Not My Friend: United States Hindu Alliance (Updated)

Abhi, at Sepia Mutiny, has recently written a post about a group called United States Hindu Alliance.  The post draws attention to a letter that they sent to the FBI about what they say is a spurt in the killings of Hindus in the U.S. in the last year.   He also dug up a statement about the ideological orientation of the group.

This is useful, and contrasts with posts written by Amardeep at Sepia Mutiny in the past few weeks which tacitly, if unintentionally, created more space for Hindutva to make their arguments.  Best example here.  Note: I am NOT saying that Amardeep is a virulent Hindutva activist - I am just pointing out the ways that an overly abstract and off-the-mark approach can end up serving ends it did not necessarily intend to.  The danger of this - which many thoughtful people like me can fall prey to - is to  lose sight of the concrete and specific in an effort to capture nuance and complexity and breadth - as well as to provide a space to mask rightwing postmodern defenses of anti-modernists and illiberal ideologies like Hindutva.  We've seen this in mainstream U.S. politics as well with the appropriation of reactionary identity politics by the Republican party and the rightwing more broadly (see, for example, Lisa Duggan's Twilight of Equality).  So let us not forget that this broader debate in the South Asian American community was  most recently triggered as the result of an ongoing specific attempt to both understand and hold accountable a member of the Obama transition team.

That said, I will now proceed to do almost the same.  I hadn't heard about United States Hindu Alliance until today, so will give them the benefit of thought if not doubt before I come to a conclusion about what I  think of them and whatever role the may have in the Hindu right social movement rooted in India with arms in the U.S.  I am writing this post to give you the opportunity for the same: to provide some more information on UHSA and their links with other groups to investigation whether and how the sangh works in the U.S.- just based on internet research.   I  think this is an important issue for Indian anti-Sangh politics in terms of funding/credibility/international relations angles and I think this is an important issue for South Asian Americans in terms of which social forces, regional politics (both Indian and American), and individuals will inform our thinking and agenda on our own politics and our attitudes towards South Asia as well.  There is also, obviously, a sifting through of the different ideological orientations we might have and figuring out which one makes the most sense to us on a subjective basis. Below find info.

Update: odear finds website.  odear good.  ravi good too (see comments)!  Frontpaged pictures of alleged ram sethu bridge bad.  Anyway, I'm out of my league in terms of how to contextualize this in the nuances of Indian politics.  The overarching "It's a member  of Sangh" doesn't help understand the specifics or the lesser/greater responsibility and differences in tone among messages, while the "all  organizations are independent of each other" flies  in the face of how the Sangh is said to operate.  Where does it fall in between, given that it has adopted U.S. modes of communication?

Update 2: These sections from the website that are cached in  google are particularly useful in understanding the ideology and the issues of the group.  For example: Hindus are threatened everywhere but particularly in India; all other faiths are intolerant, more or less,  except Hinduism; the death penalty is bad; hate crimes legislation and enforcement is good; etc.  Strikes me as a little more sincere and less machiavellian - at least in the p.r. - than the more rabid statements I've seen: so they get a  point for sincerity despite that most of their views are highly connected to the same majoritarian  ideology of threatened  Hindus and blaming other groups with no economic or caste-derived analysis?

To start, here's reported commentary from the press release article on a Diwali event in Atlanta that the founder of USHA, Gokul Kannath, was a key participant of.

Gokul Kunnath said that post 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US; Hindus became targets of racial hatred, violence, discrimination and abuse due to ignorance and misperceptions. There are one billion Indians, about 20% of the global population. The global Hindu diaspora is peace loving, and believes in pluralism and freedom of worship. Sadly it is being targeted for the wrong reasons. Hindus everywhere need to be proactive in safeguarding their interests. USHA will strive to empower Hindus everywhere through education, advocacy and activism. It will release an agenda of its concerns and problems and deliver it to the political representatives to resolve the issues in a bipartisan manner, he said.

Here he is in Atlanta at the annual Hindu Students Council gathering in  2005.  Here is a critique of HSC by Stop Funding Hate.

Skills and qualities of good leadership in Hindu organizations were passed onto the senior HSC members by Gokul Kunnath, founder of the United States Hindu Alliance (USHA).

Here is USHA organizationally saying very nice things about Pope John Paul after his passing and lending sympathy to  Catholics.  However, they also want an apology for the Goan inquisition:

The United States Hindu Alliance (USHA) wish to praise the significant contributions of Pope John Paul ll, the spiritual and temporal leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, in the areas of inter-religious dialogue, religious reconciliation, and promotion of freedom. USHA also wishes to extend our sympathy to Catholics around the world as they mourn the death of the popular Pope.

Pope John Paul ll had won the respect of all people as he charted a new course that was truly radical in Church history. His call for dialogue among the world’s faiths, honoring the victims of the Holocaust, recognition of Israel and visits to Jewish and Muslim places of worship made a crucial difference in the field of inter-religious dialogue.

He had also asked for forgiveness to Jews and Africans for sins committed by Christians in the past. These gestures, although centuries later, reflected his genuine nature towards religious reconciliation. We as Hindus believe that had he lived longer, he would also have asked forgiveness from Hindus for the Goa Inquisition and the enslavement of India by Christians in the past. The Pope’s greatest contribution may well be his role in defeating Communism in Eastern Europe. It is our fervent hope that the new Pope and the new Roman Catholic Church will continue on the path set forward by John Paul ll. The challenges that confront inter-religious dialogue, religious reconciliation, and the spread of freedom require all faiths to work in harmony and earnestness.

Here is a list of some nice  things that a USHA local coordinator for Atlanta, Sujatha Reddy, has done, according to another press release article by NRIPulse.com:

The fairs are not only vehicles of social service and welfare, but a shining example of outreach of medical services to the needy and the neglected. Over 40 doctors including 18-22 specialists have participated in the Fairs, and about 500 to 1200 people received medical consultancy services for EKG & Bone Density. The fifth Health Fair in the MLK Jr. Historic Preservation District on April 3, 2004, graced by The Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, was a resounding success. Messages of appreciation, good wishes and support were received from the Georgia Governor, Sonny Purdue and Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

The seeds of this compassion were sown in her childhood. Sujatha was born in Paparaju Palli in Chitoor District, Andhra Pradesh, India. She frequently accompanied her deeply religious parents to Tirupathi temple where she learnt about service and compassion in a spiritual atmosphere.

She joined Kurnool Medical College in August 1965 and graduated in 1972. She lived in a hostel and excelled in sports, indoor games and Tennis. She won a Tennis Doubles Championship from Venkateshwara University. After completing her postgraduate training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Niloufer Hospital in Hyderabad, she got married to Mohan Reddy, and then moved to the US in 1973. She completed her Residency at the University of Birmingham in 1980, and became a US Citizen.

Sujatha is also actively involved with the Hindu temple of Atlanta. The temple in fact is her second home. She was a trustee in 1986 and held several positions including president from 1996 to December 1998. Currently, she is temple’s treasurer.

Sujatha has received many awards including the ‘Hindu Vibhushan” award for the year 2001 for her contribution to medicine, service to the community and perpetuating and integrating the Hindu way of life in the community. Sujatha was the third recipient and its first female winner. The previous two winners of this award were Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Surinam respectively.

The other feathers in her cap include the Employee of the Year Award from the River Edge Behavioral Health Center, Macon, GA in 2001; the Outstanding Achievement Award by Telugu Association of Metro Atlanta (TAMA) in 2002, the Gandhi Humanitarian Award in 2003 and the Health Fair Award by TAMA in 2003. She was appointed a coordinator by United States Hindu-Alliance (USHA), Georgia Chapter in 2001.

Here is USHA hosting a counterterrorism expert / former Indian intelligence official who seems pretty skewed in terms of his approach towards Pakistan:

On November 12 & 13, the Network of Hindu Minds, Boston University South Asian American Law Students, AID, Sangam, the South Asia Center, and the United States Hindu Alliance hosted Mr. B. Raman, head of the Institute for Topical Studies in Chennai, India. Mr. Raman spoke about the possibility for political solutions to the problems of terrorism facing various nations in South Asia. Mr. Raman argued that, in dealing with terrorism, political solutions are possible and can often be more effective than military action, provided that governments can identify elements within the terrorist community who have reasonable demands and who are willing to negotiate in good faith....

Mr. Raman spoke at length about the issue of Kashmir, the most dangerous of all the conflicts presently occurring in South Asia. Mr. Raman divided the conflict into two stages. Between 1989 and 1993, indigenous Kashmiri groups, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, who were angered by corruption and misrule by the Indian government, were committing most of the violence. Beginning in 1993, however, the Pakistani army began giving its support exclusively to Pakistan-based Islamist groups, such as Lashkar e Tayyaba or Hizb ul Mujahideen, which are fighting for purely religious reasons. The Indian government, Mr. Raman said, has had a great deal of success in dealing with the local groups, both through effective counter-terrorism operations and by attempting to address their legitimate grievances. Many former Kashmiri separatist leaders participated in the recent Assembly elections, and large numbers of former insurgents now work for the Indian army. The Pakistani organizations, however, are fighting for purely religious reasons and cannot be accommodated politically. For example, many of these groups believe that the Indian state itself, because it is a democracy and has a large non-Muslim population, is inherently anti-Islamic and must be destroyed. In this situation, Mr. Raman argued, it is impossible for the government to negotiate, and the only effective solution is to force Pakistan to cease its support for the terrorists.

In addition to Kashmir, Mr. Raman also discussed conflicts in Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as the Sunni-Shia violence in Pakistan. Mr. Raman said that while the situation in Pakistan was a largely sectarian problem that may not have a political solution, the conflicts in Nepal and Sri Lanka could conceivably be dealt with through negotiation. The recent negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, he said, may yield a political settlement that maintains the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka while granting greater autonomy to the Tamils.

So, whatcha think?  I don't think they're as virulent politically as other actors.  On the other hand, there is a distinctly Indian=Hindu agenda, including requisite hatred towards Pakistan and crush on the United States.  One of the most important questions for me is - are their arguments about interfaith activities for real, particularly wrt to Islam?  Are they substantive in  belief or form?  Or are they public relations statement to make a more radical message more palatable to potential audiences?   Or both?

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Comments

I think you should pull back

I think you should pull back even further on the statement of what discursive space you say Amardeep's posts may have opened up for the hindutvadis--no one, or no org, gives internet denizens the right, or the necessary level of comfort, to argue in whichever way they want. It smacks of the kind of convenient censorship that the original Fairness Doctrine sought to realize.

Sonal's work for vhp-a and rss-affiliates and her situation is, IMO, analogous in a way to the thousands of sri-lankan tamils who contributed to the TRO and learned, although they should have known before, that the organization was not transparent and could not account for donations (this aside from being designated as an official fund-raising arm of the Tigers by the Canadian government). It was the most likely to be suspect and when it was found to be so, nobody assumed that they would be pilloried for donating money.

Nobody went after every green party donor here and held their feet to the fire over Nader calling Obama an Uncle Tom. Nobody took HRC fans to task for their tolerance of Larry Johnson, Sinclair etc. Nobody visited stalwart Yogaswami devotees in Jaffna and grilled them about the conservative and communalist agenda of his spiritual successor in Kauaui Aadheenam. No 'progressive' hindu organization came to Yogaville and delivered a stern telling-off over our long-time association with that Kuaui Swami.

Why become the moral meter-maid of the community when there are far bigger vaddais to fry?

it is my view that the

it is my view that the comment of Nayagan is overly polemical. for example, it is far from obvious that the posts of Amardeep *do not* open up some discursive space for the politics of hindutva. the polemical character of the comment is also plain from the attempt to label the author of this entry as a 'moral meter maid.' such remarks are devoid of logical and ethical substance. it is a sad day when defenders of ms. shah revert to such statements and it betrays the weakness in their position.

with respect to the ltte analogy, this strikes me as devious. the analogy fails to convince precisely because the role of the sangh in the pogrom was generally known well before the tehelka expose -- unlike the case of the ltte mentioned in the comment.

there are 'bigger vaddais to fry.' abi bus. pray tell, who is bigger than the vhp?

I think you should pull back

I think you should pull back even further on the statement of what discursive space you say Amardeep’s posts may have opened up for the hindutvadis–no one, or no org, gives internet denizens the right, or the necessary level of comfort, to argue in whichever way they want. It smacks of the kind of convenient censorship that the original Fairness Doctrine sought to realize.

I don't fully understand this part. Do you mind explaining a little further?

Sonal’s work for vhp-a and rss-affiliates and her situation is, IMO, analogous in a way to the thousands of sri-lankan tamils who contributed to the TRO and learned, although they should have known before, that the organization was not transparent and could not account for donations (this aside from being designated as an official fund-raising arm of the Tigers by the Canadian government). It was the most likely to be suspect and when it was found to be so, nobody assumed that they would be pilloried for donating money.

Some differences: important; involved; signs of future importance; evidence of lack of accountability.
Backup: on the governing council for several years of an organization that promotes the VHP in India and its aims in the U.S., not just someone who gave money; part of the U.S. government at the same time; currently holding a position of fairly high power for a South Asian American; may end up in a situation of even higher power in said administration or in other ways; has not been forthright despite prior attempts to find out what she thinks; has not provided a particularly good explanation of what her actual thinking was along the lines of the Obama speech on race in March - which was calculated, but probably among the most sincere things you're going to hear from a political figure; has not provided an account of what her actual involvement has been; signs of concealment or attempts to make things go away without substantive answers make me think something is being covered up unless I find out otherwise.

Why become the moral meter-maid of the community when there are far bigger vaddais to fry?

Well, it's not a zero sum game, I think the South Asian American community has a lot of work to do, and we are newly powerful and that is exciting, but also calls for a measure of caution.

Okay, I have made a mistake

Okay, I have made a mistake in the writing of the post. A problem I have is a lot of the time is that the tone of my posts and the unnecessary cattiness distracts from what I'm trying to address, which leads to fighting schmighting.

I'm hoping this comment will serve as a corrective and encourage us to talk about USHA in addition to issues of social censorship, Sonal Shah's appointment, this post, Amardeep's post, Abhi's post, or other areas without slipping into a flame war (too quickly) :)

Anyway, apologies, and thanks.

here is some more evidence

here is some more evidence that i found from a lexis-nexis search:

_US Hindu Alliance Presents Talk on Global Terrorism and Homeland Security at National Press Club Nov. 11 2002_
A world renowned terrorism expert, B. Raman, will offer his views in Washington, D.C. on Monday, November 11 on how the U.S. can best tackle terrorism and increase homeland security. Because of his insight into the psychology and modus operandi of terrorist groups operating from Pakistan, governments worldwide seek his advice.
He offered valuable intelligence information on the September 11 hijackers to U.S. Authorities immediately after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Raman will talk about the role of Pakistan as the epicenter of Global Terrorism and the need for true democracy in Pakistan to counter the threat of terrorism. Considered one of the best authorities on Pakistan and its President, Pervez Musharaf, he will present facts regarding the growth of Jihadi Islam (An extremist school of Islam that advocates violence on non-believers.) He will also outline a new and pragmatic approach to effectively address the threat of terrorism in order to protect the interests of the United States and the free world. Raman will also talk about the changing political climate in Pakistan as a Pro-Taliban, Islamic Fundamentalist Cleric prepares to become the next Prime Minister of Nuclear Pakistan.
B. Raman is the director of Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, India. He is the author of two recently published books titled "A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally" and "Intelligence-Past, Present and Future". He will be speaking at the Holeman Lounge, located at the main lobby of the National Press Club Building on November 11, 2002. The press conference is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. The event and Raman's tour are sponsored by the United States Hindu Alliance (USHA).

here is some more information

here is some more information about mr. raman:

On 11 May 2006, the IISS hosted a Special Round Table Discussion with Mr B. Raman, Former Head, Counter-Terrorism Division of India’s Intelligence Agency (External). Mr Raman spoke on ‘South Asia and Al Qaeda – Emerging Trends’. The Round Table Discussion was chaired by Sir Hilary Synnott, Senior Consulting fellow at IISS.

Mr Raman joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1961, and went on deputation to the Central Government in 1967. A year later, he moved over to R&AW as an external intelligence analyst. In 1984, he resigned from the police service and was permanently absorbed into R&AW. From 1988-94, he served as the Head of the Counter-Terrorism Division of R&AW.

Since retirement in 1994, Mr Raman has been the Director of the Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. In 2000, he was appointed a Member of the Special Task Force on the revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus of the Government of India. In 2002-04, he served as a Member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

http://www.iiss.org/programmes/south-asia/round-table-discussions/2006-r...

and now comes the punch-line.

and now comes the punch-line. from the "about us" page of USHA:

Who is a Hindu?

Any person who believes in any of the religious traditions born in the holy land of Bharat (India) is a Hindu. Thus, Hindus consists of all those who follow any of the various traditions including, Vedanta, Sanatana, Arya Samaj, Swaminarayan, Shaiva, Vaishnava, Boudh, Jain, Sikh, Shaakta, etc. The word Hindu refers to a unique way of life, a culture, an ethos and a civilization. It does not refer to any particular way of worship. It is a commonwealth of religions based on certain eternal truths and Dharma. Hindus around the world trace their spiritual roots to India. All Hindu religious traditions are based on Dharma.

you can see this by googling "about us site:http://www.ushaonline.org/" and clicking looking at the cached webpage. it appears that the above appeared on their website but was removed. their web address is http://www.ushaonline.org/ which i found via yahoo.

1) Gokul Kunnath's letter to

1) Gokul Kunnath's letter to the (RSS mouthpiece) Organiser:
"I read the editorial with great interest. After reading the editorial, I am really proud as a swayamsevak and a well-wisher of Organiser. My best wishes for the success of Organiser."
[http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=179&page=27]

2) His address given in the Organiser link matches the address for "Gokul Kunnath" and "USHA" at http://www.atlantadunia.com/dunia/YellowDtlareaWise.asp?Locplace=Norcross
* Realtors Gokul Kunnath ( City Group ) 5430 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Suite 234 678-913-8484
* Org United States Hindu Alliance (USHA) 5430 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Suite 234 (678) 969-0054

3) Gokul Kunnath was an early leader of the National HSC. [http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1997/10/1997-10-14.shtml] The early leadership of the HSC consisted primarily of desis who had emigrated from India (as opposed to desis born in the U.S.), and several of them had strong material/ideological links with the Sangh Parivar. This is to be contrasted with the current members of the HSC (predominantly ABDs) who are typically not aware of the links with the Sangh Parivar.

-------

Gokul Kunnath now seems to have reinvented himself as a human rights activist ... which reminds me of another "human rights" organization -- the Hindu(tva) American Foundation [http://sanghsamachar.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/intro-to-the-hindutva-american-foundation]. In both cases, ideological support for Hindutva is masked by a discourse of Hindu victimhood. Whereas in India the Sangh Parivar builds upon such a narrative to mobilize against the religious minorities, Hindutva "human rights" groups have a limited agenda -- to consolidate a Hindu identity as opposed to a broader South Asian / "brown" identity.

Yes, please edit the

Yes, please edit the 'cattiness' and hair-pulling out of your copy. All jest aside, you nor anyone else has shown some sort of Darth Vader-esque resume of Sonal Shah. Some record of nefarious activities on behalf of some bug-eyed RSS director pawing blue pictures of forbidden Muslim delights. I have worked with several organizations who's aims and larger goals I no longer find agreeable with my own (if not entirely inconsistent) and I refuse to throw them and their worthwhile endeavors under the bus when prompted.

The TRO reference is, not for the uninformed, an allusion to how we generally give money to people who say they/their human assets are in closer proximity to the event and therefore have greater power/ability to positively affect the victims. That she chose to work for/with them is no great surprise. There are people I know who choose to work with the TRO under the aegis of their own charities/relief efforts in the Wanni. I do not judge them from a moral couch--that their vital relief work takes place in a terrorist context, done only at the mercy of terrorists, with the aid of terrorists. That they know any money handed over as lubrication will likely disappear into a fund for guns and anti-personnel mines--weapons that will kill not only gov't soldiers but also tamil civilians.

as much as the hindutvadi-watchers complain about what is done with funds donated from overseas and how 'relief' operations are carried out, it is nothing compared to knowingly arming terrorists while sitting on your couch and drinking a cream soda.

so here's a little logic diagram I think will be helpful:

to prove (without weak and self-debasing allegations of 'evasion' and association justified by circumlocution of the progressive variety) the everlasting and prohibitory RSS/VHP-A-ness of Sonal Shah, one must:

1. Prove she actively and knowingly abetted violence performed by hindutvadi organizations while she was working with them.
2. Prove that she was lying (i.e. convince her to take a lie-detector test, however easily defeated it may be) in her responses to Amardeep's rather unambiguous set of questions.
3. Prove, with verifiable linkys, that fiscal links between student hindu councils and the VHP-A exist and that marching orders are handed down.
4. Produce evidence, i.e. tax returns/1099s, that Sonal, along with associates, was at least somewhat able to find and control one end of the expatriate--hindutvadi finance network (also need to substantiate this network).
5. Prove that participants in the organizations she apparently liked, i.e. those with no administrative duties, are inevitably corrupted with hindutvadi spirit, that these products of weekend camps are systematically undermining the public image of American Muslims or perhaps leaving flaming bags of dog poo at Mosques all over this fair land.

If you think that, ala McCain, 'naming and shaming' members of a perceived community is a productive strategy, I encourage you to attend the next CPAC conference or equivalent conservative shindig. I am not a 'community' person myself but i can tell you that the consequences of such an approach are disastrous. You drive wedges into communities that are wedged already to the point of splintering (if you've ever cut wood, one wedge is extremely useful and two is overkill)

I'm surprised Amardeep brought up Karma of Brown Folk--i thought it was about as profound and worthy an experience as reading Karma Cola (which is to say, not very much at all). So what, after his free speech, your Hindutvadi threat meter has hit orange? Yellow? Saffron?

to prove (without weak and

to prove (without weak and self-debasing allegations of ‘evasion’ and association justified by circumlocution of the progressive variety) the everlasting and prohibitory RSS/VHP-A-ness of Sonal Shah, one must:

I think you are making a mistake in conflating unuseful aims (which are fair to criticize) and those that are useful: No one worth taking seriously has said that Ms. Shah is essentially Hindutvadi along the lines of the Narendra Modi or Bal Thackeray. That would be close to absurd. The argument is that given the social position she was in and the power that she continues to accumulate in the U.S.; she has supported the Hindu right in India through her work; whether intentionally or unintentionally, did so in a leadership position in the U.S.; has dissembled subsequently and repeatedly to protect herself by drawing distinctions between 'personal politics' and the actions of the groups she led or supported financially or with her credibility; and has shown no signs of bearing any accountability from this.

In short, how does one reconcile that a person sat on the governing board of a group for (at least) three years that is the American affiliate of VHP and started an NGO that has interacted with Hindutva groups like Ekal Vidyalaya, refuses to provide any detailed accounting, financial or otherwise, seeks high levels of power in the most powerful institution in the world, and then says this:

"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."

This leads to the question - is she sufficiently accountable and honest enough to be trustworthy on her statement itself? If I believed it, I would have no qualms about her assuming this level of power. But I have no reasons to believe it.

The second question is - if someone supports the equivalent of the Palin wing in India, but one that engages in far more physically violent actions, then how does one square that with the ideology and rhetoric of the Obama administration that she is sheltering herself under?

Thirdly, there is the question of the appropriateness of a U.S. government official who simultaneously served on the governing board of a rightwing organization in another country.

So the end here is not the end - it is that there are many unresolved questions remaining, and they are actually far more damning than the questions we started out with. This, to me, indicates that the process needs to continue rather than be halted or shifted onto a conversation about whether or not we like Vijay Prashad's analysis of Hindutva (which I have never read).

If someone were willing to get me answers to these questions or was fostering a process of getting them, I would be all for it. You can see the other folks doing it. This is, of course, not just about Ms. Shah - she is one person who through her own actions and the levels of power she has achieved and the social context has been caught up in a fairly complex social situation involving (at least) two different sets of social mores, two different countries' politics, and numerous doublestandards along the way (the most violent organization she may ever have worked for is probably the U.S. government).

You drive wedges into communities that are wedged already to the point of splintering (if you’ve ever cut wood, one wedge is extremely useful and two is overkill)

I know what it's like to be on the other sides of these wedges, and that's why with Amardeep's writing and with Sonal Shah herself, I'm trying to take some care in making sure that it's not the schizophrenia that is the essential condition of being bicultural that gets exacerbated, but that we actually get to the heart of the questions I need answers to in order to make up my own mind. I don't always succeed in the necessary self-reflection (see above: cattiness et al), but I think your concern is overdone.

I would note also that there have been many approaches taken to this issue, and the people who have been shouted down the most while providing the most accountability on this issue and the most facts and research have been the people who have been criticizing Sonal Shah, not the people who have been defending her. For example, take a look at Ennis's extremely thoughtful post on SM, whose conclusion I don't agree with (concerns have been allayed) but whose thinking is eminently praiseworthy, cautiously critical, and simultaneously specific, and look at the response he received compared to that which Amardeep received. But I agree that once we the entire conversation is about who is shouting down who the most, it becomes pointless. Hence we return to facts...to the extent that we can understand them. Carry on.

Also, what community is splintering? :) Not mine. What I see is rising prominence of South Asian Americans (particularly 2nd gen Indian Americans to higher levels of power in the U.S.) - and so i play the other side of the dialectic. We have every right to try to find out what is going to be said and done in the name of our community - I already hear enough generalizations about ABDs (many of them warranted imo) abroad.

i shall make a very brief

i shall make a very brief attempt to suggest that the USHA might represent a mutation of the politics of the sangh. my attempt is not intended to lead to firm conclusions or closed interpretations of their political orientation. i am simply trying to discern the signposts that put me on the road towards understanding the political significance for this group. no conclusion, in fact, will be given; again, i merely suggest some signposts. let me also note that i'll repudiate any view i put forward here should evidence warrant.

first, i agree with ravi:

In both cases, ideological support for Hindutva is masked by a discourse of Hindu victimhood. Whereas in India the Sangh Parivar builds upon such a narrative to mobilize against the religious minorities, Hindutva “human rights” groups have a limited agenda — to consolidate a Hindu identity as opposed to a broader South Asian / “brown” identity.

second, let me reproduce a blog entry that i made which will i hope add to the discussion. i had titled the entry 'avatars of narendra modi.' this seems to be a second signpost:

The genocidal avatar:

TEHELKA: What was Narendra Modi’s reaction when the Godhra incident happened?

Haresh Bhatt: I can’t tell you this… but I can say it was favourable… because of the understanding we shared at that time…

TEHELKA: Tell me something… Did he…

Bhatt: I can’t give a statement... But what he did, no chief minister has ever done …

TEHELKA: I won’t quote it anywhere… For that matter… I am not even going to quote you.

Bhatt: He had given us three days… to do whatever we could. He said he would not give us time after that… He said this openly... After three days, he asked us to stop and everything came to a halt…

TEHELKA: It stopped after three days… Even the army was called in.

Bhatt: All the forces came… We had three days… and did what we had to in those three days...

TEHELKA: Did he say that?

Bhatt: Yes… That is why I am saying he did what no chief minister can do…

TEHELKA: Did he speak to you?

Bhatt: I told you that we were at the meeting.

The farcical avatar:

Laying emphasis on inclusive growth in which all sections of society benefit, Mr. Modi said: “Development needs a paradigm shift. For us in India, poverty and deprivation still remain the biggest challenge. Since the country is growing, the challenge to create conditions in which the poor can participate in the process of development is all the more important.”

The Gujarat Chief Minister pointed out that while considering inclusiveness, there must be a paradigm shift in the mindset of the rich and developed nations also. “The basic problem of world scenario today is that rich countries consider and dictate the poor and underdeveloped countries as others. They should not dictate but should create structures where everyone’s voice is heard,” he said.

Mr. Modi also lamented the undemocratic structure of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as these two financial institutions “are mostly playing the role of the representatives of developed countries.” Emphasising the need for a change in the new era, he said: “It is necessary to democratise the World Bank and the IMF as they do not have representatives from the developing countries.”

The first avatar led to a genocide, but the second avatar is a farce.

i do not make the above comment in order to belittle the significance of the USHA as a political group requiring analysis. quite the contrary. i mean to suggest that if modi has adopted the narrative of 'pro-poor growth' then perhaps elements of the sangh can be expected to expand and modify their narrative of 'human rights' to have also a pluralist veneer. they must respond of the political situation in india and the US.

i stop now out of fear of starting a flame war.

i stop now out of fear of

i stop now out of fear of starting a flame war.

we should change your moniker to "osilly" :)

I had seen that section on your blog but, um, sort of skimmed it :D If people like Modi start adopting a pro-poor formula before ideologically or socially pro-poor forces learn how to reach out to people more effectively to accumulate power on a national level (which I would imagine would take 5 at least), I think we might be in a world of trouble and I agree with you that it simply adds to the necessity of focusing on all aspects of the Sangh.

Of course, the man's an inveterate liar, so hopefully he's just whistling Dixie while he continues to screw over the poor, but it is worrisome.

The take on the multicultural Sangh is apt - the same thing happened to corporate politics in the U.S. and there seems to be no reason why other forces wouldn't adopt the same imagery and language. However, that still raises the question of whether it's a purely machiavellian move (which few things are) or whether it would in some way influence the ways in which it works. For those of us who do understand the Sangh as a possible unit of analysis, I think taking it apart and looking at the different aspects of it and how they exist might help both further our analysis and help us address some of the very legitimate claims of 'soft' or even naive participants in Sangh activities (e.g. HSC vs. RSS is a good example).

tricky game when the mainstream view in the United States doesn't fully acknowledge some sense of unity, but I think it would be worthwhile - lesser and greater degrees of virulence, violence, intention, and assessment of effect are probably worth engaging in even if they are tricky. For example, Prashad's article here Letter to a Young Hindu does that in some sense by explicitly ceding that Hinduism is a perfectly reasonable identity around which to mobilize- a contestible claim that I'm sure different people based on their ideological and social predilections would have very different takes on.

Dr. A, You'll have to forgive

Dr. A,

You'll have to forgive my backward conception of a proper justice system, in which the arrested parties are considered innocent before a determination of guilt/innocence can be made. I apply it willy-nilly, unable to grasp the merits of the Dutch system.

Your allegation of dissembling looks far too similar to the conservative allegations of rampant religiously-justified dissembling among Muslims in the US (the misnomer of 'taqiyya' was used). Anybody, according to your analysis, who participates in suspect organizations, or organizations linked to these suspect orgs, despite all their on-the-record statements to the contrary is assumed to be lying (and not just being evasive but an element of malice is also assumed). How many people are members of these suspect organizations? How many are you willing to designate as unfit for appointee positions?

Financial transparency is completely legitimate, and if the 'calling-out' of Sonal had been structured around what is easily verifiable, rather than assuming malice is behind all of her non-profit work, there would have been no hemming and hawing about the appropriateness of terms used to describe the debate and how it should be framed.

I went clicked on the second

I went clicked on the second link you provided which took me to the NRI PULSE site and didn't read anything objecionable by or about USHA. A Diwali dinner with Georgia Secretary of State as guest speaker.................. yeah, and?

@14 Moody Blues - I was

@14 Moody Blues - I was presenting information that I found on an organization I knew nothing about. The links are just a sampling of information, not an indictment-- it's just for informational purposes.

@13 Nayagan - I really don't like it when people assume that legal norms from the U.S. justice system are equivalent to political or moral norms; this is not a court and no one has asked for prosecution. Moreover, I don't think "moral" issues are relevant or useful except insofar as they inform political ones.

However, that's a side issue. The main issue is this - the fact that Sonal Shah has dissembled seems pretty obvious to me:

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.

(emphases added)

1. If you serve on the governing board of VHP-A for several years and operate an NGO in India, you are involved in Indian politics.
2. There are clearly factually inaccurate Internet rumours. There are also factually accurate Internet rumours. She has simply implied that all of them are false, which is not in fact the case.
3. The last one is tricky, but I would simply pose the following proposition - either she served on the board of VHP-A but doesn't agree with them (weird and horrendously naive), or susbcribed to their views (dissembling here).

This is simply looking at one aspect of her life and work that we know about - if we brought in the full picture, I don't seem how you can read her statement sincere and forthright. If you do, then I don't think there is much further to go with this conversation.

And on an aside - when groups whose politics I disagree with raise allegations about people like Obama, they're not always wrong. The Obama - Rezko connection was well worth looking into. Similarly, when Hindutva supporters raise the issue of anti-Sikh violence that Congress was complicit in, they're not wrong about the issue even though the motivation might be different. This is why it's important for people who actually care about an issue to raise it - as opposed to waiting for it to be raised for political ends. You might contrast Ensaaf with Hindutva statements on anti-Punjabi violence by the GOI in this respect. There is a difference between opposing McCarthyism because it's wrong and using claims of McCarthyism to avoid avoid allowing the public to know what you're doing because you fear political repercussions, while still holding on to power.

The latest in Orissa. After

The latest in Orissa. After the murder of a prominant VHP leader, a Maoist group claimed responsibility but the VHP insists it was a Christian conspiracy and threaten more bloodshed.

And appearantly RSS has been outlawed twice, once in 1948 when one of their members killed Gandhi. More here;

http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/news/11-08/news2351.htm

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