Updates: The Hindu Right and the Obama Administration

1.The march continues forward.  Ms. Shah gets appointed to a tech, innovation, and government reform panel in Obama Transition Team.

2. Her bio in the TOI article says this:

She also worked at the Department of Treasury from 1995-2002 on various economic issues and regions of the world, including Bosnia, Kosovo, the Asian crisis and sub-Saharan Africa, and at the National Security Council from 1998-1999.

This means that Ms. Shah worked at the U.S. Government (Department of Treasury) and served on the governing council of the VHP-A at the same time. CSFH says she used a treasury department e-mail address for this and even backs it up.   There's a clear conflict of interest,  no?

3. Finally, a frequent complaint I hear is that there is no way Ms. Shah could be directly accountable for whatever role VHP played in the pogroms in Gujarat in  2002 given that she left the year their American branch the year before.  This is fair.

However, what about all that the VHP did before 2002.  Just as examples, here are some things that the VHP did or said prior to or during the time that the Obama appointee was on the governing council of their American branch:


"India is the only country where minorities are a privileged class," said Givivaj Vishnu, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Hindu group that organized the attack on the Babri Masjid and has ties to the BJP. "We are fulfilling the dreams of the general public, and when you take up the issues of public interest, naturally you grow."


An attempt by India's right-wing Hindu sectarian politicians to stir up trouble around a Muslim mosque at Mathura in northern Uttar Pradesh state has failed. But the threat of communal violence in the country remains very tangible with the parties not averse to using religion as a means to garner votes in next year's general elections. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an affiliate of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), threatened to hold an esoteric "yagya", a fire-based ritual, right next to the Shahi Idgah Mosque in Mathura for three days ending Aug. 18.


The government has renewed a ban on a rightwing group blamed for destroying a mosque and touching off riots that left 2,000 people dead. Leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council have again started talking about destroying two other disputed shrines after the two-year ban on the group expired last month, a government statement said yesterday. The VHP was banned after the 16th century Babri Mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya was destroyed by Hindu fanatics


VHP lists 200 districts for `reconversion'

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has reportedly drawn up an elaborate plan to counter the activities of Christian missionaries in the country and "reconvert" those who have adopted their faith. A senior leader of the organization also explained what was described in some reports as the "VHP's worldview," which termed the Nobel prizes and the entry of multinationals into the country as part of a "conspiracy" to "Christianize" India. In keeping with its plan, drawn up at a mammoth nine-day meeting in Jaipur, the VHP...

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Thanks for keeping on this,

Thanks for keeping on this, dr anonymous! Regarding your comment #3, I'm not sure if Sonal left the VHPA in 2001. As I mention in the post you refer to [http://sanghsamachar.wordpress.com/2008/11/15/sonal-shah-on-the-vhpa-governing-council]: Thanks to VHPA general secretary Gaurang Vaishnav, media secretary Shyam Tiwari, and the archived vhpgc-l list (three Sangh Parivar sources!) it is clear that Sonal was a member of the VHPA Governing Council at some point. It’s not clear how long she was on the Council, but it could have been for any duration between her graduation and now.

Continuing with #3: I don't know of any group that has demanded that Sonal be held "directly accountable for whatever role VHP played in the pogroms in Gujarat in 2002". I haven't been following the debate very carefully, so could have easily missed something along these lines.

Here is an open letter to Sonal, released yesterday:
As you can see, the intent is not to beat up on Sonal for her past affiliations, but to i) seek an assurance that her past Sangh Parivar affiliations were an aberration and ii) ensure that the Sangh Parivar doesn't gain respectability through Sonal.

Continuing with #3: I don’t

Continuing with #3: I don’t know of any group that has demanded that Sonal be held “directly accountable for whatever role VHP played in the pogroms in Gujarat in 2002?. I haven’t been following the debate very carefully, so could have easily missed something along these lines.

I've seen some of the more angry commentators do this, and to be frank, I don't blame them, though I think it's unfair. But it can be made into a perfectly honest question: If someone is going to be a prominent South Asian American in the U.S. AND they raised money for VHP in 2001 while sitting on the VHP-A governing council, whether through relief efforts or something else, AND VHP played a role in the pogroms, then I would want to know a) what money they raised; b) where the money went; c) what their response is to that.

Her last statement made it clear that Ms. Shah is willing to disavow both the Gujarat pogroms and VHP/Sangh politics in India, but this is in 2008 and it seems a very surface level take on these issues - which has been the problem all along in most of her statements on Sangh matters and her involvement. You can't just raise money and claim that it's relief end of story in a situation like this one, particularly when the organization you founded took an award from Modi in 2004 (and what did she think of that?). There are a lot of questions here, and I don't think it's fair to anyone to let them dissipate without some measure of accountability.

But with that said, it's not the only place to focus. The actions of VHP in the 1990s are a helpful way to understand the context of this official's involvement in VHP-A and how they have and will behave towards Hindutva given a particular set of information that's available to them while in the U.S. government.

You're leaving out the fact

You're leaving out the fact that the US gov't has been pretty leery of Modi (as opposed to Vaiko, who had an audience with prez-elect Obama, because it's the terrorists you support from across the Palk Strait that matter less) and has made no attempts to fund the VHP/RSS. What western governments generally like to see are experts expertly using money to do expertly conceived things--buying uniforms for lathi-swinging exhibitions conducted on the maidan of a road in whatever-Nagar is simply not possible. Those funds will have to be siphoned off, which could theoretically happen no matter the what/where funds' final recipients are.

It no longer suffices, apparently, to know that these organizations breed illiberal dogma and policy and have actively supported violence and community terrorism. All the recent witch-hunt aside, Sonal would be a friend and ally. Now, however, it'll be hard to develop that kind of relationship when you're asking the potential friend if they support pogroms, violence and coercion in the name of their chosen religion (and do so in a very serious and studious tone, as if you don't know how much that question will offend her). I have friends that do missionary work in India. They do public works and selfless acts along with their evangelism--which is fine to me because the people in Bihar that they're serving have nothing and no-one else looking out for them.

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