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

    You mean this?

    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.

    You do take me back

    And you seem to have an inflated sense of self-importance, inserting your personality and your abuses into a discussion where mere lucid opinions would suffice (of course, that would require having them).

  2. There is a very interesting comment on the PTR site from somebody who claims a family background which would put them on a trajectory similar to Sonal Shah’s. He mentions Godhra as the rude wake up call for many second generation 20 and 30 something Indian Americans, when they realized that the vision of the VHP fed to them by their adults did not gibe with reality. If it is true that Indian Americans grew up with this vision of the VHP as Diwali dinners and temple bhajans, that is very unfortunate. It is still hard to imagine that somebody who was in the Treasury Department of the Clinton administration and was involved with far ranging international activities, including participating in solving the Asian crisis, among other things, would be so throughly unaware of the dynamics in India. I really wish Sonal Shah would come forward with a full accounting of not only her backstory, but from the point of view of the Indian American Hindu community, what her personal perception of Hinduism and the VHP were, and how they evolved. I think it would go a long way towards addressing the skepticism of those with an open mind (the Santorums of the world are a lost cause and that is not an audience worth playing to.)

    (What the comment says about the 20 and 30-somethings who actively choose to associate with the VHP and its ideological brethren today – some of whom we’ve seen on recent threads, well, I’ll leave that for you to decide.)

  3. If it is true that Indian Americans grew up with this vision of the VHP as Diwali dinners and temple bhajans, that is very unfortunate.

    I meant “If it is true that many Indian Americans grew up with this vision of the VHP as Diwali dinners and temple bhajans, and did not engage with India to really understand what the actions and politics of the VHP were, that is very unfortunate.”

  4. “LOL–no, I said he was my favourite leftist (b/c of his jibes at Vijay P.).”

    rob,

    don’t you dare compound Manju’s mistake and call me a lefty again–nobody would do so if they were privileged enough to see my google reader selections. Addi venum?

    Port,

    I do understand what you’re saying, but VP is a special case (as are all academics who think in utopian terms, premised upon moral absolutes) and he intends SS all the real-world ill that could possibly befall her. As long as such an academic stays within their bubble, such that the real world can encounter their theories at the people’s leisure and not at the behest of a moral bayoneting, I am content and the people are not coerced. Don’t know if that’s clear either. oh well.

  5. jyotsana, i made it very clear that not all first generation men and women were like the cases i descrbe. i was merely objecting to the romanticization.

    obviously, not all people are such philistines
    they have their stalwarts; in time, we will find ours too.

    your tone about second generation desis and the curt way in which you dismissed desi italiana was what bothered me. in all honesty, read your comment with a cool mind and then read mine. perhaps you might then alter your view about who was being ‘contemptuous.’ this is the part which i am pointing to:

    But then the likes of you have been brought up on a diet of Romila Thapar (knows neither Sanskrit nor Tamizh and cannot read and write in anything apart from English) and Amartya Sen and now Veepy Prashad are against everything. And while a reporter in The Hindu calls bhajan mandlais a nursery of little fascists and an obscure Hindu Students Council at a university is dubbed an extremist nursery while it is ignored that it is in the midst of about 20 Christian student organisations, three Muslim Student groups (which are provided prayer halls, exclusive diets etc) and the very large and thriving Hillel; you keep quiet if not pile on. You have no understanding and even less of a an interest in matters related to Hindu identity and expression. So why would any one be interested in what you have to say?

    what i italicize is what i thought was uncalled for. i apologize if you found my contempt malicious; it was not intended to me. but for the record, i refute that hindu students have a greater prospensity than the average college student to be indifferent to religious “identity and expression.” moreover, young people now ‘scoot’ to the coasts in search of their calling or merely a way to make their living just as older folk did that way back when. many average folk need to be comfortable first to move up maslow’s pyramid, and in time young people will develop a natural equilibrium with their cultural and religious expression, depending on interest, priorities, and financial comfort. “bina khaaye hari bhajan na hoye.” :)

    anyway, i don’t think i am in disagreement with you. sorry if you felt maligned. that was not my intent at all. but if you did, i hope you won’t pick one commentator in so dismissive a fashion. thanks for responding earlier.

  6. Some are vain, others are quiet, and some others are plain downcast, like me who is now all but unemployed

    i missed that about your job. good luck; you seem to be a smart guy so you are blessed with a resource that will help you bounce back. i am glad you and acquaintances find solace at the temple. i’m not much of a temple goer myself, but i love to go there for the art. sometimes, when i’m down i like to look at the art of the krishna temple at nathdwara or the jain temples of ranakpur. perhaps you too to have things/places from when you were a child that might bring back some good memories? feel better, p.m.

  7. 208 · Amitabh said

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

    thank you, and i do agree with jyotsana, and i’m fairly sure now that neither of us intended to caricature the generations. ps: thanks to you, i’m making an effort to find out what particular words in punjabi lyrics mean, and i’m gradually understanding how poetic the language can be. in delhi, i heard it primarily in the context of ‘gaali-galoch,’ (also in shoddy bollywood lyrics) so i did not have the highest regard for it. but now, that impression has changed a lot. i had known about mystical punjabi poetry (even a few exuberant bollysongs! which make me happy), and it seems now that there are places online that are good resources for getting to know about more of that kind of stuff.

  8. Port #256

    your tone about second generation desis and the curt way in which you dismissed desi italiana was what bothered me.

    Thanks for taking issue with what Jyot said, but I honestly didn’t think that his/her comment merited a response. To say “You have no understanding and even less of a an interest in matters related to Hindu identity and expression. So why would any one be interested in what you have to say?” in blogosphere to a person who uses a handle– and thus Jyot having no idea who I am, what I do, what I know, whether I have been actively involved in Hindu stuff, etc– and additionally, extracting “you don’t know what you are talking about” from my comment that I don’t really care for religious associations is presumptuous. How does Jyot know that perhaps, I DO know about the “matters related to Hindu identity and expression” and precisely my knowledge of that leads me to not care for mandhir oriented activities?

    And asking me “why would any one be interested in what you have to say” is stupid, because one could very well say the same for Jyot’s comments.

    Anyway, back to discussing Sonal Shah’s case. I don’t get why there are commentators and blog posts that avert the attention from the heart of the issues we should be talking about here.

  9. I don’t get why there are commentators and blog posts that avert the attention from the heart of the issues we should be talking about here.

    I believe the issues we should be talking about are Sonal Shah’s actual positions, accomplishments, and qualifications. But for too many it seems that any questionable connection someone picks up is automatic grounds for disqualification.

    Of course, only the questionable connections to groups on the right need apply. Massacres sponsored by the Congress party. . . nobody decides to make a stink out of those.

  10. “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.”

    What Anand Shah should have said, had he been sincere or reasonable, is that second-generation South Asian Americans take charge of their own self-representation, and not leave it to people like Ramesh Shah, his father and rabid RSS/VHP moneyman, and similar parents and relatives who mask the intolerance and hateful ideologies of RSS/VHP and peddle them to ABDs as Hinduism. Instead Anand brings in the red herring of Prashad. How distracting, and how convenient for him and Sonal Shah.

  11. SS’s speaking engagements at Ekal Vidyalaya events is contradictory to her most recent statement about having cut all ties with VHP post-Gujarat pogrom

    I request links to some recent appearances by her at such events.

    Will it take a NY Times op-ed to get her to respond to these very significant questions?

    Some of have contacted O’reilly factor and Lou Dobbs – but they want more meat! Their tipline moderators are not interested in stuff from 2004 – they want something more recent. Do you want SS to be grilled by Bill O’Reilly? Do you want Lou Dobbs to give her a dress down? Come up with some recent speechs, videos – and boom – we’ve got something to go with.

    M. Nam

  12. Sonal Shah says in her statement “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 not seen any statement or activity of Sonal Shah before this controversy erupted or before the CounterPunch article specifically deploring VHP/RSS violence in India. What is she talking about here, or have I missed something? What is sad is the typical Sangh obfuscation she indulges in.

  13. Amardeep says “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.”

    Strong connections to religious identity and tolerance or progressiveness are not incompatible. Just because there are some thousand murderous VHP types, semi-racist evangelicals or Islamist jehadis does not make the idea complex or unusual! The idea that religious people are tolerant has long been cherished by the religious majority, and especially so in Hinduism and Buddhism. That the idea is unusual, or can be presented as an apology for cavorting with VHP/RSS types is disingenuous.

  14. I’m still genuinely curious as to what beef people have with Ekal Vidyalaya.

    They catch children at a young age and indoctrinate them into rigorous lifestyle like getting up at 5AM and taking a cold shower followed by yoga and meditation. They brainwash them into outdated medieval practices like touching your parents’ feet in the morning and singing Saraswati vandana. They preach them against modern, progressive lifestyles like borrowing on credit cards and consumerism.

    This is all against secular practices.

    M. Nam

  15. 259 · Desi Italiana said

    Thanks for taking issue with what Jyot said, but I honestly didn’t think that his/her comment merited a response.

    apologies all this is off-topic. intern, feel free to take it off.

    well, d.i., i definitely not trying to speak on your behalf, but i’ll admit that i was real riled up. ust wanted to speak up (and because i’m usually not very confrontational IRL, it’s good practice :) ).

    it also hit a very raw nerve(now it comes out!). i didn’t want to go all pendantic/personal in response to ‘what [i] have studied (if at all).’ but i decided to post now because it’s good for me to write about it. clears things up in my own head.

    some of my best research or favorite classes as an undergrad were on the indian epics, classical sanskrit literary criticism (in translation) , figuring out why particular additions were made to the indian epics/mythologies and it was sort of big dream of mine to go to grad school for to go work on indian history, both classical and medieval, maybe even colonial sanskritists. my profs really wanted me to do it (we had several discussions on this topic), i was passionate about it, but for a variety of reasons (chiefly what i would contribute to the world by being a scholar of the indian classics, shouldn’t i do something that more than twenty people cared about, the guilt about not doing something very practical and concrete, something of value to the larger world, prospects for tenure, the reception some controversial scholarship gets eg something like response to laine’s work) i gave that path up (for now at least). i decided to stick with empirical and econ/social sciency policy wonk stuff. seriously lots of kids (besides me) care (of course, many don’t) — they may also have other things on their mind.

    a lot of parentheses were mistreated in the writing of this comment :)

  16. 266 · MoorNam said

    >>I’m still genuinely curious as to what beef people have with Ekal Vidyalaya. They catch children at a young age and indoctrinate them into rigorous lifestyle like getting up at 5AM and taking a cold shower followed by yoga and meditation. They brainwash them into outdated medieval practices like touching your parents’ feet in the morning and singing Saraswati vandana. They preach them against modern, progressive lifestyles like borrowing on credit cards and consumerism. I don’t think getting a credit card is even a realistic option for the communities they work in. This is all against secular practices. M. Nam
  17. Capitalism doesn’t necessarily necessitate consumerism. The former is an economic system. The latter is a social and cultural norm.

  18. They catch children at a young age and indoctrinate them into rigorous lifestyle like getting up at 5AM and taking a cold shower followed by yoga and meditation

    And apparently they are also energy saving greens!

  19. 267 · unsure… said

    259 · Desi Italiana said
    Thanks for taking issue with what Jyot said, but I honestly didn’t think that his/her comment merited a response.
    apologies all this is off-topic. intern, feel free to take it off. well, d.i., i definitely not trying to speak on your behalf, but i’ll admit that i was real riled up. ust wanted to speak up (and because i’m usually not very confrontational IRL, it’s good practice :) ). it also hit a very raw nerve(now it comes out!). i didn’t want to go all pendantic/personal in response to ‘what [i] have studied (if at all).’ but i decided to post now because it’s good for me to write about it. clears things up in my own head. some of my best research or favorite classes as an undergrad were on the indian epics, classical sanskrit literary criticism (in translation) , figuring out why particular additions were made to the indian epics/mythologies and it was sort of big dream of mine to go to grad school for to go work on indian history, both classical and medieval, maybe even colonial sanskritists. my profs really wanted me to do it (we had several discussions on this topic), i was passionate about it, but for a variety of reasons (chiefly what i would contribute to the world by being a scholar of the indian classics, shouldn’t i do something that more than twenty people cared about, the guilt about not doing something very practical and concrete, something of value to the larger world, prospects for tenure, the reception some controversial scholarship gets eg something like response to laine’s work) i gave that path up (for now at least). i decided to stick with empirical and econ/social sciency policy wonk stuff. seriously lots of kids (besides me) care (of course, many don’t) — they may also have other things on their mind. a lot of parentheses were mistreated in the writing of this comment :)

    I, for one, would like to read more about it. I think you’re understating the appeal when you say only 20 people would care about it. While it may be true that it’s not a sexy field now, a sufficiently talented and elegant writer/researcher can make it sexy. Every discipline needs its trail-blazers to show the upcoming students how cool a subject is and get them interested in it. That’s what scholarship is supposed to be about.

    Then again, I went down into the social sciences instead of my first love, philosophy, myself. So feel free to dismiss this as someone wistfully wishing for the road not taken.

  20. I’m still genuinely curious as to what beef people have with Ekal Vidyalaya.

    Ekal Vidyalayas are (according to many newspaper articles) implemented by the VHP or its partner groups. (link, see footnotes). Also, the Government of India cut off grants to Ekal Vidyalayas in 2005 for “misusing… funds, and using the [government] grants for creating disharmony amongst religious groups and creating a political cadre”. (link)

  21. 274 · NaraVara said

    To which Gods must I pray to have the “Quote” button not suck?

    I’d recommend the Gods who gave us our strictly part-time, volunteer tech people, for whom we are massively grateful, who make things like the quote function in their meager spare time. It has problems quoting a quote within a quote etc, but I for one am thankful we have it.

  22. 276 · A N N A said
    274 · NaraVara said
    To which Gods must I pray to have the “Quote” button not suck?
    I’d recommend the Gods who gave us our strictly part-time, volunteer tech people, for whom we are massively grateful, who make things like the quote function in their meager spare time. It has problems quoting a quote within a quote etc, but I for one am thankful we have it.
    I shall sacrifice my finest goat in their honor. Or. . .you know. . .use the preview button.
  23. 277 · NaraVara said

    I shall sacrifice my finest goat in their honor.

    Even though I’m a capricorn, that made me —> :D .

    No more off-topic thank-yous from me.

  24. 275 · long time reader said
    >>I’m still genuinely curious as to what beef people have with Ekal Vidyalaya. Ekal Vidyalayas are (according to many newspaper articles) implemented by the VHP or its partner groups. (link, see footnotes). Also, the Government of India cut off grants to Ekal Vidyalayas in 2005 for “misusing… funds, and using the [government] grants for creating disharmony amongst religious groups and creating a political cadre”. (link)

    “Creating a political cadre?” What does that even mean? And that Hindu article makes it sound like use of the phrase “Jai Sri Ram” and making mention of Hindu Gods is grounds for “creating disharmony.” Don’t missionary run schools do the same thing?

    The not providing reading materials thing is serious and needs to be looked into. But the duplicated names from government run schools is a questionable claim too. Everyone knows how atrocious those government run schools are and the teachers don’t even show up to work most of the time in those tribal areas. I wouldn’t be surprised if a parent enrolled their child in the Ekal Vidyalaya after realizing that their child was not learning anything at the government school.

  25. I’d recommend the Gods who gave us our strictly part-time, volunteer tech people, for whom we are massively grateful, who make things like the quote function in their meager spare time. It has problems quoting a quote within a quote etc, but I for one am thankful we have it.

    Can the quote button just be removed? The problem only started when this button was put in. I used it only once and noticed that it only picks up the first paragraph and have never used it since. I think this is important enough to consider doing because I’m sure many of us have a habit of only selectively reading comments and it causes great confusion and general frustration. Meanwhile, the indent button works fine except that it doesn’t give you the name of the person.

  26. Divya

    The problem is actually with the way blockquote works in the comments. If you leave a space between paragraphs, blockquote will only quote the first para. Try it by hand, you’ll see. The indent button has the same problem.

  27. 167 · siddhartha said

    This whole thing is getting on my last nerve. Why can’t Sonal simply put out a concise and definitive statement so we can move on. The effect of all these circumlocutions is to bog down the debate. Look at all the mud-slinging, paranoia, and distraction on this and previous threads. It’s a disgrace. If Sonal were to say simply that a) she did have associations with the VHP-A at one time; b) those associations were over before the Gujarat massacres; and c) she regrets the associations and rejects the VHP’s ideology, then this whole tempest could be over. Instead we get these meandering statements that end up fueling the flames on all sides. It’s either pathologically defensive, or deviously intentional, or — my hunch — just a glaring lack of political technique and savvy. Sonal: Don’t counter-accuse. Don’t moralize. Don’t give lectures on how complicated it is for Americans to understand India. Don’t offer parsing statements on Gujarati history. There are other times and places for this — and other messengers better suited to it, given your current position. You’re a strong, competent, intelligent and accomplished sister. Do you want to do your best work for all of us, by participating the the Obama transition and administration, or not? This is politics, my sister, and plenty of good people before you have had to deal with this kind of scrutiny. Keep it simple. Acknowledge, reject, and move on.

    I agree with this assessment of political practice, but I have trouble buying your hunch. I think that each of the three options you laid out “pathologically defensive”, “deviously intentional” and “glaring lack of political technique and savvy” could be in operation – or any combination of the three. I find it extraordinarily disturbing that she didn’t bother responding to the single most damaging reported “fact” that’s emerged in the last few weeks- that she was on the VHP-A governing council – and that she continues to insist that anyone who asks a question about what her activities with the Hindu right is lying despite basic information that’s in the public realm.

  28. 281 · Ennis said

    The indent button has the same problem.

    We have an indent button??

    Also, instead of doing something draconian like removing the quote button, how about people just don’t use it, if they dislike it. I actually find the quote feature really helpful, and would miss it.

    Look, we have a list of things we’d love to see fixed, changed or implemented, but the people who cross things off that list for us don’t have tons of free time, so we have to prioritize what gets tackled. You’re right, the buttons, the news tab, the ____ is not perfect, but for a four-year old, entirely-volunteer-run side project created and maintained by busy people in their spare time, I think we do a decent job of things. :)

  29. We have an indent button?? Also, instead of doing something draconian like removing the quote button, how about people just don’t use it, if they dislike it. I actually find the quote feature really helpful, and would miss it. Look, we have a list of things we’d love to see fixed, changed or implemented, but the people who cross things off that list for us don’t have tons of free time, so we have to prioritize what gets tackled. You’re right, the buttons, the news tab, the ____ is not perfect, but for a four-year old, entirely-volunteer-run side project created and maintained by busy people in their spare time, I think we do a decent job of things. :)

    Okay, testing the indent button. I totally understand the constraints. But the way it is, the wrong people get accused of saying things, causing great distress, self-doubt, mistrust and other forms of psychological damage that can only come from the blogosphere.

  30. 284 · Divya said

    causing great distress, self-doubt, mistrust and other forms of psychological damage

    also obesity, irritable ear syndrome, chronic clavicular eruptions, and rampant priapism.

  31. Amardeep, did you ask Anand Shah about how it is at all acceptable to receive an award from Modi, who helped orchestrate pogroms and continues to deny justice to countless people, two full years after it happened? There is no limit to “pragmatism” without politics? We’re supposed to listen to this person?

    This is what we’re talking about:

    Bilqis Yaqoob Rasool fled Randhikpur village in Gujarat, India, when it was attacked by right-wing Hindus on 28 February 2002. The attackers burned the mosque, and houses and crops belonging to Muslims in the village. They caught up with Bilqis and her family three days later. Shouting “kill them� and “cut them up�, they gang-raped Bilqis, her mother, sisters, aunt and cousins in front of their family. Fourteen of her relatives were then killed. Bilqis saw an attacker kill her three-year-old daughter with a rock. She fell unconscious and was left for dead. What happened to Bilqis is typical of what happened to hundreds of other Muslim women in Gujarat in 2002. Large-scale violence against the Muslim minority erupted in the state after 59 passengers, mostly Hindu activists, died in a fire on the Sabarmati Express train in Gujarat on 27 February. Officials claimed that it was part of a planned attack by local Muslims on Hindus. Official figures say 762 died in the ensuing violence, but human rights groups estimate that over 2,000, mostly Muslims, were killed in the following weeks. Muslim men and women were attacked in the violence, but women were particularly targeted because of their gender. Girls and women were reportedly dragged naked before their families and thousands of attackers. They were then raped, often gang-raped, beaten, had rods violently pushed into their vaginas, had breasts cut off and wombs slashed open by swords. Many of them were then cut into pieces or burned to death. The victims included young girls and old women, pregnant women and babies. To date, no one has been brought to justice for the rape and killing of women in Gujarat in 2002. The Supreme Court of India ordered that the case against those accused of raping and killing Bilqis’ family be investigated by a central police agency which found that Gujarat police had sided with the offenders and closed the case, claiming that the culprits could not be found. The case is now being heard outside Gujarat. Failure to prosecute the perpetrators of such grave abuses sends the message to women of the minority community that the state does not take their protection seriously. Amnesty International (AI) believes that dozens of women who suffered sexual violence in Gujarat in 2002 have not filed complaints because of the attitude of the Gujarati authorities and the shame which they feel about the sexual violence they experienced. The National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court have provided some relief in selected cases but the majority of Muslim women have been failed by the criminal justice system in Gujarat. Some survivors, supported by human rights activists, have shown enormous courage in pursuing their cases in the face of state indifference to its human rights obligations. In November, AI is publishing a report on the failure of the authorities in Gujarat to protect women in the 2002 violence.

    Among many other things. Why is it that rightwing ideologues and murderers like Modi get to wear their ideologies on their sleeves, while those who have tacitly supported them like Anand Shah get to wear labels like “pragmatic” until it’s politically convenient not to anymore? This is the question I have.

  32. Dr.

    Not saying that there is no connection between the Shah’s and Modi, but from the TOI and other links above I don’t believe Modi gave him the award but Vajpayee did, which is not to say Modi was not there at the ceremony.

  33. Also, the Government of India cut off grants to Ekal Vidyalayas in 2005 for “misusing… funds, and using the [government] grants for creating disharmony amongst religious groups and creating a political cadre”.

    I’m adding the stuff you missed..

    Also the UPA govt. under the HRD of “secular” Mr.Arjun Singh wanted to increase funding and government money for the madrassahs while cutting off funds to Ekal vidyalayas. The funny thing is that the Mullahs refused to bow to Arjun Singh fearing that govt. might control the syllabi if they accepted.. For people who want to know what they teach in madrassahs, search online for hadiths / polytheists etc.. You’d find a lot of love towards polytheists being taught in madrassahs.. :-)

    If BJP comes to power the next time, they’ll put back the funding for Ekal vidyalayas. That action can then be treated as ceritfying the good character of Ekal vidyalaya.

  34. 289 · Ponniyin Selvan said

    Also the UPA govt. under the HRD of “secular” Mr.Arjun Singh wanted to increase funding and government money for the madrassahs

    not that arjun singh has clean hands, but this is an incorrect retelling of the story – and again, one among the narratives of grievance that are compiled. arjun singh wanted to modernize the madrassas with the carrot of more funding, which the hidebound mullahs resisted so they could continue teaching their favored garbage.

    If BJP comes to power the next time, they’ll put back the funding for Ekal vidyalayas. That action can then be treated as ceritfying the good character of Ekal vidyalaya.

    yes, that will be a shock when the sangh stands behind its schools in an unbiased manner. as long as the ekals are not preaching hate (and saying “jai shri ram” by itself doesn’t seem problematic, although pushing views on ram janmabhoomi certainly will be), they probably are performing a useful function. however, the big question in my mind is – who is to actually verify that all the funds collected from hindus world-over through the various front organizations of the sangh in the name of charitable and social service projects actually are directed exactly towards what they are intended, and not for other agendas? the web of interconnection that is the sangh makes this completely opaque.

  35. The Hindutva is hiding behind every corner. It lurks in the shadows of all Hindu charitable organizations, just waiting to consume all of India into its gaping maw.

  36. re: that award:

    When the state government announced the Gujarat Garima awards this year, Anand found himself in an august company that included industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata and economist Jagdish Bhagwati.

    Should we picket outside Bhagwati’s office for being a tacit supporter of Hindutva now too?

  37. The Hindutva is hiding behind every corner. It lurks in the shadows of all Hindu charitable organizations, just waiting to consume all of India into its gaping maw.

    LOL–good one, NaraVara! Though remember, even without evidence of a lurking Hindutva, the very choice of a “Hindu” charity, as opposed to a “secular” one, is evidence of a bad motive! Tsk, tsk! ;-)

  38. 291 · NaraVara said

    It lurks in the shadows of all Hindu charitable organizations, just waiting to consume all of India into its gaping maw.

    don’t forget the efficiency argument naravara.

    Though remember, even without evidence of a lurking Hindutva, the very choice of a “Hindu” charity

    rob, why don’t you bludgeon a muslim in your neighborhood to feed your paranoia.

  39. rob, i meant, instead of funding the vhp and getting them to do the job for you, doing it directly might have a much more visceral benefit to your psyche.

    given the sangh’s history of fudging responsibility with a gazillion different fronts, i don’t know why their motives should be clean as the whited snow just in this one facet.

  40. Liberal – Yellow flag.

    Attack the argument, not the person. I really don’t want to have to start dealing with this comment thread right now, I shut down my own comments when people had little to say, don’t make me shut this down because it has gotten ugly.

  41. 295 · liberal said

    rob, i meant, instead of funding the vhp and getting them to do the job for you, doing it directly might have a much more visceral benefit to your psyche. given the sangh’s history of fudging responsibility with a gazillion different fronts, i don’t know why their motives should be clean as the whited snow just in this one facet.

    If they wanted to launder money I can think of much easier ways to do it than to build a school system. Why couldn’t they just build restaurants like normal thugs?

  42. 297 · NaraVara said

    Why couldn’t they just build restaurants like normal thugs?

    why don’t the hezbollah and hamas do that? hint: you need a carrot to go with the big red button of fear.

    ennis, sorry about that comment. i guess i embraced the communist lefty wingnut label that i had generously been given by some of these commenters,

  43. As for the “efficiency argument.” If there was an earthquake in Lebanon and Hezbollah was the most effective group on the ground with aid, I don’t see why one wouldn’t support the relief effort.

    If you actually care about the people on the ground that is. If you primary concern is the economic and political clout that Hezbollah has then you might raise a fuss about it. But failing to recognize that the reason groups like Hezbollah become popular is precisely because they actually give a shit about the disadvantaged people (even if they care more for people within their own tribe) is kind of the reason groups like Hezbollah end up being radicalized in the first place.

    Basically you take an organization that people have positive feelings towards. And rather than trying to work with the people within it to reach mutually beneficial ends you instead accuse them and anyone who has ever spoken to them of all sorts of inhumanities and atrocities. So what happens? You basically told a bunch of people that you don’t give a damn about their concerns or their values and you’re out to stomp on the only people who seem to. That’s certainly not going to foster any amity between peoples.

  44. i think being a “secular” hindu would entail treating all extremist religious organizations with the same standard. i guess it is a sign of “end of days” when basic sanity and equal treatment has been consigned to the loony leftist’s dustbin.