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Monday, December 16, 2002
A Time for Introspection in the Land of Gandhi
By Raju Rajagopal

The shocking news from Gujarat is still ringing in my
ears: the very politicians who were seen as the
perpetrators of the worst carnage in India's history
have been handed a landslide electoral victory!
India's pluralistic ethos that we all grew up with,
and the Hindu values that many of us imbibed at home,
seem to have taken a severe beating at the hands of a
communalized majority. The edifice of Indian
democracy, which we have always proudly defended to
our friends overseas, notwithstanding its frailties,
is shaking at its very foundation.

Where did we go wrong? How did the intelligent voters
of Gujarat not see through the vicious hate campaign
and indoctrination that has been going on in the name
of all the Hindus? If they were rightly incensed and
pained by the torching of innocent Hindu pilgrims on a
train, shouldn't they have been a hundred times more
troubled and angered by the images of innocent
Muslims, who had nothing whatsoever to do with Godhra,
being torched alive, and of women being raped and
burned and hacked to pieces for no fault of theirs?
How could they miss the one opportunity to say NO to
those remorseless politicians, who have been standing
unashamedly atop the graves they had dug, to proclaim
themselves to be the sole champions of Gujarat's

I for one refuse to believe that Gujaratis have turned
overnight into unfeeling, stonehearted rakshasas, out
to destroy their minorities. Rather, I believe that
they have themselves been cruel victims of a
brilliantly choreographed and orchestrated political
strategy of the Sangh Parivar, which has been on the
anvil for quite some time. Thanks to Godhra, that
hate-based strategy has been successfully show-cased
in Gujarat beyond the wildest dreams of its
architects--to the point that otherwise decent human
beings refuse to believe the scale of brutality that
took place right under their noses, and rationalize
the inhumanity that they did behold, as a legitimate
expression of Hindu frustration.

Well, the citizens of Gujarat have now spoken loudly
and clearly. The Sangh Parivar has won a democratic
victory at the battle box, proving that violence does
pay?even in the land of the apostle of non-violence.
Surely, they deserve to be left alone, at least for
the time being, to savor their triumph and to issue
their "fatwas."

For others, this is a time of serious reckoning: to
look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we too
have been unwitting partners in the diabolical plan to
divide Indians from Indians; to own up to the ugly
reality that the Parivar's triumph is in many ways a
direct reflection of our collective failings.

If we are serious about averting a repetition of the
Gujarat "experiment" in other states, we must begin a
serious introspection on our singular failure to gauge
the vastly changed mood of "Middle India," which in
the past could always be counted on to exercise its
franchise in a fair manner, and which has time and
again rescued the nation from sinking into a political
abyss. Many people had hoped that the same silent
majority would be able to rescue Gujarat from the
tyranny of the last ten months. Alas, the vehement
voting in favor of BJP drives home the unmistakable
message that Middle India is now synonymous with a
Hindu majority, which has been deeply communalized.

If there is one lesson that we can all take home from
Gujarat, it is this: there will be no long term
communal harmony in this nation until we win back the
hearts and minds of Middle India. And that is going to
be well nigh impossible unless each community is ready
to think the unthinkable, speak the unspeakable, and
do the unimaginable.

As Muslim Indians, are we ready to break free from our
" victimhood," and embrace a more enlightened
leadership, which is willing to place education, jobs
and housing above all other issues, and is willing to
constructively engage Middle India? Are we willing to
call the Parivar's bluff on issues like the Ram
Janambhoomi and Hajj subsidies, and reassess our
uninformed opposition to a dialogue on the Uniform
Civil Code?

As Christian Indians, possibly the next target of the
Parivar's vicious campaign, are we ready to
acknowledge that the issue of conversions cuts very
deep into the Hindu psyche, notwithstanding all the
constitutional provisions and demographic statistics
that we are fond of throwing up at every opportunity?
Do we understand that every new evangelist and faith
healer that we brook in our midst spawns another
legion of followers for VHP's brand of Hinduism?

As religious Hindus, are we ready to challenge our
spiritual leaders on the significance of their
near-unanimous silence in the face of massive
inhumanity in Gujarat? How do they reconcile their
mauna with the spirit of Hinduism that they have been
lecturing us on? Are they content to sit back as VHP
tries to hijack our Hinduism, or are they willing to
forge a new religious alliance to save Hinduism from
Hindutva, and to save our nation from a possible civil

As Hindus who normally abhor violence of any sort, but
who rationalized the Gujarat violence as a lesson that
needed to be taught to the minorities, are we now
willing to concede that there is no such thing as
controlled violence; that once we have created an
extra-constitutional militia, it will be impossible to
put the genie back in the bottle; that the thirst of
such groups for hatred and violence will inexorably
consume the nation and is sure to land them one day
right on our own doorsteps?

As committed journalists and academics, are we willing
to grant that there indeed are legitimate grievances
by the majority community; that we may have created
significant hurdles to dialogue by the harsh terms of
our rhetoric, often replete with stereotypical
expressions like saffronization, infiltration,
chaddiwallahs, and so on--expressions that are as
biting as the term pseudo-secularist, which has been
so successfully employed to de-legitimize us in the
minds of Middle India?

Passionate as we are about the plight of the
marginalized peoples, are we as human rights activists
and development experts, willing to take serious steps
to build bridges to Middle India, which may well
necessitate working closely with religious groups, a
path scrupulously avoided in the past? Are we willing
to embark upon a strategy of progressively weaning
ourselves away from the "yoke" of foreign funding,
which complicates our active engagement in the task of

All together, are we willing to acknowledge that the
Congress party's bankrupt "Soft Hindutva" strategy in
Gujarat exploded in its face, and was bound to fail
from the get go; that it is futile for us to trash the
Sangh Parivar unless we are ready to work together to
create a credible alternative political force in the
country, which is ready to redefine the very nature of
our secular polity?

Whoever we are, wherever we are, we Indians have our
work cut out for us. So let us head back to our
respective communities and constituencies to begin the
grim task of re-converting Middle India. The future of
our beloved nation is at stake.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Ten years ago, on December 6 1992, the Babri Mosque
in Ayodhya was demolished by the peddlers of hate
in India. In its wake, over 2000 people, mostly
Muslims, were brutally killed in Mumbai and elsewhere
in India. This year, the Muslim community was
targeted once again in Gujarat and over 2000 people
lost their lives.

Speak up for peace and secularism and join the
many groups worldwide who are organizing events on the
6th of December to raise their voices against the rise
of hate and violence in India.

EKTA, Friends of South Asia (FOSA), and the
Coalition Against Communalism (CAC) presents:

a new documentary film by LALIT VACCHANI (IN-PERSON)


In early 1993, Lalit Vachani and the Wide Eye Film team
completed a documentary film, The Boy in the Branch, for
Channel 4 Television, U.K. Set at the headquarters of the
RSS in Nagpur, the film was about the indoctrination of
young Hindu boys by a branch of the RSS, the foremost
Hindu fundamentalist organization in India. Eight years
later, Vachani returned to Nagpur to meet the characters
from his earlier film.

At one level, this is a film about memory. It is a
documentary in the form of a personal revisit where a
filmmaker returns to the issues, the locations and the
subjects of an earlier film. At another level, The Men
in the Tree is a political documentary on the RSS and
Hindu fundamentalism. It is about some of the individuals,
the stories and the myths, the buildings and the branches
that enable the growth of the RSS and its Hindutva

2002 Digital Video; 98 min. Hindi/ English/ Marathi/
Sanskrit with English subtitles.

Friday, December 6th
7:30 - 9:30 PM
University of California, Berkeley
Graduate School of Journalism
105 North Gate Hall


Co-sponsored by the
Center for South Asian Studies, UC Berkeley;
Dept. of Cultural & Social Anthropology,
California Institute of Integral Studies.

Saturday, December 7th
6 - 8:00 PM
Stanford University
Room 002, Bldg 200;
History Corner, 450 Serra Mall


Co-sponsored by the
Dept. of Cultural & Social Anthropology and
Dept. of Religious Studies, Stanford University; and
Dept. of Cultural & Social Anthropology,
California Institute of Integral Studies.

For more info, please visit


Substantial funding for Hindu fundamentalism is raised
in the United States. Evidence suggests strong
connections between some charity organizations in the
US and Hindutva groups in India. One such organization
is the 'India Development Relief Fund' (IDRF), which
is the subject of the report 'A Foreign Exchange of
Hate,' released by Sabrang Communications Pvt. Ltd.
(India) and The South Asia Citizens Web (France).
The FEH report offers important evidence about the
Hindutva movement, and links the IDRF to it. The
complete text of the report is available at

Please add your signature to the Petition to Stop
Corporate Sponsorship of IDRF, and urge corporate
sponsors and financial institutions to close their
accounts with IDRF until it can demonstrate that it
has severed all connections with the Hindutva movement.

Please sign the Petition at

Thursday, November 21, 2002

IT giants plug funds to Sangh


BANGALORE: Silicon Valley companies have been caught unawares after being accused of donating considerable sums of money to the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF).

This US-based charity, according to The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, a voluntary group, is funnelling “millions of dollars’’ to Sangh Parivar-affiliated organisations, which propagate “sectarian hatred in India’’.

Among the large US corporations mentioned by the 91-page report are Cisco, Sun, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard.

“The report, which has taken years, presents a mass of incontrovertible evidence. They are an expose of the false pretexts under which the Sangh Parivar front organisations often collect huge amounts of money from unsuspecting NRIs and US corporations,’’ Biju Mathew, a representative of The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, told The Times of India on Thursday.

He maintained that unsuspecting corporations end up giving large chunks of cash as matching funds of their employees to the IDRF.

“There are a number of Sangh Parivar sympathisers within these companies who will have to be identified. The campaign will intensify over the next one month and ensure that the funding to these communal organisations is completely stopped,’’ says Mathew.

He alleges the IDRF obtained considerable sums of money from these companies by claiming that its activities were “secular’’, although company rules explicitly prohibit donations to religious organisations.

In a formal communication, Sun Microsystems stated that all current donations to the IDRF have been placed on hold pending a directive from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). “Any non-profit and non-proprietary organisation that has been granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt and public charity status is eligible to receive matching gifts from Sun Microsystems,” it added. The IDRF, it observed, does not appear on the IRS list of agencies known to support terrorist activities.

Similarly, a Cisco spokesperson said the company had terminated all matching donations to the IDRF.
Mathew says other mega-corporations like Intel have promised to study the report thoroughly and see that they do not commit the same mistake.

It’s significant that this report has been released at a time when the annual charity season begins in the US, which normally stretches from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas. It has also come at a time when companies like Cisco were planning to triple their matching employee grants this year.

In 1999, the report says, the Cisco Foundation gave almost $70,000 to the IDRF, placing it among the top five of Cisco grantees.

IDRF representatives were unavailable for comment.

The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (SFH) announces the
launch of Project Saffron Dollar to bring an end to
the electronic collection and transfer of funds from
the US to organizations that spread sectarian hatred
in India.

This year, over 2000 people, mostly Muslims,
were killed in communal violence in Gujarat. Many
human rights groups have charged the Hindutva (Hindu
fundamentalist) movement with carrying out this and
other systematic hate actions against minority and
disenfranchised groups in India.

Substantial funding for Hindu fundamentalism is raised
in the United States. Evidence suggests strong
connections between some charity organizations in the
US and Hindutva groups in India. One such organization
is the ‘India Development Relief Fund’ (IDRF), which
is the subject of the report 'A Foreign Exchange of
Hate,' released earliar today by Sabrang Communications
Pvt. Ltd. (India) and The South Asia Citizens Web (France).
The FEH report offers important evidence about the
Hindutva movement, and links the IDRF to it. The text
of the report is available at

The campaign NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT as it plans on
targeting some of the main financial institutions,
such as PayPal and MBNA Bank, that provide IDRF with
the infrastructural means to collect funds. Please
add your signature to the Petition to Stop Corporate
Sponsorship of IDRF, and urge financial institutions
to close their accounts with IDRF until it can
demonstrate that it has severed all connections with
the Hindutva movement.

Please sign the Petition at

Please forward this call to as many as possible.
Thank you.


Friday, October 11, 2002

Confronting Communalism:
Benefit for the Victims of the Gujarat Violence

featuring the critically acclaimed documentaries…

Gopal Menon’s
“Hey Ram: Genocide in the Land of Gandhi”


Gauhar Raza’s
"Evil Stalks the Land"

as well as

Prof. Raka Ray
Department of Sociology
UC Berkeley

Kiran Patel
Relief Worker

Shailja Patel
Spokenword Performance

Sliding Scale Donation Requested: $10-$35

All proceeds will benefit the Gujarat victims

Thursday, October 17th
7:00 PM

2050 VLSB
UC Berkeley

m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n a t
h t t p : / / a h i m s a . b e r k e l e y . e d u

Thursday, October 03, 2002
on the rise of communalism in India

UC Berkeley
Dwinelle Hall, Room 155
(Limited seating, arrive early)


Donations kindly requested.
All proceeds benefit NGOs in India: Nivara Hakk
Suraksha Samiti (Mumbai) and Mijwan (U.P.)

Co-sponsored by AHIMSA and EKTA

Shabana Azmi is an internationally acclaimed actress, Member of the Indian Parliament, and UN Goodwill Ambassador. Known for her commitment to social causes, she has been a fierce and powerful advocate for the disadvantaged, fighting for the rights of minorities, slum dwellers, and women. Her political work can almost be seen as an extension of her work as an actress as Shabana Azmi has so often portrayed women discovering how to stand up to the many forces that seek to oppress them.

As chairperson of the Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti she arranged for alternate land for the disputed slum dwellers of Sanjay Gandhi Nagar in Mumbai and undertook to diffuse tensions after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. For her excellence in social activism, Shabana Azmi won the Rajiv Gandhi Award as well the Yash Bhartiya award from the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Most significantly she was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988 by the Government of India, an award given to eminent citizens for excellence in their field and distinguished contribution to society.

Shabana Azmi earned a name for herself as an actress not only in commericial cinema but in parallel cinema as well. She has acted in over sixty films and made a number of stage appearances in the last three decades. She is the winner of an unprecedented five National Awards for Best Actress in India for the films Ankur (1974), Arth (1983), Khandhar (1984), Paar (1985), and Godmother (1999) and international awards for best actress at the Taormina Arte Festival in Italy for Patang (1994), the Chicago International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Outfest for Deepa Mehta's Fire (1996).

Several retrospectives of her films have been screened at the New York Film Festival, the George Pompidou Center in Paris, the Norwegian Film Institute, the Smithsonian Institute and the American Film Institute in Washington as well as at the Pacific Cinemetheque and Winnipeg Cinematheque. She has been chairperson of the jury at the Montreal International Film Festival and the Cairo International Film Festival. She won international acclaim in John Schlesinger's Madame Sousatzka, Nicholas Klotz's The Bengali; and Roland Joffe's City of Joy. Other films include Channel 4's Immaculate Conception, Blake Edward's The Son of Pink Panther, and Ismail Merchant's In Custody.

Shabana Azmi, married to poet, lyricist, and screenwriter Javed Akhter and daughter of renowned Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi, and seasoned stage actress, Shaukat Kaifi, is a graduate of St. Xavier College in Mumbai, and the Film and Television Institute in Pune, India.

Thursday, September 26, 2002
Josy Joseph in Gandhinagar

The Swaminarayan sect on Wednesday said people should maintain "peace, religious harmony and solidarity" in the face of Tuesday's attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

It also cancelled daylong celebrations slated on Wednesday in memory of one of its gurus.

Doctor Swami, one of the seniormost leaders of the sect, told during a visit to the temple that the attack on the "centre of peace and harmony" should not provoke people.

The sect's spiritual head had termed the attack atrocious and called for prayers for the souls of those who had died, he said.

"This place is universal, we have always worked for the uplift of the whole humanity, the whole of it," Dr Swami said.

At Sarangpur, the religious headquarters of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, all celebrations were cancelled and special prayers were being held for the victims, said Anand Swami, one of the spokesmen for the sect.

He said September 25 was the death anniversary of Swami Maharaj, who founded BAPS. "As soon as our guruji learnt of the attack, he called off today's celebrations and called on all swamis to conduct special prayers," he said.

It was Swami Maharaj who had sent a team of swamis to build Akshardham, a splendid religious complex and a marvellous building. The entire complex is spread over 23 acres and is dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan.

The main monument is an intricately carved, majestic monument of 6,000 tons of pink sandstone, awash with spiritual stillness.


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