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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 October 2003
Campaign To Stop Funding Hate

October 13, 2003
Dear Friends,

The first two issues of the Saffron Dollar were mainly devoted to catching up
with the developments of the past nine months in the campaign. Starting this
issue, we will try to focus on the larger political and legal context in which
the campaign is operating so that we can collectively think and work towards
action agendas. As always, several of you responded to the contents of the
newsletter with questions, suggestions and offers of help. We regret our
inability until now to respond to these emails individually. But the good news
is that we will soon be able to do so. Later this month, we will be writing to
each of you who has taken the trouble to respond to Saffron Dollar with all the
attention that your emails deserve. At the same time, allow us to repeat our
request from the last issue:

PLEASE write to us about your experiences in relation to the Foreign Exchange of
Hate Report and the campaign that ensued from it. These inputs are invaluable
to us. We will also be sending out a survey form to subscribers as a first step
towards building a political community.

This issue of the saffron Dollar contains four items.

1. Challenging Hindutva efforts to take over August 15 in the U.S.
2. Saffron dollars, saffron pounds and saffron rupees.
3. Best Bakery case and Nanawati Commission hearings raise hopes for justice
4. Promise of India Campaign

1. Challenging Hindutva efforts to take over August 15 in the U.S.

For at least a decade now, Hindutva organizations have been trying to take over
Indian Independence Day events in the U.S. In New York City, the India Day
Parade is always on the Saturday that follows Aug 15th where a number of
religious, regional and commercial interest groups put up floats and march down
Madison avenue in front of a passive audience. For the last several years
however, a group of 30-50 South Asian American youth mostly from the Youth
Solidarity Summer (YSS) camps have transformed this into a raucous event by
protesting at the Hindu Students Council and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad presence
in the parade. In 2000 the VHPA contingent had attacked the YSS participants and
an ugly scene was prevented because some NYPD officers decided to intervene.
Youth Solidarity Summer incidentally is an annual summer school for South Asian
American youth that takes place each year in August in NYC.

This year too the YSS group was out there, with lots of attitude to boot. "Brown
Loud and Proud" they said! But hardly had the parade begun when the parade
leader objected to their presence, called the cops and insisted that the 'loud
and proud' youth be ejected. The cops insisted that the YSS group had to leave
because of a clause in the parade permit that the Federation of Indian
Americans(FIA) had signed with the city -- that promised them believe it or not
-- a protest free parade!!! However, the group stood its ground and after an
extended negotiation with the cops on what the first amendment meant -- the cops
backed off and let them stay!! And what is more, the Hindu Student Council group
came and got stuck in front of the group for a long time and had to deal with a
solid five minutes of "Down with VHP" slogans!

In the Bay area the Independence day mela organized by the FIA saw an
interesting series of events involving the Indian Muslim Council (IMC). IMC
asked for a stall and got it -- at least initially. But less than 48 hours
before the actual event, an FIA office bearer called the IMC and told them that
their stall was cancelled due to lack of space. A range of mobilizations
unfolded in the background -- leading to a point where the ejection of IMC was
all set of make news headlines. Embarrassed, the FIA backed down and reinstalled
the IMC within the fabric of their India Day mela and as it turned out, the IMC
stall which celebrated India's diversity attracted the largest crowds.
Congratulations to both the YSS group and the IMC and the secular forces that
stood by the IMC.

2. Saffron dollars, saffron pounds and saffron rupees

The pivotal assumption of the Stop Funding Hate Campaign is that the overseas
remittances mainly from the US and UK are a key ingredient in the incitement of
hateful activities in India. A significant portion of these remittances are
collected by organizations that represent themselves as 'development' and
'relief' organizations, working for the benefit of the poor in India. These
monies are channeled to organizations that are linked to the Sangh Parivar who
use the funds to promote hatred and violence against religious minorities. Our
energies are therefore directed towards exposing the linkages between charities
in the US both from individuals members of the diaspora and large corporations
and Sangh Parivar activities in India.

During the past year, a number of efforts in the UK have also moved in the same
direction and there will be more news from across the seas about these important
efforts in the near future. Meanwhile, reports from India indicate that the
Sangh Parivar has over the years infiltrated key institutions of the state and
has begun to divert domestic funds to Sangh sponsored non-profits. Officially
and unofficially, functionaries of the RSS act as de facto advisors to several
key central ministries like Industries, rural development, and tribal
development, diverting budgetary allocations to Sangh Parivar organizations at
the grassroots level. Investigating and exposing these connections is an
important political task before all who cherish a secular and democratic future
for India. Although there is no sustained effort in India to address such
nefarious developments at this point, we at the CSFH believe that there are
individuals and groups in the civil society who are connecting the dots and we
will be called upon to support such work. We urge supporters of the campaign
therefore to be vigilant and watch out for news reports of this kind. Please
inform us of any such relationships you may discover.

3. Best Bakery and Nanawati Commission

During the past two months, there has been much news on the legal front from
India and the UK. A group of activists in the UK filed a law suit against
Narendra Modi in the UK during his Europe tour. Indians from all over Europe
protested Modi's visit and the British government was put on the defensive for
allowing such an individual into the country. Needless to say, Mr. Modi's camp
was also put on the defensive. In the UK lawsuit, the magistrate did not agree
to the plea to serve an arrest warrant against Modi, on the grounds that the
petitioners had not yet presented evidence of Modi's personal involvement in the
2002 Gujarat genocide. While this is still far from a victory for the
petitioners, it is an encouraging sign that the British court has given
petitioners more time to present evidence. Meanwhile the Supreme Court of India
has publicly chastised the Gujarat Government for its gross mishandling of the
Best Bakery case. When the Gujarat Government tried to proceed against the
witness herself, the Supreme Court ordered another hearing at the trial court.
Again while this is encouraging news, the fact that the prosecutor appointed by
the Government is a well-known member of the RSS complicates the story. As for
the Nanawati commission’s work, several hearings were frustrated by VHP
hooligans harassing, threatening and physically attacking deponents in full view
of heavy police presence. After strong protests from activist groups, the
Nanawati Commission has made arrangements for the protection of deponents.
Evidently, there are encouraging signs, but these processes are also fraught
with uncertainties.

4. Promise of India Campaign

Meanwhile a number of diasporic organizations in the US have launched a new
secular initiative Promise of India ( Against the
backdrop of the increasing prominence of the diaspora in Indian politics and
economy, CSFH views this as an important initiative. Promise of India is
designed as an appeal and a pledge by US based organizations and individuals of
Indian origin to work towards communal harmony and prosperity of all Indians. As
all large-scale efforts of this kind the strength and direction of this
initiative will derive mainly from its constituent bodies and their ability to
work with other endorsers. We welcome it and urge the subscribers of CSFH to
examine it critically and choose to participate in it with their own vision.