Call and Response: Sonal Shah

As you may have noticed, this blog has been silent on the biggest controversy in the South Asian American community ever...well, since Ghadar anyway.  I refer to  Sonal Shah, who was appointed to the Obama transition team and has been called on not fully explaining her ties to Hindutva groups adequately over several years.  This is just a summary, presented for your consideration and thoughts.  Below is an excerpt of Vijay Prashad's Counterpunch article which raised these issues again, Sonal Shah's statement in full in response to the subsequent outcry, and where we are today as neatly summarized by Ali Mir:

Charges laid out in Vijay Prashad's article and subsequent furor:

The likely suspects have picked up the phone and moved to the transition headquarters. Among them is a former CAP fellow and now Google employee, Sonal Shah. Shah is well known in the South Asian American community, and is a fixture in the Washington liberal circuit. The latter know her for her Democratic credentials, most of which seem to lie somewhere between neo-liberalism and welfare liberalism. The bleeding heart pauses, but then ticks again to the tune of pragmatism. This is perfect material for the CAP, which is hardly enthusiastic about the Democratic Leadership Council’s total commitment to triangulation (which means capitulation to conservatism), but it is not averse to a little political calculus itself. Shah, a product of the University of Chicago, shined her corporate shoes at Anderson Consulting (who was Enron’s accountant), which probably made it easier for her to go into Clinton’s Treasury Department, where she helped Robert Rubin put a U. S. stamp on the post-1997 Asian economic recovery. The corporate side was balanced with an interest in the ideology of “giving back.” When Bush took office, Shah went to the Center for Global Development, and while there joined her brother Anand in forming Indicorps. Knowing full well the desire among many South Asian Americans to give back to their homeland, the Shahs created an organization to help them go and volunteer in India, to do for them what the Peacecorps did for young liberals in the 1960s. Shah left the CAP to work for Goldman Sachs, and then went to Google. Shah’s story is not unlike that of most of the CAP fellows, many of whom honed their dexterity at trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, capital and freedom, private accumulation and human needs.

But there is a less typical side to the Shah story. Born in Gujarat, India, Shah came to the United States as a two-year old. Her father, a chemical engineer, first worked in New York before moving to Houston, and then moving away from his education toward the stock market. The Shahs remain active in Houston’s Indian community, not only in the ecumenical Gujarati Samaj (a society for people from Gujarat), but also in the far more cruel organizations of the Hindu Right, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Overseas Friends of the BJP (the main political party of the Hindu Right) and the Ekal Vidyalaya. Shah’s parents, Ramesh and Kokila, not only work as volunteers for these outfits, but they also held positions of authority in them. Their daughter was not far behind. She was an active member of the VHPA, the U. S. branch of the most virulently fascistic outfit within India. The VHP’s head, Ashok Singhal, believes that his organization should “inculcate a fear psychosis among [India’s] Muslim community.” This was Shah’s boss. Till 2001, Shah was the National Coordinator of the VHPA.

In 2004, I ran into Shah at the South Asian Awareness Network conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At an earlier panel I questioned her links to the Hindu Right, and so asked people to be wary about her organization, Indicorps. She was furious, and we had a bitter exchange in the Green Room. But at no point did she deny her active connections to the Hindu Right. Her brother, Anand, wrote to me not long after, concerned that Indicorps, which he runs full-time from India, would be tainted by our tussle. “I was curious about Sonal’s own personal relationship with the VHPA,” I wrote back, “That sparked some concern for me. Of course we are free to have our multiple associations, and there is no expectation that all our affiliations necessarily influence each other. That necessity is granted, although it is my understanding that the VHPA is a very disciplined organization that demands a lot from its members – notably congruence in all the work that they do. Which is why I raised the question.”

And so I raise the question again.

Sonal Shah's response, taken from Sepia Mutiny.

As an Indian-American who has lived in this country since the age of four, serving on the Obama-Biden transition team is a unique privilege for me. A presidential transition is always a time of excitement and, in some cases, of rumors and unfounded gossip. I’d like to set to rest a few baseless and silly reports that have been circulating on the Internet.

First, my 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. I’ve never been involved in Indian politics, and never intend to do so.

Second, I’ve always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool. Some factually inaccurate internet rumors have attempted to link me to Hindu Nationalist groups through a variety of tenuous connections: Relief work I’m proud to have helped coordinate following the Gujarati earthquake of 2001, or cultural and religious affiliations of some of my family members, or apolitical humanitarian work I’ve been privileged to do as a founder of the NGO Indicorps and as the Director of Global Development for Google.org.

Finally, I do not subscribe to the views of such Hindu nationalist groups, and never have. Ridiculous tactics of guilt by association have been decisively repudiated by the American people. I am delighted with what the victory on November 4 says about my country, and about our place in the world. I look forward to serving our President-elect in this time of transition.

For your consideration: a good summary from Ali Mir in an e-mail to the YSS list of the problems with this statement and where we stand today (links added).

You know all this, but just to reiterate, the case against Sonal Shah boils down to the following:

1) Sonal was the VHP-A National Coordinator for the Gujarat earthquake relief in 2001. Human rights groups contend that VHP in India engaged in systematic discrimination against minorities while delivering this aid. VHP wasn't exactly an unknown entity in 2001. A 30-something smart-as-tacks person like Sonal couldn't have been unaware of its politics, nor can she claim that it was the only organization doing this relief work.
2) Indicorps, Sonal's organization, has listed the India Development and Relief Fund as one of its supporters and has received funding from it. IDRF is a Sangh outfit.
3) A scant two years after the Gujarat pogrom, Indicorps volunteers and Anand Shah (who was representing Indicorps) were felicitated by Narendra Modi.
4) Sonal was the chief guest at a Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh event in 2004, which included talks that revolved around standard Hindutva revisionist history.
5) Sonal's father's connections with the RSS, his strong support of Modi, and his institutional links with the Ekal Vidyalayas are undeniable (I believe that EV's U.S. tax returns indicate that it operates out of the Shah residence in Houston). This is NOT to make a guilt-by-association argument, but to point out that this *is* important insofar as Indicorps' flirtation with the Ekal Vidyalayas is concerned. Sonal cannot distance herself from the EVs by claiming that she didn't know what they were up to, and I think it is fair to ask her why, despite knowing their politics, she chose to associate herself with them in the first place.
6) Several people have made good faith efforts to have conversations with Anand and Sonal about Indicorps in public and private. Many of these reflected their own ambivalence: on the one hand Indicorps appeared to be doing good work, on the other there were the troubling connections listed above. But despite being repeatedly pushed to do two things - offer a simple disavowal of the politics of the Sangh, and explicitly condemn the Gujarat pogrom - neither of them ever did so, choosing instead to avoid addressing those questions by deploying generalities such as "we condemn all violence". To my knowledge, Sonal's recent statement is the first time ever that she has distanced herself from the RSS and its affiliates.

So, what we basically have is a set of connections that are tenuous. If Sonal is indeed someone with progressive ideas and credentials (as several of the testimonials floating around contend), I can see why a lot of constituencies which are often our allies see the attack on her as a smear. From all accounts, Indicorps has done some really good work, and those who are familiar with it are puzzled, dismayed, and even angry at what they read as an attempt to malign Sonal.

What bothers me most about Sonal Shah is the fact that over the last several years, she never explicitly repudiated the Sangh despite many among us asking her - respectfully and in good-faith - to do so. In that context, her current public statement comes too late and at too self-serving a moment to be entirely convincing in and of itself. I don't want to claim that Sonal is a closet Sangh-sympathizer, but I can't wish away my concerns either.

I see our challenge as follows:
1) How do we state our case without making it (or even giving it the appearance of) a guilt-by-association or an ad hominem attack?
2) How do we make this an issue, not about Sonal Shah, but about alerting the Obama administration to the dangers of the Sangh?

There's more if you want it.  Feel free to speak freely.

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Comments

Vijay has a new rejoinder up

Vijay has a new rejoinder up at Counterpunch:

http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad11132008.html

Most of his points are already in the post above, but I thought it worth updating the chronicle of this dust-up.

Thanks Buster.

Thanks Buster.

The Hindu has published a new

The Hindu has published a new piece of information on this row.They claim "Sonal Shah was HP-America member for 3 years." This can be found at the following link:
http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/000200811132311.htm
Observe that the denials about Ms. Shah's affliation with the VHP have given way to a dential that the VHP-A has a relation with the VHP in India.

A couple of points: A few

A couple of points:

A few years ago, I had combed through the VHP-A website, and if Shah is as intelligent and "always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool," I don't see how she could have taken on a governing role without being aware of the VHP-A's obvious jingoism (I am not sure if that stuff has been recently removed, I haven't checked in a while).

Secondly, the "guilt-by-association" charge is strange. She wasn't merely "associated" with the VHP-A, she was on the governing body.

An aside point unrelated to Sonal Shah, but regarding her brother (I am not implying that her brother's views represent her own, but his comment stood out for me):

“We strongly believe that no one in their right minds would ever approve of violence. The riots in Gujarat are not the way our society should deal with conflicts. Our entire family believes in this. We follow a compassionate Gandhian ideology that underlines pluralism, diversity and the need to take all sections of the society along in whatever we do,” Anand Shah told The Sunday Express.

"Riots"? The killing of 2,000 Gujaratis of Muslim background are "riots"? They were NOT. They were planned and carried out by the Gujarat state. That's called "state terrorism." And furthermore, I am wondering what "conflict" he is referring to. That's like telling Jews in Germany that there is a better way to "resolve" a "conflict" when they are bearing the brunt of targeted violence, with the collusion of the state.

Desi Italiana -- the neutral,

Desi Italiana -- the neutral, mainstream term to describe Gujarat 2002 is still "riots." It doesn't seem fair to go after him for not using what you deem to be the politically correct term, at the very moment that he's condemning communal violence.

As for her status in 2001. The point I have been trying to make on various blogs is that it's eminently reasonable that she might have had this leadership role in VHP-A in 2001 because of her parents' high level involvement. It's just old-fashioned nepotism, not an indicator that she spent years building up her credentials as a rabid communalist and was rewarded for it by the organization.

the neutral, mainstream term

the neutral, mainstream term to describe Gujarat 2002 is still “riots.”

Amardeep, the more important point is that we agree on the substance of what happened, and the battle over what word is used is part of that process. An accurate characterization of the violence in Gujarat in 2002 and since needs concepts like mass rape, mass murder, state-coordinated violence, continued denial of justice, and systematic majoritarian discrimination if we want to come to grips with what happened and is happening.

Riots evoke a sense of spontaneity and lack of direction, but it's unclear to me that this is what actually happened based mostly on HRW's report but Amnesty International's depiction of the aftermath as well. I prefer using "pogrom."

But like I said, for me, the label is only relevant insofar as it informs a particular idea of what happened there, and so it's not neutral, though it may be mainstream in certain spaces.

the question is how do we all

the question is how do we all who voted obama for a change and thought he stood against racism bigotry and heinous systems, bring to his attention the state sponsored genocide in gujarat and its supporters like Sonal Shah her brother Anand their parents Rajesh an kokila.

Obama and his team should do their homework before appointing people like Sonal Shah. Obama has an obligation towards not just Americans who supported him but also toward the greater oppressed world esp minoritites who saw him standing with a light at the end of their dark tunnel
ANd also we should question Google on how it could have such a person on its team. It is shameful. Indeed very shameful and disgusting.
Lets send a message to obama that he should be true to his promises that he made to get votes and not decieve his supporters

state sponsored genocide in

state sponsored genocide in gujarat and its supporters like Sonal Shah her brother Anand their parents Rajesh an kokila.

I have seen no evidence to support your allegation that Sonal Shah supported state sponsored genocide in Gujarat.

This is an incredibly sensitive issue and I really wish people wouldn't make such brash statements without solid evidence to back it up. Honestly.

She wasn’t merely

She wasn’t merely "associated" with the VHP-A, she was on the governing body.

Again, please tread carefully. The press release from VHPA lists her as a national coordinator for VHPA's earthquake relief fund.

Here's what the organizational structure page of the website says about national coordinators:

National Projects Coordinators - The national projects are executed by a committee of members drawn from the [governing council] and the various chapters. The coordinator facilitates the formation of the team, setting of goals and objectives, communication and reaching out to the community.

So maybe she was on the governing council, and maybe not. These are factual distinctions which I think should be very carefully scrutinized.

All of that said, the members

All of that said, the members of the DC area VHP-A whom I've seen in action were a vitriolic and hateful bunch, and one would have to be wearing some pretty thick blinders not to perceive their views on the role of India's religious minorities in shaping its past and present.

Then there's this give-away statement from the VHP-A site, listed under purposes on the About Us page:

To establish VHP as the voice of Hindus everywhere and represent Hindu organizations and institutions on matters of Hindu interests

1) Establishing one organization as the voice of Hinduism is antithetical to Hinduism, and this sort of BS should probably send anyone running in the opposite direction.

2) If the VHP-A wants to establish the VHP as the voice of Hindus everywhere, what exactly is the distinction between the VHP-A and the VHP?

Wasn't Obama's campaign

Wasn't Obama's campaign partly funded by someone in cahoots with Modi? This association was pointed out on some website recently.

dr. anonymous wrote, in the

dr. anonymous wrote, in the original entry, that we should feel free to speak freely and that there "more if you want it." i would like more, please. we should encourage, i feel, informed debate on the issue. i really appreciate that you all have offered up this blog as a forum for open discussion.

vivek -- i appreciate your

vivek -- i appreciate your wish to be careful about the evidence.

but i disagree with your reading of the evidence. i've been following the row -- like many others -- since the indian media raised the issue. recently, for example, ndtv reported that an office-bearer of vhp-a stated that she was a member for three years. if true, this is sufficient for her to be persona non grata so far as i'm concerned:

---
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.

see: http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/uspolls2008/Election_Story.aspx?ID=...
---

you can allege that this person from vhp-a is lying. it's a possibility that i don't wish to deny giving who we're dealing with. but at this point, i choose to believe it given the accumulation of evidence against ms. shah.

Hadn't seen the bit about her

Hadn't seen the bit about her having been on the governing body. Apologies, DI.

Thanks for keeping this

Thanks for keeping this civil and informed, folks. And for holding us to it, vivek. It's good everyone, na?

[...] Also, please check this

[...] Also, please check this post (and comments) at Pass the Roti by Dr.Anonymous on the same issue. Linked by kuffir. Join Blogbharti facebook [...]

i have been breaking my head

i have been breaking my head over this row for a number of reasons. to begin, let me state clearly and unambiguously that my view is that ms. shah was a member of the vhp-a; this has now also been conceded, it would seem, by voices in sepia mutiny.

it is also my view that such membership constituted poor moral judgement. i do not pretend to know to what extent this membership implies the degree to which ms. shah subscribed to this or that variant of hindutva. based on vivek's comment above, i.e. about the vhp-a in dc, it strikes me as difficult to accept that ms. shah did not more or less subscribe to the politics of the vhp-a at that time.

i could perhaps ignore this lapse, or entertain ignoring this lapse, if she had publicly disavowed the vhp-a following the genocide in gujarat (or pogram, if you like, but not riot). i know of no evidence that she did so. she disavowed the pogroms under intense political pressure caused by her ex-membership, after she had entered a position of authority with the obama transition team.

as an aside, it is my view that it is irrelevant to claim that such public scrutiny is not presently warranted because she has been hired for her experience at Google and CAP. It is also irrelevant to think that such scrutiny would be warranted only if she had a government post. she is an advisor to the president-elect of the united states and hence occupies a public position, by any reasonable definition of publicness. it is for this very reason that such scrutiny is warranted in any democracy worthy of the name.

but this row still begs an obvious question. what is the solution to the sonal shah issue? i must also admit that it would please me if she resigned. but i am not yet convinced that this would productive. despite the prevarications, it is my view that her disavowal of the "... any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool" is a *very* small beginning to a dialogue.

the solution is not silence.

Anusaya's post is worth

Anusaya's post is worth reading.

Here is an excerpt:

My father worked for thirty five years in an organisation that many would claim has committed some egregious acts of violence against Indians. I have worked for six years heading a project with an agency that many would claim to be at the front line of some of those acts. The ‘organisation’ is the Indian state, and my father was reputedly a bureaucrat of integrity, probity and a deep sense of accountability. The ‘agency’ was the Karnataka police, with whom I coordinated a UNICEF partnership on violence against women and children, and I believe I did it with a deep sense of justice. Yet even if one were to acknowledge that these are not monolithic structures, and they are not peopled by monsters (however monstrous some of their actions may appear), it would be easy to accuse me of co-operating with the state and being co-opted by the police. Am I coercive and violent at worst, or naive and ineffectual at best? I would hope neither, though being ineffectual is a recurring nightmare.

… I understand how invidious ‘guilt by association’ can be, as an argument for damning someone.

Yet, in the current debate around Sonal Shah’s nomination to the Obama advisory group - and her alleged links to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad through her family’s and her own varying levels of involvement with the organisation - the parallels stop here for two reasons. First, the Indian state is not the VHP (though it appeared co-terminous with the Gujarat government in 2002), and there are various ways, however convoluted or difficult, to hold the state responsible for its in/actions. Even more critically, the Indian state’s constitutional foundation is that of a democratic republic premised on principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity to *all* citizens, however flawed its follow through might be; I am yet to believe that the VHP is a flagbearer for these principles.

The parallel also ends with the immutable fact that I have not been asked to join Obama’s advisory board (and never will be). However, if I were ever to be in a position of power, privilege and leadership - whether by appointment or implication - and I was challenged about my past ‘associations’ with the Indian state, I would not only welcome the challenge, I would think it irrefutably appropriate.

My key disappointment with the entire debate that has sprung up over Shah’s appointment - and her own response to it - is that it continues to be framed, if unwittingly, in problematic binaries: in the waning days of Bush, we still seem to settle on ‘you’re either with us, or against us’. On the one hand, Vijay Prashad is absolutely correct in demanding some sense of accountability for Sonal Shah’s political antecedents. If she was national coordinator of VHP-America till 2001, it means that at least until the age of 33 (she is reportedly 40 now), she was in a position of leadership in an organisation that has been implicated in egregious acts of bigotry, hate-mongering and sectarianism back in India. Amardeep Singh may claim that a scrutiny of Shah is not warranted till she is in a government appointed position that has connections with India; this seems to me to be a case of acquittal by dis-association… surely we have a right to ask probing questions of someone who is ‘representing’ both issues of ‘development’ and (even if unwillingly) issues of the Indian American community?

On the other hand, in Prashad’s somewhat lengthy telling of Shah’s history and VHP’s actions in Gujarat (while touching upon the Obama campaign and US interventionism), he fails to give us the substance of his conversation with Shah at a conference. I can well imagine that this is through the slippages of time and memory, but I would have found it helpful to hear a well-delineated argument about why he was convinced she understood, and did not repudiate, the political implications of her past associations. In personalising the encounter, and limiting its description to a ‘bitter exchange’, the very valid questions he poses lose some force. Singh’s defence of Shah is more subtle from this perspective: he posits that she may well have been involved with the VHP as she grew up, found its politics too problematic, and dis-engaged herself from the organisation. Still, this too seems disingenuous, given that she was 33 when coordinating earthquake relief in Gujarat; at this age, it is hard to think of her as being ‘naive’ about VHP politics… why not choose any of the many organisations also doing relief work with no right-wing antecedents whatsoever? This is when guilt by association slips into guilt by action (or inaction, as the case may be).

thanks, dr. anonymous. i read

thanks, dr. anonymous. i read anusaya's posting and all the comments. i agree with the spirit of the discussion.

a possible short-run political solution might be the following: perhaps ms. shah might be convinced to issue a second statement. such a statement can reiterate that she generally opposes violence as tool of politics. it can also specifically condemn the gujarat pogrom (use of the word riot would not be permissible). observe that her family, very early on in this row, condemned the pogrom (i don't remember where i read this, but i can find the reference if you wish) via her brother i believe. nevertheless, her statement makes no mention of the gujarat pogrom at all. since this may not be politically palatable for her, she can feel free to condemn the anti-sikh pogrom of 1984 *at the same time.* then, it would be productive for the indian media to carry the new statement (e.g. the hindu, ndtv, or an outlet of their ilk).

if she does not issue a new statement, it would still be productive for such a media outlet to carry the original statement (i have seen no such news report to date).

sorry if this all seems overly instrumental, but i think it would lead us closer to a progressive solution to this row.

Ultra right hindu netizens

Ultra right hindu netizens support Modi and SS almost in the same breath. Evidently even they find SS's disavowal of VHP unconvincing, or she would have been gored as "pseudo-secular" or "progressive". IMHO SS must be doing something wrong to be championed by that crowd.

You have attracted interesting commentators to your blog. Congratulations.

I'm really impressed with the

I'm really impressed with the courtesy and care with which people are addressing the defenses of Ms. Shah, I confess that faced with assertions such as "riot is the neutral word for what happened in Gujarat" and "it was nepotism, not ideology, and participation in a fascist organization doesn't count unless you are really, really sincere about it" would have a withering effect on my courtesy.

folks, campaign to stop

folks, campaign to stop funding hate’s statement on sonal shah might interest you. you can read it at http://www.stopfundinghate.org or http://sanghsamachar.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/csfh-statement-on-sonal-shah/

a possible short-run

a possible short-run political solution might be the following: perhaps ms. shah might be convinced to issue a second statement. such a statement can reiterate that she generally opposes violence as tool of politics. it can also specifically condemn the gujarat pogrom (use of the word riot would not be permissible). observe that her family, very early on in this row, condemned the pogrom (i don’t remember where i read this, but i can find the reference if you wish) via her brother i believe. nevertheless, her statement makes no mention of the gujarat pogrom at all. since this may not be politically palatable for her, she can feel free to condemn the anti-sikh pogrom of 1984 *at the same time.* then, it would be productive for the indian media to carry the new statement (e.g. the hindu, ndtv, or an outlet of their ilk).

if she does not issue a new statement, it would still be productive for such a media outlet to carry the original statement (i have seen no such news report to date).

sorry if this all seems overly instrumental, but i think it would lead us closer to a progressive solution to this row.

Odear, I think it's helpful to try to develop possible solutions, and on the level of a transition board member for the Obama campaign, I think this solution would be fine. However, on the level of "the South Asian most likely to become a sub cabinet level official in the obama administration" I don't think it will work, particularly given the future opporunities for her and how hard it woudl be for us to bring attention to her Sangh affiliations at that point without having India=Sangh become a meme.

At this point, given ample opportunities to reject the political forces with which she associated herself, she has continued to ignore the basic points and responded defensively and accusatorily. I am somewhat at a loss as to what a substantive rejection of Hindutva politics would look like from her, but a full accounting of her activities and the money and credibility they provided to various Sangh activities, in detail, would be a necessary first start for me because of the lack of transparency up to this point. After that, we could all decide what to do individually.

In other words, I don't think at this point that a statement as you suggested is enough because she has not shown any willingness to be forthright in her statements and I believe that for any political figure a statement is the easiest thing in the world to issue. What I would like to see more than horsetrading is some substantive accounting for at this point.

Odear, I think it’s helpful

Odear, I think it’s helpful to try to develop possible solutions, and on the level of a transition board member for the Obama campaign, I think this solution would be fine.
However, on the level of “the South Asian most likely to become a sub cabinet level official in the obama administration” I don’t think it will work, particularly given the future opporunities for her and how hard it woudl be for us to bring attention to her Sangh affiliations at that point without having India=Sangh become a meme.

dr. anonymous: thanks for responding. indeed, my proposal is suggested in the context of ms. shah being a member of the transition team. i had not yet begun to think about the next stage.
your comments have motivated me to begin doing so.

i agree that in the context of ms. shah being “the South Asian most likely to become a sub cabinet level official in the obama administration” that it might be unworkable. let me point out that some are already attempting to undercut the latter view. the press trust of india reports that "Indian-American management expert Anjan Mukherjee has been roped in by US President-elect Barack Obama into his transition team". note, however, that ms. shah is actually a member of the advisory board whereas mr. mukherjee is a lead on the economics and international trade team. (i verified this by going change.gov.)

i perhaps fail to understand what would be achieved were ms. shah to provide a full accounting of her activities with the sangh. the next step, it seems to me, is demanding her resignation? you'll get no objection from me for such a move. on the other hand, there seems to be no leverage: why should she provide such an accounting, i.e., given the political risks involved for her? she's not exactly been forthcoming, as you noted.

i am also at a loss as to how a substantive renunciation of hindutva politics would look like from her. probably, any further statement from her would be full of prevarication.

however, a full, complete, and undiluted denunciation of hindutva, circulated both in the u.s. and indian media (hindi and english outlets), would in my opinion put a serious dent in the appeal of the sangh amongst the youth in both countries and those misguided folk (i.e. some middle class people in bharat itself) that look to the desi community in the u.s. uncritically as a group whose habits and worldview ought to be emulated. perhaps if some of ms. shah's stature openly rejects the sangh then the indian middle classes would very slowly follow suit? this is sheer conjecture, i concede.

let me be absolutely clear on one point. if a particular aspect of the statement released by CSFH is true, i.e., if it is true 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.

then there can be no negotiations. she must resign, i think.

my two cents.

sorry folks, i forgot to sign

sorry folks, i forgot to sign on the previous comment.
it was posted by "odear".

odear: here's an update on

odear:

here's an update on the CSFH statement:
http://sanghsamachar.wordpress.com/2008/11/15/sonal-shah-on-the-vhpa-gov...

as mentioned in the post above, we've multiple confirmations of sonal
shah having been in the governing council (policy making body) of the
VHP of America. Another bit of evidence is her participation in some of
the Governing Council discussions.

http://hindunet.org/archive/listmail-vhpgc-l has an archive of the VHPA
GC discussions between dec 1996 and may 1999. it's very long, but you
can search for "sonal shah"; she's also sometimes referred to as
"sonalbahen".

Thanks for that link to the

Thanks for that link to the VHP-A governing council discussions ravi. It's really interesting though I wonder about how to establish credibility for sourcing from it. Where did you find it?

I want to go through it more carefully when I have the energy, because it was interesting to see Ms. Shah talking about the "strengths of VHP-Bharat" or something along those lines, given that she has now attempted to cut ties with them, at least publicly, and has said that she never cared about them to begin with.

Wonders never cease in analyzing political statements :)

politicians and those in

politicians and those in politically-sensitive positions tend to use the Drake's Plea style admission of culpability, not the kind that establishes guilt and sends you to the big house.

Also, in the pursuit and the public dissemination of truth, would not the strengthening of the "India = Sangh" meme be an acceptable by-product? If not, how political and genuine are the motivations and claims of those who worry about such a thing?

Very sincere. That's why I

Very sincere. That's why I think this is a conversation first and foremost for South Asian Americans, Indians, and the Obama administration. If it can be resolved before it gets to the point of, say, Senate confirmation hearings, we will all be much better off. if it can't, well welcome to the land of confusion and REAL schizophrenia inducing claims.

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