Ad Nauseum: Sonal Shah Appointed to Obama Administration Post

Our favorite Clintonian Desi, Sonal Shah, has been appointed to a subcabinet level post in the Obama Administration as I had suggested she might be to those who had argued it didn't matter that she was on Obama's transition team even though she has well documented ties to American arms of Hindu right groups in India that she hasn't fully explained beyond offering basic statements that she doesn't like violence or communalism.  Among unanswered questions:

1. Why won't Shah acknowledge, apologise for, and allow us to discuss and move on from her ties with VHP-A and possibly other Hindu Fundamentalist Groups in a substantive way?
2. Why was it appropriate for a Treasury Department official to use a government e-mail address on a VHP-A list and otherwise act in a dual role while serving in the American government?  If I had done that as a journalist or a trade unoinist and it came top light, I likely would have been fired after being asked to explain my actions.
3. Why wasn't Shah aware of the violence and rage of the activities of the VHP when she was on the governing board of the VHP-A?  Or was she?
4. What is the Obama Administration's explanation for how this appointment can be reconciled with the Administration's  and its values?

Given that these questions have been posed many times over several years, and continue to be posed, by people from Vijay Prashad to Rick Santorum to many of us in the South Asian American diaspora, I have to wonder how much longer Shah's political career will continue before she is required to answer for these questions.  Even  one person I spoke to who does not believe the intensity with which accusations have been made against Shah are warranted agreed that her responses have relied on parsing words and spin. 

This is to some extent a minor diaspora celebrity scandal that is complicated by gender issues, the newness of the emergence of the Indian diaspora, and other matters, but a real issue of accountability that needs to be understood and resolved; if Elliot Spitzer was forced to resign as governor of New York, if Rod Blagojevich was forced to resign from the governorship of Illinois, then aren't support for a rightwing Hindu group that has an extensive record of violence, racism, and divisiveness worth a real explanation?   If there is no attempt to provide one, that is a serious mark of shame for me against a President and an Administration that has made some limited strides in helping restore a mellower discourse on religion and religious fundamentalism and nationalism in South Asia and the United States and has promised transparency.  If there is no attempt to ask for one, then that would be a serious mark of shame against Indian Americans like me, as a community, and particularly those of us who are in some way affiliated to Hinduism. 

So again, will we get a proper explanation, or just wait until Shah is sitting in a position of power on which India issues are part of her mandate, with a BJP government in place in India, and with unexplained past of present ties and support to American Hindutvadis that we are suppoed to take her word on?

(h/t to Sepia Mutiny links section)

By: on 25 Apr 2009


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Thanks for posting this, Dr.

Thanks for posting this, Dr. A.

I want to re-iterate an earlier comment of mine.  My first encounter with PTR was during an earlier debate on the Sonal Shah issue.  At that time, my reaction to this affair was "O, dear."  Hence, I participated in the discussion under the username "odear" despite the fact my usual nom de net is "epoliticus."  Now, however, I want to use the handle "O#$%@."

I had come to believe that the statement Shah had released via Sepia Mutiny might be the basis for progress on the question.  Indeed, some provacative and helpful debates occured among certain participants in the conversation.  That view needs revision:  the two statements of Shah's that I did read give me the impression of being prevarications.  My view, in light of this new information, remains unchanged.

I have no comment about the Obama administraion.

Ad nauseum indeed.

There is an error in my

There is an error in my comment above.  The sentence "[m]y view, in light of this new information, remains unchanged" should be ignored and makes no sense in light of the idea I was trying to express.  Sorry if it lead to any confusion.

Nice post, thanks!

Nice post, thanks!

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