Sangh Samachar

Orissa police in service of Hindutva (and POSCO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

A report in the Indian Express has more details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles (to be updated):

Catching them young!

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

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

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

Why do they hate us?

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

Even Gandhi opposed conversions!

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

Their religion is the problem

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

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

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

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

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

Letter to President-elect Obama

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

Dear President-Elect Obama,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
A Coalition of Concerned Indian Americans

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

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

An open letter to Sonal Shah

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

AN OPEN LETTER TO MS. SONAL SHAH, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA’S TRANSITION ADVISORY BOARD

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

November 20, 2008

Dear Ms. Shah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
A Coalition of Concerned Indian-Americans

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

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

Sonal Shah on the VHPA Governing Council

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

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

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

# VHP Governing Council & Chapter Presidents/Coordinators List
# (vhpgc-l@hindunet.org)

# Updated on 04/30/1998 (GGV)

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

# Updated on 06/03/1998 (GGV)

# Added Shiv Agarwal

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

# Ajay : changed Jitendra Goel’s address 12/14/98

shiv@mindsprings.com (Shiv Agarwal)
aagarwala@aol.com (Anand Agarwala)
abhaya@lucent.com (Abhaya Asthana)
cbando@lynx.neu.edu (Chandan Bandopadhyay)
cbanerj@denali.ccs.neu.edu (Kanchan Banerjee)
bhbarai@iname.com (Bharat Barai)
yashwant@aol.com (Yashwant Belsare)
adesai@thehartford.com (Dilip Desai)
bgajjar@aol.com (Bharat Gajjar)
babugandhi@yahoo.com (Babulal Gandhi)
girish.gandhi@ssc.siemens.com (Girish Gandhi)
pjcj52a@prodigy.com (Sharad Gandhi)
pjcj52a@prodigy.com (Veena Gandhi)
bbg@mdc.net (Brij Garg)
sungokh@neu.edu (Sunil Gokhale)
anshug@aol.com (Ram Sewak Goswami)
gulaniu@pacbell.net (Uma Gulani)
nishved@aol.com (Arun Gupta)
rcarlton53@aol.com (Subhash Gupta)
lamodar@aol.com (Gajanan Joshi)
jvinod@ix.netcom.com (Vinod Jhunjuhnwala)
classic@classicdiary.com (Vrushali kene)
jlakhia@umich.edu (Jwalant Lakhia)
ylakra@aol.com (Yash Pal Lakra)
vartalapa@aol.com (Renu Malhotra)
mihir@hindunet.org (Mihir Meghani)
mjmehta@aol.com (Mahesh Mehta)
modhd@pfizer.com (Nayana Modh)
mukerjs@sterlingdi.com (Sushim Mukerji)
yogi_naik@py_cyanamid.com (Yogesh Naik)
pallod@aol.com (Vijay Pallod)
samvad@del2.vsnl.net.in (Anjlee Pandya)
pandyahc@juno.com (Harish Pandya)
jparekh37@aol.com (Jyotish Parekh)
103021.752@compuserve.com (Virendra Parikh)
rajpatel@ix_netcom.com (Rajesh Patel)
Ameya@worldnet.att.net (Vijay Ruikar)
ajay@hindunet.org (Ajay Shah)
sonal.shah@treas.sprint.com (Sonal Shah)
nandsharma@lucent.com (Nand Kishore Sharma)
glocon@village.ios.com (Vimal Sodhani)
ssomani@wpsmtp.siumed.edu (Satu Somani)
viswamitra@aol.com (Mandayam Srinivasan)
srtiwari@hotmail.com (Shyam Tiwari)
vicharak@aol.com (removed 06/03/98)
rvarma@hindunet.org (Rajiv Varma)
waghmare@juno.com (Prakash Waghmare)
# Chapter Presidents & Coordinators
jitendra.goel@trw.com (Jitendra Goel)
scholarlyp@aol.com (Subhash Gupta)
hhparikh@aol.com (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:

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

CSFH statement on Sonal Shah

Posted in hindu fundamentalism, hindutva, Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad by ravi on November 14, 2008

[read the original statement at stopfundinghate.org]

A virtual melee has ensued in print and digital media over the selection of Ms. Sonal Shah, an American of Indian origin to the Obama transition team’s advisory board. Shrill accusations of Ms. Shah being a “racist and Hindu chauvinist” are being reciprocated by equally shrill attempts to portray anyone who raises serious questions about the selection as being anti-India, anti-Hindu, anti-progress, and recently, as against “liberal civility.”  We condemn such baseless and unfair statements.

At the outset we wish to acknowledge that Ms. Shah has had a record of being a visible and an important face of the “desi American” community – a successful professional, and a politically and socially engaged citizen.

We are also happy to note at least one positive effect from this debate. Even as this issue gets played out on public fora, the din of militant Hindutva drumbeats has suffered some dampening.  Almost all participants, including those who have come out in support of Ms. Shah, have said that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — both integral to the Hindutva movement, are part of the “politics of hate” that must be resisted. We wish such statements had come much earlier, such as the time when people were being butchered in Gujarat, or when Indicorps (an organization Ms. Shah co-founded) was felicitated by Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Ms. Shah has become something of a point of pride for many Americans with origins in India.  But Ms. Shah does have feet that leave tracks, has written words that have been archived, and has occupied offices of responsibility. We wish to explore this material record below by examining two of the most persuasive claims made by supporters of Ms. Shah. These are:

  1. That accusations of Ms. Shah being a closet Hindutva ideologue amount to “guilt by association“, a reference to the fact that her father Mr. Ramesh Shah has well documented leadership roles within the Sangh Parivar (Collective Family, the name for the set of organizations of Hindutva).
  2. That Ms. Shah’s only association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) was in the context of the Gujarat earthquake; surely, she cannot be faulted for not picking the right organization when urgent action was the need of the hour.

Our claims of Ms. Shah’s Hindutva associations are not based on guilt by association. Instead, we ask: What organizational and ideological work did Ms. Shah perform for and as part of the VHPA?

We have archived records demonstrating that Ms. Shah was a part of VHPA’s leadership group–the governing council and chapter presidents/coordinators. She participated in strategy discussions with prominent leaders of the Sangh Parivar. Ms. Shah was not just a bystander, she was considered important and trustworthy enough by the Hindutva leadership to be included in a core group with Ajay Shah, Gaurang Vaishnav, Mahesh Mehta, Yashpal Lakra, Vijay Pallod, Shyam Tiwari, and others.  Does Ms. Shah deny that she played such a role? Even in light of the recent public statement by Gaurang Vaishnav, General Secretary of the VHPA, that Ms. Shah was made a member of the governing council as she came out of college?

We are glad to hear Ms. Shah assert that her “personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization“, and that she does not “subscribe to the views of such Hindu nationalist groups.” However, in view of her close association with VHPA, as summarized above, Ms. Shah’s claim to have “never” subscribed to such Hindu nationalist views strains credulity.

Ms. Shah’s participation in the VHPA Governing Council predates by a few years her position as National Coordinator of VHPA’s Gujarat earthquake activities in 2001. The position of earthquake relief coordinator doesn’t seem to be an easy one to ascend to — VHPA’s website states that “national projects are executed by a committee of members drawn from the Governing Council and the various chapters.” Thus, Ms. Shah’s coordination of VHPA earthquake relief seems to have built upon her earlier leadership role within the VHPA. We do not know when/if her affiliation with the VHPA ceased, but VHPA media secretary Shyam Tiwari has recently claimed: “Sonal was a member of VHP of America at the time of the earthquake. Her membership has [now] expired.”

A note about Ms. Shah’s earthquake relief work.  Calamities such as the 2001 Bhuj earthquake often bring out the best in humans, but the Sangh Parivar is notorious for using such moments instrumentally and cynically for advancing its violent ideological agenda. An ordinary donor or fund-raiser can be excused for not knowing the Sangh agenda, but for someone like Ms. Shah, who grew up in a family deeply rooted in the Sangh Parivar, it is more than a little disingenuous to claim that such fund-raising was apolitical or neutral. There are numerous documented instances of the Sangh Parivar’s religion- and caste-based discrimination in doling out relief. Therefore we are shocked that Ms. Shah has expressed pride in coordinating relief work (under the ambit of VHPA) following the Gujarat earthquake of 2001. The relief work coordinated by the VHP is known to have rebuilt villages in the Kutch region exclusively for caste Hindus while marginalizing lower caste Hindus and Muslims to the periphery. The VHP thus took the opportunity of the earthquake to re-create multi-ethnic villages into exclusive Hindu spaces. In addition, given the pivotal role played by the VHP and other Sangh organizations in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, we fear her pride is entirely misplaced.

Although we appreciate the positive influence Ms. Shah has had on many second-generation desis, we have a hard time forgetting the many victims of Hindutva. If Ms. Shah really wants to dispel doubts about her linkages with the VHPA and other Sangh Parivar outfits, we urge her to  be more forthcoming in her condemnations of the Sangh Parivar, especially its branches in the United States since that has been the site of her involvement. Some ways for Ms. Shah to do this would be to:

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

In Peace and Justice
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate

Update: Sonal Shah on the VHPA Governing Council

In khaki terror

Posted in hindutva by ravi on April 15, 2008

Ibrahim Junaid kept a beard and was very religious. In the wake of the Mecca Masjid explosions in Hyderabad, these were reasons enough for the police to dub him a terrorist, abduct him, torture him and put him in jail on framed charges. Now on bail, will his life get back on track?

Read in full here

Modi fomenting hatred — Citizens for Peace and Justice

Posted in Bharatiya Janata Party, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on December 6, 2007

December 5, 2007

To,
Shri N. Gopalaswami,
The Chief Election Commissioner,
New Delhi

Dear Sir,

The present chief minister, Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi has reportedly used a blatantly communal angle in his speech at Mangrol in South Gujarat on December 4, 2007, saying that “Sonia Gandhi spoke of terrorism. But she has no right to talk of this the Congress in Gujarat is raising its voice on the Sohrabuddin issue. But it should explain what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms?? You tell me what should be done?” and the crowds reportedly shouted back, “kill him kill him”.

Sir, we believe that this is an open exhortation to violence, an illegal act by a person seeking re-election to a powerful and responsible position in the state. It also amounts to an Unconstitutional and Unhealthy attitude in a leading politician in a polity. We also believe that this amounts to blatant misuse of religion for political ends and is violative of the Election Code of Conduct since indirectly Shri Modi is only referring to ‘Sohrabuuddin’ a Muslim was killed and not of the manner in which his wife, Kauserbi, an innocent was killed as also was Tulsiram Prajapati, and Mahendra Kadhav, Ganesh Kunthe (in other incidents of encounters) . In any case, an illegal act by agents of the state (Modi and his chosen policemen) is illegal regardless of who the victim is and which community he/she hails from. To equate and justify a criminal act with a particular community is nothing short of introducing communal politics in the electoral arena and fomenting hatred against a section of our people.

Sir the Election Code of Conduct, Rule 1 (2) and 1 (3) in General Conduct clearly mentions this.

Thirdly, the crude stance of Shri Modi is contrary to what the state of Gujarat has stated on affidavit admitting the illegality of the killing of Sohrabuddin (the rape and) killing of his wife, Kauserbi and the similar illegal encounter killing of Tulsiram -all by policemen commandeered to do so!! in the Hon’ble Supreme Court indicating that Shri Modi is resorting to both desperate and unhealthy measures to garner votes. It also means that either the state of Gujarat is misleading the apex court, or the chief minister is so far veering from the truth to make cheap electoral forays!!

Fourthly, of the officially admitted 21 encounters in Gujarat between 2003 and 2007, in which 5 Hindus were also killed it is emerging that grossly unlawful and unconstitutional means have been used. Therefore, can the CM of a state justify illegal murder lawlessness and extrajudicial killings?? Does his speech not just violate the rule of law enshrined in the Indian constitute but criminal law and the election code of conduct?

We urge that action should be demanded and taken against him for fomenting hatred and violence against a particular community . We urge action by the Election Commission in this regard.

Sir, Gujarat has had a legacy of sever communal strife and polarisation since 2002 when one of the worst ever post Partition genocidal carnages took place. Even today victims live like refugees in their own land. There have been no attempts by the state to re locate them with dignity. Today’s blatantly crude, desperate and communally surcharged speech of Shri Modi is an attempt to bring Gujarat back to the dark abyss of violence and polarisation yet again. It is also an attempt to win an election by foul means if not fair!! As the Constitutional body in charge of the state we urge the Election Commission to step in sharply and clearly in this regard.

In anticipation,
Yours Sincerely
Teesta Setalvad
Secretary

December 6th in Nagapattinam

Posted in Bharatiya Janata Party, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by raja on December 6, 2007

December 6th, a day that will live in infamy. Fifteen years after the Sangh Parivar demolished the 16th century Babri Masjid aided and abetted by those in power, and goaded on by those who went on to become deputy prime ministers and the like, the event remains a scar on the body politic. It marks the violent entry of the Sangh Parivar and its fascist project into the corridors of political power culminating in the rise of a BJP led government six years later. December 6th and the organized killings that followed in Bombay and other cities throughout North India, made the pogroms of Gujarat 2002 possible – from the relative margins of the political consciousness, an ethic that valorizes fascistic brutality, hate-filled visions of power, and an aggressive desire to dominate and crush those demonized as cultural others came to center stage where it continues to exist despite temporary setbacks. Three years into supposedly ‘secular’ UPA rule, and there is still no hope for justice for either the victims of 2002, nor those of 1992.

Yes, December 6th, 1992 is remembered all over India by Sangh Parivar supporters as a day when their repressed feelings of inadequacy got a small jolt of feigned manhood. But it is also remembered by Muslims and secular Indians, as a day that will live in infamy, and a day in which the quest for justice and equality should be energized.

A brief report on a demonstration led by TN Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.

Around mid-day, it began. A stream of autos, motorbikes, and scooters with large black and white flags brought about a hundred slogan-chanting people from Nagore, a largely Muslim town, to the bus stand area in Nagai’s town center, in front of the courthouse. Here the caravan joined a couple of hundred people already assembled in front of the courthouse, as minivans and cars also brought in more people from other places. There were a large number of women who assembled on one side. Slogans were chanted, and after the loudspeaker jeep managed to navigate its way to the front of the demonstration at the polite urging of the organizers, the proceedings began. Several speeches followed interspersed with slogans.

Speakers reminded the demonstrators that their anger was against the Sangh Parivar and not Hindus. One speaker said Muslims sacrificed so much to bring freedom for the country and were yet treated worse than second class citizens in today’s India. There were several chants denouncing Advani, MM Joshi and Modi. There were also calls for rebuilding the Babri Masjid, and bringing the Sangh Parivar leaders and their foot-soldiers to justice.

picturetemp-014.jpg

A large police presence did not deter the demonstrators, and some of the police were also polite to demonstrators; one cop chatting with a man holding a TN-MMK flag smiled and asked him to raise the flag higher! After several speeches, the demonstration ended. From the intense passions visible in this demonstration, it is clear that December 6th will continue to be remembered as a symbol of the marginalization and oppression of Muslims throughout India.

Conspicuously absent was any contingent of leftist and liberal voices in solidarity. Nagai has a CPIM MLA, and the CPI has a strong, historical presence in this region and Thanjavur. Neither did the powerful DMK have any presence at the demonstration. Why did these parties not think it necessary to stand in solidarity with a significant part of their own constituency on an issue that they all theoretically agree on – the defense of secularism? It is this indifference that strengthens the view among Muslims that nobody but Muslims give a hoot about what is happening to them in this country.

The Death Merchant reveals his true colors, yet again!

A TOI report (reproduced below) hypothesizes on why Modi justified the killing of a Gujarati Muslim businessman, Sohrabuddin, and his wife, Kauserbi.

On Monday, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi owned up to killing Sohrabuddin, saying he “got what he deserved”, to packed crowds at a rally in Mangrol, in south Gujarat. Within 24 hours, on Tuesday, the issue — an emotive one and seen as a return of the communal agenda — vanished from his speeches as he addressed rallies in central Gujarat, including Godhra.

But, this was no aberration: There is a method in Modi’s apparent madness. While in rebellion-ridden Saurashtra or Surat, where he has failed to cast a spell, he threw the Sohrabuddin bait; but once out of rebel strongholds, he bypassed Sohrabuddin and talked in general terms about terrorism.

In short, Sohrabuddin was the rallying point in places where Leuva Patels have risen in rebellion against Modi, and which didn’t see much bloodshed, post-Godhra. He resurrected Sohrabuddin, the man his government branded a terrorist and killed in a fake encounter, according to its own admission before SC.

Sohrabuddin’s dead wife Kauserbi has become Modi’s biggest weapon to fight the Congress/ rebels with, who are now fighting on Congress tickets mainly from Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Modi knows only too well that development won’t sell in these parts because the rebels have already burst his development bubble.

Places like Visavadar, in Junagadh, where a Keshubhai Patel man is fighting on a Congress ticket; Wadhwan in Surendranagar where rebel BJP MLA Dhanraj Kella is contesting as an Independent; Jamnagar and Mangrol in South Gujarat, are the places where Modi has told the crowds how his police killed Sohrabuddin. His speeches usually end with a submission: “The Congress is ruling at the Centre, it can hang me!”

But watch him in Panchmahals — where the intensity of riots in 2002 has ensured a clear polarisaton and there’s no sign of dissidence — and Modi is back with his tirade against terrorism, aimed a wooing back the estranged VHP members.

Social scientist Achyut Yagnik seems to concur:

In the 2002 elections, Hindutva forces were united. But during the past five years, three shades of Hindutva emerged — hardline, Modi’s own brand and soft Hindutva. Modi carried on with Gujarati pride factor for a long time, but he has now realised that his development plank is not working and he would have to speak the language of the hardliners. After all the cadre are mostly hardliners.

A few weeks ago, the Tehelka expose shocked many when Baju Bajrangi enthusiastically described slitting pregnant Muslim women. Now, by justifying the cold-blooded murder (archive) of a Muslim couple, Modi has once again shown himself to be no different. More suave than Bajrangi, of course, but that’s about it.

While the Arun Jaitleys of the Sangh would rather have Modi fulminate on Mohammad Afzal, Modi understandably preferred something local that he could take credit for. With the likes of Uma Bharti calling him a pseudo-Hindu, what better way to buttress his Hindutva credentials than asserting that his hands are bloodied? And now that he has been forced to back-track by the Election Commission, he has volunteered to hang Afzal!

Blood and gore are constant companions of Hindutva, more so in election times.

In the case of Sohrabuddin et al, the Gujarat government had admitted (archive) in the Supreme Court (on March 23, 2007) that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that the encounter in which alleged LeT operative Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed in November 2005, was a ‘fake’. Two months later, Gujarat Inspector General of Police Geetha Johri’s report on the fake encounter pointed to the collusion of [the] State government in the form of Shri Amit Shah, MOS for Home and noted that the episode makes a complete mockery of the rule of law and is perhaps an example of the involvement of [the] State government in a major crime. (Also see the Wiki page and the chronology on NDTV)

Modi’s audacious claims on Sohrabuddin need to be seen against this backdrop:

“What should be done to a man who stored illegal arms and ammunition ?” Modi reportedly said. “You tell me what should have been done to Sohrabuddin ?… Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”

It’s almost as if Muslims are guilty until proved innocent, and if killed, guilty by definition. That he could whip up communal frenzy portends an ominous future for Gujarat:

He managed to whip up such a communal frenzy with his words that the crowd begin to chant “kill him, kill him” in response to Modi’s question on what should have been done to Sohrabuddin.

And when the people shouted “kill him”, Modi said: “Well, that is it. Do I have to take Sonia Gandhi’s permission to do this? Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”

As the elections approach, NRI sanghis have sought to aggressively market Modi as a visionary leader who has been subjected to malicious propaganda. The more enterprising ones even wear Hindutva as a badge of honor. Unfortunately for them, the likes of Modi and Bajrangi continue to reveal the seamy side of Hindutva. Ratan Tata might want to invest in Gujarat — You are stupid if you do not invest in Gujarat, he allegedly said (archive) — but can Muslims live free from fear in Gujarat?