Saffron Dollar June 2005
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
July 3, 2005
This issue chronicles the latest episode of the disarray within the Sangh Parivar in India. Since the time Narendra Modi was denied a visa to visit the US, the Sangh seems to have gone into a tailspin. The successful campaign by the Coalition against Genocide (CAG), subject of the previous issue, brought the 2002 Gujarat violence back into prominence in the Indian media and highlighted the lack of support Modi enjoyed in his own state government. While in the past the Sangh has been successful at keeping infighting and failures private, in the recent weeks these fractures began to appear in public, indicating that “all is not well within the family” after all. In this issue we highlight some of the recent problems the sangh has faced in the past month or so. In addition, our diaspora update looks at some positive outcomes of the film “Continuous Journey” by Ali Kazimi and its attempt at preserving an important piece of South Asian immigrant history.
1. Jinxed June for the Sangh!
2. Sangh Parivar Threatens Tribunal - Orissa - ACTION ALERT
3. Sangh Goes after US Based Secular Organizations
4. May 24th, Komagata Maru Day - Better Late than Never?
I. JINXED JUNE FOR THE SANGH!
In the previous issue of Saffron Dollar, we reported on the early stages of disarray within the Sangh Parivar. June was a particularly harsh month for the Sangh Parivar, signalling that their tight reign of terror is fading fast. In late May the Human Resource Development Ministry declared that they were withdrawing funding for the Ekal Vidyalayas, a project of the Friends of Tribal Society and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The government withdrew over one crore rupees in financial support due to “misuse of funds, and using the grants for creating disharmony amongst religious groups and creating a political cadre”. Secular groups in India and abroad have long been collecting evidence and systematically documenting the Sangh's agenda of using government and private funds for promoting their hate-filled, extremist Hindutva ideology. It is a welcome sign that the UPA government woke up and took a stand. For more information on the issue, please see http://www.thehindu.com/2005/05/19/stories/2005051907291200.htm
Given that the amount of funding withdrawn by the government was substantial, it
seems likely that the Sangh will depend more heavily on their overseas funding operations to raise more funds for Ekal Vidyalayas, which have become an important project in the past few years.
In the beginning of June, another strange battle broke out within the Sangh family, this time between the RSS and the VHP on one side and the hawkish son of the Parivar, LK Advani on the other. Advani had just concluded a trip to Pakistan, during which he visited Jinnah's grave and called him a great leader, and asserted that he deplored the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Such comments made it evident that the BJP hawk, who led the mobs during the destruction of Babri Masjid and led the Rath Yatra that led to large scale violence in its wake, was attempting to re-cast his image in a moderate mould, much as his predessesor, AB Vajpayee had done. Perhaps the BJP sent him to Pakistan to test his public image. Either way, the RSS and VHP were not happy with either Advani's visit to Pakistan or his comments. In fact some of his protégés within the BJP were also questioning his wisdom about making such comments about Jinnah. The drama unfolded further as Advani first resigned from his position as BJP President, then withdrew it after the BJP came begging after him. While he seems to have strengthened his position within the BJP, the drama made evident the fissures between the political wing of the Sangh (BJP) and the more extremist sections of the Sangh Parivar, particularly the VHP. Whether this fissure reflects actual power struggles between the BJP and the Sangh or was another episode of drama will be known at the time of the next elections. For more on this story see http://www.outlookindia.com
All through the Advani resignation drama, the VHP was going through its own setback in Gujarat. Twenty one surviving residents of the Gulbarg Society, including the wife of the murdered Congress leader Ehsaan Jafri, filed a compensation suit for 7 crores against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its leader Praveen Togadia. The suit came after the VHP ignored a legal notice from Jakia Jafri asking for compensation for damages from the violence at Gulbarg Society that left 36 people dead, several more injured and destroyed property. The violence occurred on February 28, 2002 in the wake of the Godhra train fire during a bandh organized by the VHP, and supported by the RSS and BJP. Most of the residents of the upscale Gulbarg Society are yet to return to their homes, three years after the heinous violence, due to fear of retaliatory violence from the RSS. Survivors in Gujarat are yet to receive any kind of justice from the Gujarat legal system, despite overwhelming evidence about the role of the VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and the state BJP government in planning and organizing the murder of over 2000 Muslims. For more on this story see http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=134480
II. SANGH PARIVAR THREATENS TRIBUNAL IN ORISSA- ACTION ALERT
While the leadership of the Sangh has been embroiled in infighting and legal battles, elsewhere the Sangh seems to be up to its old tricks of intimidation and obstruction of justice. The Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, has been investigating the spread of communalism and human rights violations in Orissa. On June 14th, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Rastriya Sewika Samiti members threatened the female members of the tribunal, including US based activist Angana Chatterji with rape. The tribunal was formed on June 5 and was in the process of conducting fair investigation of the human rights violations in Orissa. The Sangh tops the list of human rights violations in the state since 1999, when under the guise of providing relief in the wake of the cyclone, they consolidated their position in the community and have spread their hateful, sectarian and extremist ideology. Angana Chatterji received a fax from the VHP state office demanding that she destroy tapes containing testimonial evidence from the tribunal’s hearings.
We join the secular community in the US and in India to condemn this deplorable
act. We urge all concerned individuals and organizations to sign the petition to protect the Indian Peoples Tribunal, available at http://www.petitiononline.com/ipt1/petition.html
III. SANGH GOES AFTER US BASED SECULAR ORGANIZATIONS
On 31st December, 2004 as the world reeled from the blow of the Tsunami, CSFH
sent out a warning about donations made in the name of the Tsunami ending up in
the hands of sectarian organizations. In our effort to ensure that charity money went to secular groups working in Tsunami devastated areas we put out a list of secular organizations. AID (Association for India’s Development) and Asha for Education, were also amongst those listed. Not surprisingly these organizations are also among the many secular organizations that were targeted by the Hindutva forces in the US. Despite an intense barrage of rabid and outlandish accusations against ASHA and AID, most people are able to see through this tendency of the Sanghis to call everyone who does not agree with their sectarian work a ‘communist’ ‘terrorist’ ‘anti-national’ and so on, ad nauseum.
It is indeed commendable that both organizations have been able to face this Sanghi onslaught and hold successful annual conferences, on the Memorial Day Weekend (28-30 May, 2005). The key note speaker at the Asha Conference (http://ashanet.org/conferences/asha-14/agenda_day1.html ) was Dr J P Narayan, founder of Lok Satta, an organization committed to democratic reforms in India. Dr Ganesh Devy, founder of the Bhasha Tribal Academy, was the key note speaker at the AID conference (http://conference.aidindia.org/content/blogcategory/19/28/). At this point when the sangh is going after secular organizations, it is important to remember that the progressive community must take a strong stand against the communal politics of the Sangh.
IV. MAY 24, KOMAGATA MARU DAY - BETTER LATE THAN NEVER?
Canadian film-maker Ali Kazimi's film Continuous Journey chronicles a powerful
episode in the history of South Asian immigration to the Americas. In early 1914 the Japanese steamer Komagata Maru chartered by a Singapore based Sikh businessman anchored off the coast of Vancouver with 376 mostly Punjabi emigrants. Despite strenuous efforts and pleas to allow the passengers to disembark, Canada's racist anti-immigrant policies prevailed and all passengers except 20 returning emigrants were forced to return to British India after spending two harrowing months on board.
While this episode marks a dark chapter in Canada's history, it also represents
a memorable moment of courage and fortitude in the history of South Asian immigration to the Americas - for two months people who hardly knew each other, overlooked religious and cultural differences and acted in the spirit of political solidarity. They marched, protested, collected their meager earnings and fought against all odds. The crass actions of the Canadian state and its racist body-politic further inspired the growing current of anti-colonial sentiment led by the Ghadar movement - in 1915, this movement emerged as one of the most dangerous threats to the British empire mobilizing diasporic Indians to fight for liberation under a secular, anti-imperialist banner.
On May 24, 2005 the Vancouver City administration declared May 23 as the 'Komagata Maru Commemoration Day,' in acknowledgement of Canada's discriminatory past. Announced at a screening of 'Continuous Journey,' this
decision is praiseworthy and duly recognizes the immense contributions and
struggles of South Asian immigrants in Canada. It is also noteworthy that such
a decision has been taken at a time when the U.S. and Canada are caught in an
intense anti-immigrant, and particularly anti-Muslim frenzy. One has to ask whether such a decision sets a precedent for reviewing Canada's policies towards South Asian immigrants, or whether this is merely an attempt by a local government to cash in on the immense support that the film and its powerful subject have received from the viewing (and thinking) public.
Our kudos to Ali Kazimi for his tremendous effort to keep the memory of the Komagata Maru episode alive and relevant to our times. You can read more about
the film and screening dates/locations at http://www.socialdoc.net/kazimi/ali_html_pages2/1AK2Cont.html
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