attack against the IDRF is a rehash of much that the Forum of Indian
Leftists (FOIL) has published over the past five years.
FOIL had been targeting IDRF simply because IDRF supports a
variety of philanthropic and social work including many undertaken
by the RSS and its affiliates.
The RSS has faced a hostile opposition from the days of its
inception. As the years
have gone by the demonization of the Sangh organizations has become
more and better organized. Merely
associating the IDRF with the RSS would therefore have the effect of
making the IDRF itself an integral part of a “hate group.”
characterized in extreme terms, the IDRF or the RSS can perform a
similar maneuver with the position of those demonizing it.
If the IDRF is labeled as sectarian or fundamentalist, it can
label the Sabrang/FOIL report authors as “Marxist”,
“pseudo-secular”, and “Leftists”.
This dynamic is labeled “drive each other into a corner”
by the American rhetorician, Kenneth Burke.
driven into a corner” is particularly problematic when the dispute
pits the orthodox against an emergent position.
The authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report are closely identified
with the Indian, “secular” orthodoxy.
That orthodoxy is now being challenged, and although the
dialectical pressure drives both groups into corners, the orthodoxy,
according to Burke “owns all the recognized avenues of approach”.
the RSS into a corner, the orthodoxy has sought to have the RSS
banned. The Sabrang/FOIL
report claims that the IDRF is an RSS affiliate.
And it is only a ban on the IDRF that will satisfy the
Sabrang/FOIL orthodoxy chafing at the success of IDRF.
release of the Sabrang/FOIL report, with the accompanying media
attention, and petitions to U.S. corporations which contribute
matching funds to employee designated charities has brought
publicity to the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report.
It has also brought a massive but largely under-reported
reaction from those in the community who have knowledge of what the
authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report have been highlighting the fact
that 275 or so well-known academics have signed their petition
urging people to “stop funding hate”.
If only the academics had carefully read the Sabrang/FOIL
report they would have noted many mischaracterizations, including
the partial description of Ambassador Bhishma Agnihotri as “a
well-known RSS ideologue and a HSS Sanghchalak (Supremo).”
He is also falsely identified as a founding member of the
IDRF. The report fails
to inform readers that Bhishma Agnihotri was the Dean of the
Southern University Law Center, and he is now the NRI ambassador
appointed by the Government of India.
this light, some of us issued a press statement countering the
Sabrang/FOIL report and labeling the campaign against IDRF a “hate
movement.” In response, Vinay Lal, associate professor of History
at UCLA argued that, “The fact that IDRF’s defenders would
initiate a campaign called ‘Stop hatred and Let India Develop’
suggests that they are entirely incapable of understanding
elementary arguments, much less nuanced thinking.
The authors of the report have nowhere suggested that they do
not wish to see India develop; nor are they counseling hatred
towards anyone… .”
has not read the Sabrang/FOIL report in full.
He and his collaborators also expect that the IDRF should
respond to their “report” which they claim took anywhere between
five and ten years should be responded to in less than five weeks,
as seen from the series of letter writing campaigns they have
launched on Indian-American newspapers, and on their web site.
choice of language, blatant mischaracterizations, and reduction of
RSS leaders and workers to cardboard and stick figures are all
explicit indications of a hate campaign.
Any impartial reader would conclude that the authors of the
Sabrang/FOIL report wished to accomplish one thing: demonize the
IDRF by associating it with the RSS.
does constitute a hate tactic.
secularists, whose job seems to be opening other people’s
cupboards, are described by Ashis Nandy, the well-known Indian
social scientist as an emblem “of a person or group willing to
accept two corollaries of the ideology of the Indian state: the
assumption that those who do not speak the language of secularism
are unfit for full citizenship, and the belief that those who speak
it have the sole right to determine what true democratic principles,
governance, and religious tolerance are”.
Similarly, an India
Today editorial (December 30, 2002) remarks about the recent
Gujarat elections: “Truly, this election was held in the backdrop
of two riots, one bloody, the other pure sophistry.
In the latter, professional secularists and the
conscience-keeping industry sought out the darkest entries from the
glossary of hate to describe the crime of the Hindu – Holocaust,
fascism, Hitler…. They
rhapsodized the ghettos of victimhood, and, forever scavenging for a
cause, they found a self-serving monster in Modi.
The election exposed their pretence.”
authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report are members of that secular
family, as are the 275 or so academics who have signed the Sabrang/FOIL
petition. It is time
therefore that they do some introspection and repudiate the hate
campaign launched against the IDRF.
If not, we will continue to push each other into corners.
From corners we can only lash out, not speak civilly.
mom, pop, and some committed children” operation that the IDRF is,
having raised and disbursed about ten million dollars in its
thirteen years of operation, has attracted the ire and the
destructive gaze of a combination of forces for the single, simple
compulsion: to destroy or harm any effort that is connected with the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates.
The Sabrang/FOIL report is just one of the latest in a long
series of media and partisan political attacks on the RSS.
Biju Matthew and his co-conspirators wished to accomplish one
thing: to show that the IDRF is closely connected to the RSS, so
that they could then tar and feather the IDRF in the manner that
they and others have tarred and feathered the RSS.
report has been cobbled together from Internet sources and
information that is available to the public on the IDRF web site.
There is no “investigation” of the IDRF as Mathew claims
but merely a “cut, paste, and defame” program to undermine the
slow, steady, and impressive growth of the IDRF.
More and more Indians and Indian-Americans are becoming aware
of the selfless and dedicated work of the IDRF volunteers, and the
impact on the ground in India of their funding educational, relief,
and development work. Mathew
and others want to put a spanner in the IDRF’s works, and that
they have been able to achieve their target partially by targeting
U.S. corporations that match their employee contributions to charity
must be cause for hurt and anger to those who have supported the
we believe that a fair, impartial, and careful scrutiny of the IDRF
and its loose collaboration with, and support of, work undertaken by
both Hindu and “secular” organizations will show that the
massive propaganda campaign undertaken by the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL
report with the collaboration of people in the media and academe
will ultimately fail. It
will fail for this one simple, basic reason: the Sabrang/FOIL report
is a calculated and cussed effort at destroying the good work
undertaken by dedicated, hardworking, selfless volunteers who wish
to see India become a developed and vibrant nation.
This rebuttal of the Sabrang/FOIL report is one endeavor to
expose the violence perpetrated by extremist forces in the name of
peace and secularism.
conclusion, we demand that U.S. corporations that have withheld
matching funds lift their ban on such contributions to the IDRF, and
we urge Indian-Americans to channel their charity contributions
through the IDRF.