Saffron Dollar – May 2005
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
May 21, 2005
The previous issue of Saffron Dollar focused on the success of the public mobilization by the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) against Narendra Modi's
planned visit to the US (the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate was an integral part
of CAG). This issue looks at a related mobilization in the US – a little publicized campaign against Modi’s planned speech at the India Studies Center at California State University, Long Beach, and at the anti-Modi mobilization in India which reached a high point after the U.S. refused Modi a visa.
Delegitimizing Hindutva in American Universities
Earlier this year, Narendra Modi was denied a diplomatic visa to enter the U.S. and his existing business-tourist visa was revoked by the State Department, citing his role in the anti-minority violence in Gujarat, Since he couldn’t be physically present, the organizers of the AAHOA conference in Fort Lauderdale and at the Madison Square Garden in New York City arranged for Modi to address his supporters via satellite. While these two events were widely reported in the coverage of the visa denial, the media overlooked Modi’s planned visit to inaugurate the so-called “Yadunandan Center for India Studies” at the Long Beach campus of California State University (CSU-LB).
The invitation to Modi, according to the CSU-LB public relations department “was
originally extended by members of the local Indian business community.” The
Yadunandan Center is housed in the College of Liberal Arts and is run by a Professor Arnold Kaminsky with no departmental oversight. While the exact funding mechanism of the Center is veiled, it does receive money from local NRIs and so it is not unreasonable to conclude that having Modi inaugurate the center was a quid pro quo demanded by the funders in exchange for their money.
The Department of Asian American Studies at CSU-LB was appalled and quickly
dissociated itself from this attempt to ‘honor’ a man who orchestrated a pogrom
against minorities. In a letter sent out to over one hundred and fifty South Asia studies academics, Professor John N. Tsuchida, Chair of the Department, deplored the fact that Modi, a man who had been charged with “crimes against humanity in India” had been invited to CSU-LB. Professor Tsuchida wrote: “Inviting him to inaugurate the Yadunandan Center for India Studies [is] as inappropiate as inviting Mr.Pol Pot to inaugurate a Cambodia Studies Center.”
The effort to get Modi a stage at U.S. universities is part of the current RSS strategy to gain some legitimacy in the academic spaces in this country (Ram Madhav, the Sangh’s PR guy, sought – and received – an invitation to speak at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania last year). Fortunately, most people can see through their charade.
Wheels falling off the Hindutva chariot?
Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat have maintained
that the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 happened as a “spontaneous reaction” to the
train fire at Godhra. Despite numerous reports, from various human rights organizations and investigative agencies, that left no doubt that the horrific violence against Muslims was systematically planned and executed by multiple arms of the Sangh Parivar, the Hindutva forces in Gujarat have used the action-reaction myth to consolidate their support base.
The US campaign against Modi had multiple repurcussions in India. First, Modi's
already shaky bid to be a future national leader of the BJP in India took a further beating as CAG's successful public mobilization made it clear that Modi was a liability for the BJP and regarded with horror and disgust by all civilized people. The BJP high-command now does not seem too keen to hold on to this particular “hot potato,” at least in public. Second, the success of the campaign has brought the Gujarat pogrom, and the continuing harassment of the victims by Modi and his gang, back into media consciousness.
Soon after Modi’s US-yatra debacle, an Additional Director General of Police in
Gujarat, Mr. Shreekumar, further damaged the Hindutva chariot by releasing a diary he kept during and after the pogrom in 2002. Notes from the diary show that Modi gave the DGP direct orders to “leave the Sangh Parivar alone.” Mr. Shreekumar also notes that Modi dismissed his analysis of the pogrom as organized and being carried out by identifiable Sangh leaders, and instead attempted to impose his “spontaneous action-reaction” analysis on the violence.
Perhaps most damning of all was the evidence that Modi asked Shreekumar to tap
the phones of Congress leader Shankersingh Vaghela and BJP minister Hiren
Pandya (who was later assassinated, right after he divulged details of Modi's
complicity in the planning of the violence).
While it comes three years after the violence, this evidence has helped in consolidating opposition to Modi, and he is losing support within his own government. Frustrated by all the negative media surrounding his governance and
the draining of support from within his own apparatus, Modi could only lash out at the US-based activists of the CAG, calling them “five star activists.” Are the wheels finally falling of the Hindutva chariot? One certainly hopes so.
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