Sonal Shah’s statement

Sonal’s brother posted the following statement from Sonal in the comments of Amardeep’s post In Defense of Sonal Shah (boldface mine):

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.

That’s the sort of unequivocal statement of her political views that I had been hoping for. It’s also what the groups that were concerned about her appointment were asking for.

Sonal is a highly qualified and experienced public figure who has done a lot of good. There’s also no evidence that I’ve seen, from anybody, that Sonal holds sectarian or bigoted sentiments. To the contrary – people I know who know her personally have said only positive things about her and her family. I suspect this statement will put most people’s concerns to rest in terms of her participation on the transition team.

But … I think the statement reveals two areas of questionable judgment that I think might cause problems for her if she’s nominated to a position in the new administration, despite her qualifications and track record.

Firstly, it was defensive and dismissive, which is never a good way to deal with somebody else’s fears, especially when these same concerns have been around for years and could easily have been addressed long before.

Second, I think her description of her activities as relief or humanitarian work ignores the ways in which supporting the charitable wings of politically unsavory organizations is problematic, especially since the money raised rarely flows through a sealed pipeline to those it is intended to help.

Consider if Sonal had been raising funds for relief efforts by Islamic organizations that are involved in violence. (They do a lot of relief work across the Mideast and South Asia, including post-earthquake relief in Kashmir) It’s not a politically tenable defense to say that you were only involved in the non-violent charitable side of things. Given that it’s always possible to send money to a relief organization that is not affiliated with violent groups, the choice to work with a violent sectarian organization raises eyebrows, and indeed, questions of judgment.

I know some of you consider the VHP a totally legitimate organization in India. However, involvement with the VHP, in whatever form, is a political problem in America given that the US State Department has documented VHP’s involvement in violence against Christians:

On June 22, 2008, “Hindutva” extremists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and BJP attacked a Christian prayer meeting, beating participants and the pastor, Jonathan Singh… the police in UP physically assaulted a Christian convert, allegedly at the behest of VHP members. [link]

Similarly, Amnesty International has reports of VHP leaders leading pogroms against Christians in Orissa. These were just the first two examples I found, these are far from isolated incidents.

So while I welcome Sonal’s statement, I wonder if it’s too little too late if she is interested in a major position of responsibility in the new government.

55 thoughts on “Sonal Shah’s statement

  1. t was defensive and dismissive, which is never a good way to deal with somebody else’s fears, especially when these same concerns have been around for years and could easily have been addressed long before. Second, I think her description of her activies as relief or humanitarian work ignores the ways in which supporting the charitable wings of politically unsavory organizations is problematic, especially since the money raised rarely flows through a sealed pipeline to those it is intended to help.

    This is insane to me. Someone made a (what seems to be) unfounded accusation, and now we dog her for providing an inappropriate response? I don’t see what this has to do with her actual work or capacity, except for raising the spectre of communitarianism and extremism. I don’t know Sonal Shah, have never worked with her, and have no idea what the backstory is here, but it’s distressing to me that we would give an insidious commentary carte blanche without even pausing to critique the very gendered and disjointed ways in which it attempts to substitute an insinuation for factual inquiry.

  2. Wow, this is a tough crowd. First Women’s rights groups went after Larry Summers and now many leftist browns are going after Shah. I hope Obama can remain above this and hire the best people/minds without having to make sure they have first made a statement that is acceptable to every lefty with a cause.

  3. Someone made a (what seems to be) unfounded accusation, and now we dog her for providing an inappropriate response?

    Camille – I’m confused. What unfounded accusation? She raised funds for the VHPA’s post-earthquake relief efforts in Gujarat. This isn’t unfounded, it’s undisputed and I’m simply discussing the politics of involved. I think it raises real concerns, and I wish she had dealt with them years ago, when people first started asking her to address the issue. That’s what they teach in business school no? Be proactive and forthright?

  4. She raised funds for the VHPA’s post-earthquake relief efforts in Gujarat.

    why is relief effort for earthquake victims equated to support for the vhp?

    i’d prefer stoic silence – like diogenes da dog.

  5. Abhi and Camille -

    I’m surprised you’re lumping me in with Prashad. The main point of the post was to put her statement up in a prominent place and talk about how I thought it would allay the concerns which had arisen about her involvement in the transition team. The secondary point was to say that I wish she had done something like this far sooner.

  6. The main point of the post was to put her statement up in a prominent place and talk about how I thought it would allay the concerns which had arisen about her involvement in the transition team.

    Dude the moment you included a “But…” it was more of the same.

  7. Khoofia:

    why is relief effort for earthquake victims equated to support for the vhp?

    Because she raised the money for the VHPA’s earthquake relief efforts. There were many groups involved in earthquake relief, some secular and others religious. I think it has political consequences which groups you choose to raise money for.

    This is especially true since relief moneys rarely remain segmented from other funds. Even the American Red Cross got into trouble when they used surplus money donated for Katrina to build up their contingency fund rather than returning it. The money goes to the organization and its efforts, and money is fungible.

    I don’t subscribe to Vijay Prashad’s critique. But I do think there are real political issues involved here, one’s that go far beyond Sonal Shah.

  8. Consider if Sonal had been raising funds for relief efforts by Islamic organizations that are involved in violence. (They do a lot of relief work across the Mideast and South Asia, including post-earthquake relief in Kashmir) It’s not a politically tenable defense to say that you were only involved in the non-violent charitable side of things.

    I don’t why Abhi and Camille are lumping you in with Prashad either. The more appropriate crowd to be lumping you in with might be the Bush administration.

  9. ennis, i went and re-read prashad’s piece to make sure i didn’t forget something. i too find it curious that you’d wonder as to shah’s defensive tone after having read that sneering screed. if someone has a problem with you which is founded on understandable concerns and they sucker punch you your first priority isn’t clarifying their confusion. i’m sure i could write a trivial perl search & replace regexp would make anyone scream mccarthyite bloody murder after reading what prashad wrote, just substitute the appropriate nefarious associations (“you know those gujaratis are all really hindutva….”). this is a case of drowning an accused witch to see if she is a witch; she drowns and she’s innocent, she lives and she’s a witch ready to be burned.

    what happened in gujarat was a repulsive abomination. but dragging sonal shah’s reputation through the mud won’t do anything to change that. the main thing prashad has achieve is to make sure that people see the controversy on wikipedia for her entry and a nice little cite which points to his “analysis.”

  10. Before Vinod used to be your crazy uncle. Now you are all your own crazy uncles. There are many colors in the Sepia Mutiny rainbow.

  11. Razib –

    The response isn’t directed at Prashad, it’s directed to everybody else who might be concerned. And unfortunately, there are personal attacks in politics. The best politicians stay calm. We saw Obama do both these things quite well: address concerns without being dismissive and stay calm when others went personal.

    Y’all are still focussing on the caveats.

    I’ve come neither to praise Sonal (although I do some of that) nor to bury her. I’m interested in the political lessons her statement offers.

  12. Before Vinod used to be your crazy uncle. Now you are all your own crazy uncles. There are many colors in the Sepia Mutiny rainbow.

    I personally think the mutiny is now in the dissipating phase. It built the forum it sought, but is now directionless. Eerily similar to the original mutiny it takes its name from.

    Whether it would disappear with a formal disbanding, or just fade, we’ll have to see.

  13. The best politicians stay calm. We saw Obama do both these things quite well: address concerns without being dismissive and stay calm when others went personal.

    i don’t grant that she’s a “politician” (her CV doesn’t indicate politician to me). i also don’t grant that obama wasn’t dismissive, he was when the accusations were silly or just outright unhinged.

  14. 11 · sloppyjoe said

    Before Vinod used to be your crazy uncle. Now you are all your own crazy uncles. There are many colors in the Sepia Mutiny rainbow.

    Well then color me a crazy Auntie, because unlike some of my esteemed mutineers, I agree with Ennis’ two main points.

    I wish that Sonal could have used some of her much-vaunted compassion to understand why some of us are disturbed about her choice to raise funds via the VHP.

    I also think it’s massively unfair that if we were talking about Muslim groups/charities, people would be far more comfortable with asking these questions, but because it’s a Hindu group, it’s crazy for us to acknowledge that charitable works might coexist with less pristine motives.

  15. A solid statement from Sonal Shah. Good for her for issuing it. It should set the matter to rest. Like it or not, these questions existed well before Vijay Prashad’s essay, so don’t blame him for raising them, even if his piece was sloppily written and poorly argued. And they’re relevant questions to have asked and answered if she is to be one of the prominent desis in the future administration. As I said on the other thread, they’d have come up in her background check or any potential Senate confirmation hearing, so might as well have an on-the-record statement distancing herself from Hindu fundamentalism. It was the gracious and savvy thing for her to do even if she had no moral or political obigation to do so. Now it’s done and everyone can move forward.

  16. I think Ennis post is very valid. He raised a very good point in in Amardeep’s post. If a white person had been an office bearer of the charitable arm of the KKK, would that person be held to a different standard. If she were in India this would not be a factor at all. Prashad is certainly a communist sympathiser and deserves to be treated with disdain and contempt but to ignore his queries is foolish. Does the USA want another fundamentalist in the admin ( wasnt 8 years enough)

    Questions that I would ask Sonal ( if I were her boss)
    1) How long have you been / were you a member of the VHP ? 2) Did you know that the VHP has been involved in pogroms ? 3) when did you come to know about the nefarious deeds of the VHP.
    4) When did you surrender your membership ? 5) What attracted you to join the VHP. 6) Do you categorically disown /denounce the VHP and all their evil deeds

    My gut feel is that she did not care about VHP one way or the other and it was just an organization that she was comfortable with due to parental involvement. Once she realized that most pollies in India have blood on their hands – she walked out. Every indian organization has a charity arm and a militant arm. Not just the Hindutva brigade. Islamic organizations are equally guilty of pogroms.

    Should she be crucified – No. Is it likely that this will hang over her for a long time – Yes.

  17. 14 · Cassandra said

    Whether it would disappear with a formal disbanding, or just fade, we’ll have to see.

    Oh, I’m so sorry to tell you that it will probably do neither.

  18. Sinope’s Dogg sez

    Custom … is the false coin of human morality. Instead of being troubled by what is really evil, people make a big fuss over what is merely conventionally evil.
  19. Obama should have appointed someone from the Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS) or FOIL, they have all been carefully vetted and strive for carbon neutrality. They know it is far more useful to author polemics than deal with petty bourgeous crap like irrigation, literacy or health on the ground in India. Clearly Shah was just trying to create a new class of bourgeous in India so she could extend Goldman Sachs private wealth management business.

  20. She sure has one helluva duplicitous agenda: http://www.forbes.com/business/global/2006/0508/043.html

    She works in Bosnia and Kosovo after the wars to rehabilitate their economies, works in Liberia to help mend that nation’s economy after the civil war, and co-founds Indicorps to actually enable those of us who want to help those who need help back home have the support to do so in an effective manner, among other things. Quite the resume for a communal extremist.

  21. This has been a non-issue all along.

    And I have to agree with Cassandra, something about the Mutiny has gone directionless during the past few months.

  22. 24 · lion said

    And I have to agree with Cassandra, something about the Mutiny has gone directionless during the past few months.

    Dissing the mutiny, as fun as it must be for some of you, has nothing to do with parsing Sonal’s statement. Back on topic, thanks.

  23. 25 · SM Intern said

    24 · lion said
    And I have to agree with Cassandra, something about the Mutiny has gone directionless during the past few months.
    Dissing the mutiny, as fun as it must be for some of you, has nothing to do with parsing Sonal’s statement. Back on topic, thanks.

    I’m not dissing the Mutiny nor do I take any pleasure in my comment. Actually I’ve always been supportive of the effort of this not for profit enterprise.

    However, these entire threads on Sonal Shah, who I don’t know nor have any connection, just don’t sit well with me. She’s not getting a fair shake in this discussion and I’m beginning to wonder why.

  24. Sad to see Sonal Shah being made to feel as if she went on a date with the Fuhrer or Ayatollah.

    Here in India, people who think like Vijay Prashad are called pseduo-seculars.

    Meanwhile, Assam burns, and the Indian Army is being accused of harboring Hindu terrorists.

    Anyway, I think most of you are asleep at this time.Sleep well.

  25. sonal has spoken and it’s clear that she isn’t involved with the vhp or any other hindu groups and i don’t think her statement was devisive or odd in any way. she should be allowed to get on with it. why are you lefties so cynical of anyone who does well.

  26. Nice. I don’t see why anyone who expresses doubts about an (alleged) radical connection is automatically branded a communist/leftist/pseudo-secular. Is it even possible for people considering themselves “centrist” to even participate in such discussions at all without being mis-labelled and insulted?

    Is asking for some equity in treatment of different religious segment of society necessarily an attempt to be secular, or just basic question of fairness that you apply to every section of the society?

    VHP is entirely a legitimate organization in India, there is no doubt about it. It is also quite known by everybody in India, who care to stay away from their widespread systematic indoctrination, that they are as divisive as it comes, case in point the recent carnage in Orissa.

    It is only now, with terrorist links being discovered within the organization, that Indian police is investigating the source of foreign funds that they have. Much of the funds that comes to these organizations are not explicitly to perform terrorist activities. Just as much of the funds coming to Islamic radical groups is not for the purpose of terrorism.

    Using a (hopefully not straw-man) similar (even though perhaps too harsh) analogy, if Al Qaeda had a humanitarian arm which supervises earthquake relief in Afghanistan, would you be satisfied in knowing if one of your administrators only provides support to the humanitarian arm? Would there not be an ounce of doubt in your mind?

  27. “I don’t see why anyone who expresses doubts about an (alleged) radical connection is automatically branded a communist/leftist/pseudo-secular.”

    No, not any one.And not automatically.Btw, I liked your blog/s.

    “Is asking for some equity in treatment of different religious segment of society necessarily an attempt to be secular, or just basic question of fairness that you apply to every section of the society?”

    Agreed.That is why many people in India wonder as to why “Coalition Against Genocide” and sundry other activists never bothered about the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits.And why a Haj subsidy is secular but land for temporary shelter for Amarnath pilgrims becomes a communal issue.

    “VHP is entirely a legitimate organization in India, there is no doubt about it. It is also quite known by everybody in India, who care to stay away from their widespread systematic indoctrination, that they are as divisive as it comes, case in point the recent carnage in Orissa.”

    I don’t hold any brief for the VHP nor I subscribe to their entire ideology.But when you talk about the carnage in orissa, I suggest you try to understand the socio-economic root causes of the issues in Kandhamal properly.It is not a Hindu-Christian conflict. It is a tussle between SCs and STs for power and resources.Of course, you can count on the missionaries and the swamijis to make hay from any such issues.And btw, if you are looking for carnages, there is one happening in Assam right now.

    “It is only now, with terrorist links being discovered within the organization, that Indian police is investigating the source of foreign funds that they have.”

    I will give you two links.

    http://www.dailypioneer.com/133531/UPA’s-sinister-shenanigans.html

    http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20081109/1100283.html

    I suggest you read local newspapers to get various angles of a news story than depending on Guardian.It may not change your world view. But it helps to know other perspectives.

    In any case, on the Sonal Shah issue, now that she has given a statement, may be we should let her get on with her job.The whole world needs all her skills as an economist.

  28. I think in order to get a clean chit from the “progressives”, Sonal Shah should disown her parents, heap abuse on Modi / VHP / RSS / ABC / BBC / etc.. etc.. and (if possible) disown Hinduism as a backward looking caste discriminating religion which asks people to worship rats / cats / idols. If that’s too much, get an information booklet from the “progressives” on how to be a “secular Hindu” so that even though it is nor preferrable, but alteast she can be tolerated.

    (this link is a good start Letter to an American Hindu – Vijay Prashad http://superhindus.wordpress.com/letter-to-a-young-american-hindu-by-vijay-prashad/ )

    :-)

  29. The level of vitriol here perplexes me. I’ve already said that I think Sonal has done a lot of good things and that her statement should satisfy her critics in terms of her involvement with the transition team.

    The purpose of the post isn’t to go over Sonal the person, Amardeep has a very good defense of her up. But at the same time, I do think there are some very important political issues that are raised, and I was interested in discussing how they will play out.

    No matter what anybody thinks of the VHP, it is a politically tricky organization in the USA given its involvement with anti-Christian violence. The latter point is one of fact. The fact that Sonal raised money for the VHP’s emergency relief efforts will naturally lead to three questions if she tries to go further in politics (and I have no idea if she wants to):

    1. Does she subscribe to the ideology of the VHP? She answered that question very clearly in this statement. What I said was that it was politically necessary to issue such a statement, and that it would have been better for her if she had made one years earlier when people started to ask.

    However, on a political level, it doesn’t end there. There will be two other questions that will arise.

    1. If you don’t agree with the ideology of the organization, why didn’t you send the money you raised through one of the other religious or secular organizations doing relief work in Gujarat?
    2. If you don’t agree with the ideology of the organization, aren’t you concerned that the money you raised may have been redirected towards aims and goals you don’t support?

    All three of these questions will arise because of the precedent created by various Islamic charities that are the service wings of sectarian violent organizations. This may or not be fair. You might dislike the precedent. Or you might feel that the VHP is nothing like the Muslim Brotherhood or other such groups. This post doesn’t engage with either of these questions.

    Politics is about the way things are at this moment. And at this moment, there is a very strong precedent, and there is a reason for Americans to be concerned with the VHP. Even though she has answered the first question quite strongly, the second and third questions will raise questions of political judgment if she tries to advance further in politics. Right or wrong, that’s what I’m predicting.

    It’s a minefield that other desis are likely to encounter. We can close our eyes and say “We like Sonal!” or “Hasn’t she done enough to satisfy critics making personal attacks?” or we can look at the situation with clear eyes and learn from the politics of the situation.

  30. Is it possible to have a discussion in community spaces like this one about the broader questions that this situation poses for us? That to me is – at what point do each of us need to ask the tough questions about where our money is going; what the Hindu camps are teaching our kids; and when we research relief-based organizations that may have been criticized in the past? While I’m very glad that Shah has come out with a statement, there is an underlying question here (thank you, Ennis, for raising them even though some folks seem unwilling to even go there with you): what does it say about her judgment, that after criticism and questions being raised as early as 2003, she seemed to not take some time to look into what was being said? And in a sense, we should be asking ourselves that question as well and take responsibility for our own self-education.

  31. ennis

    I agree with you. she cant get away with “I’ve never been involved in Indian politics”. No one said she was. she needs first an admission / denial that she aided the VHPA, and then a defense or an apology.

    Kumar_n @ 31

    Why do you and your ilk bring in a different riot (Assam, jammu, whatever) whenever the gujarat pogrom is discussed? Is it ok for you to murder or rape because it has been done by someone else too? Or is it to derail an argument that seems to go against your cherished beliefs?

    Ponniyan @ 32

    If you really want a clean chit from the progressives (many thanks for calling us that), it would suffice for you to contest the lie that Modi is as good for Gujarat’s economy as Hitler was for Germany’s.

  32. I think in order to get a clean chit from the “progressives”, Sonal Shah should disown her parents, heap abuse on Modi / VHP / RSS / ABC / BBC / etc.. etc.. and (if possible) disown Hinduism as a backward looking caste discriminating religion which asks people to worship rats / cats / idols.

    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.

    I’m happy with all of those statements that Sonal makes. The conflation of her criticising the form of politics that those groups disseminate and perpetuate with ‘disowning her parents’ and ‘disowning Hinduism’ just personifies the level of paranoia and victimhood in this discourse; as though criticising a political/religious ideology is criticising an entire people/culture/family. This is identity politics at its most nasty and poisonous. Take issue with the VHP etc etc and you are a traitor, and an Uncle Tom.

    Unless of course you were parodying all of that kind of mindset and mentality, in which case, well done.

  33. If you really want a clean chit from the progressives (many thanks for calling us that), it would suffice for you to contest the lie that Modi is as good for Gujarat’s economy as Hitler was for Germany’s.

    Actually I suggested the means of getting “clean chit” for Sonal Shah, not myself. I support Narendra Modi’ji and I believe I’m a Hindutva fascist in the eyes of “progressives” and am content with that. :-)

  34. Lehman said

    But Ice-9 contamination arguments of this form revolve around other, more limited forms of contact, forms that do not endorse or enable the underlying activity. They take the simple form, “Don’t have anything to do with X because X is bad and if you engage X you will elevate X and debase yourself, X’s name will be legitimated, and yours will be sullied.”
    My primary message this morning is that you should be very wary of Ice-9 contamination arguments and the sense of despair that is implicitly associated with them. Let me stipulate that there is a special satisfaction one can derive from using them as a reason to withdraw from contact with the world. It is the satisfaction that follows from feeling a certain kind of moral superiority. But I would argue that this satisfaction carries a very heavy price. Yielding to Ice-9 contamination arguments will often, perhaps usually, lead us to miss opportunities to accomplish genuine good in the world through serious engagement.
  35. 1 · Camille said

    This is insane to me. Someone made a (what seems to be) unfounded accusation, and now we dog her for providing an inappropriate response? I don’t see what this has to do with her actual work or capacity, except for raising the spectre of communitarianism and extremism. I don’t know Sonal Shah, have never worked with her, and have no idea what the backstory is here, but it’s distressing to me that we would give an insidious commentary carte blanche without even pausing to critique the very gendered and disjointed ways in which it attempts to substitute an insinuation for factual inquiry.

    Unfortunately this is exactly how revolutions consume their youngs. Luckily for Ms Shah, she has puccah secular credentials. Without that, she would have been on sticky wicket; and none of the saner commenters on this board would have come to her defense.

  36. 17 · A N N A said

    I also think it’s massively unfair that if we were talking about Muslim groups/charities, people would be far more comfortable with asking these questions, but because it’s a Hindu group, it’s crazy for us to acknowledge that charitable works might coexist with less pristine motives.

    Anna,

    Actually the other way round. Number of Muslim charities that VP has raised questions about = zero. Number of Hindu-related groups Vijay Prashad questions = everyone of them. This is the guy who demanded that the non-Indian-Hindu-American who frequents Hindu mandirs in the US ask to see the books of accounts of every Hindu mandir he visits, to find out if they funneling money to “fund hate” in India. It is hard to take Vijay Prashad when he is out to do a Michelle Bachmann on everything and anyone Hindu.

    And before anyone trots out that farcical report by Biju Mathew and Vijay Prashad on the IDRF, you should read the detailed rejoinder to that smear job that analysed almost every grant reciepient, and found no substance whatsoever to the trumped up allegations.

    And for those of you – no I don’t include Anna – who go into a tizzy over “Hindu Nationalism” in India, a few points. Hindus cannot run “Hindu educational institutions” in India that seek to provide a general education primarily to Hindus, while members of all other religious groups can. The idea of secualarism in India has some bizarre expressions, as when recently the government of India dispatched a 15 member delegation to the Vatican headed by Oscar Fernandes Union Minister, to participate in the beatification ceremony of Sr. Alphonse from Kerala. Not to be outdone the “rationalist” Left Democratic Front (Communist headed) government of Kerala sent another delegation to the event on its own.

    In a country like India that receives a few 100 million dollars every year from foreign church groups, it is natural that Hindu groups too would want to educate and take care of those who live in the farthest reaches of the land. I notice that the smear merchant Vijay Prashad accuses the VHP of spreding “Hinduism” among the adivasis who are mainly “Christian or animist”. Rubbish. If indeed adivasis are animist (let us ignore the crude and pejorative origins of the term animist) for the sake of argument, Hinduism or Christianity is equally alien right? There are some very good reasons why Vijay Prashad and his friends whip themselves into a frenzy over the Ekal Vidyalayas or the VHP. These organizations seek to break down barriers within and around the Hindu tradition. For instance the VHP trains adivasis and dalits to run mandirs. So now in places like Orissa and Chattisgarh you not only find adivasi Christian priests, you also find adivasi Hindu priests as well. Vijay Prashad’s concern is understandable. His dissertation is an account of the culture and traditions of Valmikis in Delhi, a community of sanitation workers, written about 2 decades ago. among other things Vijay discusses the changing mores of the community following the inroads made by a number of Hindu outfits in this historically neglected community, and does not not sound pleased with it. In another place and another time, we Prof. Ramdas Lamb of the University of Hawaii whose dissertation documents the Ramnami community, another marginalised dalit group from Madhya Pradesh. Dr. Lamb a Hindu by choice has a very different take on the role of Hindu outfits with respect to marginalised groups like the Ramnamis. And then we have Dr. Bindeshwari Pathak founder of Sulabh Shauchalaya, who has rehabilitated 1000s of sanitation workers, who for reasons best known to the government of India has been passed over for state honours. It may have somethin to do with the fact that Dr.Pathak is a Hindu. As we have seen on the earlier thread -Amardeep’s- there are Hindu and non-Hindu volunteers of Indicorps. There may be some who believe that they should work in India to renew and reform Hindu tradition. Is that wrong? And there may be some others who simply don’t care. Is that the only way?

  37. Actually the other way round. Number of Muslim charities that VP has raised questions about = zero.

    Anna was probably referring to the United States. A number of legitimate questions have been raised about Muslim charities operating in the middle east. In some cases, they have been found to be funding violence. Whether the VHP has raised questions about Muslim charities is irrelevant.

  38. Whether the VHP has raised questions about Muslim charities is irrelevant.

    ??

    the VP from jyotsna’s comment (below) refers to Vijay Prashad, not VHP

    Actually the other way round. Number of Muslim charities that VP has raised questions about = zero.
  39. trying to understand the allegations on both sides behind sonal shah.

    I’m doing a story for Asia Pacific Forum Radio tonight8pm and am seeking someone can make the case for Sonal Shah.

    We are also bringing on Vijay Prashad to make his argument about Ms Shah’s participation (not mere association) to fueling communalism, through speaking engagements at HSS Youth Conferences, serving as VHP National Coordinator of earthquake relief efforts and accepting an awards (via her brother) in the presence of Narendra Modi, who has documented blood on his hand.

    please contact: amytpaul at hotmail dot come

  40. 42 · brown said
    Whether the VHP has raised questions about Muslim charities is irrelevant.
    ?? the VP from jyotsna’s comment (below) refers to Vijay Prashad, not VHP
    Actually the other way round. Number of Muslim charities that VP has raised questions about = zero.

    My bad! I agree with Jyotsana that Indian laws are in many ways anti-secular. But this cuts both ways. Non-Hindus do not have the same adoption rights as Hindus, for example.

  41. Second, I think her description of her activities as relief or humanitarian work ignores the ways in which supporting the charitable wings of politically unsavory organizations is problematic, especially since the money raised rarely flows through a sealed pipeline to those it is intended to help

    This is the catch with all organizations and individuals which work across borders (even regions). There is a mistrust between people, nations and cultures on many levels that creates problems. The question that is raised is whether an organisation is a front for something ulterior. In fact this angst is particularly true for immigrants from South Asia which doesn’t have a dearth of political problems. So whatever be the best of intentions, people are forced to walk on fine line. The other extreme solution is to cocoon yourself which is not particularly easy in a globalized world where mobility may become very common in future.

  42. 43 · amy said

    trying to understand the allegations on both sides behind sonal shah.

    Your definition of “both sides” is weird. Are you planning to interview Sunita Williams as well who received an award of sorts from Narendra Modi? You want to bring[ing] on Vijay Prashad to make his argument about Ms Shah’s participation (not mere association) to (sic!) fueling communalism, through speaking engagements at HSS Youth Conferences, All you have to do is ask for a xipt of Sonal’s speeches. And BTW when are you plannin gthat feature on ISNA and CAIR? Funny isn’t it how you folks ignore Daniel Pipes for a loon but lend so much credence to Vijay Prashad?

  43. OK, I read the counterpunch article. While I am a liberal leaning libertarian of sorts, I find Counterpunch to be very useful reading to balance the mainstream press which tends to be too timid in attacking Israel for is faults and there needs to be someone to call bullshit on the excesses of our corporations. But counterpunch is not my entire reading because it can get tiring reading the same focus. They very rarely go after the middle eastern islamic countries with the exception of the Saudis. And they go easy on the marxist parties in India which are nothing but hypocritical outfits which have a servile attitude to the old USSR and China.

    Anyway, back to Sonal Shah. Reading the article, Prashad shows us little incisive analysis why he had to title the article THE MANY FACES OF SONAL SHAH. When he mentions Shah was member of VHP-A, ( a fact that doesn’t seem 100% confirmed), why doesn’t he give the non Desi reader the context of such a possible membership? Could it be that it was just the Indian way of just attending the local regional organization and the registration was routine? Can Prashad point to a single statement by Shah or her presence at a single meeting which condoned the inexplicable massacre of innocent muslims in the Gujarat riots? He even mentions she joined Anderson Consulting and uses a foreboding(they did the accounting for Enron) bullshit. once again, he fails to give context to such employment. Anderson Consulting was a freaking huge outfit. I doubt Shah was thinking “yes, this is my chance to do my part in corporate fraud” when she joined it. It probably was a good opportunity at furthering her career which gave her more money and power which enabled her to have the luxury of helping needy people via Indicorps.

    And then the rest of the article goes on about Obama. In the big scheme of things, even if you go by what Prashad wrote in that article, it is unclear why a counterpunch reader needs to read an article about the many faces of Sonal Shah. Obama has deal with people like Rahm Emanuel. Sonal Shah’s “transgressions”(even if one were to adopt Prashad’s outlook) are so minor compared to the typical political associate that one wonders why an article on Obama needed to focus on her.

    A very unfair article. I have know people like Prashad in my travels to India. I read their articles because they do highlight issues ignored by the traditional media.

  44. trying to understand the allegations on both sides behind sonal shah. I’m doing a story for Asia Pacific Forum Radio tonight8pm and am seeking someone can make the case for Sonal Shah. We are also bringing on Vijay Prashad to make his argument about Ms Shah’s participation (not mere association)to fueling communalism, through speaking engagements at HSS Youth Conferences, serving as VHP National Coordinator of earthquake relief efforts and accepting an awards (via her brother)in the presence of Narendra Modi, who has documented blood on his hand.

    Amy-

    What–you’re broadcasting this BS? What crab in a bucket are you aggrandizing? Can you, instead, run a broadcast campaign against someone who has, say, accepted a award from George Bush, who has plenty of blood on his hands?

  45. 43 · amy said

    trying to understand the allegations on both sides behind sonal shah. I’m doing a story for Asia Pacific Forum Radio tonight8pm and am seeking someone can make the case for Sonal Shah. We are also bringing on Vijay Prashad to make his argument about Ms Shah’s participation (not mere association) to fueling communalism, through speaking engagements at HSS Youth Conferences, serving as VHP National Coordinator of earthquake relief efforts and accepting an awards (via her brother) in the presence of Narendra Modi, who has documented blood on his hand. please contact: amytpaul at hotmail dot come

    Hmmmm. It seems to me that whoever is available to present Ms. Shah’s side will be subjected to a series of “when did stop beating your wife?” type questions about this. Anyone in camp Shah would be well-advised to avoid this forum. I think the Fox News definition of “fair and balanced” has reached other media.

  46. Meanwhile, Assam burns, and the Indian Army is being accused of harboring Hindu terrorists. __

    That the Indian Army is an instrument of state oppression was always known to the cognoscenti, for general people however, its recent involvement in the Malegaon Holocaust in league with the Saffron Brigade would be an eye-opener. But wait, you say they are being ‘accused’ of harboring terrorists. 4 people were killed by an ex-army man’s syndicate, and you think the Army is not involved? Either you don’t follow the English Media or have a craving need to give everything your own Saffron twist. The Indian Army’s corroboration in the state sponsored genocide of Kashmiris and now the Bengali Muslims of Assam has been chronicled by numerous intellectuals. I suggest you read Arundhati Roy or attend S.A.R Geelani’s seminars at Delhi University. And please, try being a human being first and a Hindu later.