Saffron Dollar January-February 2005
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
March 3, 2005
It has now been ten weeks since the tsunami disaster- while the media has moved on from this disaster to the next news item, people affected by the tsunami are still trying to piece their lives together. Not only are they dealing with the inefficiency of state agencies but also the sectarian zeal of communal groups. The first two reports present a follow up of tsunami relief efforts. The third report concerns Indicorps, an organization that provides young Indian-Americans the opportunity to spend time in India on ‘development’ projects. We report on a conference held at Yale University, where questions about Indicorps’ affiliation with the Sangh came up.
Urgent Action Alert!
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) has invited Narendra Modi as Chief Guest at its annual convention on March 24, 2005. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi's complicity in the 2002 Gujarat pogroms is well known. The Coalition Against Genocide is an effort to protest this attempt to clean up Modi's 'public image' by AAHOA and its allied organizations. Please visit the
coalition's website at http://coalitionagainstgenocide.org for details and sign its online petition at http://www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org/petition.php
As always, we welcome feedback and questions- please feel free to write to us at email@example.com.
1) Post-Tsunami Report
Ten weeks have passed since a tsunami hit the coastlines of ten countries in Asia and Africa. The official count of the dead stands at nearly 300,000 with tens of thousands more who will never be accounted for.
The news is no longer on the front-page and not unexpectedly, the large sums of money pledged for relief and rehabilitation by the rich nations have remained just that; pledges, with no sign of actual moneys being transferred.
The local governments haven't done any better. Indonesia is using the tragedy to push its agenda of eliminating the so-called insurgency in the Aceh, the Sri Lankan government also appears to have missed the small window of peace with the LTTE that had opened in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and in India, the planned rehabilitation work in Tamil Nadu has somehow mutated into 're-development' with the World Bank and the IMF stepping in.
But the people whose lives were shattered do not have the luxury of being able to shift their priorities; they have to get on with the task of rebuilding their lives. So, all of you who were so generous with your time and with your money, please do not stop. The needs on the ground are long-term and the resources required are enormous. Please continue to support the rehabilitation work in all of the affected countries. Some of the organizations working in India that we have recommended before are the Tamil Nadu Science Forum, the National Fishworkers Forum, Vidyarambam, APVVU (agricultural workers' union in AP), People's Watch and Bhoomika Trust. All of these organizations have a long history of working closely with affected communities and a reputation for complete transparency and accountability.
At the same time, we also remind you that communal groups are also out in full force in the tsunami-hit areas, using the tragedy to establish themselves in the affected communities. It happened following the Latur earthquake in 1993, it happened in the wake of the Orissa cyclone in 1999, and it happened again when the massive earthquake shook Gujarat in 2001. Not only do these groups, the RSS and its affiliates being the worst offenders, disburse relief unequally among various communities, but they cause fractures in the communities along lines of caste and religion.
So we urge you to not turn off your generosity, but do continue to be vigilant to ensure that this immense tragedy does not provide another opportunity for communal groups to gain foothold in a plural society. For further information on organizations, please visit our website (www.stopfundinghate.org).
2) Tsunami Relief, Dalits and marginalized coastal communities
While the Tsunami disaster brought untold death and destruction to hundreds of thousands across the Indian Ocean Basin, some institutions have survived intact, and are still at work. Varnashrama Dharma has survived the Tsunami and is continuing to wreak havoc on the lives of Dalit survivors through the callous, mean and absolutely reprehensible actions of some individuals and groups ostensibly conducting relief operations. Even while the scale of the tragedy motivates thousands of ordinary people to commit acts of tremendous
generosity and compassion across religious and caste lines, why are others still shackled by the unjust demands of caste tyranny? Widespread reports of relief being denied to Dalit communities and overt discrimination against Dalits in the relief process are pouring in. The following news stories and reports offer a glimpse of the immense challenge facing Dalit communities in the affected region, who have had to deal with both the cataclysm of the Tsunami, and the ever-enduring tyranny of caste Hinduism.
Another disturbing aspect of the Tsunami relief operations is the purported efforts of the Tamil Nadu government in tandem with elite local and global interests to use the tragedy to impose a permanent dislocation of the traditionally marginalized fishing communities throughout coastal Tamil Nadu. This heinous effort taken together with the continued discrimination of Dalits represents a stunning failure of India's state and civil society institutions to ensure the safety, wellbeing and dignified livelihoods of millions of Dalits and the marginalized fishing communities of coastal India. We condemn the barbaric persistence of anti-Dalit social institutions and practices, and call on all well-intentioned people to apply the necessary pressure on state and civil institutions conducting relief to cease and desist from such tyrannical efforts as enforced displacement. Relief should neither be used as an excuse to consolidate the Hindutvadi menace, nor for the continuation of caste tyranny and outright class war against the poor victims of the Tsunami. The parasitic forces of society, whether Hindutvadi fascists, entrenched defenders of Brahmanical caste tyranny, or opportunistic predatory agents of local and global economic interests, should be opposed with the same intensity by all those who value secularism, democracy and social justice.
For more information, please see the following reports:
Shunned, these Dalits gather tsunami dead, Indian Express (January 03, 2005)
Tsunami can't wash this away: hatred for Dalits, Indian Express (January 07, 2005)
Dalits Fight Tsunami Daily, Udit Raj (January 13, 2005)
Dark Clouds: A new Government order to scatter Tsunami survivors in Tamil Nadu
by Babu Mathew (January 16, 2005)
3) Indicorps and its Sangh affiliations
The South Asian Conference Council (SACC) at Yale University organized a conference on solidarity in the South Asian community. The objective was to increase social activism in the South Asian student community. The conference included panels on youth activism and workers rights and brought together some very progressive activists in the community (such as Nahar Alam from Andolan, Saru Jayaraman from Restaurant opportunities Center of New York, Chandra Bhatnagar from the ACLU to mention a few). In conflict with this progressive list of speakers, the organizers also invited Sonal Shah, vice president of Goldman Sachs and co-founder of Indicorps. According to their website, “Indicorps is a non-partisan, non-religious, non-profit organization that encourages Indians around! the world to actively participate in India's progress.” While some of the organizations that Indicorps works with are indeed secular and progressive, at issue was their affiliation with organizations of the Sangh parivar. These connections range from personal affiliation of Sonal Shah with the VHP-A (see http://www.vhp-america.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=13), institutional affiliation of Indicorps with IDRF (IDRF is one of Indicorps’ supporters; see http://www.indicorps.org/index.cfm?function=supporters&level=1), Indicorps’ involvement with Sangh parivar projects such as Ekal Vidyalaya (see http://www.indicorps.org/index.cfm?function=partners&level=1). Perhaps most questionable was Indicorps’ decision to accept an award from the “butcher of Gujarat” Narendra Modi in November 2004, at a time when numerous human rights activists have been threatened from continuing their work (http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/asia/india/gujarat/).
The conference organizers allowed a couple of progressive youth collectives (Organizing Youth! and Youth Solidarity Summer) to read a statement and ask Indicorps to explain their association with the Sangh Parivar. Far from explaining, Sonal Shah admitted her affiliation to the VHP-A, claimed that she would take money from anyone (including the KKK!), and used a young Muslim volunteer to claim that Indicorps was in fact secular. Such is not the kind of solidarity that one expects from a non-partisan, non-religious organization. In fact, based on the evidence and Sonal Shah’s admission, Indicorps can be listed as one of many front organizations of the Sangh parivar in the US. Soon after this public discussion, the Patriotic Sons of Mother India (a virulent Sangh outfit) posted a defence of Indicorps by attempting to defame Youth Solidarity Summer as anti-India and anti-Hindu- typical reaction from the Sangh for one of their own!
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