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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 2004
Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
January 5, 2005


As we mail this issue of Saffron Dollar to you, our hearts go out to the victims of killer waves in the countries around the Indian Ocean. We urge you all to donate generously to one or more of the hundreds of organizations involved in the massive relief and rehabilitation efforts across more than a dozen countries. We hope you have received our special alert on these efforts. Please distribute the alert widely and encourage your colleagues and friends to contribute generously to credible non-sectarian organizations. Please also read our Tsunami Relief FAQ - responses to some readers’ concerns about our call for caution as Sangh Parivar organizations step up their efforts to raise funds in the name of aiding Tsunami victims: We welcome your comments and feedback on the issue:

We will have more on the Tsunami disaster in the next edition of Saffron Dollar.

Meanwhile, this issue of Saffron Dollar has five items.

1. Annual convention of American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI)
2. Hindu pontiff mired in crimes against Hindus?
3. Remembering the genocide of 84
4. Bhopal: Continuing travesty of justice
5. December 6: Is Ayodhya losing relevance?


Earlier this year, the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) held its 14th Annual North American convention at Toronto on September 25th-26th. The theme of the convention was "Minority Rights and Indian Democracy." The speakers included Balakrishnan Rajagopalan, Director of the Human Rights Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aslam Abdullah, Editor of the Muslim Observer and The Minaret, Firoz Bakht Ahmed, educationist from India and grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and Biju Mathew of the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate. Carolyn Parish, a Member of the Parliament, was one of the guests and Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, gave the keynote speech. Most of the speeches used the example of the Gujarat violence to argue that the protection of minority rights is one of the cornerstones of an effective democracy. The importance of producing conversations across communities and of forming alliances among minority groups was emphasized.


“Am I Veerappan?” asked Jayendra Saraswathi, the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Mutt, one of the most revered individuals in the pantheon of Hindu godmen. His arrest last November in Andhra Pradesh was carefully planned. His holiness was not so much protesting his innocence as he was asserting his Brahmanical rights over and above such ordinary mortals as Veerappan - who got neither an arrest (with or without prostrating policemen), nor a fair trial, nor did his extra-legal murder elicit much outrage from the upper caste dominated press. Veerappan was mowed down by bullets, not asked to surrender. Jayendra Saraswathi on the other hand has a Brahmin convict cooking for him, keeping with caste purity laws even within the totalized space of prison, and is allowed to practice rituals. The investigation is on and efforts by supporters of the fallen ‘seer’ to have him released on bail, have failed so far. A bail plea to the Supreme Court by Jayendra has been countered by the Tamil Nadu government. The charges are serious: the murder of fellow-priest Sankararaman and a murderous assault on another disgruntled ex-employee Radhakrishnan and his wife. Investigations are also being conducted on allegations of sexual abuse, child molestation and possible murder.

Predictably, the Sangh Parivar went into overdrive from the moment the arrest was announced. The VHP’s Togadia, a man who would know a thing or two about being accused of complicity in the murder of innocents, claimed this was another instance of Hinduism being attacked by missionaries, communists, and leftists. The RSS ranted about a conspiracy to undermine Hinduism. Some writers scaled new heights of irresponsible irrationality by suggesting that the devastation caused by Tsunamis was ‘divine retribution’ for the arrest of the Kanchi Mutt head. What would a fascist-friendly godman have to do in order to convince some ‘believers?’ Conveniently lost in these diatribes is the fact that all the concerned victims were practicing, religious Hindus. The efforts of Sangh Parivar affiliates to stoke up trouble in Tamil Nadu since the arrest has been met with indifference – after all the Kanchi institution has significance mostly to Tamil Brahmins, who despite their social power, constitute a small minority in the state. The snub offered by the people of Tamil Nadu to the destructive antics of the Sangh Parivar is praiseworthy. The absurdity of Hindutva thinking shines through in the shameless demand for immunity on the grounds that a person is a “seer.” Perhaps the Togadias, Thakerays and Modis along with thousands of their killer-thugs can crown themselves seers and mock justice as well?


October 31, 1984 is largely remembered for the death of Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh security guards. The killing was reportedly a reprisal for ordering the Indian army to enter the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple. In the aftermath of her death, New Delhi and parts of north India witnessed systematic, well planned and state-supported violence of genocidal proportions against the Sikh community. In New Delhi alone, over 3000 Sikhs, mostly men, were brutally murdered. A large number of the men were forced to witness the rape of their wives and daughters before being killed or burned alive in front of their families. Reports from the relief and rehabilitation camps pointed to the systematic decimation of the Sikh male population, particularly those of working age.

What made this ethnic violence particularly egregious was the complicity of the state. Elected officials and prominent functionaries of the Congress party were witnessed leading mobs to Sikh business establishments and homes. For three days following the death of Indira Gandhi, elected officials and police either watched inertly or participated in the violence, while ravaging mobs took more than 3000 lives and destroyed Sikh homes and businesses. Twenty years later, not one of these state officials have been charged - in fact, two of them have been rewarded with cabinet positions in the current UPA government led by the Congress Party. Bitter irony for a government led by a respected Sikh politician.

In the past year, a group of religiously diverse youth activists have begun to highlight the anti-Sikh violence in 1984 and fight for justice. The group 'Remember 1984' launched Project 84 to work with students and communities to host survivor dialogues at universities, South Asian Students Societies etc. In addition, silent demonstrations were held in San Jose; New York City; and Toronto, Canada on October 30th, 2004. Follow up press reports indicated that a small number of individuals attended the peace vigils in the three cities. It is unfortunate that few recognize the 1984 violence as the first clear instance of state-sponsored genocidal violence in India. While we fight for justice for victims of a more recent attempt at genocide (in Gujarat), it is important to remember the victims and demonstrate solidarity with survivors of past attempts at ethnic cleansing.


December 3, 2004 marked the 20th anniversary of an enormous industrial disaster in Bhopal. That night two decades ago, a storage tank containing 40 tons of toxic MIC (methyl-isocyanate) burst at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal leading to the death of over 8000 people who lived in nearby slums, and caused permanent damage to thousands more rendering them unfit to labor. About half a million people were exposed to the gas. About 1,20,000 people are suffering from the long term negative health affects of MIC even today. But, till date, Union Carbide, whose cost cutting measures led to serious safety lapses that caused the disaster, refuses to give any information on the health impacts of MIC, claiming it to be a ‘trade secret', thereby hampering any effective treatment of the victims. In a further travesty of justice, Dow Chemicals (a leading US chemical company which bought Carbide in 2001) has refused to take responsibility for Union Carbide’s liabilities and refuses to take any responsibility for the continuing disaster in Bhopal.

Carbide and the then CEO of the company Warren Anderson have not faced criminal charges pending against them in India. Supporters of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal marked 3rd December as the Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crimes. Supporters from over 19 countries participated in vigils, protests and demonstrations at Dow facilities as also educational events. At least two Dow Board members were visited by supporters who delivered a message from Bhopal for justice and demanded an immediate clean up of the plant site.


Perhaps December 6, the anniversary of the Sangh Parivar's demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, is now acquiring a new twist. The secular initiative in New Delhi included the All-India Students' Association (AISA) along with the Forum for Democratic Initiative, Saheli, and Aman Ekta Manch who jointly took out a march to protest against the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat genocide.

But elsewhere, December 6 seemed to almost disappear as a national rallying point for secular energies. The reports in the English press focused on the unprecedented mobilization of Muslim groups in Chennai (the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, 10,500 of whose volunteers were arrested) and to a lesser extent, Bangalore (Karnataka Muslim Muttahida Tahreek), who raised a common demand that the Babri Masjid be rebuilt at the very site in Ayodhya where it was demolished in 1992. In contrast, the Indian Express reported that the VHP in Ayodhya was plunged in gloom, with just a dozen volunteers left. Not a single national VHP leader came to attend the December 6 meeting at which empty chairs abounded.

While media coverage has its own priorities and may not accurately reflect the mobilizations on the ground, we wonder if the Ayodhya-Babri issue is beginning to lose its political relevance. We urge readers to share with us any information, insights they may have gathered on the manner in which December 6th was observed in India this year.