EKTA and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC)

EKTA and CAC are listed as separate members of the CAG. However, this section focuses on uncovering the connections between the two and shows the following: a) EKTA and CAC are one and the same; b) They are run by a handful of people like Raju Rajagopal, Shalini Gera and Sunaina Maira; c) They are intimately linked to FOIL and FOSA and host the websites of FOSA, YSS, Organizing Youth!, CSFH, NRI-SAHI and other members of CAG.

Section 10.01     EKTA

The organization’s goals focus on “[supporting] the artistic endeavors of South Asians in the literary, musical, performing and visual arts; [providing] social and educational services to the South Asian community; [supporting] charitable projects in South Asia; [collaborating] with other non-profit organizations for providing wider support.”[1] Sadly however, EKTA focuses largely on India and the “savagery of Hindus” and promotes events, documentaries, artists and projects that portray India and Hinduism in a seriously negative manner. While there is a cursory discussion or event planning around Islamic extremism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, CAC and EKTA accord a special place to India in decrying the so-called violence against minorities.

EKTA’s connections and intentions are also brought to light when this report examines the company it keeps. Under the Resources section of EKTA’s site (illustrated below), one finds links to organizations such as FOIL, FOSA, ASATA, CSFH, Organizing Youth!, CSFH, CAC, RadDesi Summer, YSS, and many others. However, EKTA also hosts the websites of CSFH, Organizing Youth!, YSS, CAC, etc. while also funding Organizing Youth!

EktaResourcesSection

Similarly, it hosts the website of controversial film makers Anand Patwardhan and Rakesh Sharma. In 1996, Patwardhan directed a movie, We Are Not Your Monkeys, which takes a seriously biased view of the Hindu deity Lord Rama and the Indian epic Ramayana.[2]

In addition, EKTA hosts the website of FOSA. What’s even more peculiar, EKTA’s current website declares: “EKTA is temporarily is (sic) on hiatus. We recommend that you visit Friends of South Asia http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/ in the meantime.” This message has been displayed since at least November 2, 2010, as per a snapshot of EKTA’s main page on the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.[3] Thus, though the organization has been on a “temporary” hiatus for almost four years, it is prominently featured in various CAG campaigns.

Though EKTA’s site registration information has recently changed, a Google Cache snapshot of the site registration shows that EKTA’s website was registered to Ramkumar Sridharan and Friends of South Asia.[4]

EKTA is also the fiscal sponsor of Organizing Youth!, one of the other signatories in the CAG. (Organizing Youth! is discussed here.) While Organizing Youth! claims EKTA as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, EKTA’s exemption status was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service as of May 15, 2010.[5]

Furthermore, the illustration below shows glaring similarities between the websites of EKTA and CAC, with both displaying very similar messages. This is not surprising, however, as EKTA hosts and maintains the websites for CAC and other organizations.

CAC and EKTA Comparison

The illustration below summarizes the affiliations between EKTA/CAC and various other CAG members.

EKTA CAG Org Links

 

 

Section 10.02     Coalition Against Communalism (CAC)

According to its website, CAC “…was formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in December 1992 in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya.”[6] Hence, the entire reason for the formation of this organization was to fight the so-called Hindu extremist forces. The larger focus is on “Hindu communalism” and not communalism in general as it happens in South Asia. This is also clear from the organization’s website and events. It also makes a rather outrageous assumption that Non-Resident Indians living in the US, UK, etc. could have funded the Gujarat riots. In May 2002, CAC posted full page ads in India Abroad and India West titled Did Our Generosity Fund the Carnage in Gujarat?[7]

CAC HiatusThe “Contact” section of the website, seen above, also displays a similar message as seen on EKTA’s: “CAC is temporarily is (sic) on hiatus.” Again, this message has existed since at least September 13, 2010, as per a snapshot of CAC’s website on the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.[8] Therefore, CAC has also been on a long-term temporary hiatus since over four years.

In addition to the above information, it is also evident that both of these so-called organizations have not been conducting any significant events for several years now and merely use their paper-based identities to lend further support to campaigns and coalitions like the CAG.

 

Section 10.03     Spotlight on Prominent Members of EKTA and CAC

(a)    Raju Rajagopal

Raju Rajagopal is a key activist of the CAG and a driving force behind EKTA/CAC. In fact, information on Zoominfo lists him as social activist/worker for EKTA and CAC as well as president of CAC.[9] Rajagopal was also a speaker at the 2003 IAMC and is listed as the president of CAC in the press release.[10] Similarly, in an April 22, 2003 appeal on the Gujarat riots by EKTA, Rajagopal signs on behalf of CAC/EKTA.[11] Thus, it is evident that Rajagopal has been running both organizations along with a handful of other individuals since at least 2003.

Rajagopal was a key player along with FOSA in opposing changes to 6th Grade California textbooks and against portraying Hinduism in the same manner as other major world religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In his column on Sulekha, titled Christian Evangelism and Hindutva Revisionism (and CA Text Books), Rajagopal, while discussing US evangelicals (including President Bush), is sharply critical of the Christian Right and how “…[f]aith-based initiatives, energized as never before, are blurring the lines between poverty alleviation and proselytization.”[12] Rajagopal therefore comes across as a staunch opponent of aggressive evangelism practiced in India under the veil of “development”. He states: “If there is one issue that rankles even the most secular-minded Hindu – and many Muslims and Christians – it is the aggressive proselytization tactics of evangelical Christians in India, which sometimes pit poor communities, or even family members, against one another.”[13] Yet, in a blatant display of hypocrisy, a few sentences later, Rajagopal is particularly soft on Graham Staines, the Australian missionary who, along with his sons, was burnt to death by a group of extremists in 1999. While Staines’ murder was certainly ghastly and the Indian government took the right steps to prosecute the guilty, Rajagopal fails to even casually follow through his earlier argument about evangelism and discuss the role of Staines and other missionaries in fomenting trouble in India by converting poor tribals and the so-called Untouchables. Instead, he only slams Hindu groups and blames them for the death of Staines and his sons.

Similarly, Rajagopal validly argues against the insertion of “Intelligent Design” in science textbooks in the US, deeming it an attempt by the Christian Right to further their agenda. However, he is complacent with the fact that his organizations, along with FOSA and others, joined hands with powerful evangelical organizations such as the Dalit Freedom Network, the Dalit Solidarity Forum in the US and others masquerading as champions of the cause of development and human rights in India, to oppose changes to 6th Grade California textbooks and the resulting demonization of Hinduism vis-a-vis other major religions.

In supporting the textbook campaign, Rajagopal argues that “…exposing our children to India’s vibrant pluralistic and ‘argumentative’ traditions, and encouraging classroom discussions on the legacies of racism, caste and gender bias, will serve them better as future citizens, whether of the US or of India.”[14] That may be certainly true in higher grade classroom or a college-grade classroom; however, such “healthy discussions” do not happen in 6th grade classes in the US. Instead, the Hindu/Indian kids only sit with their heads down in utter dismay and feelings of inferiority and may come home crying about how embarrassed they are to be a Hindu. Rajagopal should perhaps avail himself to giggles and other snide reactions of non-Hindus by sitting in the 6th Grade class!

Further, by the same token, Rajagopal should be hollering at the top of his voice at the way Christianity, Judaism and Islam are talked about in the same textbooks. All his rants about evangelical interventions are only limited to issues not impacting Hindus and Hinduism.

Rajiv Malhotra, in his 2006 article in Little India, titled Debating the California Text Book Controversy, showed the following table to illustrate how all the major religions are talked about in California school textbooks:[15]

Raju Rajagopal_Malhotra_Textbook Comparison

Malhotra summarizes his argument astutely by saying:

The sixth-grade classroom is [not the right place] to persecute an American minority culture or a foreign nation….Challenging history is one thing, but intentionally undermining self-respect at an impressionable age is a form of psychological child abuse. The political activism of a cartel of elitist scholars is invading innocent children: It harasses Indian students in class who feel embarrassed and ashamed of their ancestry, especially since American society valorizes identities and traditions. It handicaps the non-Indian students who will grow up to work in a world in which India must be taken seriously and not dismissed as a patient to be cured by the West.[16]

(b)   Shalini Gera

Shalini Gera of FOSA and FOIL is another key force behind CAC. She organized a major petition on behalf of CAC to the National Human Rights Commission of India, asking for strong action against the government of Gujarat in the wake of the 2002 riots.[17] In March 2002, EKTA/CAC and others held a demonstration in San Francisco to protest against the Gujarat riots. Gera was one of the coordinators of the march, along with Akhila Raman of FOSA (Raman’s anti-India views were discussed here). Interestingly, just one month after the burning of the Godhra train, Gera, Raman and other members of the CAG already sentenced the Gujarat government and Hindus for their alleged role in the riots. Speaking for EKTA/CAC and other organizers, Gera boldly declared: “This violence was neither spontaneous, nor expressive of a sentiment among the Hindus in Gujarat. It was pre-planned, meticulously executed, and often carried out in collusion [emphasis added] with the civic, administrative, and political bodies.”[18] While Gera and others are outraged by the violence and the riots, they spare neither tears nor sympathy for the Hindus who were roasted alive in the Godhra train.

In 2006, Gera and fellow FOIL member Girish Agrawal wrote an article in Tehelka magazine blasting and mocking the efforts of Hindu groups to get a fair portrayal of Hinduism in California textbooks.[19] She is also a spokesperson for CSFH, along with Angana Chatterji, and Ali Mir Raza.[20]

(c)    Raj Barot

EKTA’s site is registered to Raj Barot, as per the WhoIs.Net website registration search.[21]  Barot, a management consultant and lawyer by profession,[22] is also an old-time member of the FOSA/EKTA/CAC nexus. For example, EKTA, FOSA and others organized a “Traveling Film South Asia 2004.” The planning committee, included Barot, Shalini Gera, Ramkumar Sridharan and others.[23] Barot has been active with EKTA/CAC and FOSA since his student days.[24]

Based on the information presented in this sections, a few conclusions can be drawn:

  1. EKTA runs the websites of many of the organizations/groups listed in the CAG and also supports some of them financially. EKTA itself was registered to FOSA and therefore is an extension of FOSA.
  2. EKTA and CAC are one and the same organization. Both have been defunct since at least 2010. In fact, EKTA’s non-profit status was also revoked in 2010.
  3. EKTA and CAC are run by the same people. Therefore, EKTA/CAC cannot claim to be independent organizations.

 

[1] http://www.ektaonline.org/about/index.htm.  Accessed January 16, 2014

[2] See a link to the movie’s description at http://patwardhan.com/films/wearenotyourmonkeys.htm. Accessed January 16, 2014

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20101102013718/http://www.ektaonline.org/index.shtml. Accessed January 16, 2014

[4] See the Cached Page at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Ul2cTS5Ly2YJ:dawhois.com/domain/ektaonline.org.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us. Accessed January 17, 2014

[5]  See EKTA’s revocation information in the “Exempt Organizations Select Check” tool at http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/displayRevocation.do?dispatchMethod=displayRevokeInfo&revocationId=109148&ein=912143894&exemptTypeCode=al&isDescending=false&totalResults=1&postDateTo=&ein1=912143894&state=All…&dispatchMethod=searchRevocation&postDateFrom=&country=US&city=&searchChoice=revoked&indexOfFirstRow=0&sortColumn=ein&resultsPerPage=25&names=&zipCode=&deductibility=all. Accessed January 16, 2014

[6] See the description of CAC at the bottom of its website: http://cac.ektaonline.org/about/. Accessed January 16, 2014

[7] See a PDF copy of the ad at http://cac.ektaonline.org/resources/publications/gujarat/GujaratadNRI.pdf. Accessed January 16, 2014

[8] https://web.archive.org/web/20100913181531/http://cac.ektaonline.org/contact. Accessed January 16, 2014

[9] http://www.zoominfo.com/s/#!search/profile/person?personId=238386344&targetid=profile. Accessed January 17, 2014

[10] See the list of speakers in the IAMC Press release at http://iamc.com/press-release/imc-usa_to_hold_first_ever_convention_of_its_kind_on_india-related_issues. Accessed January 17, 2014

[11] http://www.ektaonline.org/events/gujarat2002/report042203.htm

[12] Raju Rajagopal, “Christian Evangelism and Hindutva Revisionism (and CA Text Books)”, Sulekha.com, http://creative.sulekha.com/christian-evangelism-and-hindutva-revisionism-and-ca-text-books_133988_blog. Accessed January 17, 2014

[13] Rajagopal, ibid

[14] Rajagopal, ibid

[15] Rajiv Malhotra, “Debating the California Text Book Controversy”, March 13, 2006, Little India, http://www.littleindia.com/life/1133-debating-the-california-text-book-controversy.html?print. Accessed January 17, 2014

[16] Malhotra, ibid

[17] Gera is listed as the main contact in this March 2002 letter to Justice J.S. Verma, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India:  http://cac.ektaonline.org/resources/publications/gujarat/gujpet031102.pdf. Gerahttp://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/ci_3584032. Accessed January 17, 2014

[18] See the March 27, 2002 Press Release titled “March for Peace and Justice in San Francisco”, on Sabrang’s website at: http://www.sabrang.com/gujarat/statement/statement.htm#27one.  accessed January 17, 2014

[19] Shalini Gera and Girish Agrawal, “Hindutva goes to school”, February 4, 2006, Tehelka, http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main16.asp?filename=op020406Hindutva_goes.asp. Accessed January 17, 2014

[20] See CSFH’s Press Release on Friday, December 13, 2002 at http://stopfundinghate.org/resources/news/121302SFHPressRelease.htm. Accessed January 17, 2014

[21] http://www.whois.net/whois/ektaonline.org. Accessed January 17, 2014

[22] See Barot’s profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajbarot. Accessed January 17, 2014

[23] http://www.ektaonline.org/events/tfsa2004/sponsors.htm. Accessed January 17, 2014

[24] See Barot signing EKTA/CAC’s petition in support of Anand Patwardhan on January 30, 2002 at 13:14 PM at http://www.ektaonline.org/petitions/patwardhan/amnh/petition2.htm. Accessed January 17, 2014