“I am an American”: Sonal Shah’s New and Improved Statement

Let me start by posting Sonal Shah’s newly-released statement in full, as one goal of this post is to let readers judge her words for themselves:

I was recently maligned by a professor at a college in Connecticut who wrote an article in CounterPunch accusing me of association with Hindu extremism. Then, a few days ago, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, published an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, to which this site linked, that echoed the CounterPunch accusations. These attacks sadden me, but they share one other thing in common: the accusations are false.

In reaction to these attacks, my closest friends — and many strangers — have rallied to my side. I am touched by this outpouring of support. And as painful as this episode has been for me personally, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with the seriousness that it deserves, but the conversation should proceed on the basis of verified facts and reasoned argument, not innuendo and defamation.

Indian politics and history are contested and emotive, but also unfamiliar to most Americans. I understand why so many Indians and Indian-Americans feel strongly about religious extremism in India, because I share the same concerns.

I am an American, and my political engagements have always and only been American. I served as a U.S. Treasury Department official for seven years, and now work on global development policy at Google.org. And I am honored to serve on the Presidential Transition Team of President-elect Obama while on leave from Google.org.

I emigrated from India at the age of four, and grew up in Houston. Like many Americans, I remain proud of my heritage. But my engagement with India has been exclusively cultural and humanitarian. After the devastating earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, I worked on behalf of a consortium of Indian-American organizations to raise funds for humanitarian relief. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHP-A), an independent charity associated with the eponymous Indian political group, was among these organizations, and it was the only one to list my name on its website. I am not affiliated with any of these organizations, including the VHP-A, and have not worked with any of them since 2001.

The experience with the Gujarat earthquake did, however, teach me an important lesson. It pointed up a lack of dedicated infrastructure to help alleviate suffering in India, so together with my brother and sister, I founded Indicorps, an organization modeled on the U.S. Peace Corps that enables young Indian-Americans to spend a year in service to marginalized communities in India. The fellows come from every religious background, and have worked among every religious community in India. Indeed, some Indicorps fellows focus on inter-faith dialogue as part of their projects.

In 2002, Gujarat suffered one of the most profound tragedies in its long history, when extremist political leaders, including some associated with the VHP, incited riots that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Had I been able to foresee the role of the VHP in India in these heinous events, or anticipate that the VHP of America could possibly stand by silently in the face of its Indian counterpart’s complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002 — thereby undermining the American group’s cultural and humanitarian efforts with which I was involved — I would not have associated with the VHP of America.

Sadly, CounterPunch and Senator Santorum have suggested that I somehow endorse that violence and the ongoing violence in Orissa. I do not – I deplore it. But more than that, I have worked against it, and will continue to do so. I have already denounced the groups at issue and am hopeful that we can begin to have an honest conversation about the ways immigrant and diaspora communities can engage constructively in social and humanitarian work abroad. (link)

I was happy to see a believable account of how Shah’s name appeared on the VHPA website as a coordinator for earthquake relief in 2001. Shah doesn’t specifically address the statements from a VHPA spokesman to the effect of “she was part of our leadership council for three years,” but there is a clear and convincing account of what she now believes about the VHP as an organization in India, as well as a clear statement about Gujarat 2002. I think we should also not overlook the statement “I am an American” that is here: she considers her personal political commitments to be first and foremost oriented to the American political landscape. I think this fact is important to remember whenever we talk about 2nd generation South Asian Americans’ relationships to specific political issues within South Asia.

After the fold, some thoughts following a personal meeting I had with Anand Shah, Sonal Shah’s younger brother, today in Philadelphia.

First, Anand is a pretty intense person — he had a lot to say about the work he and his siblings have done with Indicorps. What came through is a real passion for the kind of work Indicorps does, namely help people find NGOs in India that need hard-working, compassionate people who have skills that can help people all over India. I got the strong sense that Anand would infinitely prefer to be talking about his experiences on that front in India (where he has lived full time since 2002), than dealing with this attack on his sister’s reputation. (Though he is an extremely passionate defender of his sister, don’t get me wrong.)

Second, I get the sense that at least these two Shah siblings are “doers” rather than “talkers.” In our conversation today, Anand repeatedly emphasized his desire to work with people of different political stripes, if it can result in positive outcomes for people in need. He seemed especially impatient with lefty academic types in the U.S., who tend to talk a lot about poverty over dinner at pricey restaurants in New York City. He sees himself bi-partisan in the Obama vein — if a conservative wants to work with him to get something done that will have a positive impact, he’ll go there. These folks are pragmatists, not ideologues.

Third, he stressed the need for second-generation South Asian Americans (the target readership for this blog, incidentally) to take charge of our own self-representation, and not leave it to people like Vijay Prashad. Many of us have complicated affiliations that don’t fit the Indian paradigm of “hardcore religious” or “hardcore secular/Marxist.” For example, some of us have strong connections to religious identity (and associations that come with those strong connections), but nevertheless also would want to be identified as tolerant and progressive when it comes to the broader social order. (I’m thinking of my friends over at blogs like The Langar Hall, or perhaps Ali Eteraz [who has stopped blogging]. And I’m also referring to the religious youth camps that I discussed in my previous post on “Yankee Hindutva”)

Fourth, he agreed with my assessment that all this close attention to an association in Sonal Shah’s past is a bit insane given the gravity of the ongoing communal problem in India, where a person’s political and religious affiliations generally are worn on one’s sleeve. (No one needs to snoop and speculate to find out what you really think; chances are, it’s right out there in the open.)

Sonal Shah, I’ll say again, has never been heard to say anything remotely intolerant — and she’s not exactly been a shrinking violet when it comes to speaking engagements over the past few years. It’s also not clear that she ever did anything for the VHPA other than this role as an earthquake relief coordinator in 2001 (which she describes as only one part of a larger effort involving a consortium of organizations). In her own narrative of this association, as well as her brother’s account of it that I heard in person today, this was not a sustained or major involvement. Their decision to found Indicorps emerged precisely out of a need to establish a mechanism by which second generation Indian Americans could channel their desire to do good secularly, specifically where it would be of real benefit in India.

I hope there is enough evidence out there now that Sonal Shah is not some kind of ideologue for the Hindu right (in fact, she is not an ideologue at all). Moreover, her role as a member of the Obama transition team has had no involvement with policy related to India, so why exactly are we still talking about it?

It’s by the standard of Indicorps that Anand Shah wants to be judged — and I for one am willing to give him that.

340 thoughts on ““I am an American”: Sonal Shah’s New and Improved Statement

  1. Liberal is right. She has neither acknowledged nor denied being on the leadership council. Her failure to engage with this point totally baffles me. I’m in 100% agreement with Siddhartha.

    and if you are on the leadership team, does it follow that you subscribe to most of the ideology. If this is the best that the american Desi community can provide – tis a pretty poor state of affairs. Vijay Prashad is a dishonest academic who induldges in verbal shitfests but he has raised a couple of valid points. Sonal Shah is not any better though. Both are pigs of the chicago variety. Does Google hire people who are communalists? VP is an indian citizen. Makes this whole episode even more intriguing.

  2. Why does she need to engage when she is not running for public office? Does anyone has anything credible that states that she is being considered for a cabinet position?

  3. 187 · portmanteau said

    jotsana @ 169, i’m not sure if you’re being tongue-in-cheek or serious? Assuming it’s the former, here goes: 169 · jyotsana said
    So why would any one be interested in what you have to say?
    do you really need to make your points in that tone? and the parents you speak of so fondly (‘uncles and aunties running Hindu mandirs’), didn’t they leave india and the cultural projects of their parents behind to settle in america? are people allowed to have different priorities than the ones you mention here? and let me tell you, thanks to my independant and supervised study of hinduism, i know a bit more than some hindutvavadi uncles who claim that india invented the atom bomb and space travel because those astras and shastras are mentioned in the epics. according to them this knowledge was ‘lost’ in the intervening yugas. some of these people will deny forms of syncretism exist in india. others will say that ____ group of people in india need to be lined up against and a wall and shot one-by-one (i don’t know why these uncles all want to hve them lined up and only shot, but maybe they’ve strong aesthetic opinions). obviously, not all people are such philistines but the character who goes to the mandir to show off her latest acquisitions in precious metals or the fools who know their ramayana and mahabharata from ramanand sagar and b r chopra are not hard to find. so please stop romanticizing that particular generation. they have their stalwarts; in time, we will find ours too. i wonder how old that ‘nutshell’ hisorian @ #135 is? not that a sample size of one is going to prove anything. just so you know, lots of campuses have explicitly hindu organizations and events which are student-organized or at least assisted enthusiastically by students of hindu origin. here is an example. i’ve taught three years of hindi to ABDs in college, who came to hindi class for a variety of purposes. some merely to have a better grasp of the language, others who wanted to start learning the devnagari script to further their engagement with indian classical music and art. i’ve known kids growing up in the rougher parts of new york city who make films, inspired by gurudutt’s body of work. i’ve also known kids who’re interested in nothing but their tennis and sports journalism. so should i not hear out that kid, or what his view on a situation is? you might not be interested in a particular person’s viewpoint but at least refrain from such harangues about the halcyon days and dearth of character in young people. it would suck if people started to self-censor after looking at posts like these.

    Wow that must be some independence and supervision. So now that well meaning uncle whoever he was is now being passed as off as some native specimen of derision – Hindutvavaadi! The contempt and malice! How uncalled for! I am not sure what you have studied (if at all) but you could surely do with some basics in decency. There are 100s of people who turn up at a mandir every weekend (everyday if it is Penn Hills). Some are vain, others are quiet, and some others are plain downcast, like me who is now all but unemployed. The mandir is a meeting place for Hinduphiles, a quick getaway for hope (like it was for my wife when she knew her mother had barely a week to live back in India), a desi gala place for IA Hindu and non-Hindu children who find the basement an informal yet reliable meeting place with few religious tags, a place where the devas live and much more. And I can’t think of a better way to introduce Ramayana than Sagar’s TV epic (never mind the gaudy costumes and sets) because it touches upon several classical versions of the epic, as does Chopra’s Mahabharata. I have found much more depth in these two epics than all the trash that gets passed off for scholarship. And for transcreation I would suggest the two Kannada classics (they are available in English versions too) KuVemPu’s Sri Ramayana Darsanam and SL Bhyrappa’s version of Mahabharata – Parva. This is not an old vs. young criticism. There are plenty of youngsters doing a great job. Only that Veepy Prashad is too scared to take them on!

  4. 203 · jyotsana said

    The contempt and malice!

    coming from you, i assume that expression of shock over bilious froth was meant as a joke? i did find it thoroughly hilarious. keep ‘em coming!

    Only that Veepy Prashad is too scared to take them on!

    i admire your single-minded focus on prashad on a thread about sonal shah.

  5. 203 · jyotsana said

    There are 100s of people who turn up at a mandir every weekend

    and that is genuinely wonderful. it is absolutely shocking to me that you would assume that outsiders might automatically perceive them as hindutvavaadis. do you know something that we don’t? should we worry?

  6. 201 · melbourne desi said

    Liberal is right. She has neither acknowledged nor denied being on the leadership council. Her failure to engage with this point totally baffles me. I’m in 100% agreement with Siddhartha.
    and if you are on the leadership team, does it follow that you subscribe to most of the ideology. If this is the best that the american Desi community can provide – tis a pretty poor state of affairs. Vijay Prashad is a dishonest academic who induldges in verbal shitfests but he has raised a couple of valid points. Sonal Shah is not any better though. Both are pigs of the chicago variety. Does Google hire people who are communalists? VP is an indian citizen. Makes this whole episode even more intriguing.

    Are you people serious? I thought the whole issue, so everyone claims it to be, is what Sonal’s position is on Hindu Nationalism and extremism so that whatever voice she may have in American policy towards India, if she was ever in a position to weigh in, would be known – at least to all of the verbally abusive folks who care to ensure their point of view is captured. She told you what she thinks about this, and it sounds a whole helluva a lot like what the critics were hoping she would think.

    To not take her words at face value and keep on digging suggests that you are more obsessed with her than you are with the issue you claim to be at the root of the “valid points”. Continuing this gives credence to the notion of all of this being a shamefully, for everyone participating, defamatory exercise.

    Speaking of – worth the read, an edit in the Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/whos-a-liberal/386450/

  7. Ennis # 191

    “I don’t think she would accept any issues with Ekal Vidyalaya. Her father is VP of EV-USA.” She would not, would she now! Ekal Vidyalaya is a VHP organization , at whose conference she delivered the keynote address two years after the VHP was implicated in the Gujarat genocide. Am I the only person bothered by that, as Amardeep seems satisfied that when there, she spoke about that lofty concept “Service through leadership”.

    “She has neither acknowledged nor denied being on the leadership council. Her failure to engage with this point totally baffles me.” It wouldn’t baffle you as much if you let go of your inner Mutineer : ) and accepted that, even though that retrograde Marxist whatshisname Prashad says it, maybe Sonal Shah is not that misunderstood or maligned but has real skeletons in her closet, and it benefits her if the whole issue is enmeshed with this vague, difficult-to-pin-down feeling, and especially to a mainstream American audience…which wouldn’t be the case if a mainstream blogger ot radio host was explained the very limited set of facts here..

  8. Portmanteau, good to have you back… please don’t leave SM again! Very refreshing and cogent viewpoints (although jyotsana makes some valid points too).

  9. 165 Pagal Admi:

    Just read Eboo Patel’s “In Defense of Sonal Shah.” While I absolutely agree with the danger of maligning people through guilt by association (something that I’ve seen too much of w/r/t Sonal Shah), I am somewhat disappointed with his take. I agree with Ennis’ observation that she does not address her role as part of the governing body of the VHP-A, and I wholly echo Sid’s #167.


    One other thing from other statement that bothers me:

    In 2002, Gujarat suffered one of the most profound tragedies in its long history, when extremist political leaders, including some associated with the VHP, incited riots that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Had I been able to foresee the role of the VHP in India in these heinous events, or anticipate that the VHP of America could possibly stand by silently in the face of its Indian counterpart’s complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002 — thereby undermining the American group’s cultural and humanitarian efforts with which I was involved — I would not have associated with the VHP of America.

    First of all– and I know I’m playing with semantics here– Gujarat 2002 were NOT riots, there is evidence that it was state organized. Why do Sonal Shah and Anand Shah keep referring to them as “riots”?

    Secondly, the Gujarat 2002 that she is discussing here– this was precisely the situation that made the State Dept deny Modi a visa, which is a pretty significant move. She does not mention Modi in this statement, address how Modi granted them an award, and his stay at her parents’ house. Again, let me repeat: I do think it is categorically unfair to practice in guilt by association. But why won’t she address these points rather than remaining silent, so that we know once and for all what her response is to every accusation and link that has been made to her?

  10. Modi didn’t grant her the award, Atal Bihari Vajpayee did, I believe there was a link that was provided on another thread.

  11. Umber Desi:

    Modi didn’t grant her the award, Atal Bihari Vajpayee did, I believe there was a link that was provided on another thread.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  12. his stay at her parents’ house

    I do not see why she has to apologize for her parents’ actions. That seems ridiculous.

    address how Modi granted them an award,

    Modi spoke at the function, the award was given by Vajpayee, and I think the awarding organization was a Gujarati newspaper, not the state government (don’t know about this last part for sure). Blaming Indicorps for accepting this award – and to be clear, it was her brother, not her, that accepted the award – seems unfair to me.

    Secondly, the Gujarat 2002 that she is discussing here-

    On the flip side, why is 2002 the signal point at which it has been deemed the VHP’s dark side was suddenly manifest? Apart from the fact that it is conveniently after 2001, her last recorded association with the VHP-A, that is.

  13. Rajesh #212:

    You obviously didn’t read my comment, so I’m not going to bother addressing the first two points.

    On the flip side, why is 2002 the signal point at which it has been deemed the VHP’s dark side was suddenly manifest? Apart from the fact that it is conveniently after 2001, her last recorded association with the VHP-A, that is.

    Don’t be daft– Sonal Shah is the one who has brought up the Gujarat 2002 event, not me. So I am asking why she decided to give a non-Modi-involvement depiction of that event/massacre.

  14. 214 · Desi Italiana said

    Don’t be daft

    Of course, I read your comment. You claim to stand against guilt by association, and then promptly insinuate that she needs to explain Modi’s stay in her parents’ house.

    Don’t be daft

    Your hilariously defensive reaction just because I questioned a couple of your points is ridiculous. If you have actually read my comments on this thread, I have consistently made this point earlier, and think that the focus on Gujarat 2002 is misleading. That is the exact point I reiterated.

    Actually, where is the link that Modi didn’t grant her the award?

    Here, for one.

  15. Desi Italiana # 209 You raise a good point about Sonal and Anand Shah referring to the Gujarat pogrom as “riots” and “events”. To me it appears they are taking a political position. As the Gujarat 2002 violence spiraled and information about it evolved, the mainstream Indian press and editorial writers switched to using pogrom or genocide, while Hindutvavaadi columnists resisted the usage and would insist on using riots or clashes….although technically, all pogroms are riots, even if not all riots are pogroms..

  16. Hey I guess whatever you have on your resume and may or may not have in your past…It really doesn’t matter when your competition has won the nobel prize

    Does anyone else remember that episode of Friends?

    RahulD

  17. Umber Desi, Rajesh, thanks for the link.

    You claim to stand against guilt by association, and then promptly insinuate that she needs to explain Modi’s stay in her parents’ house.

    I am standing against guilt by association when I ask why does she not address these facts so that no one has excuse to point fingers at her due to guilt by association. Is this clear now?

    I feel like she is being willfully obtuse with this whole situation. I can’t imagine how someone of her achievements and rank does not know how to address points/facts/accusations that have been made against her. IF she wants to put to rest the controversy, she can explain herself. I don’t think word count is a matter if she’s issuing exclusive statements, so she has space to explain herself.

    And, if she’s an “American“, why omit the involvement of a person whom the US State Dept deemed unfit to come to the US? Here, it is Indian politics meeting US politics where Americans took a clear political stance by refusing a visa. Don’t you think that as an American who is now going to be involved in American politics, you’d at least address some of the stances Americans have taken with regard to a situation you are referring to?

    Anyway, that’s my last word on this situation.

  18. 220 · Desi Italiana said

    And, if she’s an “American”, why omit the involvement of a person whom the US State Dept deemed unfit to come to the US? Here, it is Indian politics meeting US politics where Americans took a clear political stance by refusing a visa

    Oh yeah, that was such a strong moral stance with no political implications at all…They don’t just let anybody in

  19. 221 · GallopingGranny said

    They don’t just let anybody in

    Independent of any value judgements, this is an irrelevant statement. Ahmedinejad came to the US to give a speech at the UN, and as part of the deal for hosting the General Assembly headquarters, the US is bound by international treaties to permit any leader who is giving a speech at the UN into the US.

  20. Independent of any value judgements, I’d like to say that you have failed to check your facts and do not understand the process and are trying to make a statement that makes you sound informed.

    Here’s a start…use google..ah

  21. 223 · GallopingGranny said

    Here’s a start…use google..ah

    Were you born stupid, or did you have to work at it? I certainly have no value judgements on this comment of yours, it barely passes the literacy test, forget about coherence.

  22. 220 · Desi Italiana said

    I am standing against guilt by association when I ask why does she not address these facts so that no one has excuse to point fingers at her due to guilt by association.

    Thanks for the clarification. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me one bit if she did not address the tenuous Modi connections, but I do think she is trying to be deliberately obtuse with the rest of her comments on this subject.

  23. If anything the whole Visa thing should show you how irrelevant Modi is and what a marginal role “Hindu Interest Organizations” have in American Politics…

    But I wouldn’t blame you for over-reacting, after all didn’t you mention earlier that the VHP is an organization on par with the LeT ? (at which point I had to use duct tape to keep my jaw from hitting the floor) …

  24. 221 · GallopingGranny said

    220 · Desi Italiana said
    And, if she’s an “American”, why omit the involvement of a person whom the US State Dept deemed unfit to come to the US? Here, it is Indian politics meeting US politics where Americans took a clear political stance by refusing a visa
    Oh yeah, that was such a strong moral stance with no political implications at all…They don’t just let anybody in

    So the State Department’s denial of a visa was motivated purely by a sober and politically unsullied evaluation of his merits? It had nothing to do with political pressure exerted on them by various groups?

    I mean, my uncle was denied a visa to enter the country too. Should I break out my Snidely Whiplash costume?

  25. after all didn’t you mention earlier that the VHP is an organization on par with the LeT ?

    I think I have been very scrupulous on this thread about any analogies. I do not think I ever made the comparison you allude to, or even if I did, I might’ve made it in a limited context. You claimed that the US is politically motivated about whom it lets in by pointing out the example of Ahmedinejad in New York, I countered by pointing out that the specific example is irrelevant to your claim. Even Mugabe who has a travel ban to the US is allowed to enter for purposes of attending a UN session. Then, you go on about bizarre nonsense which has nothing to do with the original irrelevant point you made.

    Boy, do all you VHP apologists just specialize in ad hominem? Don’t they teach proper rhetorical techniques in your neighborhood akhada?

  26. 227 · NaraVara said

    It had nothing to do with political pressure exerted on them by various groups?

    Of course, it did, and Modi has savvily worked around it with extensive video conferencing to his supporters. Of course, the situation will (tragically) become a non-issue if Modi ends up becoming the next Prime Minister of India, at which point the US will be forced to give him a visa.

  27. Indian: “referring to the Gujarat pogrom as “riots” and “events”. To me it appears they are taking a political position”

    We have always called such events as riots. Only thing different this time was that it happened under BJP rule and more moslems died than Hindus, something that had not happened before. It was an equal-opportunity carnage in which many hindus and police died too, besides Moslems. There were Hindu refugees too. If there were people associated with BJP and Hindu organizations in the riots, there were people associated with moslem organizations and congress party too, as it usually happens in all big riots. But media has to give an entirely different spin. Secular pandits were warning us for years about massive genocides, progroms and holocausts of minorities if BJP came to power in India, but none had came during good part of NDA rule, not even riots, making liars out of those pandits. Than bang. Gujarat riots happened like god-sent to fulfill secular prophesy. And ever since, secular pandits have tried to pin every demonic label on Gujarat riots by sheer repetition of lies and half truths. They repeat lies and quote each other and build other issues on top of such canards. People of Gujarat have rejected such characterization, year after year, election after election, and refuted it in countless forums. If VHP or Modi had such a agenda, they have the power, plenty of opportunities, plenty of provocations and plenty of manpower to do it. That is why millions of people support them and do not believe in any of the lies. One can convince persons who want to be convinced. We usually call such people fanatics and fundamentalist who likes to hang on to lies dogmatically, who are not amenable to facts or logic, for the sake of their political agenda. No matter what Sonal clarifies or explains, it is not going to be enough to mollify this crowd. She should not burn her bridges at both ends.

  28. So the State Department’s denial of a visa was motivated purely by a sober and politically unsullied evaluation of his merits? It had nothing to do with political pressure exerted on them by various groups?

    a href=”http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad03092005.html”>Chris Matthews stayed away.

  29. Amardeep # 189,

    Her speaking engagements at Ekal Vidyalaya events is contradictory to her most recent statement about having cut all ties with VHP post-Gujarat pogrom (we of course can indulge in hairsplitting about how Ekal Vidyalaya is or is not legally connected to VHP, et cetera) – and this allowing her that she was absolutely uninformed about VHP hate crimes before that, which honestly strains my credulity. And the not so minor fact of her being on the VHP-A governing board for 3 years? Will it take a NY Times op-ed to get her to respond to these very significant questions? I for one would be very interested to see how she negotiates them- she has chosen to only answer the easy questions till now. And how does she explain accepting an award from Modi’s state government in 2004 (even if presented by Vajpayee), after his government had till so recently been involved in a systematic pogrom to kill its own citizens, and which was documented by so many reputed international and Indian media/ organizations, and because of which he was even refused a visa by the US. If this last fact were the only argument against Sonal, it would have been guilt by association, but it is just one among a broad pattern of choices and behavior that Sonal exhibited, and therefore becomes relevant. And I am not even going into less substantiated allegations like her being present with her father during a visit to a (non-Sangh compliant) Shankaracharya as BJP emissaries with offers of cash if the Shankaracharya publicly went along with Sangh policies on a range of contentious domestic Indian issues. Or the fact that her father and entire family are among the most prominent Sangh fundraisers in the US, and there is substantial literature out there how much of that funding has been channelized into the Gujarat pogrom and other Sangh associated violence. That Sonal Shah and her family has done some or significant charity (“doers” as you say, versus NYC liberals) should not preclude an investigation into these other allegations on their own merit. If established, she and her organization will not be the first to have done both charity work and supported/ funded violent organizations.

  30. Amardeep,

    “..dont fit the Indian paradigm of “hardcore religious” or “hardcore secular/Marxist…” No such paradigm exists in India. For one secular = Marxist is a Hindutva/ Sangh invention, often parroted by the “educated” US migrant population. I find Marxism more akin to the Sangh/ Hindutva philosophy in its paranoia, illiberalism and indulgence in violence. Most religious people in India, like Hinduism itself, are not “hardcore” but hold a fluid and instinctively liberal conception of religion….it is their richer, more technically educated and US traveled brethren who are likely to hold more rigid and intolerant views on religion and minorities (and rant on about how the poor illiterate people keep electing the Muslim-appeasing Congress, etc..)

    Amardeep, I feel that in mounting a persistent defense of Sonal Shah and her family you have -probably inadvertently- come across as defending an entire hate-fueled transnational ideology that the Sangh and affiliates embody. Part of this is because Sangh affiliates are notorious within India (and its legal system) of being masters of obfuscation and of hiding their links to actual criminal violence, which is one of the reasons why –apart from sporadic bans pre-1980, including after Gandhi’s assassination- they have not been banned (lack of political will, and the fact that post Babri-Masjid demolition, the political wing of the Sangh- BJP had garnered significant political support in urban areas of north India is also an important factor.) A lot of the Sonal Shah episode smacks of a similar strategy of obfuscation, and it is not being helped by the fact that SS is not forthrightly responding to the serious questions asked of her.

    As someone who has enjoyed some of your (more neutral) socio-political commentary in the past, I sincerely hope you will in the near future look at another side of this issue and write a post- for example- looking into the causes and sources of support that perpetuates this extreme and intolerant ideology among so many otherwise well off US-resident Hindus, and how this affects second gen ABDs, and how ABDs could get better informed about these issues so that they do not support or contribute to intolerant ideologies posing as charities, so that there are no further Sonal Shah like episodes.

  31. Shah doesn’t specifically address the statements from a VHPA spokesman to the effect of “she was part of our leadership council for three years,”

    We should ask VHPA the following questions

    1. So what does being a person on the “leadership council” do after all?
    2. And can we have a list of names of all your leadership council members so we can make a preemptive strike against them? ;)
  32. Wait. What’s the beef people have with Ekal Vidyalayas? Kids learning how to read is a terrible thing now?

  33. You know Reza Shah too had a distaste for Akhadas…

    224 · rajesh: Were you born stupid, or did you have to work at it? I certainly have no value judgements on this comment of yours, it barely passes the literacy test, forget about coherence.

    I was trying to bring the standards of my comment down to the standards of your logic…or your apparent lack of ability to comprehend a point before making a counterpoint. Lets not make this personal now shall we, lets just say I’m wrong and a VHP apologist…would that make it better for you? Its also funny how you assumed that I’m in India (and of course that is not cool.. right?)Is that something that is necessary for me to hold the opinions I have?

    Isn’t striking sentences so subliminal and meta-languagey!

    The example of your uncle is not related to the point I was making at all…please try to comprehend something before you move on to stating your opinion of it (its how intelligent debate works).

    Modi was denied a Visa because he was seen as the perpetrator of the Gujrat Riots. But until Laloo with his voter-base politics got involved in the matter – the investigators, eyewitnesses and survivors of the Godhra train attack consistently and reliably gave testimony that put the blame elseswhere.

    Just because I point out the findings, does not make me someone who supports the VHP or a Hindu fascist. People this site are never cease to baffle me, heck as immigrants and children of immigrants aren’t we supposed to be fighting against stereotypes? or is that a privilege you reserve only for those who don’t seem to be so….whats the word…”Hindu”?

    While Media coverage and its influence is a wonderful topic, I really hope that you will not try to evoke the need for me to explain how biased your opinions are and how unreceptive you sound; please tell me you don’t belive everything you read.

    The United States is not required to provide a Visa to anyone attending a UN meeting, especially not someone who is the head of a state with which the United States has no diplomatic relations with…but they were big enough to do it and consequently he was able to spout off the most inane logic possible…(geez are we off topic!)

    138 · GallopingGranny on December 11, 2008 10:58 AM: …And leading to the references of the VHP as a “terrorist” organization and consequently all those who associate or try bringing negotiating a common ground as bigots…

    heck as immigrants and children of immigrants aren’t we supposed to be fighting against stereotypes? or is that a privilege you reserve only for those who don’t seem to be so….whats the word…”Hindu”?

  34. 237 · GallopingGranny said

    The example of your uncle is not related to the point I was making at all.

    Which is why I did not give the example in the first place. You seem to have a repeated pattern of arguing with points I never made.

  35. Okay that ones my bad… I was just associating all the shallow points with you… my apologies…

  36. 239 · GallopingGranny said

    I was just associating all the shallow points with you… my apologies…

    Your apology is welcome. Your sincerity certainly matches your coherence.

  37. 237 · GallopingGranny said

    Just because I point out the findings

    The Holocaust is a myth too. Just pointing out the findings, that’s all.

    especially not someone who is the head of a state with which the United States has no diplomatic relations with…

    You should read up about the Headquarters Agreement. The US reserves the right to bar aliens only in order to safeguard its own security. This right is rarely invoked. In fact, in a flap relating to Abkhazia last year, the US did not invoke this right, but rather fell back on a technicality that Abkhazia still was not recognized as a country. The diplomatic relations of the US itself have no bearing on this subject.

  38. I don’t understand what is the point of some of Gallopping Granny’s comments about the State Dept denying visas in general. It’s besides the point. My objective was to highlight that the State Dept, in a rare moment of clarity (whether the St.Dept is consistent or not) denied Modi a visa– and for a good reason, and I am glad for that. It is also besides the point that it was due to “political pressure” emitting from various special interest groups, because there were other respectable bodies that documented the state driven violence of Gujarat 2002, such as Human Rights Watch. Furthermore, the State Dept has its own researchers that investigate matters in each country (and I have read and/or skimmed the St. Dept annual country reports on human rights that they come out with, particularly the ones on India. The State Dept is not entirely in the dark about communal problems in India). Here is the St. Dept’s press release on the visa denial:

    Issue of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Visa Status Statement by David C. Mulford, U.S. Ambassador to India Roosevelt House New Delhi, India March 21, 2005 Released by U.S. Embassy New Delhi Thank you for coming this afternoon to Roosevelt House. I would like to make a brief statement on the issue of Mr. Narendra Modi’s visa status. The Chief Minister of Gujarat state, Mr. Narendra Modi, applied for a diplomatic visa to visit the United States. On March 18, 2005, the United States Department of State denied Mr. Modi this visa under section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act because he was not coming for a purpose that qualified for a diplomatic visa. Mr. Modi’s existing tourist/business visa was also revoked under section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212 (a) (2) (g) makes any foreign government official who “was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for a visa to the United States. The Ministry of External Affairs requested that the Department of State review the decision to revoke his tourist/business visa. Upon review, the State Department re-affirmed the original decision. This decision applies to Mr. Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department’s detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was “a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state.” [link]

    We are talking about Modi, Sonal Shah, etc, not the State Dept’s alleged inconsistency on issuing visas. In Modi’s case, he was rightfully denied one on strong and legitimate grounds. And I would like to know why Sonal Shah failed to mention his name when talking about Gujarat 2002, given that his name and figure made an appearance in US politics, as seen by the visa denial.

  39. 242 · Desi Italiana said

    what is the point of some of Gallopping Granny’s comments

    At the point he is denying Modi’s complicity in the Gujarat pogroms (as established by reputed international third parties)…

  40. I will desist from replying to your points following this lest you blame me for incoherence again…

    I have a desire for two things to happen just so that you have even more motivation towards bringing all your puerile rants to fore… 1. I hope Modi DOES become the Prime Minister 2. On a smaller scale, I hope I meet more people like you so that I actually start sympathizing with the VHP

    The fact that you cannot grasp an opposing point of view lies in the fallacies of your ability to comprehend, not my ability to state it. Oh and I wish you could go attempt some anatomically instead of constantly repeating that you have trouble with the coherence of my logic… Only people utterly lacking in dialectic intellect point out sentence construction or worse…punctuation over the internet…

  41. Anatomically Unfeasible Tasks…

    thats what I wanted you to do…

    Thank you for obliging

  42. 244 · GallopingGranny said

    Only people utterly lacking in dialectic intellect point out sentence construction or worse…punctuation over the internet…

    Again, since I pointed out neither your pathetic sentence construction or your punctuation, but rather your puerile (il)logic, again, you seem to be arguing some manifestation of your paranoia. So far, I haven’t seen you come up with a single legitimate argument. You seem like a prime candidate for the goon squad of an extremist religious organization.

  43. So, it remains to be seen what irrefutable evidence there is that she herself was somehow involved in funding and/or organizing which was then used for the wrong reasons. In the end, that is what it boils down to, I think. Like Indian @#233, I don’t think guilt by association should thwart any investigations, probing, whatever, of her activities to find–if any– hard evidence that she herself was personally involved/contributed in some way to Sangh activities.

  44. 244 · GallopingGranny said

    The fact that you cannot grasp an opposing point of view lies in the fallacies of your ability to comprehend, not my ability to state it.

    Wow, you are a champion debater indeed! Well played!

  45. 243 · rajesh said

    At the point he is denying Modi’s complicity in the Gujarat pogroms (as established by reputed international third parties)…

    That has got to be the biggest stretch of logic I have yet witnessed…

    I was trying to point out how the “South Asian” disapora has completely different standards for the VHP as opposed to organizations like CAIR.

    You do take me back

  46. So, it remains to be seen what irrefutable evidence there is that she herself was somehow involved in funding and/or organizing which was then used for the wrong reasons.

    I think this particular activity will unfortunately be a shadow chasing exercise. The Sangh’s labyrinthine organizational strategy and its complete lack of transparency regarding cash flow will make it impossible for an outsider to establish this.

    As a result, one is left with one of two assumptions, both of which I find distasteful, primarily due to lack of information and unjustified presumptions of innocence or guilt. On the one hand, you can look at the charitable works and activities such as the Ekal Vidyalayas in isolation, and there is certainly nothing questionable about them in that context. This is the perspective taken by some on the thread, especially those who feel invested in the soul harvesting sweepstakes that the missionaries also compete in. On the other hand, you can think of them as different mechanisms to exercise a nebulous and large pot of cash which is then also used for unsavory activities. This is the attitude the US generally takes when it comes to charitable organizations aligned with questionable organizations.

    Now, the Sangh legally has no necessity to open up its books, so I only see a future where this debate rages endlessly with irreconcilable viewpoints, unless events precipitate the Sangh clearly falling on one or the other side of the line of acceptability.