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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 November 2003
Campaign To Stop Funding Hate

November 20, 2003
Dear Friends,

Apologies for the delayed Saffron Dollar. It is just that time of the year when
everything and more demands ones time and attention. This issue of the saffron
dollar has only two stories. However, we include links to the unfolding drama of
Dileep Singh Judeo's bribetaking. Judeo, as some of our readers will know is a
key figure in the RSS strategy of Hinduizing adivasis through the Vanvasi Kalyan
Ashram (VKA) program, particularly in Eastern Madhya Pradesh. VKAs played a
significant role in the violence in rural Gujarat last year and they are also
the recipients of a large proportion of overseas Hindutva funding. You can read
detailed reports and followup stories on Judeo's escapades at
or a full suite of stories at

Meanwhile, we have also had some rethinking on the survey of our subscribers
that we had been planning for some time. Instead of bothering you to respond to
a set of questions, we now plan to address a question to you with each issue of
the Saffron Dollar. Please send your responses to

The question this time is :
Please tell us as much as you can about the progressive/liberal secular
organizations in your area with an India focus or an interest in India related
issues. Information of this kind can be helpful in longterm networking for a
secular and just India. So please spare a moment of your time to share this kind
of information.

The stories in this issue of Saffron Dollar:

1. Vajpayee's mystery visit to Columbia University
2. Rise of Hindutva in Kerala

1. Vajpayee's mystery visit to Columbia University:

On the 24th of Sept 2003, the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was
felicitated by Columbia University's Earth Institute. He was to speak at the
Earth Institute on a special invitation from Columbia University President Lee
Bollinger and was to presented to the audience by the Director of the Earth
Institute, Jeffery Sachs. The lines of those who waited to hear ABV speak
snaked around the auditorium building. INSAF/FOIL volunteers were at the
line distributing flyers and urging those who were privileged enough to get a
pass, and to question ABV on the record of the BJP government on communalism.
INSAF/FOIL volunteers felt the need to do this because for some strange reason,
none of the South Asia Studies related faculty at the Columbia University -
which boasts of such luminaries as Partha Chaterjee and Gayatri Spivak -- were
invited to the event. It seemed like the organizers were quite intent on
inviting only those uninvolved (and uninformed) about India. What could possibly
the reason for this?

The story is complicated and intriguing. According to knowledgeable sources,
after the recent liberalization of higher education under the WTO, Columbia
university has begun an active negotiation with the Indian government on
opening up "some educational infrastructure" in India. Little is known about the
proposed university/institute that Columbia plans to open except that Jeffrey
Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia seems to be the person leading the
negotiation with the Indian government. Sachs has already over the past three
years, built up quite a connection with the Indian government -- helping
organize a Commission on public health in India under whose aegis a few Indian
ministers even visited the US and met with Sachs. ABV's invitation to
Columbia, informed sources say, could have been the deal 'sweetner.' Surely
nobody, neither Columbia nor the GOI wanted the atmosphere soured by the
presence of any individual or group who maybe critical of ABV. The same source,
who was amongst those who received an invitation, also said that the list of
invitees was whetted by the Indian Consulate in NYC.

Whatever we may think of the idea of higher education in India being liberalized
and US universities opening up branches in India catering primarily to the
Indian elite, the involvement of Sachs in this is a matter of some concern.
Sachs has a colorful history. For years he ran the Harvard Institute of
International Development (HIID). In June 2002, when Harvard "dissolved" HIID,
Jeff Sachs parachuted neatly into another ivy laden hallway called Columbia
University. HIID's closure came after a huge controversy where HIID (and by
association Sachs) were both tainted by an insider trading imbroglio in Russia
involving USAID monies meant for development aid. Whatever be the specifics of
this shady involvement, it was troublesome enough for Harvard to immediately
dissolve HIID and dissociate itself from Sachs to avoid a lawsuit by the Russain

What is important to note in this controversy is that Sachs, for all the veneer
of a respectable academic, seems to be a wheeler dealer -- hiding behind the
cover of "sustainable development." If Russia was the 'emerging economy' of the
1990s that Sachs was neck deep in, he now seems to have turned his attention to
India. With such big stakes it is understandable why neither Sachs nor Bollinger
nor the GOI want to answer any critical questions from an informed audience.
But what remains unanswered is why the illustrious South Asia faculty in
Columbia failed to respond to this event.

2. Rise of Hindutva in Kerala:

Even as the BJP suffered electoral setbacks, Kerala has seen a significant
growth in Hindutva clout over the last six months. There is a large-scale
re-appropriation of civil society spaces and activities into the Hindu fold. For
example, even the traditional Onam boat race last month was recoded in
newspapers as a 'bhakti-dripping' voyage. Two recent events illustrate the shift
in Kerala. (1) Hindutva muscle at Marad: Through this event, the BJP
demonstrated that they have carved out a space for legitimate exercise of muscle
power in Kerala. Nine Dalit fishermen were killed at Marad, near Kozhikode,
north Kerala, in May 2003, allegedly by the Islamic organization National
Democratic Front. Following the killings, about 30 Muslim families living in the
area fled their homes in fear of retaliation. What they did not anticipate was
that they would not be able to return to their homes in the near future. The BJP
stepped in to mobilize the enraged Dalit fisherfolk who have been routinely
abandoned as a marginal political constituency by both the Congress-led United
Democratic Front, and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front. A team of women from
the fisherfolk organization, Araya Samajam, physically prevented the
resettlement of the Muslim families even as the police looked on ("Araya" means
fisherfolk). The homes of the Muslim families who left the area were vandalized
and looted by their Hindu neighbours and by groups led by the Araya Samajam
workers. The one lakh rupees sanctioned by the government for the families of
each victim was returned by the Araya Samajam, which, under BJP influence,
demanded a CBI inquiry as well as government jobs for members of affected families.

During this period, VHP leaders such as Praveen Togadia who were participating
in the VHP’s all-India summit held at Kanyakumari, visited the area. Secular
organizations in Kerala that had formed alliances after Gujarat were unable to
pressure the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front government into
ensuring the rehabilitation of the families; neither were they able to mobilize
local communities on the issue. After four months, on October 6, 2003, the UDF
conceded the BJP-initiated demand for a CBI inquiry in exchange for the return
of the Muslim families. For the first time, the BJP clearly established that
they can muscle their way into an issue in Kerala despite or because of the
present balance of power in the state. And once again, the party demonstrated
its talents in mobilizing Dalits and women for the communal cause. These
developments hold grave implications for a state once held as a symbol of
secularism and communal harmony.

(2) The Mata Amritanandamayi phenomenon: The ascending star of the Mata points
to the increasing religiosity that permeates Kerala's civic society. A Dalit
woman who rose to become Kerala’s latest mother goddess, Mata Amritanandamayi
proved her national and international clout with her 50th birthday celebrations
held in Ernakulam in the end of September. Abdul Kalam, Murli Manohar Joshi,
L.K. Advani as well as delegates from over 50 international organizations
(Muslim, Buddhist, Christian) visited the Mata and sought her blessings in
Kerala’s most high-profile religious event to date.

The Mata responded by addressing President Abdul Kalam as "president mon"
(president son). The Mata’s teachings, posted on the web at, rehash
standard Hinduism in a manner which amazes those who can testify to her minimal
schooling. Following the Vajpayee government’s example at the center, the Mata
birthday celebrations included modules for women’s empowerment (that urged Hindu
temples to employ women as pujaris) and world peace (as in dialogue between
Advani and former U.S. senator Larry Pressler). It is noteworthy in this context
that the Mata’s foreign management includes an American who is well known for
his skills in public relations. As a result of her high visibility as
transnational guru, the Mata has now outdone the CPM as the single largest
holder of assets within Kerala. According to Murli Manohar Joshi, who was forced
to resign from the Central government weeks before the auspicious occasion, she
can run a government better than any party.

Like Bill Gates, the Mata has announced she will use her significant wealth to
benefit diagnosed and potential AIDS patients (to add to the hospital and
charities that she already owns). However, what bears watching is how she will
use her political clout in an increasingly bhakti-infused Kerala, where
newspapers from the conservative, Christian-managed Malayala Manorama, and the
leftwing Deshabhimani both must sideline their front page leads for eight-column
Mata darshan photos. As we know well now, this heightened popular sense of
religiosity, whatever the specific affiliation (Christian and Muslim in the
context of Kerala) clears the way for the rise of Hindutva. It is therefore
incumbent upon secular forces to meet this grave challenge.