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.
Related articles (to be updated):
- Journalists Protest against arrest of writer Lenin Kumar
- STOP PROSECUTING LENIN ROY: IMPOSE CEILING ON PROPERTY
- PUCL Condemns the arrest of Lenin Kumar; it throttles freedom of expression
- Arbitrary and illegal arrest of ‘Nishan’ Editor Lenin Roy
Varanasi: A book fair was organized by National Book Trust, Delhi on Beniabaug Grounds. Some publishers were displaying and selling books that were anti-Hindu Dharma, denigrating Hindu deities, saints and Holy Scriptures. Devout Hindus came together and protested against these publishers. A book titled “Ramayana, a new perspective” was burnt under the leadership of Swami Jagajeetan Pandeya, Secretary of Akhil Bharateeya Dharma Sangh as it hurt religious sentiments of Hindus whereas some books were thrown away from the book fair and the book sellers were warned to destroy such books.
Some book-sellers were deliberately displaying books with titles like “Rati-Purana”, “Ramayana- Ek Naya Drusahtikon”, “Hindu Dharma ke Padabhrashta Tulsidas”, “Tantra-Mantra-Yantra”, “Hindu Sanskruti”, “Sree Krushna Aur Unaki Geeta” etc. There was furor among Hindus all through the city as they came to know about such display and sale. There were protests in different parts of the city in various manners against this incident. Shri. Balendu Shekhar Tripathi of RSS and Shri. Gulshana Kapur of Shiv Sena visited the book stalls and checked such controversial books. They also brought this matter to the notice of City Magistrate. 13 anti-Hindu books were confiscated and ban was imposed on their sale. Workers of BJP – Youth Wing burnt effigy of Ramaswamy and a book written by him titled ‘Sachchi Ramayana’ since it insulted Sree Rama.
When police arrested agitators, the organizers of the book fair were expressing apology to them instead of taking action against them.
It has been proved beyond doubt by the Tehelka investigations into the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat that Narendra Modi, the then Home Minister Gordhan Zadaphia, the then Ahmedabad Police chief P. C. Pandey actively colluded in killing Muslims and planning their mass murder and destruction of the property. The Chief Minister, Home Minister and their whole administration not only planned, provoked and encouraged the massacre of Muslims and destruction of their property but also ensured that mass murderers and rapists got a safe hiding.
Active subversion of the fundamental principles of secular governance is a continuous and running theme in the Gujarat governance as has been comprehensively demonstrated on camera that all the arms of the state of Gujarat willingly abdicated their constitutional responsibility to safeguard the life, liberty, dignity and property of the citizens even after the killings, rapes, loot and destruction subsided. What is even more reprehensible is that the whole system of Judiciary stands exposed as it has been claimed by the government counsels that the judges at different levels were actively subverting the course of justice.
The Tehelka tapes present incontestable evidence of the involvement of state machinery in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. It captures several confessions including that of:
- The state prosecutor Arvind Pandya who stated that the mass killings of Muslims in Gujarat should be celebrated every year as a victory day and that Every judge was calling me in his chamber and showing full distance… the judges were also guiding me as and when required… how to put up a case and on which date… because basically they are Hindus sympathy for me… giving full cooperation to me, but keeping some.
- Maza aata hai na, saheb [I enjoy it]… I came back after I killed them, called up the home minister and went to sleep — Babu Bajrangi
- Another confession came from Babu Bajrangi who stated that to get me out of jail, [Chief Minister] Narendra Modi changed judges thrice.
- Yet another MLA acknowledged that Modi gave him three days to do whatever violence they wanted.
We the undersigned endorse the above statement are calling upon the The President of India, The Chief Justice Supreme Court, The Election Commission and The Prime Minster of India:
- The immediate dismissal of the Narendra Modi administration and imposition of President’s rule in Gujarat.
- Cancellation of the present election dates as elections cannot be held in Gujarat in the present circumstances.
- Requesting the Election Commission to ask the Supreme Court to constitute a CBI probe under a supreme court judge and if there is prima facie case then BJP should be barred as a political party.
- Govt of India should sign the Genocide convention and Modi needs to be tried by a tribunal
- The immediate arrest of the all criminals who have confessed their crimes in the Tehelka tapes.
- RSS, VHP , Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena be declared unlawful organizations and a high level enquiry under the aegis of the Supreme Court of India be set to uncover the designs of these organizations whose top leaders have proudly claimed on camera that they were involved in rapes, looting, making of bombs, rockets.
- Re-investigate Nanded bomb blast case and following bomb blast cases where activists have pointed out the involvement of the RSS. Now there is clear evidence on tape that the Sangh is involved in large scale Bomb making exercise and killing innocent people.
It is a test case for the Indian state and if the Supreme Court and the Central Government fail to act they would sow a seed of destruction of secular polity.
and many more
Why is this newsworthy? Because the Sangh is admitting the truth! Here’s an excerpt from the Outlook interview.
Question: On January 29 this year, you had removed Modi from the BJP’s highest decision-making body—the parliamentary board. At the same time Arun Jaitley was removed as chief spokesperson of the BJP. Did you act under RSS pressure or advice?
Rajnath: The media made too much of it. These were routine changes. Okay, the RSS was consulted. In Modi’s case it was 70 per cent RSS and 30 per cent my decision. In Jaitley’s case the responsibility was 50:50.
As pointed out by the Times of India,
The statement undercuts the denials by both BJP and RSS about the latter’s involvement in the party’s decision making. While organically linked, BJP has preferred to keep up the pretence of autonomy vis-a-vis Sangh, while Sangh itself professes disinterest in the affairs of the party.
Here’ s the rest of the TOI report (all emphases mine):
The Sangh leadership was, naturally, not amused by the statement which can be a weapon in critics’ hands. Approached by TOI, RSS leader Ram Madhav said, “He has to clarify what he means by 70% and 30%. Decisions are taken by the party. You can consult anyone including the RSS, that’s a normal practice, but on what basis do you say that the decisions were taken by the Sangh… of course there is a possibility that he (Singh) may have been misquoted.”
The controversial statement comes in the aftermath of the perception about RSS getting increasingly involved in the routine affairs of BJP under the current leadership. Singh took over the party’s reins from L K Advani who was asked to step down by Sangh leadership because of his controversial remarks on Jinnah.
Advani had made his displeasure known by complaining about Sangh’s bid to micro-manage party affairs. While his protest did not evoke much support, the perception about Sangh’s interference has led to heartburn.
While no one has gone public, it is only because of the reverence for senior Sangh leaders. Murmurs against RSS functionaries who have been imposing their choices have been on the rise. Their role has been called into question also with regard to the recent UP polls. Party circles lament that while they have got the flak, Sangh functionaries who interfered at every stage have gone unscathed.
If the RSS is not happy about an open acknowledgment of its relationship with the BJP, Rajnath’s statement has got to be retracted, right? This is exactly what the BJP has done. Here is its letter to Outlook, reproduced in full:
Dear Shri Mehta,
The Bharatiya Janata Party and its National President are deeply distressed over the cavalier manner in which your magazine Outlook (dated 06 August 2007) has published the interview of Shri Rajnath Singh ji. The interview contains certain statements which he never made, his observations have been deliberately distorted and quoted out of context and there is a palpable attempt to maliciously convey a negative image.
It is evident that there appears to be a motive behind this distortion and the fact that the interview of Shri Rajnath Singh ji was given in Hindi and has been published in English; has been conveniently manipulated and distorted to suit this purpose. In particular, I would like to emphasize that Shri Rajnath Singh ji never made the uncharitable comments or statistical reference in the decision making process against his party colleagues and the two senior leaders of the party Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri L K Advani. Many of the observations about the RSS were either not made by Shri Rajnath Singh ji or have been quoted out of context.
The party would like to place on record its contradiction and condemnation of the objectionable manner in which your publication has gone ahead and distorted the interview.
(Ravi Shankar Prasad)
I can only hope Outlook recorded the interview, and can call the BJP’s bluff! If your appetite hasn’t been whetted yet, here’s another juicy excerpt from the Outlook interview (all emphases mine).
Question: Your critics say that some RSS leaders have begun to have second thoughts about your leadership and that you will be nothing without the RSS…
Rajnath: The media is really trying to create a story. The RSS is united and does not have factions. I am loyal to the RSS and it backs me completely. I have worked for the Sangh from my early youth. I have propagated their ideology from the beginning. Yes, you are right I would be nothing without the RSS.
The Sangh Parivar has been trying to takeover the Gandhian Institute of Studies in Rajghat, Varanasi for some time through an expelled employee of the Institute Smt. Kusum Lata Kedia. The Institute was founded by late Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) in 1960 with the purpose of building a closer relationship between grassroots movements and academia so that both would benefit from each other. The land was given on lease by Sarva Sewa Sangh and support for construction provided by U.P. Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. JP ran the Institute without any government support from its inception till 1977. It was only during the Janata Party regime that it was decided that Institute would meet its running expenses with support from ICSSR and the UP Government.
K.L. Kedia, with affiliations to RSS, joined the Institute and initiated the downfall of this prestigious Institute. She had to be expelled from the Institute in 2002 by its Board of Management after recommendations given in by a committee headed by late Usha Mehta, on disciplinary grounds. However, she schemed with then HRD minister Murali Manohar Joshi and got the funds from ICSSR to the Institute stopped. She got herself declared as the acting director by the ICSSR. It was when she had started abusing the Institute’s property that a dharna was organized by the Board of Management, now headed by legendary Gandhian Acharya Ramamurti, in 2003 to ask the administration to step in to prevent her from doing so. The local administration put a lock on the main building. Meanwhile, she continued to occupy the director’s residence.
With the coming into power of Congress led government at the centre, funds from ICSSR resumed. Arjun Singh described this as a test case for freeing an academic institution from saffronization. Sarva Sewa Sangh allowed the Institute to function from its adjacent premises with a Professor of BHU, Prof. Dipak Malik as its new Director and Muniza Rafiq Khan as its acting Registrar. However, the Mulayam Singh government was unable to get the Institute begin functioning from its main premises. In fact, a minister in his government, Omprakash Singh, was instrumental in getting the application for renewal of registration of the Society which runs the Institute rejected. With the coming of Mayawati Govt. we expected quite rightfully that it will announce final exit of the RSS led conspiracy managed by Ms. K.L. Kedia but in a queer turn of events here too a former RSS functionary and currently higher education minister Rakesh Dhar Tripathi a close disciple of Murli Manohar Joshi taking pretext of a District Court order while the case is already subjudice in the High Court at Allahabad has forced the Principal Secretary, Education, UP Government, to form a committee headed by K.L. Kedia, who was given the highest honour in the Sangh Parivar Hedgewar Award, to oversee the running of the Gandhian Institute of Studies. The rest of the committee is also packed with people close to RSS. This is an ill omen for newly formed Govt. in U. P. where RSS infiltrators are trying to sabotage the agenda of the newly elected Govt.
This is a momentary defeat for the Gandhian and secular community in saving the Institute from falling into the hands of Sangh Parivar which has been responsible for Gandhi’s murder as well as assault on his ideology from time to time.
Gandhian Institute of Studies must be saved from takeover by RSS. It has to be restored to its original mission as envisioned by JP. Please call the UP C.M. at 0522-2236181, 2239296 (o), 2236761, 2750458 (h) or send a fax at 0522-2223000 to register your protest.
Akhil Bhart Sarva Seva Sangh, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Lok Vidya, Sarnath Varanasi, Prarana Kala Manch, Asmita, Mahila Chetana Samiti, Lok Samiti, VISION, Manawa Adhikar Jan-Nigarani Samiti, Path, Mitra, Varanasi.
Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, New Delhi
Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Uttar Pradesh
Shram Bharti, Khadigram, Jamui (Bihar)
Asha Parivar, Lucknow.
National Alliance of People’s Movement
Center for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi
AIPSO, Uttar Pradesh
Ramanand Pustakalay, Aazamgarh
Sajha Sanskriti Manch, Samanvaya
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the continued targeting of Professor Shivji Panikkar of Maharaja Sayajirao University, and his allies. The Sangh Parivar’s actions constitute an attack on civil liberties and academic freedom, and violate the right to freedom of movement and the right to freedom of information.
The Sangh Parivar attacked and disrupted the National Student’s Festival for Peace Communal Harmony and Justice on July 6, 2007. The organizers at Anhad, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, had invited Professor Shivji Panikkar to inaugurate an exhibition of student artworks. On his arrival, a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist/extremist) mob surrounded Professor Panikkar’s car, shouting slogans. When Professor Panikkar stepped out of the car, he was physically assaulted. The mob proceeded to throw bricks and an iron drum at the car, injuring the driver and smashing the windshield. Police intelligence, it has been made known, was involved and informed the crowd of the arrival of uniformed police, which allowed the mob to disperse.
On July 8, Deepak Kanna, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University resigned in protest of the attack on Professor Panikkar. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has called for Professor Panikkar’s exile from Gujarat, and the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) began a signature campaign on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus on July 11 in protest of Professor Panikkar’s alleged comments on Hindu bhajans (devotional songs).
Earlier this year, on May 11, 2007, Shivji Panikkar, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University, was suspended by the university administration from his appointment, for upholding a student’s academic right to freedom of expression. Sangh Parivar groups had attacked student Chandra Mohan’s works, displayed as part of an examination procedure, and had the artist arrested on May 9, 2007. Other students protested Chandra Mohan’s arrest by exhibiting erotic works from the school’s archives on the faculty porch, which the administration ordered to be shut down, which Professor Panikkar refused. The attacks against them had forced both Professor Panikkar and Chandra Mohan into seclusion out of fear for their lives.
We also condemn that such targeting has become indicative of the culture of fear and repression that is allowed to continue in Gujarat, where, following the genocide against Muslims in February-March of 2002, insufficient and negligent action has been taken to bring restorative justice to the survivors of the brutal, gendered and sexualized, violence. Failure to apprehend and bring to trial the perpetrators of criminal acts on the part of the Gujarat state administration has continued to subject minority and disenfranchised communities to a reign of terror. These acts of violence and repression are produced in particular by the complicity of state and national governments. The Government of India has failed to restore democracy by holding accountable the perpetrators, including the Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other government and law enforcement officials for the state’s proven complicity in aiding and abetting the violence of 2002. The Government of India has also failed to hold accountable the perpetrators among the cadre of Sangh Parivar groups for inflicting the violence, and, as applicable, refused to revoke their charitable status.
- We call for an immediate inquiry into the events that targeted Professor Shivji Panikkar.
- We demand that the as yet outstanding case against Chandra Mohan be dismissed.
- We ask that suitable action be taken against the perpetrators.
- We demand that the police take official cognizance of the documentation produced by ANHAD, Act Now for Democracy and Harmony, regarding the identity of the perpetrators, rather than restricting its actions to filing a First Information Report (FIR) against unknown assailants.
- We call for the restoration of Professor Panikkar’s appointment.
- We call for the restoration of law and order, and academic freedom, on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus. In this regard, we demand accountability from the Vice-Chancellor of Maharaja Sayajirao University, Manoj Saini, who has direct responsibility for maintaining academic freedom on campus.
- We call for an independent inquiry into the activities of Sangh Parivar organizations that are involved in this case, such as the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
- We call for an independent and impartial judicial enquiry into the government’s repeated inability or refusal to maintain law and order.
1. GMAA, Gujarati Muslim Association of America
2. AIM, Association of Indian Muslims of America
3. CSDI, Coalition for a Secular and Democratic India
4. CSFH, Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
5. Dharma Megha
6. Educational Subscription Service
7. FIACONA, Federation of Indian American Organizations of North America
8. Friends of South Asia
9. India Development Society
10. India Foundation
11. IACP, Indian American Coalition for Pluralism
12. ICF, Indian Christian Forum
13. Indian Muslim Council-USA
14. IMEFNA, Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America International Service Society
15. INSAF, International South Asia Forum Bulletin
16. Non-Resident Indians Coalition for Justice
17. Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India
18. SANSAD, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
19. Seva International
20. Supporters of Human Rights in India
21. Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment
22. Vedanata Society of East Lansing
23. Washington Watch
(Note: Organizational affiliations for individuals are listed for identification purposes only)
1. George Abraham
2. Rasheed Ahmed
3. Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
4. Rebecca Kurian
5. Dr. Khursheed Mallick
6. Saeed Patel, Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India
7. Devesh Poddar, Director, Washington Watch Incorporated, East Lansing, Michigan
8. Mayurika Poddar, Director, India Foundation of Michigan
9. Shrikumar Poddar, President, Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Okemos, Michigan
10. Raju Rajagopal
11. Dr. K. S. Sripada Raju, Director, International Service Society, East Lansing, Michigan
12. Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Simon Fraser University
13. Amin Tejani, President, Shanti International, East Lansing, Michigan
14. Dr. Shaik Ubaid, Indian American Coalition for Pluralism
15. Sandeep Vaidya
[Excerpts from an amicus curiae brief filed in the Superior Court of the state of California (Sacramento county) opposing Hindutva attempts to saffronise school textbooks in California]
- The United States of America is home to one of the strongest overseas networks of the Sangh Parivar, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) being the main affiliates. The VHPA’s projects include the creation of the Hindu Students Council which since its founding spawned several committed Hindutva activists like Mihir Meghani, the founder and President of the Hindu American Foundation. The efforts to rewrite textbooks in California by the HAF, and its allies the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF, an educational project of HSS) and Vedic Foundation (VF, an Austin, Texas based organization with close ties to the VHPA) are related directly to efforts by the broader network of Hindutva organizations based in the U.S. coordinating with the India-based RSS. Specifically, the textbook campaign of the Hindutva organizations in the U.S. is linked to largely unsuccessful efforts by the RSS to do the same in India. Several key players involved in the textbook effort are also leaders and officials of various Hindutva organizations. Ved Nanda, advisor to the HEF is the founder and supreme leader of the HSS, which created the HEF. (See Charts detailing key organizations and individual ties between the HAF, HEF, and VF and Hindutva Groups, attached as Exhibits A and B, respectively).
- It is important to point out that the current textbook efforts of Hindutva organizations in the U.S. bear more than a coincidental relationship to similar efforts in India. Starting in 2002, when the Sangh Parivar’s political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was in power in India, the Sangh Parivar made an abortive attempt to doctor school textbooks in India. This effort was defeated by a coalition of scholars, intellectuals and secular activists in India and elsewhere. The interventions in California are a continuation of the Sangh Parivar’s failed attempts in India; as a HEF volunteer proudly proclaimed in a recent gathering of Sangh Parivar activists from all over the world: Through the Hindu Education Foundation run by the RSS in California, we have succeeded in correcting the misleading information in text books for primary and secondary classes.
- The seeds for the current controversy were sown in 2003, when the Hindu Students Council (HSC) — a project of the VHPA — organized the Dharma Conference. A large number of U.S. based Hindutva luminaries participated along with the BJP’s Human Resources and Development Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi. Mr. Joshi led the efforts by the RSS to write new school textbooks, produced by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), with highly offensive anti-minority propaganda. These social studies texts produced by the NCERT, under the direction of Mr. Joshi and the RSS, badly distorted Indian history with arguments and omissions shaped by the RSS’s Hindu supremacist ideology. The Dharma Conference of 2003 led to the creation of a new organization called Educators Society for the Heritage of India (ESHI), which itself held a conference in 2004 to mobilize supporters from the VHPA’s Hindu University.
- A parallel initiative, Hindu-International.org, launched an unsuccessful textbook rewrite campaign in Virginia. This organization headed by S. Kalyanaraman and Abhinav Dwivedi, both advisors to the HEF, used the above-mentioned NCERT textbooks as its resource, with a publication prepared by the VHP’s UK branch titled Explaining Hindu Dharma – A guide for Teachers Hindu-International’s website also includes images of the cover page of the textbook and the VHP publication.
- The HSC/VHPA co-sponsored a Dharma Summit with the Hindu International Council Against Defamation (HICAD) in August 2005. This event served as the immediate impetus behind the launch of the HEF and VF’s campaign in September 2005. At this conference, Hindutva luminaries, including RSS Chief K. Sudarshan participated and launched the Hindu Council Initiative. This initiative explicitly ties the India efforts of the Hindutva movement to efforts in the U.S. – as evidenced in this excerpt from a report prepared by the Hindu Press International, the media wing of a publication entitled Hinduism Today which supports the VF’s textbook efforts:
- Youth education and guidance were foremost on most speakers’ minds, with a secondary issue being the treatment Hinduism receives in the dozens of textbooks used in American schools and colleges…. Textbooks were rapidly prepared to cover these new courses, which have been incorporated in most schools. However, the books have given shabby treatment to Hinduism. Different speakers explained how to approach the local school board at the time the books were up for adoption, how to influence the selection and even future editions of the books. There was, many noted, a lot of room for improvement! Rajiv Malhotra explained at length the way in which the American and European academics had thoroughly distorted the understanding of Hinduism and ways Hindu communities and leaders can correct this situation.” Hindu Press International, August 16, 2005.
- In support of the HEF/VF efforts in California, ESHI also contacted Prof. J.S. Rajput, former President of the National Council for Educational Research (NCERT), India, to write about the efforts of textbook corrections in India. Rajput’s central role in the NCERT textbook rewrite campaign led by the RSS was widely condemned not only for the crude insertion of RSS propaganda into textbooks, but also for harassment of NCERT scholars unwilling to toe the RSS line.
- The above evidence clearly gives the lie to the plaintiffs’ denials on the Hindutva links of the HEF, VF and HAF, and establishes the motives behind their involvement in the California textbook adoption process.
- We now address in detail the plaintiffs claims on the nature of the HAF. The HAF’s founder and president Mihir Meghani began his career in sectarian politics as an early leader of the Hindu Students Council (HSC). He has been a member of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), and served the VHP-America as a governing council member and volunteer coordinator. His views on Hindutva are expressed most eloquently in his essay, Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology hosted on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s website. In the essay, Meghani writes: The future of Bharat is set. Hindutva is here to stay. It is up to the Muslims whether they will be included in the new nationalistic spirit of Bharat.
- The above evidence, drawn from Hindutva websites, clearly establishes Meghani’s association with the Sangh Parivar and the Hindutva cause. Evidently, the plaintiffs’ claims that the HAF headed by Mihir Meghani has no political agenda and is not affiliated with Hindutva groups in India are patently false. Occasionally, the HAF has also come out openly in support of Hindutva ideologues; the denouncing of a congressional resolution against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (for his role in the killing of nearly 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat in March 2002) as Hinduphobic is a case in point. Given the HAF’s links with the Sangh Parivar (which has repeatedly been condemned by human rights organizations for violence against religious minorities, its forceful condemnation of religiously-based violence is utterly hypocritical and is no more than an attempt to pass off as a human rights organization amongst well-meaning but gullible Hindus and non-Hindus in the US.
- The plaintiffs further claim that the HAF has forcefully condemned caste violence, but the timing of this is nakedly cynical. For instance, the HAF’s first report on Hindu human rights, and its numerous press releases until December 2005 avoided any mention of caste violence caste violence. It was only after the HAF’s active involvement in the California textbook controversy and after it was called out in public for its links with the Sangh Parivar that it suddenly woke up to the plight of Dalits and issued a few token declarations. In the context of the California textbooks, the HAF has sought to replace Dalit with the condescending Harijan, and elide mentions of caste (or downplay its severity) in the textbooks. For instance, the plaintiffs claim that for the most part, people could eat with anyone from a different class. Given the context, we presume they meant caste rather than class, in which case they seem to be blissfully divorced from reality. During mid-day meals (a government scheme to provide free lunch to poor children), there have been instances of Dalit school children being segregated from upper-caste children, Dalit children drinking from separate pitchers, and Dalit cooks facing resistance from upper-caste parents [one of whom threw sand in a meal cooked by a Dalit woman]. Dalit children who tried to inter dine with their upper caste classmates have also been denied food and chased out of school.
- Such practices aptly demonstrate upper caste aversion to the polluting presence of Dalits, one of the fundamental beliefs undergirding caste prejudice. As one upper caste parent observed: Today the government says that you must eat food cooked by a Dalit. Tomorrow they will ask what is wrong with a Dalit marrying an upper-caste person. We must curb this at the initial stage … We have preserved our caste traditions for hundreds of years. Why should we break it now?
- Far from being a human rights organization concerned with the rights violation of Hindus, the HAF has functioned more as a human rights front for the Sangh Parivar with its discourse of Hindu victimhood, obfuscation of the centrality of caste in Indian society and its comical attempts at denying the Dalits their chosen Dalit identity.
 The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is the religious wing of the RSS. Several VHP units were established in countries outside India to facilitate coordination and unity of purpose between themselves and with the VHP unit in India. The VHP website lists VHP of America as one of the VHP units outside India.
 According to one Hindutva website, HSS is started in the USA and other parts of the world to continue what RSS is doing in India. The RSS website says: The Sangh’s full name is Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (H.S.S.); only in Kenya, it is Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh and in Myanmar, it is Sanatan Dharma Swayamsevak Sangh.
 Hindu Students Council was started by the VHPA in 1987 as documented on the VHPA’s webpage here and here. Hindu Students Council was the primary organiser for the Dharma Conference 2003 as quoted in Tanmaya Kumar Nanda, Dharma for the new generation. Meghani’s role as founder of the University of Michigan chapter of the HSC in 1991, is documented here: Searching for Our Roots.
 According to Nandini Sundar: “The NCERT social science/history textbooks are not only shockingly low on both grammar and fact, but also reflect many of the RSS’s pet themes – e g, the urge to prove that Indian civilisation is synonymous with Hinduism, which in turn is synonymous with the ‘Vedic civilization.’ This Vedic civilisation is portrayed as the fount of all things great in the world, while all the evils that beset India are traced to foreigners – Muslim invaders and Christian missionaries.”
 “Rakeshji and KalyanRamanji did a lot of research in finding the many references to support comments made on the contents of text book. Initially ‘A teachers guide on Hinduism’ a UK approved text book prepared by a committee headed by VHPA, UK and the NCERT social studies books of India, released in India during year 2003 were used to prepare the comments.”
 HICAD is an entity founded and led by Ved Chaudhary, who is also a founding member of ESHI, which he leads along with Kanchan Bannerjee, co-founder of HSC and the VHPA’s “Vice President for Youth.”
 Lakshmi Ravu, Report on the Dharma Summit 2005: “Some of the most important Hindu leaders in the world were present for this event. Including: Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji (the inspiration behind the Dharma Summit, and convener of the event), Sri Chidananda Muniji (the creator of the Hindu Encyclopedia project), Sri Bodhinatha Veylanswami (Publisher of Hinduism Today Magazine) and several of his sannyasis, Sri K. S. Sudarshan (leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the largest Hindu service organization on earth), Dr. Pranav Pandya (leader of the several million members of the Gayatri Pariwar), Sri Swami Jyotirmayananda (Ramakrishna Order), Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastriji), Dr. Frank Gaetano Morales (the well-respected American Hindu intellectual and philosopher), Sri Steven Knapp (a prolific American Hindu author), and many others. These Hindu lights and dignitaries all filled the first row of the auditorium. Several Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh leaders were also present.”
 Rajput ran a reign of terror, stated Anil Sadgopal, BJVJ (Bharat Jan Vidyan Jatha – an all-India peoples’ science network) vice-president and education professor at Delhi University. Nobody dared speak his mind at his meetings. People at NCERT refer to that period as a bawander (whirlpool), a toofan (cyclone) that has now hopefully passed. So many who asserted themselves were abruptly transferred. See also Communalization of Education, The History Textbook Controversy: An Overview, Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee, Professors of History, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 22 December, 2001 (If this is not bad enough the NCERT has appointed to its Executive Committee and Departmental Committee … a self proclaimed RSS activist whose only claim to fame is his confession that he killed a Muslim woman during a riot); Hindutva Ire, Praful Bidwai.
 According to the Human Rights Watch: The Hindu organizations most responsible for violence against Christians are the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal,and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS). According to a former RSS member, these groups cannot be divorced from the ruling BJP party: “There is no difference between the BJP and RSS. BJP is the body. RSS is the soul, and the Bajrang Dal is the hands for beating. The groups most directly involved in the violence against Muslims include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that heads the Gujarat state government. Collectively, they are known as the sangh parivar, or family of Hindu nationalist organizations.
 The HAF’s first annual survey of human rights, released on Jul 13, 2005, makes no mention of the violation of Dalits’ rights. Its second report, released on Jun 27, 2006, admits that it “does not cover the important human rights issues that Hindus face within other parts of India including caste discrimination, women’s issues, terrorism, and discriminatory laws.” The HAF’s indifference to the daily violations of the human rights of 160 millions Dalits in India is hardly surprising, given the Sangh Parivar’s celebration of caste as a precious gift.
 See The future of mid-day meals. By and large, Dalits still continue to be served beverages in separate glasses (reserved exclusively for them) to assuage upper caste sentiments. This practice is commonly referred to as the two-tumbler system.
 Vile as these practices sound, in the nineteenth century “Dalits had to beat a drum to signal their arrival so the brahmin knew where to hide or how to protect his food. The brahmin is most vulnerable to pollution when he is eating, so if a shadow of a dalit fell on his food, the food too became Untouchable.” On occasion Dalits had to wear a spittoon so that his spittle did not fall on his surroundings and he could never stand in the way of a wind that might carry his smell or breath to a brahmin. In a Jataka story (377. III. 154), a Brahmin cries, “Curse you, ill omened candala [dalit], get to leeward” (Sagarika Ghose, “The dalit in India – caste and social class,” Social Research, Spring 2003.)
A few weeks ago, I had written about the Hindu Forum of Britain’s rumor-mongering against British Muslims (the alleged forcible conversions of Hindu and Sikh girls by Muslim men) and the underlying anti-Muslim sentiment.
The HFB’s concern about mistaken identities leading to Islamophobic attacks on Hindus suggests that it’s pretty well aware of the painful manifestations of Islamophobia, so its broadside against Muslim males can only be interpreted as a malicious act intended to whip up more Islamophobia.
I had also pointed to the similarity between the HFB’s stereotyping of Muslim men with that of the Hindutva ideologue Savarkar. And Kallidai’s eulogizing of RSS sarsangchalak Golwalkar clearly showed where his sympathies lay.
Shortly thereafter, Awaaz issued a PR on the irony of having such a guy on the Secretary of State’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion. And Andrew Gilligan of the Evening Standard has now come out with a report on Kallidai (The rise and rise of the Hindu fundamentalist father). The ES report has some interesting nuggets, here’s a summary and more:
- Kallidai defended the VHP while testifying to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2004. Here’re some excerpts:
Q: VHP, as I understand it, is an organisation of Hindu extremists. Would that be right?
RK: No, that, of course, we would vehemently deny. There have been a lot of media reports about the VHP, of course.
Q: What is the VHP?
RK: The VHP is an organisation that works with social and moral upliftment of Hindus and the VHP UK is a totally autonomous body from VHP India. The VHP had issued a public statement in 2002 saying that terrorism of any form is to be condemned. I think it is wrong, on the basis of media reports, to adjudicate an organisation … VHP has never had in any court of law any evidence proved or provided to link them to a terrorist organisation. So, on the basis of media reports, we should not quickly judge and label an organisation.
Q: It is simply a bona fide organisation concerned with the welfare of Hindus?
RK: Most of the Hindu community in the UK and the world consider the VHP to be a peaceful organisation.
- Hindu Aid and the Hindu Forum of Britain share an office and a lot of top-ranking personnel. Kallidai is the Vice-Chair of Hindu Aid, and Secretary General of HFB. Arjan Vekaria is Chair of both Hindu Aid and HFB, Mahendra Pattni is Treasurer at both Hindu Aid and HFB, Sanjay Gadhvi is an Executive Member at both Hindu Aid and HFB, Venilal Vaghela is an Executive Member at Hindu Aid and Trustee & Vice President (London and South) of HFB.
Hindu Aid’s campaigns page lists some flood relief work done by Sewa Bharati, and a little research reveals that the Hindu Aid’s report on Sewa Bharati’s flood relief activities is very similar to reports by Sewa International UK, Sewa USA, India Development and Relief Fund, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Organiser. A few noteworthy differences follow:
- Where Organiser refers to 600 swayamsevaks, Hindu Aid refers to 600 volunteers of SEWA Bharati.
- Where Organiser says: According to Shri Lalit Bansal, Vibhag Karyavah in Surat, more than 80,000 packets of food, 4,500 milk pouches and 1,11,000 pouches of drinking water have been provided to the flood affected people by August 9; Hindu Aid says: Till date the volunteers of Sewa Bharati (partner organisation of Sewa International UK) have distributed 80,000 food packets, 4,500 milk sachets, 1,11,000 water sachets in the flood affected areas.
- Where Organiser says: In Surat, the RSS has set up four relief centres for collecting and distributing relief material under the supervision of senior Sangh activists Shri Nandkishore at Jainnagar, Shri Rajeshbhai Shah at Miranagar-Udhana, Shri Rajkumar Sharma at Bathar Road and Shri Ajaybhai Desai at Station Road; Hindu Aid says: Relief centres at four places in Surat have been started to meet to the needs of the people & attend to the victims without delay.
- Where Organiser says: In Ahmedabad collecting and packaging of relief material is being carried out at 55 centres and swayamsevaks of the entire city are engaged in the collection and preparations of the relief material; Hindu Aid says: 50 centres at Ahmedabad are busy preparing food packets under the supervision of SEWA volunteers.
In short, Hindu Aid has deliberately removed all mentions of RSS, swayamsevaks etc. in its report back on the flood relief activity. This is because thanks to the RSS’s well-deserved notoriety, identifying oneself with the RSS would mean relinquishing the well-trodden ground of multiculturalism, something that the Sangh Parivar organizations abroad are loath to do. Therefore, the RSS’s fundraising fronts abroad raise funds in the name of proxies — Sewa Bharati, for instance. As I mention elsewhere, Sewa Bharati is the service wing of the Sangh and was inaugurated in 1979 by Balasaheb Deoras, the then supremo of the RSS. At the local level, Sewa Bharati and the Sangh merge into one; a distinction between the two is made solely for the purpose of raising funds abroad.
In short, Hindu Aid deceptively provides material and/or public relations support for the Sangh Parivar. Sewa International UK (SIUK) is no different, as is evident from a similar analysis of its report. However, even as the SIUK website only mentions Sewa Bharati, photos of relief work done at Surat clearly show RSS banners.
Such deception is not new to Ramesh Kallidai. In fact, after Awaaz released In Bad Faith, a report documenting SIUK’s links with the RSS in India, Kallidai quickly jumped to SIUK’s defense and sought to discredit the report saying:
If you look at Awaaz’s report, they never substantiate their claims with facts and figures.
Ha! None so blind as those who refuse to see. When the British Charity Commission launched a probe, SIUK/HSS wriggled out claiming there is no formal organisational links with RSS and that there is only an ideological commonality between the two organisations. Not surprisingly, Kallidai has now adopted a similar stance and claimed that the HFB and VHP have no formal relationship. Will he stay afloat with such partial truths (that hide more than they reveal)? Or will he get away playing the aggrieved Hindu? Stay tuned for more.
I just found that the Organiser carried the Hindu Students Council‘s second press release (laden with ad hominems). Besides the content, perhaps the style was also to its liking :-) The PR as such doesn’t merit a detailed response, but it was nice to see an official publication of the RSS ganging up with the National HSC. (Interestingly, the Stanford chapter of the HSC has called on the National HSC to retract this PR)
Just for the heck of it, I googled for other mentions of HSC in the Organiser. And sure enough, there was one more.
Last October, the HSC participated in a Grand Hindu Sangam in Silicon Valley. The Hindu Sangam was organised by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh with the support from over 40 SF Bay Area organisations including Sunnyvale Hindu Temple as one of the grand sponsors … to celebrate the birth centenary of Shri Guruji, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
RSS Sarkaryavah Mohan Bhagwat was the chief guest. Keenly aware of his new ambience, he deviated from the Indianise/Hinduise Islam & Christianity mantra and extolled diversity:
Diversity is to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what Bharat stands for seeing diversity as the expression of unity.
On terrorism, he toed the USINPAC line. Here’s what the Organiser report says:
He further said the world has been shaken by religious intolerance and the resulting effects of terrorism. The answer to this problem can be given to the world by the two great nations—India and America, together. “They have to come together, stay together and work together to address this issue,” he added.
N.V. Raghuram of SVYASA, one of the ideologues on board HinduYuva’s Speaker on Campus project, was the keynote speaker at the yoga track. HinduYuva, by the way, is a HSS project. Its homepage exhorts the reader to join a shakha and become a swayamsevak:
Shakha is the place where we practice our traditions, values, connect with the past, present and work for a better future. Join us in this sacred mission of ennobling the world through the traditions, values of SANATANA DHARMA. So, all you have to do is – just attend Shakha, because once a Swayamsevak, always a Swayamsevak!
It’s all in the family, eh? Wait, I’m not done yet. The Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, one of the grand sponsors, has hosted Sangh Parivar dignitaries in the past (Ashok Singhal in October 2004) and has held at least one joint event with the VHPA and HSS. Sri Sri’s Art of Living was also a participant in the Hindu Sangam, and so was the VHPA (which along with the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple and a local restaurant ensured a never-ending supply of food and water). Most interestingly:
Hindu Students Council (HSC) from UC-Berkeley and UC-San Diego chapters and Hindu Awareness Club (HAC) of Monta Vista High School presented some of the issues faced by Hindu students and the importance of maintaining ones Hindu identity.
What were these HSC members doing in a function organized by the Sangh Paivar to celebrate the birth centenary of Shri Guruji, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)? What exactly in Golwalkar do they find laudable? Or, were/are they not aware of his antecedents? Did they know the antecedents of those they were rubbing shoulders with (in the Hindu Sangam)? It’s questions like these that Lying Religiously seeks to pose.
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.