Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hindutvawadis in American politics

By Ayub Khan

The appointment of Sonal Shah to Barack Obama's transition team has rightly garnered the headlines. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Activists, writers, scholars, and others bearing right wing Hindu extremist ideology have been gradually carving themselves a niche in the American politics, academia, and intelligentsia.

With all the attention of successive administrations almost singularly focused on Muslim extremists, their Hindu counterparts have managed to avoid scrutiny and gain prominent positions in universities and the political arena. Their objective is to follow the path of the Zionist lobbying groups and they have made no qualms about their intentions.

They started off small in the 1960s by inviting politicians to community, writing letters and generally making their presence known. By early 90s they had graduated to hold effective lobbying power and made public announcements of allying themselves with the Zionist groups.

They couched their agenda in nationalistic terms thereby further concealing their actual intention which is to convert India into a Hindu nation. Their divisive ideology effectively negates the idea of India as a secular, plural, and progressive nation. This concealment caused them to obtain control of several prominent Indian organizations.

The rise of the ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party further emboldened their aspirations. During the the late 80s and early 90s they hosted a number of leaders from the BJP who have hitherto been persona non grata for mainstream Indian organizations in North America. The formation of the BJP led government created further opportunities for the Hindutva supporters. This created tensions within the Indian community and led to the notion of groupisms within their large mainstream organizations like the Federation of Indian Associations. In some instances it even led to suits, countersuits, and defamation allegations.

Despite the conflict the Hindutva supporters continued to grow in the American political landscape. Probably their first big catch, which largely went unnoticed, was the nomination of Bhailal Patel to the transition team of Illinois Gov.Rod Blagojevic in 2002. Bhailal Patel, president of a financial services company and then president of one faction of Federation of Indian Associations, was named to the governor's Consumer Affairs and Regulatory Policy Committee.

Patel makes no qualms about his his support for the Hindutva and its ideology. In 2003, he praised Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi with the following words:

"Chief Ministers from 14 non-BJP ruled states came to tell the Gujarati people which way to vote. Their shrill anti-BJP tirade was further supported by Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi - the famous reader of prepared speeches. This is the first time ever that such a large group of chief ministers had joined hands, aided and abetted by a prime ministerial berth aspirant, to defeat a political party in state elections. Despite their stentorian harangues, or perhaps because of it, the masses of Gujarat were aroused - they unceremoniously voted out all those who had the audacity to attack India's ancient culture and Hindutva." (BJP Today, Mar.1-15,2003-Vol.12, No.5).

Another Hindutva supporter waltzing in the political circles is Dr.Bharat Barai, former president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America. Public records indicate that he donated $6,900 to the Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. He also donated to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($5,000) , All America PAC ($5,000), and to the campaigns of Joe Biden ($2,800), Mitt Romney (2,300), Jesse Jackson Jr. ($2,300), Joe Donnelly ($2,300), Barack Obama ($1,000), among others.

The ranks of the likes of Barai and Patel among political parties is increasing and so is their influence. While American politicians avoid like plague anyone who is even remotely linked to any kind of extremist Muslim ideology or individuals, they have no qualms about embracing the proponents of Hindu supremacist ideologies. It is about time that they live up to the American values of religious freedom and tolerance and disassociate themselves from proponents of any kind of extremist ideology.

No comments: