representation is inaccurate since these are all the HSC’s own statements about itself, and various Sangh organizations’ official statements about the HSC (See our first press release and a summary power point presentation at for details of the report). The methodological emphasis on sources internal to the Sangh family is to ensure that the evidentiary basis of the conclusions drawn is of the highest standards. Given this, we can only conclude that the HSC leadership is in denial.
Nevertheless, CSFH would like to highlight a few pieces of the evidence that the National HSC leadership has chosen to avoid and invite the HSC to publicly comment on the same.
- The CSFH report documents that HSC maintains and hosts numerous Sangh websites (RSS, VHP, VHPS, ABVP, and others), thus playing the role of a mature partner in the Sangh family or parivar. This information is documented in detail with IP addresses in section 2.4.3, and Appendix A of the CSFH report. Does the HSC deny this?
- In 1993, the HSC claimed that it became fully independent of the Sangh. Yet, in December 1995, the HSC was an invited participant at the Vishva Sangh Shibir (Global Sangh Training Camp). According to the press release of the organizers of that camp, “all its delegates were from several affiliated organizations of RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], which operate abroad as Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Sewa International, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Students Council, Friends of India Society International, etc.,” and the camp was “conducted on RSS ideology for NRI [non-resident Indians] workers.” CSFH challenges the National HSC leadership to comment on how it gained access to the sanctum sanctorum of an RSS shibir without being a member of the Sangh.
- Despite all disavowals by the HSC leadership about their relationship to the Sangh, 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 VHP-A 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 HSC deny that this link existed at least until 2003 officially? The VHP-A website still lists the HSC as an Organizational Component that it facilitates and promotes. Is the VHP-A website also based on inaccuracies and outdated information?
There are many more such examples in our report. The fact is that M/s Bhutada and Trivedi of the HSC National (who issued the HSC’s press release) are still trying to hide the connections between the HSC and Sangh. “The National HSC’s inability to contest even a single piece of evidence outlined in the report is nothing but an attempt to cover up with a hope that the chapters will not ask too many questions” said Ashwini Rao, a CSFH coordinator. “The report” he continued, “is spot on!” The HSC National leadership does not owe the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate any explanation. It owes its members in all the universities across North America an explanation as to why these affiliations were not revealed to them and why their futures were being endangered by associating them with an extremist group of organizations. We would urge members of every HSC chapter across the US and Canada who was not aware of these links to demand an explanation of the National HSC. The members of HSC who were not told about these connections were certainly duped.
One other matter raised in the HSC press release deserves comment. The HSC National leadership accuses CSFH of insensitivity in launching such a campaign at a moment when they are busy offering solidarity to the Virginia Tech HSC chapter after the tragic events of April 16. We find this diversionary tactic most hypocritical, for the HSC has stood by in stony silence after each riot carried out by its sister organizations in India. In 1993, the HSC rationalized and celebrated the destruction of the Babri mosque (and the anti-Muslim violence that followed) as “the beginning of the new age of Hindu Renaissance, a new Hindu Revolution”. Again, after the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the National HSC promptly (and rightly) called for apprehending the perpetrators of the Godhra carnage, but was understandably silent about justice for the families of the more than 2000 Muslims massacred in what was probably the worst carnage since 1947. In fact, in the post-genocide days, the National HSC was busy oiling the machinery of the Sangh’s global propaganda network (by maintaining the electronic infrastructure of the Sangh). Is the National HSC not complicit in the cover up that has ensued since 2002?
CSFH urges a public debate and discussion on this within the South Asian community, especially among Hindu-American youth, whose trust has been betrayed by the National HSC leadership. There could be no better starting point for a collective sorting out of the truth from the lies than with the HSC national leadership answering the challenges to the three very concrete and specific points we have raised above. The LyR report is replete with such evidence and if needed CSFH will break this down release-by-release for the benefit of the Indian-American community.
Greetings! The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate announces the launch of our new report on the Hindu Students Council (HSC): “Lying Religiously: The Hindu Students Council and the Politics of Deception“. The report brings together evidence from multiple sources to demonstrate a web of connections between the HSC and the violent, ultra-right Sangh family (the RSS family of organizations, also referred to as the Sangh Parivar), and exposes the deliberate efforts of the HSC leadership to conceal its links with the Sangh family in order to deceive Hindu-American college students. The report provides the first comprehensive documentation of the origins, methods and practices of the HSC.
The report, released at the 2007 Organizing Youth Conference held in New York City from April 13-15, was enthusiastically received by desi youth (second-generation youth of South Asian origin) at the conference. Some of them have joined us in our campaign to get the truth out about the HSCs.
The HSC was started as a project of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America in 1990. In the initial years, the HSC openly acknowledged (or at least, made no efforts to hide) its links with the VHP of America, supported the political projects of VHP in India, such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and backed the VHP’s Hindu nationalist stance on Kashmir. Today, however, acknowledgment of these explicit links has vanished, and HSC projects itself as a “tolerant, liberal” organization devoted largely to the religious/cultural cause of refashioning Hindu tradition to the contemporary situation of Hindus in the United States. However, the denial of explicit connections with the Sangh family is at best only a facade erected by the HSC, especially if we look at moments of crisis, planning and celebration in the Sangh family. Rather than the beginnings of a trajectory of separation from the Sangh family, we actually see an integration of the HSC into the Sangh family as a full and equal partner.
A note on methodology
Similar to The Foreign Exchange of Hate, the 2002 report documenting the flow of money from the United States into the coffers of the Sangh family in India, almost all of the documentation used to construct the current report comes from the archives of the HSC itself and from the publications of the Sangh family in North America and elsewhere. The report documents the rise of early HSC leaders into the ranks of Sangh family leadership in North America, the detailed family connections between a significant section of the HSC leadership and the Sangh family, and the central role played by the HSC in the creation and maintenance of the Sangh family’s internet infrastructure, including the web infrastructure of the Sangh family’s parent organization, the RSS. The electronic infrastructure of the Sangh family was unearthed using domaintools.com (formerly whois.sc), a domain name search tool. The methodological emphasis on neutral primary sources and those internal to the Sangh family is to ensure that the evidentiary basis of the conclusions drawn is of the highest standards.
The report is supplemented by three appendices.
- Appendix A describes the Global Hindu Electronic Network (GHEN) maintained by the HSC. The GHEN houses some of the most notabl Hindutva oriented organizational /activist / ideological websites o the web, including http://www.rss.org, http://www.organiser.org, http://www.Sewainternational.org and http://www.Idrf.org
- Appendix B is a primer on the RSS.
- Appendix C documents in brief the Sangh’s regressive views on caste, gender and sexuality — some of it also shared by the HSC, though expressed differently — and its contempt for the pluralistic traditions of Hinduism.
Over the last two decades, HSCs have worked to normalize a narrow brand of upper-caste Hinduism on university campuses across the US. A generation of Hindu and non-Hindu students (as well as university administrators) have come to think of HSCs as apolitical, cultural organizations that allow Hindu students to connect with their roots. But it is exactly this normalization of a certain type of Hinduism that allows for multiple expressions of Hindutva – on the one hand through seemingly benign organizations that claim to be service-oriented, such as Indicorps, and on the other it enables some within the HSC fold to become more open about their affiliation to Hindutva. As it gains confidence, it is possible that both HSC national, in as much as it is in charge of the electronic infrastructure for the entire Sangh, and local HSC chapters that are fully mature could openly associate with Hindutva (as done by the HSC at the University of Washington, which went from a Hindu Students Council to a student chapter of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh to Hindu Yuva — a project of the HSS).
The Collective urges you to forward the report widely, and write about it for your local newspaper or for a popular publication of your choice. We look forward to hearing back from you (at email@example.com).
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate