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A Foreign Exchange of Hate:
IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva
A Report by Sabrang Communications Pvt. Ltd. (India) / SACW (France)

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Saffron Dollar December 2003
Campaign To Stop Funding Hate

December 17, 2003
Dear Friends,

In this issue of Saffron Dollar we take account of the challenges facing India
after the recent BJP electoral victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and
Chhattisgarh, the release of a new report titled “Threatened Existence – A
Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat,” which calls on nations of the
world to take action against those responsible for the perpetration of
horrific crimes against Gujarat’s Muslim community, particularly women, and
the ongoing controversy surrounding the “Mata” in Kerala in the context of an
increasingly aggressive Hindutvadi presence in the state facilitated and
defended by the unholy alliance of religious, state and corporate power. We
also bring to you the meager though vital good news that Indians in the United
States are attempting to challenge the communalist menace by actively
organizing a new initiative called “Building Bridges,” which seeks to defend
pluralism, promote participatory forms of democracy and deepen understanding
and harmony between members of different religious communities. This exciting
initiative was brought to our notice by a reader in response to our earlier
survey question, so we urge you to please consider providing us similarly
useful feedback. It is important for us to recognize and support initiatives
that challenge chauvinism and promote pluralism. As this month's issue is
longer than usual, we have not included a survey question; however we welcome
your feedback on previous survey questions as well as any other relevant
information you may wish to share with us.

Contents:

1) Hindutva Lite: Election post mortem
2) Building Bridges: communities take action for pluralism
3) “Threatened Existence – A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat” –
an important new report released by The International Initiative for Justice
(IIJ)
4) Mata and Marad – readers responses considered

1) HINDUTVA LITE:

With the BJP storming into power in three of the five states which recently
went to the polls, the immediate question for groups like ours, who are
fighting communalization of public spaces in India, is what does this mean for
the future of Indian polity? Should we take heart, like many political
commentators, that these elections were about "development" and not about
Hindutva, and hence, the victory of saffron should not really be seen as
validation of their anti-minorities policies?

While it is true that the BJP refrained from making the Ayodhya temple a big
issue during their election campaign, it would be naïve to suggest that
Hindutva had no role in these elections. All three BJP chief ministers are one-
time members of the RSS, the RSS and VHP cadres were fully mobilized in all
three states, and the entire context in which these elections were held had
Hindutva politics as its undercurrent. Uma Bharati may not have mentioned
Ayodhya during these elections, but her aggressive promotion of her ‘sadhvi’
identity draped in saffron robes left little room for secular politics either.
Uma Bharati’s staunch support of Narendra Modi following the Gujarat carnage
was reciprocated by Modi campaigning for her in the tribal belt of Madhya
Pradesh, the site of increased communal tensions surrounding the contested
structure of Bhojashala. Of course, Modi took care to only broach development
topics (which strangely included calling for the return of the so-called
Bhojshala statue from a museum in London). But can we really ignore the
communal politics that provided him with a platform to speak from, in the
first place?

The story is not very different in the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh,
where the campaign for ‘development’ issues was spearheaded by the infamous
Dilip Singh Judeo and his Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams, and included establishing
Ajit Singh as a Christian and a "nakli adivasi" (fake adivasi). Any doubts
about the centrality of Hindutva in these elections are further eroded by the
swearing-in ceremony of Uma Bharati, which was blessed by sadhus and VHP
functionaries and conducted in accordance with the directions of the Prime
Minister’s personal astrologer, who decided which direction the dais should
face and what time the National Anthem should be played. It is not that
Hindutva was absent from these elections, only that it has so pervaded all of
Indian politics, with all electoral parties accepting it in one form or
another, that it doesn’t attract notice anymore. If the BJP did not play its
Hindutva card more flamboyantly, it is because its rivals were busy polishing
up and proudly displaying their own Hindutva-lite cards.

What does it mean for the rest of the country? The recent communal clashes in
the old city of Hyderabad on the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition do
not bode well. While Hyderabad has always been a flashpoint for communal
violence, it is the first time in ten years that such large areas of the old
city have been put under curfew. The fact that this violence was predictable
and yet the administration was completely unprepared to deal with it, shows
the lack of political will to contain such violence. The neighboring state of
Karnataka, meanwhile, is seeing increased mobilization by the Sangh Parivar
which is organizing a Shobha Yatra at the Bababudangiri shrine—a Sufi shrine
in Chikmagalur, revered by both Hindus and Muslims. The Sangh Parivar is now
trying to make Bababudangiri the "Ayodhya of the South". While the Congress-
led state government has made no effort to prevent the VHP and Bajrang Dal
from organizing the Yatra, it did stall efforts by secular activists,
organized under "Souhardadedege Namma Nadige" to hold parallel meetings to
counter this communalization. Several hundred activists have been arrested,
and hundreds others, including Girish Karnad, the well-known theater
personality, have been stopped from entering the town.

Clearly, guardianship of secularism is too important an issue to be left to
political parties alone. Election results one way or another would probably
have not meant much, given the communalized environment in which party
politics are being played out. If India has to retain its secular identity, it
is up to all of us to rally behind secular initiatives and work towards
creating alternatives.

2) BUILDING BRIDGES:

While the news from India on the electoral front may not be very heartening,
we should recognize that there are many initiatives at local and regional
levels, which celebrate pluralism, promote understanding between communities
and engender participatory forms of democracy. We would like to encourage our
readers to share with us news about such initiatives taking place in their
neighborhoods and localities. In this issue, we highlight one such initiative
in Chicago, called "Building Bridges of Understanding."

On November 8, 2003, more than 40 people from all over Chicago, representing a
variety of organizations met in Darien, Illinois, to begin the process
of "building bridges" among different communities to promote pluralism,
secularism, democracy and communal harmony. This meeting was sponsored by six
groups active in the Chicago metropolitan area — Coalition for Secular and
Democratic India (CSDI), South Asian Progressive Action Collective (SAPAC),
South Asia Group for Action and Reflection (SAGAR), Indian Muslim Council-USA
(IMC-USA), World Tamil Organization (WTO) and Sikh American Heritage
Organization (SAHO). The aim of the meeting was to develop a common
understanding of shared goals, and to determine what efforts should be
undertaken in order to effectively achieve these ends. By the end of the
meeting, a whole host of objectives, action plans and structures were defined —
both in India and in North America — including activities on the internet,
future meetings and workshops, dialogues to further understanding, rapid
mobilization to react to events, and raising awareness. The group has
tentatively adopted the name "Building Bridges", and invites anyone who agrees
with the spirit of the meeting to join them in this effort.

More information about this initiative can be obtained from the following
persons: Imtiaz Uddin (CSDI)(630)971-9873, Harinder Lamba (SAGAR) (630)964-
2258, Rasheed Ahmed (IMC-USA) (708)466-0244, Shashi Menon (SAPAC)(773)374-5754.

3) FEMINIST REPORT ON GUJARAT CALLS FOR GENOCIDE ALERT:

The International Initiative for Justice (IIJ) on Gujarat has released a
report on December 10 in Bombay and Britain that calls for the declaration of
a genocide alert in Gujarat. Even 18 months after the massacres of
February/March 2002, the "genocidal project continues in different and
frightening forms with long-term consequences on the lives of all members of
the Muslim community, particularly women," the IIJ says. The report
titled “Threatened Existence – A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in
Gujarat,” which can be read at
http://www.onlinevolunteers.org/gujarat/reports/iijg asks every nation to
extradite or prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes in Gujarat. The
international team of feminists asked the world community to investigate and
prevent the funding and challenge the tax exempt or charitable status of
organizations that directly or indirectly support the Hindutva agenda. The
first to foreground a feminist analysis of the sexualized violence in the
state, the 243–page report documents the horrific crimes against Muslim women,
including previously unreported cases of rape and sexual violence and alleges
that this was done with the “knowledge of highly-placed state actors and in
many instances carried out with the full participation and support of the
police.” It warns that sexual violence will go unpunished unless it is
specifically focused upon and recognized as a strategy of subjugation. As
part of bringing offenders to justice, the team recommended that the judicial
definition of rape be expanded to include all forms of violating penetration,
and also to ensure prosecution of all instances of sexual violence.

The team also found that new, tighter patriarchal controls are being imposed
on women by the victim community. Women who were targets of sexual violence
are silenced within the home and community to protect family honor. To ensure
justice for women, the IIJ asked the Indian government to facilitate an
international mission of enquiry to identify and punish the perpetrators; as
well as to investigate and prosecute organizations such as the VHP, RSS,
Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and their affiliate organizations. The report also
asked that the Gujarat State Cell to monitor inter-religious and other forms
of mixed marriages be disbanded. The IIJ also asked progressive movements to
strengthen and ally themselves with the struggles of Dalit and Adivasi groups
who otherwise are increasingly being recruited by Hindutva to implement a
violent agenda. The report was produced by a panel of feminist jurists,
activists, lawyers, writers and academics from all over the world: Anissa
Helie,Algeria/France, Gabriela Mischkowski, Germany, Nira Yuval-Davis, UK,
Rhonda Copelon, USA, Sunila Abeysekara, Sri Lanka, Farah Naqvi, Meera
Velayudan, Uma Chakravarti and Vahida Nainar from India. The report is based
on hundreds of testimonies, eye witness accounts and other relevant
information.

The IIJ was assisted and set up by: Citizen's Initiative (Ahmedabad), People's
Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)- Shanti Abhiyan (Baroda), Communalism Combat,
Aawaaz-e-Niswaan, Forum Against Oppression of Women (FAOW) and Stree Sangam
(Bombay), Saheli, Jagori, Sama, and Nirantar (Delhi), Organised Lesbian
Alliance for Visibility and Action (OLAVA, Pune), and other women's
organizations in India.

4) MATA AND MARAD:

Several readers responded with interesting questions about the Kerala round-
up. The most important issue raised by readers concerned the Mata's birthday
event: If there is no direct Hindutva link, some readers asked, is there
anything wrong with politicians simply attending a birthday celebration?
Further inquiry into this issue only revealed the unholy alliance between the
Mata, Hindutva, corporate forces, and the state. Kerala's journalistic
circles point out that the VHP cadre was indeed involved in behind-the-scenes
organizing for the event along with Mahant Nritya Gopal Das who is chief of
the Ram Janmabhoomi trust. The Mata celebrations actually created a new
transnational platform where President Abdul Kalam could discuss his national
development Vision 2020 not with social organizations, but with Indian and
foreign CEOs, as well as the Mata herself, creating a new trend of corporate
religious authority that transcends state and constitutional power. Among the
politicians paying homage to the Mata were Vice-President Bhairon Singh
Shekhawat, Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani, chief ministers, members of
Parliament and several ministers.

The Mata may not directly be espousing Hindutva but she is providing Hindutva
advocates with a platform from where they can preach about love and harmony
without being questioned about their involvement in killings and plunder. The
Mata, by getting Advani et al to officiate, is publicly endorsing such
politicians, and inasmuch as she promotes such personalities politically, it
does make her complicit in the Hindutva ideology they espouse, and the
violence implicit in that ideology. We have to recognize that politicians
public homage to the Mata is not a private act of devotion, but a political
act - both for Mata, who is making a political statement by inviting them, and
also for these Hindutva politicians, who are using this occasion to repaint
their religious image in tones of harmony and love. The increasing power of
godly figures is troubling because as religious figures, they have no public
accountability, and the various trusts they run have no public scrutiny (again
because they are religious trusts). The nexus between godmen/godwomen,
politicians, and corporations, and their ability to command and engineer a
public spectacle – in the Mata’s case, the media were literally bought out
with floods of advertisement revenue – holds dangerous implications for the
future.

Some readers also raised helpful factual questions regarding the Marad story:

(1) Is the National Development Front (thanks for the correction) an Islamic
fundamentalist organization or is it a human rights organization? The answer
is: It is an Islamic fundamentalist organization; for example, see Communalism
Combat (August 1999). Far from defending human rights, our inquiries with
several activist organizations and journalists reveal that the NDF and its
supporters side with reactionary and cynical vested interests among the Kerala
Muslim community; the NDF is responsible for acts of violence against moderate
and progressive Muslims; and the NDF attempts to enforce new conservatism and
fundamentalist Islam in north Kerala rural areas.

(2) Are not the killings of Hindus at Marad an act of revenge against the
January 2002 killings of Muslims in the same area? The revenge story, as far
as we understand, is a smokescreen that hides other vested interests operating
behind Marad, and which is yet to be revealed. "Revenge" theories exist on
the basis of communalization of society and the last issue of Saffron Dollar
focused on what the BJP was able to achieve politically in terms of extending
this communalization in Kerala.

(3) Is the Mata Dalit or OBC? She belongs to the Mukkuva community, and is
OEC, Other Eligible Category. It may be noted that the term Dalit has a
political (not literal) origin which is different from the state
categorizations of SC/ST/OBC. The community’s socially depressed status is
what leads us to refer to it as "Dalit," and this is what led to the Mata
being referred to as Dalit. Interestingly, the Mata’s own rise in Hindutva’s
power hierarchy is now perhaps wiping out the unpalatable aspects of her caste
identity. Lest we be lulled into thinking that the acceptance of the Mata by
the BJP represents a shift in their attitude towards Dalits, we should note
that as recently as this month, Dalit students and teachers in several parts
of BJP’s Gujarat “laboratory” have been victimized for the simple fact that
they demanded an end to forced segregation of Dalits within schools. Several
Dalit teachers have been arbitrarily transferred with the complicity of state
officials.

 

 

 

 
©2002 THE CAMPAIGN TO STOP FUNDING HATE.