authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report know how to present data
selectively. They have
partially accomplished their goal of demonizing the IDRF as can be
seen from the flurry of media reports that their report has
generated, as well as the number of South Asia area studies
academics who have signed the petition affirming the “findings”
of Biju Mathew and his cohorts.
The Sabrang/FOIL report has also been used in a series of
letter writing campaigns (by people affiliated with Biju Mathew and
his group) in ethnic Indian-American newspapers.
But it is only the careful and the patient reader who can
discover the chicanery behind the data manipulation in the Sabrang/FOIL
report. For a complete
analysis of where and how much money has gone, we draw your
attention to Appendix
Both in their original report
and the FAQ about Project Saffron Dollar, archived at their website,
the Sabrang/FOIL authors have claimed that their report is the
result of “careful study and analysis,” and their conclusions
the product of “meticulous research.”
In this section, we will examine how meticulous the
writers’ research actually is, and how well their methodological
approach, including conceptual and operational definitions, hold up.
This is significant because without a sound methodological
framework, the conclusions of the report become highly suspect and
even completely unreliable.
recent article titled, “Attack
on IDRF: Little Method to Their Madness,” written for Sulekha.com,
Prof. Beloo Mehra takes a closer look at the way Sabrang/FOIL
authors describe the purpose, methodology, and organization of the
report. (The article is
included as Appendix
from the first paragraph of the Sabrang/FOIL report, readers can see
how the authors’ agendas instead of their research determine their
conclusions. As Mehra
the first paragraph of the report, section 1.1. titled,
“Purpose” the last sentence reads, ‘The Foreign Exchange of
Hate’ establishes that the IDRF is…’.
Now anyone who has done any semi-academic writing knows
that the ‘purpose statement’ is first and foremost about
INVESTIGATION rather than ESTABLISHMENT of facts.
1 is titled “Purpose, Methodology and Organization,” but only
one page is devoted to these three sections.
Authors then go on to present a two full page “Summary of
Findings” – something that is not mentioned in the title.
Why this deceit? Is
the purpose to merely ‘capture’ the reader’s attention (like
good writers do), or to ‘sell’ the readers to conclusions of
the report, before they even had a chance to evaluate the
evidence? The latter
is significant because the purpose of this report is nothing less
than stopping the funding for a major Indian-American charity.
This sort of tactic clearly reveals the agenda of the
writers and makes this report appear more as propaganda rather
than a result of serious inquiry.”
points out that the entire “methodology” for this 91-page report
is presented in one paragraph.
She asks the question:
appendices do not contain any methodological information either.
This begs the question—why didn’t the authors make the
methodology and actual analytical tools public?”
the absence of detailed information about methodology and analytical
approach, it is left to the reader to decipher the context in which
the data, obtained from the selected documents, were analyzed, any
boundaries that may have been applied to this analysis, and the
target or agenda behind the inferences.
Prof. Mehra continues:
basic assumptions about the context can be made:
Rise of BJP on the Indian national political scene.
Increasing solidarity among Hindus in USA to promote Hindu
causes in India and abroad.
Greater visibility of Hindus in the American social,
economic, cultural, academic, and political arenas.
Growing awareness among Hindus in India and elsewhere about
the consistent lack of attention paid by the so-called secular and
elite media in India to ‘Hindu’ causes, including violence
committed against them. This
has resulted in emergence of several public forums (many on the
Internet) where such ‘Hindu’ concerns are regularly debated.
Increasing connections between Hindu Diaspora and Hindus in India
on various levels including
social, economic, and political.
this context, the authors of Sabrang/FOIL report are perhaps
trying to “explain” the recent unfortunate riots in Gujarat in
which both Hindus and Muslims were killed.
However, it should be noted that throughout the report
there is no mention of Hindus that were killed in these riots.
assumptions can help us decipher the boundaries that were probably
applied to the analysis. Only
those documents and only selected portions of those documents are
‘analyzed’ that highlight the violence committed against
Muslims and other minorities.
One is left wondering if during the entire time that BJP
has been in power (the time period of primary concern to the
authors of Sabrang/FOIL report) any violence was committed at all
against Hindus. These
boundaries of analysis have not been made specific by the authors
of the report.”
should also look at the actual “data collection” methods
employed by Sabrang/FOIL authors.
In this regard, Mehra writes:
sense suggests that for someone interested in finding out how the
funds of a certain charity are being spent, in addition to looking
at the internal documents of the charity, the researcher must also
collect some primary data from the charity’s beneficiaries –
individuals and/or organizations… there is no mention if any
attempt was made to contact these organizations or individuals who
have received funds from IDRF.
It is not clear if any of these people—the direct
beneficiaries – were interviewed, or if any internal documents
of these beneficiary organizations were reviewed or analyzed for
specific purpose of how the money disbursed to them was actually
a critical look to examine the language used by Sabrang/FOIL writer,
Prof. Mehra writes:
language used in Chapter 1 of Sabrang report appears biased,
sensational, and full of generalizations, thus making the report
appear as an ideological-discursive structure, which first and
foremost expresses the values of an ideological system and of a
specific discourse authority (in this case of the organizations
responsible for collating and funding this report)…
Section 1.4 titled, “Summary of Findings” starts with the
sentence: “The purpose of this report is to DOCUMENT the links
between IDRF and certain violent and sectarian… .” Is this an
admission on the part of the writers that their purpose is to
DOCUMENT rather than to FIND if any such links exist?
Is the starting assumption of these writers that such links
exist? If that is the
case and if the link has already been pre-established (at least in
the minds and ideologies of the writers of this report), why use
the misleading word “Findings” in the title of this section?
It appears that the ‘researchers’ at Sabrang
Communications and The South Asia Citizens Web already had their
conclusions before they even started their ‘research. ’ And
their purpose was merely to DOCUMENT their pre-established
conclusion. Perhaps a
case of accusing IDRF even before “findings” have said so…
now take a quick look at some of the sources Sabrang/FOIL authors
rely on for their “careful study and analysis.”
Are these sources reliable?
Do they present an objective view of ground realities in
number of citations in the Sabrang/FOIL report are from Indian
English language newspapers and magazines (including Outlook,
and Frontline) whose
editors have publicly stated their desire to bring down the BJP-led
governments since 1998. For
example, Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief, Outlook,
argued at a workshop on combating religious conflict that it was
time journalists became activists to dislodge the BJP government at
The editor of the magazine Frontline,
N. Ram, has been at the forefront of opposition to the BJP-led
government, and of the RSS and its affiliates.
He collaborated with ideologues both in India and in the U.S.
to start a “watch group” called “BJP Watch”.
They presented a biased selection of commentaries and reports
that proclaimed the BJP was communal and fascist.
The creation of this “watch group” was described benignly
by an India Today report
as “peculiar” and “adventurous”.
The India Today
report went on to say:
BJW is planned as a committee of social scientists, journalists
and assorted Marxist thinkers which will monitor Atal Bihari
Vajpayee’s Government. Udayakumar.
says he has ‘at least 10 internationally acclaimed’
scholars ready to back the BJW but can’t reveal their names yet.
The list is a bit of an open secret though – supposedly
covering names such as Tanika Sarkar, Gyanendra Pandey, Praful
Bidwai and Aijaz Ahmad.
N. Ram, editor of fortnightly Frontline, (says) ‘Given
the RSS’ semi-fascist origins, we are suspicious about the
BJP’s attitude towards civil society and democracy.
The BJP threatens the institutions of civil society. ”
Sabrang/FOIL report amply quotes the Human Rights Watch report on
the recent Gujarat events. How
credible and objective is this report?
In an article titled, “The
HRW Report on Gujarat: Another Assassination,“
published on Sulekha.com,
Aseem Shukla has this to say about the HRW report:
written as an account of a tragic, maniacal orgy of murder, this
75-page report evolves into nothing more than a politically
charged and hopelessly biased self-serving account.
The first salvo without which this report would not
exist—the Godhra train burning—merits exactly 1 paragraph on
page 13. That’s
correct -- 3 sentences out of 75 pages describe the killing of
innocent Hindus that sparked a national nightmare.
In its haste to blame the government, the report again
overlooks the facts of rapid police deployment and the massive
police firing that disproportionately killed Hindu rioters: 90
companies of the State Reserve Police were called in on February
27, 2002 itself, and over 3,900 rounds of ammunition killed close
to 100 rioters. The
Gujarat Police overlook a population of 50 million (that would
rank as the 22nd most populous country in the world)
and have largely succeeded in keeping violence at a minimum within
one city since the initial days of madness.
If the rest of the 73 pages of anti-Sangh hatred are not
enough, though utterly unrelated, almost 2 pages are devoted to
anti-Christian violence. Keep
in mind again that the Godhra train killing merited 1
lengthy and careful analysis of the HRW report not only on Gujarat
but previous such HRW reports, Arvin Bahl says:
closer examination, however, extensive and systematic bias exists
in HRW’s reports on human rights and communal violence in India.
The most glaring defect of HRW’S reports is the lack of
concern for the rights and lives of Hindus.
Incidents of communal violence in which both the Hindu
majority and a particular minority community are involved in, and
share the blame for, are portrayed as one-sided attacks by Hindus
against “innocent minorities.”
Human rights abuses against Hindus are ignored or
downplayed compared to attacks against other religious groups.
The 1999 report on attacks on Christians goes a step
further as it demonstrates hostility to the Hindu religion itself.
In addition, HRW reports, rather than attempting an
objective appraisal of communal violence and human rights in
India, have become conduits for conducting political warfare
against the BJP government and the Sangh Parivar.”
above excerpts clearly question the “objectivity” of the sources
Sabrang/FOIL writers rely on for their analysis.
Mathew, the primary author of the Sabran/FOIL report is Associate
Professor of Business at Rider University.
He describes his work as follows:
work revolves around three primary thematics: Hindutva, Migration,
and Globalisation and attempts to explicate the inter-relations
between these three nodes of interest for contemporary South Asian
scholars and activists. On
Hindutva, my work is largely on Hindutva’s relation to the
politics of identity within diasporic Indian-American communities
and on the specific aspects of caste and class that make Hindutva
such a potent force in diasporic life.
Further, it locates the flourishing of Hindutva in North
America within the context of globalisation.
The other mode by which the thematic of globalisation is
reflected in my work is through a critical examination of the
discourses of globalisation and its (dis)connections with
post-80’s South Asian labour migration into the US.
Much of this work is related to my work as a volunteer
organizer for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.”
we are provided with little information about Biju Mathew’s
professional interest in business studies; however, from the above
it is quite clear that he has an obsessive interest in Hindutva.
What is also missing from the information is Mathew’s
ideological background. From
we discover, however, that he is a coordinator of the Forum of
Indian Leftists (FOIL). The
communists in India, except those who are in electoral politics,
rarely talk about themselves as communists.
Instead they arrogate to themselves labels like leftists,
liberals, progressives, and secular.
In addition, Biju Mathew has written articles for Communist
Party publications in India. One
such article was “Hindutva
For a Few Dollars a Day,” co-authored with another known
“progressive” (read Communist) of Indian origin, Vijay Prashad.
Vijay Prashad, one of the most prolific manufacturers of anti-RSS propaganda, has this to say about "Yankee
Hindutva types" (a derogatory label he uses for Indian-Americans who do not support his political
ideology): "Their 'patriotism' is simple: they are jingoistic for whomever will allow them the freedom to
make money. Whether saffron or red/white/blue, these cats are heavily into the green."
Nazis’ crimes against humanity have been well-documented and
commented upon, very little is written about the role of the
Communists in this respect. A
study by French authors documents the bloody history of communism.
In a review of the book, Gregory McNamee
“Communism did kill, Courtois
and his fellow historians demonstrate, with ruthless efficiency:
25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras,
perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2
million in Cambodia, millions more in Africa, Eastern Europe, and
Latin America—an astonishingly high toll of victims.
This freely expressed penchant for homicide, Courtois
maintains, was no accident, but an integral trait of a philosophy,
and a practical politics, that promised to erase class
distinctions by erasing classes and the living humans that
populated them. Courtois
and his contributors document Communism’s crimes in numbing
detail, moving from country to country, revolution to
thought-provoking work of history and social criticism, The Black
Book of Communism fully merits the broadest possible readership
authors of that book have chronicled the extent of devastation
perpetrated by Communist governments and rulers.
That devastation was justified in terms of Marxist or Maoist
ideologies, and not as mere acts of individuals.
Stalin, Lenin, and Mao are guilty of overseeing the deaths of
millions of their own countrymen.
It was not merely the deaths caused by erroneous policies
implemented in the name of communism, for example, man-made famine.
Instead, it was also murder of a large number of political
communists are asked to dwell upon such crimes against humanity.
But these same communists will hold forth against allegations
of similar misdeeds of others.
various communist parties in India have portraits of people like
Lenin and Stalin prominently displayed in their offices.
Their public meetings have huge cardboard cutouts of such
persons in the background. It
is a tragedy of discourse in India that no one has questioned these
parties for their blatant display of leaders who engineered horrible
crimes against humanity, and even against their own people.
Biju Mathew and his fellow FOIL members have written
glowingly of communism and communist leaders.
also draw the readers’ attention to the fact that communists in
India supported the creation of Pakistan, and even demanded that
India should be divided into nineteen nations.
During the Chinese attack on India in 1962, Indian communists
also supported the actions of Mao, and went on to say that Chairman
Mao was their chairman too!
communists and the Indian communist parties have close ideological
ties with China. The
official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of India
(Marxist-Leninist) carries laudatory articles on Mao Zedong, and we
provide an excerpt from the article cited above:
1979 when I reached China across the mountains, the de-Maoisation
process had just begun there.
We visited all the important places of the Chinese
Revolution and had intimate talks with veteran peasants as well as
many other people. We
had developed the feeling that the Chinese people and the broad
Party ranks have great faith in and respect for Mao and Mao can
never be erased from China.
before the body of Mao lying in state, I whispered to myself:
Chairman Mao, you shall remain our Chairman forever – though not
as China’s Chairman, but as our guide to the path of Indian
links with the Communists in India is further reinforced given the
fact that the press conference in Delhi to release the Sabrang/FOIL
Report was organized by SAHMAT, a well-known left/communist
SAHMAT was founded in 1989, in memory of Safdar Hashmi, who
was an activist in the labor movement.
He was killed allegedly by a mob hired by the Congress Party.
Strangely enough, in their battle against the RSS and its
affiliates, Indian communists have collaborated with the Congress
party, and together they have even paid for political advertisements
taken out by Communalism Combat against the BJP!
What is of equal interest
is the background of one of the publishers, namely, Sabrang
Communications Private Limited.
(The other is The South Asia Citizens Web, France).
Sabrang is promoted by the husband-wife duo of Javed Anand
and Teesta Setalvad. Together
they edit a magazine called Communalism
Combat, launched some seven/eight years ago.
They claim to be intrepid fighters of communalism of all
hues. However, in a
recent editorial they said:
Communalism Combat is blamed for being ‘too pro-minority’, we
hold the sangh parivar and the rest of the saffron brotherhood
responsible for this editorial ‘tilt’.
Had Hindutva not hijacked the national agenda and targeted
the country’s religious minorities, so much time and attention
would not have been needed to defend Muslims and Christians from
the vitriol, vilification and violence that is deliberately
directed at them. In
fact, but for the hate mongers, this magazine itself would not
have been necessary. In
such an imagined paradise of communal peace, had your editors
still been involved in an issue-based publication, it would have
very likely [been] focused on how one half of India (comprising
Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and men who respond to other
identity markers) treats the other half – women.” (Editorial,
“Minorities within minorities”, Communalism Combat, May 2001.)
the time, the President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP),
Maharashtra Pranth, Ashok Chowgule commented as follows:
to the husband-wife duo, the Sangh is a very responsible
organization - it is responsible for all the evils in the country!
Secondly, the national agenda was being set by non-Sangh
(perhaps anti-Sangh) organizations in the past, but is now being
set (their word is ‘hijacked’) by the Sangh.
Third, there are deliberate attacks (physical and
non-physical) against the religious minorities.
Fourth, the reason for the existence of Communalism Combat
is the Sangh.”
first allegation that the RSS is responsible for all the evils in
India is both farcical and false.
We have pointed out that careful observers believe that
“minority” communalism is equally dangerous as “majority”
Varshney says, “It should be possible to accept that just
as there is majority communalism, there is also the phenomenon of
minority communalism. Acknowledging
this fact is not the same as saying that all Muslims are communal.
The media needs to disaggregate the community, and accurately
portray that just as there are innocent and noble Muslim citizens,
there are also Muslim gangs and criminals.
The problematic stand of the media has had untoward
second allegation in many ways is a credit to the RSS.
It is only since 1985 that the RSS has had an impact on the
Indian national agenda. Until
that time, the dominant ideology was Nehruvian socialism mixed with
a large dose of Russian and Chinese communism.
Those who professed this “public faith” had the run of
academic and media institutions, and in addition, they demanded and
received more than adequate funding from the people, through state
therefore correct to assume that Sabrang/FOIL believes that India
was a paradise before the RSS began to influence the national
agenda. It can be quite easily established, however, that India is
better off economically and socially than in the days of Nehruvian
socialism and Indira Gandhian personality cultism.
problem that Sabrang/FOIL has to deal with is, why India was not a
nation of economic prosperity and communal amity before 1985.
Given the Left/Progressive predilection, they will refuse to
do this analysis. A
fair and impartial analysis would establish why the RSS has been
able to reach the cultural and social center stage today, and how
the BJP, its political affiliate has been able to form a government
at the Center.
because of the abject failure of those who claim to be Marxists and
secularists that people have turned to the RSS and the ideology of
Hindutva. Arun Shourie,
the Minister of Divestment in the BJP-led National Democratic
Alliance government at present, in a speech to the RSS cadre, in
November 1992, said:
which the RSS has taken up have (now) been embraced by the
you will persevere for as long as that turning around takes, about
that I have little apprehension: the way you have persevered over
the last 50 years itself assures us of that.”
the “attacks” against Christians by “Hindutva” forces, an
commented on a recent incident in the state of Bihar:
the act was committed by unknown miscreants to issue threatening
notes in Hindi with saffron ink, asking Christians to leave India.
The question is: is it the handiwork of the Pakistan’s
ISI, which is bent on fanning communal frenzy, to belittle Indian
in the eyes of the world? Unless
the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) or the Centre establishes that, one
will assume, it is the design of the old anti-Christian communal
outfits, like Bajrang Dal.”
does not matter to the secularists that there is something called
law and order and civil justice.
It does not matter to them that many of the alleged attacks
on Christians have been proved to be either acts committed by non-Sangh
groups or individuals with a specific grouse or a downright
fabrication by the Christian organizations.
For the most recent of such “attacks” – where a
visiting American missionary was attacked in the southern state of
Kerala, and which American newspapers have been dutifully reporting
-- we draw your attention to the report by the National Minorities
Commission which has exonerated the RSS or any of its members of
having attacked the missionary:
probe by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has revealed
startling facts about the attack on US missionary Rev Joseph Cooper
in Kerala. The report
stated that the attack was not pre-planned but was a public outcry
against the “wrongdoings and immoral acts by Rev Sam’s family in
the area” and the US missionary was an unwitting victim.
probe by Mr John Joseph, member of the NCM, revealed that the
“real target of attack by the public at the Gospel Convention,
Kilimanoor, Trivandrum, was one Benson and not the American
report prepared by the Christian member of the NCM has been sent
to the National Human Rights Commission.
Media reports had indicated that the attack had been
carried out by suspected RSS members.
Political parties had condemned the violence and had stated
that this was the continued attack on the Christian community by
members of the Sangh Parivar.
probe by the NCM stated that a local girl had allegedly been
sexually abused and harassed for four months at the Bible
report by Mr John Joseph said the wrongdoings of Rev Sam’s
family had been reported widely in the local media and residents
of the area had held dharnas for their arrests.”
May 2001 Communalism Combat
editorial claims that:
large-scale gender killings through the obnoxious practices of
foeticide, infanticide, dowry-related murders and deaths through
acute malnutrition of the girl child have led to a situation where
the number of women per every thousand population is on a
dangerous decline. It’s
an ugly reality that should make every Indian of the male gender
hang his head in shame, but the high command of Hindutva
particularly so as the ‘national mainstream’ which they claim
to represent contributes more than its share to what is nothing
short of homicide.”
this, Ashok Chowgule responded as follows:
you see, the Sangh is not only behind all sorts of abuses against
women, but it is actually a murderous organisation!
Since the husband-wife duo is fond of filing public
interest litigations, I am sure they will file one in the Supreme
Court asking the honourable justices to direct the government to
file a case against the Sangh for gender cleansing.”
of the goals of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which the Left/Marxists
parody as some kind of obscurantist and revivalist Hindu group, is
“to completely eradicate social evils such as untouchability,
dowry system, etc., and to restore due status to woman in the
society and to rejuvenate the dynamic holistic Hindu way of life.”
would not be out of place to mention that even after the response
was sent, the same old rhetoric is repeated over and over.
In August 2002, Setalvad said the following in a public
tragedy of this country is that with the dominance of the ideology
of Hindu Rashtra in public life, with proponents of it gaining
power, every real issue that we need to tackle has got sidelined.“
must also consider the fact that during the 1999 general elections
in India, Sabrang Communications was actively involved in sponsoring
an advertisement campaign against the BJP.
In an interview “The Displaced And The Dispossessed”, Humanscape,
Setalvad said that the initiative was taken by Communalism
Combat to seek funds from three political parties - the
Congress, the Communist Party of India, and the Communist Party of
India (Marxist) - and ‘ten prominent individuals.’
The cost of the campaign was 15 million rupees.
interview took place after the elections were over.
While the election process was on, Setalvad was asked about
the source of money for the advertisement campaign.
In The Asian Age
(September 4, 1999), she said that the support came from four
political parties, some corporate houses, and certain NGOs.
In India Today
(September 13, 1999), she said it was, “from a wide spectrum of
well-wishers including corporates, trade unions, women’s groups
and NGOs”. There is
an axiom that it is very hard to be consistent when one is telling
lies. The reports also
said that Setalvad and her team for this campaign operated from the
residence of a Congress Party leader, and worked closely with the
media cell of the party.
sees no inconsistency in asking for transparency from others, while
obscuring the truth about its own operations, commitments, and
Setalvad also traveled to Durban (August 31 to September 7, 2002) to
attend a United Nations program called “World Conference Against
Statesman (September 30, 2001) showed a picture of her sitting
next to John Dayal. Dayal
has a placard around his neck, which says: “Hindutva rapes and
kills Dalits, Muslims, Christians in India.”
This is the same Dayal who has been prominent in demonizing
the RSS, particularly in the context of the violence against
Christians. Note too
that Communalism Combat’s
chief reporter is John Dayal.
needs to be stated that the link between Mathew and Communalism
Combat is nothing new. In
January 1998, Rediff on Net
carried a profile, in two parts, of VHP-A by Mathew, which said that
it was an arrangement with Communalism
Mathew chooses to be a Communist, or whether Communalism
Combat chooses to be anti-RSS, is a decision that they are free
to take themselves. However,
just as they claim to expose the ideological position of the RSS and
the IDRF, it is necessary for them to state their own ideological
stance. And if in this
stance, they wish to ideologically oppose the Sangh, then there is
an obligation on them to stand up to a higher test of impartiality
than others when making allegations against the Sangh.