The Forum of Inquilabi Leftists (FOIL)

The Forum of Inquilabi Leftists (FOIL), formerly known as the Forum of Indian Leftists, is a group of radical leftist activists and individuals; its origins date back to the late 1980s/early 1990s. FOIL’s founding fathers, Biju Mathew and Vijay Prashad, are both well known for their writings in far-left leaning publications as well in People’s Democracy, a weekly mouthpiece of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In a December 1995 note in FOIL’s former newsletter Sanskriti, Prashad and Mathew discuss the idea of establishing the forum, as “…a clearing-house for radical Indian activists in the United States, Canada and England… [to] help build projects that make [their] radical politics more material.”[1] According to the domain registration records, their website was first registered on December 15, 1997, by Rajasekhar Ramakrishnan, a researcher at Columbia University[2] and Secretary-Treasurer of the SINGH Foundation (not to be confused with the Sikh and Hindu last names).[3] Also named PROXSA (Progressive South Asians), this forum of over 300 radical leftist activists[4] is the mother of several organizations and blogs, magazines and forums that have been started or inspired by individual members of FOIL.

SAMAR - FOIL AnnouncementThe illustration on the left[5] (published in SAMAR, an affiliate of FOIL, is discussed here) provides insights into FOIL’s overall strategy.  Announcing a call to join FOIL in SAMAR’s summer/fall 1997 Issue, Mathew and Prashad discuss various projects that FOIL has developed (e.g. Youth Solidarity Summer, discussed here)  and how the many FOIL projects are coordinated by different members spread across the US, Canada and UK.  Indeed, through its “clearing house” model, FOIL has spawned several organizations and groups in North America, Europe and India for disseminating radical leftist thought leadership as well as propaganda (e.g. the 2002 attack on IDRF) that attacks Hindus, Hinduism and India.

Other prominent personalities like Angana Chatterji, discussed later in the report, are also part of FOIL and its sister organizations.

FOIL’s members subscribe to a strong belief that radical Marxism/Communism is the solution to problems created by capitalist imperialism led by the US, Zionist interests led by Israel and Hindu “nationalist” interests led by “Hindu fascists”.  Thus, FOIL propagates specific political ideas and agendas that promote a radical Marxist/Communist view of Indians and India. Unfortunately, only Hindu Indians in India and abroad bear the brunt of FOIL’s biased perspectives and studies. Hinduism, as understood and practiced by a majority of Hindu temples, organizations, and families both in India and abroad (e.g. USA), is mythically reduced to an oppressive, non-pluralistic religion practiced by hegemonic “upper-caste” sections of the society.

FOIL looks at NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and Hindus with a cynical view and any efforts by these groups to defend biases against Hinduism, Hindus or India, are automatically reduced to right-wing, extremist “Yankee Hindutva” agendas that attack what FOIL deems “free speech”.

Members of FOIL go so far as to call Hindu deities colonizers, whose lives are “…filled with outrageous kinds of deceit, manipulations, selfishness and greed.”[6]  It is important to note that most members of FOIL and its sister organizations that make such claims have no background or specialization in Hinduism, Hindu scriptures, Vedic traditions, Sanskrit, linguistics, archaeology, genetics, etc. They merely use their Hindu names as if speaking for Hindus, or rely on biased opinions of Marxist scholars or American university professors with questionable writings and backgrounds. This is illustrated later in the report.

FOIL’s negative views on Hinduism and India find companionship in various Islamic advocacy groups and Christian evangelical organizations in the US as well as in India, thus servicing each group’s own agenda. Together, as shown in this report, these individuals and organizations lend each other credibility and demonize Hindus and India via various symposiums, “human rights conferences,” presentations in front of government bodies and political figures, as well as spreading false rumors and views via popular media.

 

Section 1.01    A Spotlight on Prominent FOIL Members

(a)    Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies.[7] This is indeed ironic, since George Kellner is the founder of Kellner Dileo & Company, which specializes in merger arbitrage, distressed & high-income investing and securities lending – core businesses of Wall Street, the very seat of the ideology (Capitalism) that Prashad routinely denounces.[8] Prashad is a founding father of FOIL and the author of several books and articles regarding South Asia, Indians, etc. He has often written articles and papers on US imperialism and Capitalist hegemony and impacts of this across the world.

According to Malhotra and Neelakandan (2011), Prashad supports the ideas of Kancha Ilaiah, deemed as “…the leading Dalit rights campaigner.”[9] Ilaiah is well known for his hatred towards and demonization of Sanskrit, Hinduism and India. Ilaiah’s and FOIL’s views on Hinduism and India are presented later in this report. But, it is sufficient to say that Ilaiah’s views are extremely disturbing, inaccurate and a demonstration of theories gone wild. “Interestingly, one of Ilaiah’s books Why I am Not a Hindu is prescribed in introductory courses on Hinduism at many American universities!”[10] Further, “Koenrad Elst, a Belgian Indologist, [who] reviewed Ilaiah’s book, [has] found parallels with the anti-Jewish depictions in Nazi writings:”[11]

These anti-Hindu forces are exploiting the Aryan Invasion Theory to the hilt, infusing crank racism in vast doses into India’s body politic. Read…..Ilaiah’s book Why I Am Not a Hindu (Calcutta, 1996), sponsored by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, with its anti-Brahmin cartoons: Move the hairlocks of the Brahmin villains from the back of the head to just in front of their ears, and you get exact replicas of the anti-Semitic cartoons from the Nazi paper, Der Stumer.[12]

Prashad wrote an article on Hindu Holocaust (News India Times, Sept. 25, 2009) about an event organized by French journalist Francois Gautier to raise money to build a Hindu Holocaust Museum that highlights atrocities against Hindus throughout history. Contrary to available evidence both from Muslim and non-Muslim writers and scholars, Prashad categorically denies the slaughter of Hindus in the Indian subcontinent at the hands of Islamic invaders starting from the 8th century AD. He speculates that Islam entered India via peaceful trade relations rather than on the backs of invaders. And, even when invaders did come, they were mainly interested in warfare and plunder and nothing more. Vinod Kumar, writing a fact-based response to Prashad’s article, highlights the following statements from Prashad:

Between Hindus and Muslims there has not been an endless rivalry for social power. When Islam enters the subcontinent, it does not come in the saddlebags of the Ghaznis or the Ghouris, but amongst the rumble of goods brought by traders. Early conversions are not by the sword but by the merchants. There was killing, but that was as much for reasons of warfare and plunder as for reasons of God and tradition. An interested reader might want to look at the distinguished Marxist historian Romila Thapar’s superb book Samantha: The Many Voices of a History (Penguin, 2005). There, Professor Thapar shows us that Mahmud Ghazni’s destruction of the Shiva temple in 1026 was driven not so much by a fanatical religious belief but because his father, Subuktigin (sic), needed money to sustain his faltering kingdom in Central Asia. Now it is certainly true, as historian Mohammed Habib put it, that there was ‘wanton destruction of temples that followed in the wake of the Ghaznavid army.’[13]

Prashad’s knowledge of history is based on the assertions of Romila Thapar and her controversial book on the famous Hindu temple of Somnath.

 (b)   Biju Mathew

Biju Mathew is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Rider University in New Jersey[14] and the co-founder of FOIL. While his background is in Business and Information Systems,[15] he seems obsessed with “Hindutva”, described as a “…nationalist ideology, based on modern-day version of centralized intolerant Hinduism.”[16] In 2002, Mathew, along with other members of FOIL and the radical South Asian leftist community, started a project called Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), which launched attacks on two US-based Hindu organizations – the Indian American charity, India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) and the US Hindu youth organization, Hindu Students Council (HSC). FOIL initiated the attack on HSC at the 2007 Youth Solidarity Summer (youth wing of FOIL, started by Mathew and Prashad) conference, held at the Marxist organization Brecht Forum in Manhattan, NY. Mathew is associated with Brecht, which he describes as a “…leftist educational space started way back in the Reagan era when anything leftist was anathema in America.”[17]

During the 2002 attack on IDRF, Mathew claimed in an interview:

I am clear that all forms [emphasis added] of right-wing religious fundamentalist and obscurantist groups need to be opposed. If there are petrodollars coming into India to fund radical Islamist groups, then that needs to be investigated and stopped. Likewise in the case of funding to Christian evangelist groups to engage in proselytism. So, we’ve been equally critical [emphasis added] of radical Islamists and right-wing Christian groups as we have of the RSS.[18]

Mathew is extremely sincere in his tirade against Hindu organizations and exposing their “hateful agendas” but completely ignores the need for any investigation of Islamic and Christian evangelical groups operating in India and creating communal discord. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find any investigative articles or reports compiled by Mathew, FOIL or CSFH regarding the much-detailed channeling of American and European church donations to conversion activities in India. Investigative journalism website and newspaper Tehelka, in a report titled Preparing for the harvest… provides painstaking and extremely disturbing details on such activities. The report stated:

Religious expansionism has not witnessed this scale, scope, and state resources in a long time. Detailed investigations by Tehelka reveal that American evangelical agencies have established in India an enormous, well-coordinated and strategized religious conversion plan… At the heart of this complex and sophisticated operation is a simple strategy – convert locals and then give them the know-how and money to plant their own churches and multiply.[19]

Tehelka goes further and describes the worldwide evangelical plans in India:

The launch of the Joshua Project in the mid-1990s resulted in scores of American research teams arriving in India to lay preliminary roadmaps for the church-planting mission. In India, a coordinated gospel literature distribution exercise was staged to reach 600,000 villages by the end of 2000.[20]

Tehelka also mentions that the prime target of these Christian missions was nine northern and central states of India, because:

The Gangetic belt is one of the most heavily populated regions of the world. Forty percent of the Indian population lives here; New Delhi is the capital and centre of political power in India; It is the most socially deprived area of India (the Hindi belt has a literacy rate of 30 percent, infant mortality is double the national average and the government of India officially designates four of these states as BIMARU (literally, ‘sick’);…This area of India is known as the heartland of Hinduism, a religion that boasts of some 33 million gods; and it (sic) has the smallest Christian presence in all of India. According to the 1991 census, the Christian population of North India is 0.5 percent of the total population.[21]

These and other facts are widely available on the Net and in official church documents. In addition, Malhotra and Neelakandan (2011) diligently expose the network of these groups as well as their connections with Marxist/Communist individuals, government entities and corporations.

The above statements show that the clear targets of these Christian organizations are Hinduism and Hindus. The numbers are astronomically higher in comparison to the “foreign funding of hatred” that Mathew and others accuse Hindu organizations of. Why hasn’t Mathew, a champion of Marxism and Communist ideals, been equally critical and opposed to this harvesting of souls and funding of hatred in India? Can it be that his Christian background doesn’t allow his conscience to rebel against his own faith? That would be even more disturbing given his Marxist and therefore “against all religions” background.

Mathew, just like Prashad, supports the racist and anti-Hindu ideas of Kancha Ilaiah. In fact, Mathew conducted a prominent interview of Ilaiah on behalf of FOIL, as shown in Section 4.02 (g) below.

 (c)    Angana Chatterji

Angana Chatterji was a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).[22] Ironically, CIIS was established to bring the integral teachings of Hindu spiritual giant Sri Aurobindo and his Integral Yoga (Purna Yoga) in the US.[23] Chatterji used her position in CIIS to basically do the opposite – that is, to demonize Hinduism and the Indian state. One wonders how Chatterji, a rabid anti-India/anti-Hindu advocate, can ever be associated with CIIS. Interestingly enough, Chatterji, along with her husband Robert Shapiro, was fired from CIIS in 2011 on a litany of charges, including:

…‘reckless violation’ of established legal rights of students to ‘confidentiality’ and ‘non-harassment;’ ‘reckless violation’ of professional ethics of [CIIS] or students, faculty or administrators; ‘dishonesty, including misappropriation of funds;’ and ‘persistent failure to perform position-related assignments or other neglect of academic duties.’[24]

Prior to joining CIIS, she worked in policy and advocacy research for the Indian Social Institute (ISI), an organization run by Jesuits and founded by Fr. Jerome D’Souza, Jesuit priest and educationist.[25] On its website, the ISI, while describing its role and identity, mentions: “For advocacy, the institute also bends its research methods in order to inflate the magnitude of the social problem [emphasis added] described, and thereby suggests social action to address the issue.”[26] In other words, ISI feels quite comfortable, even positively happy, about showing one-sided research and inflating numbers to showcase human rights violations against Dalits, minorities, women and children by purported Hindu extremists. This is not surprising, since many of these types of NGOs (often run by Christian organizations) tend to pump up the data and cast Hinduism/India in a negative light to strengthen their case of religious conversion in the name of human rights. Problems of discrimination are largely blamed on Hinduism, even though caste issues are prominent among Indian Christians[27] and Muslims.[28] Indeed, among the publications of the Institute is one book, Human Rights in Indian Situation, by Joseph Benjamin, a professor at St. Francis de Sales’ College in Nagpur, India.[29] The book claims to “holistically” document the human rights violations against Dalits, women, etc. by the Indian government and by the “Hindu Caste System”.

Such data is then used by other organizations (especially Christian ones) across the world to highlight the so-called atrocities by Hindus. America magazine, a prominent Catholic mouthpiece, cites the ISI in the following sentence:

According to New Delhi’s Indian Social Institute, recent Hindu-Muslim riots and attacks on Christians are instigated by affluent, elite, high-caste Hindus who are trying to expel threats to the Brahminic caste system, or Varna – the Hindu ideology of superiority and inferiority based on birth, profession, pollution and purity.[30]

Thus, Hindus are depicted as a violent lot that aims to get rid of anyone who challenges their social structures and systems.

Chatterji is also involved in the CSFH. According to Malhotra and Neelakandan, “Chatterji provided ‘critical assistance’ to a highly libelous and unsubstantiated report that damned a US-based Indian charity organization, India Development Relief Fund (IDRF), alleging that it was funding hatred and atrocities against Indian minorities.”[31] IDRF’s schools were providing a successful alternative to Christian missionary activities in the realm of rural and tribal education. Chatterji was, therefore, pivotal to defaming the non-Christian competition in the development space.

Malhotra and Neelakandan further state that “while she finds US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan to be a violation of those countries’ civil rights…she still wants US intervention in India’s affairs, for example, through the US Commission on International Religious Freedom”.[32]  In fact, Chatterji testified before the United States Congressional Task Force on International Religious Freedom on “violence in Orissa”, chaired by Congressmen Trent Franks and Joseph R. Pitts, both with strong right-wing evangelical connections.[33] “She also sent an unsolicited testimony on Orissa to the Government of India, in which all her data came directly from the report by the All Indian Christian Council. Her data was so one-sided that she completely ignored some well-established facts about the aggressive evangelism involved and the nexus between Christian evangelists and Maoists in the state.”[34] (The All Indian Christian Council’s connection with this nexus is discussed under FIACONA here).

“She describes the social services done by Hindu organizations, as ‘conscription into Hindu activism’, even as she praises the same kind of social work in ‘health care, education and employment offered by Christian missionaries.”[35]

She was the co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir until 2012.[36] The Tribunal seeks to analyze the conditions in Kashmir wrought by Indian military occupation and the subjugation of movements for self-determination, as well as the cycles of violence they produced, including the earlier armed militancy of 1990s until 2007.[37] Curiously, this Tribunal is ruthlessly focused on the Indian state and the “Hindu extremist” support against Islamic terror. It completely ignores the human rights violations against Kashmiri Pandits and the situation in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), thought it’s really meant to be an “International” People’s Tribunal.

Chatterji was invited to a conference on Kashmir, organized by the Pakistani Students Association at George Washington University, the Embassy of Pakistan, and Pakistan’s Minister of Kashmir Affairs, where she spoke of the “growing concern among civil society groups about human rights crisis in Indian-occupied Kashmir in the areas of social, political, cultural, religious and economic rights. She accused India of ‘continued occupation of [certain areas of] Kashmir.’”[38]

Malhotra and Neelakandan further discuss observation of Muhammed Sadiq, the Muslim editor of a Kashmiri news portal, on Chatterji’s lopsided statements and activities that suited the purposes of Islamic terrorists:

[Angana Chatterji] announced the formation of the ‘International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir’ on 5 April in Srinagar.  Interestingly, this organization too insists that the focus of HR investigations should be on the Indian side of Kashmir and not in PoK too. Moreover, this is a fault-finding mission. Its only aim is to slam the Indian security forces, further highlight HR issues and vitiate the situation.[39]

Thus, Chatterji, FOIL and the CAG continue to portray India as a land of Hindu savages and undemocratic state policies and try to erase the lines between the very real Islamic terrorism and what they call equally horrible “human rights violations” against Muslims, Christians and Dalits.  This seems to justify terrorist attacks on India as well-deserved.[40]

To illustrate how such views make it into mainstream journalist reporting, Malhotra and Neelakandan remark the views of Julian Duin, the religion editor of Washington Times in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks on India:

The terrorist assault – this time by Muslims – on Mumbai later in the year, highlighted the powderkeg (sic) India has become and how often in this Hindu-majority country, the oppressed don’t get a lot of justice. The perpetrators in Orissa have gone unpunished.[41]

Thus, biased research by the likes of Chatterji fluidly translates into the view of mainstream media.

Chatterji’s anti-India credentials are further exposed by her close association with Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was arrested by the FBI in 2011 for being an agent of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Fai was instrumental in lobbying the US government to pressure India on Kashmir. (This is further discussed in Friends of South Asia, another member of the Coalition Against Genocide, and an affiliate of FOIL, here).

 (d)   Vinay Lal

Vinay Lal is an Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at UCLA.  Lal writes a blog called Lal Salaam, a clever play on his last name but also a reference to the popular Communist salutation (English translation: “Red Salute”) in India, used by individuals and political parties alike. Lal is a spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH)[42] and a member of FOIL.[43] His views on Hinduism, India and Hindus in general use the same hateful/suspicious lens used by fellow FOIL members such as Vijay Prashad and Angana Chatterji and historians like Romila Thapar.  In his book, Introducing Hinduism (USA: Totem Books, 2005), Lal’s pejorative obsession with the “evils” of Hinduism shines brightly through in addition to factual errors. Vishal Agarwal, in a review of the book, points out several blatant misunderstandings and errors in it:

Kalki, the last incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is likened to the former US President George Bush (page 92) in a rather insensitive way. The photograph of Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-1883), the founder of Arya Samaj, on (page 119) is actually that of a currently living Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Pennsylvania.[44]

Similarly, Lal makes a dubious assertion that Buddhism and Jainism introduced vegetarianism and monasticism into Hinduism.[45]

Agarwal further remarks: “When Lal talks about Ramayana in seven pages (pages 57-63), he devotes 3-4 of them to Sita’s agnipariksha and one on ‘alternate’ (= not conforming to the conventional versions) of Ramayana.”[46] There is barely any discussion on why Rama is considered an ideal son, warrior, etc. by the Hindus and why he is considered an Avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu. “The overall impression created is that the Ramayana is a misogynist text.”[47] “In discussing the Puranic Deities, Shiva is of course also referred to as a ‘Pre-Aryan’ transplant into Vedic Hinduism (page 68).”[48]

Hindu protests against images of deities on shoes, toilet seats, etc. are categorized as those driven by hateful ideologies and the NRIs in US are automatically considered supporters of “Hindu Nationalism”. The immensely popular Indian TV serials, Ramayana and Mahabharata, are labeled as fueling “Hindu Communalism”.[49] “The doctrines of Rebirth and Reincarnation, Samsara and Karma – which are so vital to understanding Hindu world view, [are] practically ignored in the book.”[50]

Lal’s views share striking but not surprising similarities to those espoused by fellow FOIL members Vijay Prashad, Biju Mathew and others.

In contrast to Lal’s bias against Hinduism, he goes to great pains to defend Islam. In an article discussing the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, Lal is particularly sympathetic to the Taliban. He whitewashes the ideology and intents of Taliban and seems to justify the destruction of the statues:

[It] is construed as an expression not only of the Taliban’s anger but of its sense of betrayal, its feeling of isolation, and its profound disappointment that it should not have been suitably rewarded on the one occasion when it subscribed to some norms of international political engagement.[51]

Thus, Taliban’s fundamentalist Islamic view is really out of frustration at the West for not honoring its part of the deal when Taliban freed Afghanistan from poppy-seed production! Lal then proceeds further to offer a more “balanced” view of the Taliban, reminding his readers that:

[One] should not be allowed to forget that Ronald Reagan welcomed the Mujahideen to the White House as ‘freedom fighters’; at this juncture in history, it is still the relentless zero-sum of politics which makes the United States and its adversary Afghanistan look strikingly akin.[52]

Further in the article, Lal defends Islamic invaders and Islam in general, by adding that Bamiyan’s two gigantic Buddhas were spared by Mahmud of Ghazni but Genghiz Khan, the Mongol king, was not so indifferent. Describing Mughal King Aurangzeb as “ecumenical,” Lal is ready to point out that while there is some evidence that the king initiated attacks on the Bamiyan Buddhas, he left the Ajanta and Ellora Caves untouched during his 20-year fight with the Marathas in the Deccan. Similarly, he makes it a point to say that:

…all the Muslim states have emphatically repudiated the Taliban’s actions, and even Saudi Arabia, which fancies itself as the guardian of an authentic and orthodox Islam, declared itself unequivocally opposed to the destruction of the Buddhas. Nothing in the Sharia, or in the pronouncements of various Islamic schools of law, encourages the destruction of monuments which are not the sites of religious worship and cannot therefore be construed as ‘idols’. Most poignantly, the call to jihad, which is described by the Taliban as having furnished it with the warrant to take action at Bamiyan, has been stripped of its endearing promise. The authorized translation of the Holy Quran, published by the King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex, states that the essence of jihad consists in abiding by a ‘true and sincere faith, which so fixes its gaze on Allah that all selfish or worldly motives seem paltry and fade away’.[53]

Lal comes out as a greater defender of Islam while bedeviling Hinduism as a religion that sanctions violence against the lower caste Dalits, women and minorities. Passages from Koran and the Hadiths inciting violence against and destruction of infidels are considered to be taken out of context, while the same is not true in case of Hindu texts. Why doesn’t Lal discuss the deeply pluralistic teachings of Hindu scriptures, that the caste system is a construct of latter-day society and not sanctioned by Hindu scriptures, that the concept of Sati (bride burning) is also not sanctioned in Hindu scriptures, etc.? But, Lal is keen on peddling theories that Hindus were some beef eating invaders from outside of India who oppressed the “dark-skinned” Dravidians and drove them down South.

Lal and other FOIL members like Prashad love to quote Mahatma Gandhi when hitting out at Hindus, as if they hold him in high regard. However, Lal acknowledges that “the Marxists have long subscribed to the view that Gandhi was a ‘romantic’, a hopeless idealist and even hypocrite.”[54] Mahatma Gandhi’s company of women is described as follows:

The vow of brahmacharya did not preclude, as it has for reformers and saints in Indian religious traditions, the company of women; indeed, Gandhi adored their presence and reveled in their touch…[Mirabehn’s] correspondence has a touch of the erotic…She was by no means the only woman with whom Gandhi enjoyed a platonic relationship…[55]

Lal then falls just short of labeling Gandhi a homosexual. He says:

Many of his male friendships are equally interesting; for example, he may also have been attracted to Hermann Kallenbach, a wealthy Jewish architect who would become one of Gandhi’s earliest patrons and closest friends[56]

 (e)    Ravi (Ra) Ravishankar

Ravishankar is an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a veteran member of FOIL[57] and the various organizations that it has spawned. He is yet another example of how FOIL and the entire nexus demonizes Hindus and Hinduism and ensures that the world continues to view Hinduism = Caste = Racism/Oppression.

For instance, Ravishankar is a key spokesperson for CSFH, along with Biju Mathew, Angana Chatterji, Raja Harish Swamy, Shalini Gera, Ashwini Rao, Balmurli Natrajan, Vinay Lal and others. He is also the registering agent for CSFH.[58] During the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, Ravishankar, FOIL and CSFH labored desperately to equate the so-called “Hindu terrorism” with Islamic terrorism. On December 3, 2002, Ravishankar wrote an article, Project Saffron Dollar, for CSFH, falsely declaring that “[post]-9/11, Hindu fanaticism is more dangerous [emphasis added] (than Islamic fanaticism) in the US, and so it makes sense to selectively pick [emphasis added] on Hindutva”.[59] He lauds CSFH’s report attacking the IDRF and labels IDRF as an organization that funds “Hindu terrorism”. He berates the Indian government for defending its “Saffron Warriors”[60] and not designating the Hindu groups as terrorists while deeming Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as terrorist organizations. He then congratulates the CSFH on shouldering the responsibility of exposing the “nefarious activities” of these Hindu groups and the IDRF, since no one in the world was willing to do so! Citing data and reports from FOIL affiliates such as the Citizens for Justice and Peace (run by Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand), Ravishankar makes a preposterous demand that the US and India ban various Hindu organizations in the name of “Hindu terror”. He maliciously deems IDRF as a charity “…very much on the lines of [Ummah Tameer-e-Nau]”.[61]

Ummah Tammer-e-Nau (UTN) is designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations as well as the US, the UK, and other countries around the world. According to the US Treasury Department, UTN provided knowledge of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.[62] The Treasury Department also noted that UTN’s founder Bashiruddin Mahmud once described Taliban as the “‘ideal Islamic state.’”[63] Similarly, the Treasury Department also reported that searches of UTN’s Kabul offices yielded plans to kidnap US diplomats and papers outlining basic physics related to nuclear weapons and that several UTN members have been known to have direct connections to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al Qaida.[64]

There is no evidence of IDRF financing any terrorist activity or plots. In addition, no government agency around the world has found IDRF guilty of any wrongdoing or plans to kidnap/kill diplomats, supply nuclear weapons knowledge, etc. But, FOIL and its sister organizations are bent on discrediting Hindu organizations while staying mute on the Christian evangelical organizations operating in India in the guise of development and helping the poor.

A team of Indian Americans wrote a comprehensive rebuttal to the FOIL/CSFH report at www.letindiadevelop.org and exposed various false claims and irregularities. Yet, Ravishankar, FOIL and CSFH desperately try to put the IDRF in the same league as some of the most dangerous terrorist outfits in the world.

Ravishankar’s views on Hinduism are elaborated in Section 4.02 (b), where he lambasts the US-based youth organization HSC for celebrating the Hindu festival of Holi and implies that the organization is promoting a sort of sinister agenda of “Hindu extremism” through such celebrations. He goes on to decry the HSC for its refutation of biased portrayals of Hinduism in the academia and for offering an alternative view of the Aryan Invasion Theory. Based on a superficial analysis of HSC’s website, Ravishankar concludes that HSC leaves a “noxious trail… thus establishing that free speech, even in the name of intellectual pursuits, remains antithetical to the dogma of Hindu fundamentalism”.[65] Thus, Ravishankar is a staunch supporter of the racist Aryan Invasion Theory. While he and FOIL defend such academics and their racially soaked theories, any attempt by insiders of the traditions (i.e. practicing Hindus) to refute such theories is glibly termed “Hindu extremism”.

During the 2006 California Textbook Campaign against Hindu groups, led by various members and affiliates of the CAG, Ravishankar argued strongly for the inclusion of the Caste System as a definitive feature of Hinduism in sixth grade textbooks. In a letter to the School Board, he blamed all the social problems of the Caste System on Hinduism, while admitting that he is not an expert [emphasis added] but is writing from his experiences about the horrible side of the Caste System.[66] It did not matter to Ravishankar and his brethren that sixth grade is no place to lynch a religion or a group of people. He and members of CAG of course would not demand inclusion of Islamic genocides in South Asia, the brutal history of Christianity around the world, etc. Nor, predictably, would they campaign for the inclusion of Yoga, vegetarianism, Indian/Hindu influence on American intellectuals, etc. to show the positive aspects of Hinduism and Hindus.

Ravishankar’s unabashed hatred of Hinduism and Hindus is clear from his diatribes discussed above.

 (f)     Raja Harish Swamy

Raja Harish Swamy is currently a visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas, teaching South Asian Anthropolgy.[67] In 2011, Swamy earned his Ph.D from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.[68]

Swamy is another veteran member of FOIL and has now taken a prominent role in the CAG. In his 2011 Ph.D dissertation, he gives special acknowledgement to a whole host of FOIL members, including Biju Mathew, Girish Agrawal, Shalini Gera, Ra Ravishankar, Mir Ali Hussein, Balmurli Natrajan, Usha Zacharias and Ashwini Rao for their guidance and inspiration over the years.[69]

Like his radical leftist comrades, Swamy is a staunch derider of Hinduism and Hindus and supports the racial Dravidianist ideology (discussed briefly under World Tamil Organization here). Like his fellow FOIL and CAG members, he misses no opportunity to propagate the Hinduism = Caste = Racism/Oppression equation.

In 2001, Swamy wrote an article, White, Zionist, and Hindu Racism: The Durban Question, regarding the UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. Subscribing to Dravidian and colonial racial theories, Swamy advocates equating the Caste System with racial discrimination encountered by blacks in the US, Europe and Africa. While he does not blame racist discrimination against blacks on Christianity, he swiftly attributes the woes of the Caste System to Hinduism and conveniently ignores discrimination practiced in the Sikh, Christian and Muslim communities of India. He then declares:

Hindu ‘dharma’ is caste-based; Hinduism is casteism; to be Hindu means to belong to a caste, and not as it is in most religions, to merely subscribe to a set body of beliefs.  Hinduism has no universal religious requirements; therefore it is sufficiently open to interpretation along lines that are outrageously oppressive.[70]

Thus, Swamy not only attributes the Caste System to Hinduism, he postulates that Hinduism is nothing but casteism and that one cannot be a Hindu unless one is casteist. Hinduism’s metaphysical and philosophical schools of thought such as Yoga, Vedanta, etc., along with their major influences on world cultures and religions, are set aside to portray it as a religion of “racist oppressors”. And, when Hindus denounce discrimination against anyone in their culture, such initiatives are branded as part of a grand “Brahminical conspiracy” to convert Dalits. On the one hand, the Dalits are not recognized as part of Hinduism and, on the other, Hinduism is blamed for practicing “racism” against Dalits!

Swamy’s version of history is also skewed to advance his ideological agenda and declares Hindus as genocidal killers.

First, contributions of Hindus are shown as paling in comparison with those of Buddhists and Muslims. In the article, Swamy asserts:

[There] is more than ample evidence of a great Buddhist, Jain and Muslim past in Indian history [than the Hindu past] and the empires of Vaishnava or Shaiva (two major sects in the Brahminical religion) kings throughout Indian history are not comparable in terms of duration and continuity [to] the Buddhist and Muslim periods. The period of Indian history that can be easily classified as the classical period is overwhelmingly Buddhist: from about the 6th century BCE to about the 10th century CE.[71]

Here, Swamy ignores Indian history before Buddhism or Jainism came into the picture or considers everything before that as a sort of foreign “Aryan” influence. Ancient Indian history of the Guptas, the Mauryas (before Ashoka, since Swamy may claim Ashoka only supported Buddhism in his empire), etc. is simply considered non-essential. He then misplaces the inception of the classical period of Indian history and leaves out the valuable contributions of the Gupta dynasty, for example. Most scholars and historians agree that the Gupta Period is also known as the Golden Age of India and the Gupta Empire was home to such giants as the famous poet Kalidasa as well as the great scientist Aryabhatta. The famous university of Nalanda is said to have been established by Gupta king Sakraditya.[72] In 1193, Nalanda was first sacked by Baktiyar Khilji, a Turkish Muslim invading India, who is said to have burnt thousands of monks alive and beheaded thousands as he tried his best to uproot Buddhism.[73]

Further, Swamy goes on to say, Hindus unleashed genocide on Buddhists and Jains from 8th Century CE to 10th Century CE without providing any evidence to support his statements. He declares:

Between about the 8th century CE to the 10th century there was a period of Brahminical resurgence, accompanied by widespread persecution and genocide of Buddhists and Jains….Vaishnava and Shaiva kings oversaw the slaughter of thousands of Buddhists throughout India, and many great Buddhist institutions were laid waste to while Vaishnava and Shaiva shrines took their place. It was in this context that the first Arab and Turkish invasions took place in the 10th century, culminating in the establishment of the Turkish sultanate in Delhi by the 11th century.[74]

Thus, Hindus are declared murderers and pillagers while the Islamic invasions are rendered as meager events taking place in the backdrop of an already murderous environment created by the “Hindu extremists”. Swamy’s version of history paints Hindus as destroyers of order and culture while marauding invaders from outside are conveniently spared that charge. While there have been frictions between Hindus and Buddhists and Hindus and Jains in India, Indian history is replete with battles between Hindu kings as well. Furthermore, most Hindu kings allowed freedom of faith, be it Hinduism or Buddhism or Jainism.

Swamy’s theories are debunked when one reads the works of well known Buddhist writers and scholars.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a Buddhist scholar and one of the authors of the Indian Constitution, had the following to say about the decline of Buddhism in India:

‘There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans. Islam came out as the enemy of the ‘But’. The word ‘But,’ as everybody knows, is an Arabic word and means an idol. Not many people, however, know that the derivation of the word ‘But’ is the Arabic corruption of Buddha. Thus the origin of the word indicates that in the Moslem mind idol worship had come to be identified with the Religion of the Buddha. To the Muslims, they were one and the same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went. Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar and Chinese Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia….[75]

Dr. Ambedkar adds further:

The Musalman invaders sacked the Buddhist universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, Odantapuri, to name only a few. They razed to the ground Buddhist monasteries with which the country was studded. The monks fled away in thousands to Nepal, Tibet and other places outside India. A very large number were killed outright by the Muslim commanders. How the Buddhist priesthood perished by the sword of the Muslim invaders has been recorded by the Muslim historians themselves. Summarizing the evidence relating to the slaughter of the Buddhist monks perpetrated by the Musalman General in the course of his invasion of Bihar in 1197 AD, Vincent Smith says, ‘….Great quantities of plunder were obtained, and the slaughter of the shaven headed Brahmans [emphasis original], that is to say the Buddhist monks, was so thoroughly completed, that when the victor sought for someone capable of explaining the contents of the books in the libraries of the monasteries, not a living man could be found who was able to read them.’ ‘It was discovered,’ we are told, ‘that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindi tongue they call a college Bihar’. ‘Such was the slaughter of the Buddhist priesthood perpetrated by the Islamic invaders. The axe was struck at the very root. For by killing the Buddhist priesthood, Islam killed Buddhism. This was the greatest disaster that befell the religion of the Buddha in India….’[76]

The above paragraphs show that, if anything, the true devastation brought upon Buddhism was from outside by Islamic invaders and not by “evil Brahmins” as Swamy and other FOIL members declare.

Dr. Alexander Berzin, a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, describes the amity between Hindus and Buddhists in his book The Historical Interaction between the Buddhist and Islamic Cultures before the Mongol Empire (1996, The Berzin Archives: Unpublished Manuscripts). Analyzing the decline of Buddhism on the Indian subcontinent, Berzin highlights how Hindus and Buddhists lived side by side and intermingled practices of the two faiths in their daily lives.

[The Buddhists] did not regard themselves, however, as a separate group from the Hindu majority. For ceremonies marking rites of passage in their lives, such as birth, marriage, and death, they relied on Hindu rituals. When Hinduism identified Buddha as a manifestation of its supreme god Vishnu, the Buddhists did not object. In fact, throughout northern India, Kashmir, and Nepal, Buddhism was already mixed with many elements of devotional Hinduism.[77]

Berzin’s account provides a glimpse of the atmosphere that prevailed between Hindus and Buddhist and shows a different picture of Hindus at that time. Granted, there were issues of social discrimination in the society. However, as the above authorities amply show, Hindus were certainly not the “fascist Brahmins” that Swamy and FOIL portray them to be.

Swamy then speaks highly of the Turkish sultanate in Delhi around 11th Century CE. He postulates that, prior to the sultanate, India was a chaotic place and the establishment of Islamic rule in India brought much-needed stability. “To millions of Indians, Islam provided an egalitarian alternative to the terrible oppression of Hinduism.”[78] Thus, only Islam was able to save the millions of Indians from the “evils” of Hinduism. However, Swamy is hiding the fact that the Islamic rulers subjected non-Muslims to various forms of torture, including the famous Jizyah (tax) levied upon those who did not convert to Islam.

[A] large number of non-Muslims chose Islam for fear of Jizyah. Firoz Shah Tughlaq [of the Tughlaq dynasty] promulgated an ordinance imposing Jizyah on the Hindus including the [Brahmins] and exempting them from conversion. [Firoz Shah wrote] that as a result of the ordinance ‘the Hindus thronged in clusters after clusters and groups after groups and were glorified by the glory of Islam. And likewise to this day of ours, they come from far and wide, embrace Islam, and Jizyah is off from them.’[79]

Hindus were thus subject to great economic burden through the taxation polices of these rulers.  In another example, when Alauddin Khilji (the most famous king of the Khilji dynasty) consulted a learned scholar named Qazi Mughisuddin regarding the collection of another tax called Kharaj (land-tax), the scholar gave the following advice:

…should the collector choose to spit into his mouth, [the Hindu] opens it. The purpose of this extreme humility on his part and the collector’s spitting into [the Hindu’s] mouth, is to show the extreme subservience incumbent on this class, the glory of Islam and the orthodox faith, and the degradation of the false religion (Hinduism).[80]

By ignoring such historical facts, Swamy gives away his sole intention, which is to demonize Hinduism to fulfill his agenda.

In 2013, Swamy, along with Biju Mathew, Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony And Democracy, an organization that works closely with CAG) and a coterie of individuals known for their routine denouncements of Hindus and India, started a website called Pheku.in (www.pheku.in).

Such websites are important examples of partnerships between radical Indians leftists in the US and their cohorts in India. For instance, while the site’s “.in” Indian suffix gives the false impression that it is registered in India and is run by people based in India, it is in fact registered to Swamy in the US.[81]

“Pheku” is a Hindi slang for “liar” or someone who exaggerates claims. The website professes to be dedicated to exposing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s hyped-up claims about development and prosperity in Gujarat, as well as his record of atrocities against the state’s minority populations. Interestingly, some bloggers pointed out the exaggerated claims and outright lies floated by the website from the very outset. For example, MediaCrooks, a popular blog dedicated to exposing the lies and biased agendas of Indian media personalities, journalists and political figures, compared a few pictures used by Pheku.in to advance its agenda.[82] In the first one (shown below), Pheku.in attempts to denounce development of infrastructure in Gujarat by featuring a snapshot of a sewer in Gujarat. However, as MediaCrooks notes, the picture is actually of a sewer in Chennai.

Pheku Site Expose 1

Similarly, a second picture (shown below) attempts to highlight Narendra Modi’s policies toward child labor by showing little children working on a construction site. However, the picture is that of children worPheku Site Expose 2king at a stadium in New Delhi.

Additional lies are also paraded as de-facto statements of truth to demonstrate “Hindu extremism” practiced by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The website claims that “the massacre of Sikhs could only have been done on the fertile ground of a militant Hindu identity that the RSS had already created”.[83] However, Niti Central, a popular website created by journalist Kanchan Gupta, points out that Khushwant Singh, a critic of RSS and Hindutva, once remarked:

‘It was the Congress (I) leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3,000 people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days” – (K. Singh: Publik Asia, 16-11-1989)[emphasis original].[84]

Section 1.02    FOIL on Hindus and Hinduism

As mentioned earlier, FOIL’s views on Hindus, Hinduism and India are highly biased, unsubstantiated and based on the research of scholars with questionable credentials or lack of specialty. Worse, FOIL and its affiliates in CAG selectively pick information to frame their analysis and use it to examine and ridicule other organizations and individuals. This section demonstrates some examples.

(a)    Sanatana Dharma – A Narrow Version of Hinduism

In 2007 and 2008, FOIL, CSFH, Sabrang Communications Pvt. Ltd. (run by Teesta Setalvad) and many others attacked the US-based Hindu youth organization HSC in a libelous campaign. Claiming that their reports were based on “meticulous research” from HSC’s own documents and statements from “Hindutva” organizations, they concluded that the organization is hiding its extremist agenda and puts on a public façade of Hindu spirituality and pluralism.[85] CSFH takes exception to HSC’s definition of Hinduism and states:

[HSC’s] promotion of Sanatana Dharma, with no mention that the deities being worshipped and the form of Hinduism being extolled is a narrow version of Hinduism [emphasis added] practiced by upper-caste Hindus who constitute less than a fifth of all Hindus, is one element that should set the alarm bells ringing for anyone who knows something about India and Hinduism, and so mars the otherwise liberal public image that HSC is attempting to project.[86]

Thus, FOIL, CSFH and others blast HSC on two fronts – a) The deities used by the organization during its poojas and other religious and cultural events; b) HSC’s use of the words Sanatana Dharma.

While FOIL, CSFH and their comrades do not discuss the particular forms of deities that they find problematic, the “Mantras and Prayers” section of the HSC website highlights Mantras, Bhajans (devotional songs), etc. dedicated to various deities, including Gayatri, Durga, Lakshmi, Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Ganesha.[87] An examination of this section of this website clearly demonstrates that the forms of deities that the organization uses are used by almost all major Hindu temples, schools, spiritual teachers, institutions and families. By taking exception to HSC’s use of Hinduism’s most popular and common deities, FOIL, CSFH and their partners are essentially labeling all Hindus as practicing some form of “narrow, oppressive Hinduism”.

Secondly, Sanatana Dharma, as most Hindus know, is another name given to Hinduism.  Mahatma Gandhi, writing in Young India, on June 20, 1921, defines himself as follows:

I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and all that goes by the name of Hindu scripture, and therefore in avataras and rebirth; I believe in the varnashrama dharma in a sense, in my opinion strictly Vedic but not in its presently popular crude sense; I believe in the protection of cow … I do not disbelieve in murti puja.[88]

Thus, Gandhi’s definition of a Hindu certainly included the concept of Sanatana Dharma and that as a Hindu his practice was based on concepts of the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and all the Hindu scriptures.

The Chinmaya Mission shares the following thoughts on the meaning of Hinduism:

Hinduism, more accurately referred to as Sanatana Dharma, is said to have originated in the Indian subcontinent over 5,000 years ago. The term Hindu was a misnomer used for the people who lived beyond the Sindhu River, and eventually the term Hinduism was coined to denote the Hindu residents of the Indian subcontinent.[89]

Swami Sivananda, the renowned founder of the Divine Life Society, in his book All About Hinduism says Sanatana Dharma is “…the Eternal Religion, the Ancient Law….Hinduism is known as Sanatana Dharma”.[90] Swami Chidananda, the head of Parmarth Niketan and the force behind The Encyclopedia of Hinduism, says, “Hinduism is a great tree of life…That tree is Sanatana Dharma.”[91]

The Encyclopedia Britannica describes Sanatana Dharma as “the term used to denote the ‘eternal’ or absolute set of duties or religiously ordained practices incumbent upon all Hindus, regardless of class, caste, or sect”.[92] Similarly, Wikipedia mentions that “Hinduism is often referred to as Sanātana Dharma (a Sanskrit phrase meaning ‘the eternal law’) by its adherents.”[93]

In the same manner, a cursory search of words “Sanatana Dharma” on Google and on popular online marketplaces like Amazon leads to numerous websites, articles and books that basically use the words “Sanatana Dharma” and “Hinduism” interchangeably.

One can’t help but wonder what FOIL and its affiliates in the CAG know about India and Hinduism that others don’t. Where are they getting their definition of Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism from? Can all of the above experts, spiritual teachers, great personalities and sources of reference be wrong or blamed of holding “upper caste hegemonic views”? As mentioned, the report on HSC doesn’t provide any references of how FOIL and CSFH arrived at such conclusions.

(b)   Critique of Biases against Hinduism = An Attack on Free Speech

In the June 2004 edition of Ghadar, the mouthpiece of FOIL, Ravi (Ra) Ravishankar and Shefali Chandra ridiculed HSC for publishing a presentation critiquing the portrayals of Hinduism by Western academics. In its “slightly deeper” investigation of HSC, FOIL concludes: “Another section [of the HSC website] virulently lambasts the work of US academics Jeffrey Kripal, Wendy Doniger and Paul Courtwright (sic), thus establishing that free speech, even in the name of intellectual pursuits, remains antithetical to the dogma of Hindu fundamentalism.”[94] Thus, while FOIL and its members are free to critique the works of any Hindu scholar or organization, efforts made by the insiders of the tradition (i.e. Hindu community members, scholars and organizations) are denounced as attacks on what they deem as free speech. Unfortunately, the rules of play apply differently to FOIL and members of CAG as opposed to Hindus.

FOIL readily ignores the biased views and research of these academic scholars. For example, Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor at the Chicago Divinity School and probably the most influential US-based academic scholar on Hinduism, has this to say about the Bhagavad Gita:

The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think… Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…. The Gita is a dishonest book …[95]

This view, combined with the views of others like Kancha Ilaiah, forms the basis of statements made by FOIL and members of CAG. The above definition of Bhagavad Gita is at odds with the myriad scholars, poets, famous personalities, spiritual leaders and saints who have appreciated the wisdom of the Gita.

In the Foreword to Paul Courtright’s book on Lord Ganesha (discussed further below), Doniger claims that the Mahabharata was dictated by Ganesha to Vyasa.[96] Any Hindu or any individual who has ever read any translation of the Mahabharata knows that sage Vyasa dictated the epic to Lord Ganesha! Then, why is Doniger claiming the opposite?

Jeffrey Kripal, a Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, in his book Kali’s Child (1998, University of Chicago Press) psychoanalyzed Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, one of the most revered spiritual saints of India.  Though Kripal lacks proper understanding of Bengali and Sanskrit, his analysis of Ramakrishna and the saint’s purported homosexuality knows no bounds. Kripal’s central thesis is summarized in his own words as follows:

Ramakrishna was a conflicted, unwilling, homoerotic Tantrika [xiv]… Tantra’s heterosexual assumptions seriously violated the structure of his own homosexual desires. His female Tantric guru and temple boss may have forced themselves … on the saint… but Ramakrishna remained… a lover not of sexually aggressive women or even of older men but of young, beautiful boys. [xv][97]

In a case of imagination gone wild, Kripal, referring to Ramakrishna’s meeting with a member of the Naga sect of sanyasins, assumes things without any evidence and adds the extra spice to his “analysis”:

[W]hat it must have been like for Ramakrishna, a homosexually oriented man, to be shut away for days in a small hut with another, stark-naked man. Vedanta instruction or not, it was this man’s nudity, and more especially, his penis, that normally caught Ramakrishna’s attention. How could it not?[98]

Swami Tyagananda, the head of Ramakrishna Vedanta Society, in Boston, USA, and the Hindu Chaplain at MIT and Harvard, offered a detailed refutation of Kali’s Child and exposed various flaws in the book. According to Swami Tyagananda:

Kripal’s conclusions come via faulty translations, a willful distortion and manipulation of sources, combined with a remarkable ignorance of Bengali culture. The derisive, non-scholarly tone with which he discussed Ramakrishna did not help either… Kripal’s ignorance of Bengali culture jumps right off the page. Many of the author’s misrepresentations are due to a simple lack of familiarity with Bengali attitudes and customs… [Furthermore], it’s painfully clear that he also has little knowledge of Sanskrit…[99]

In yet another instance of the wild conjectures paraded as free speech by US academics, Paul Courtright, Professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University, psychoanalyzed Hindu deities, including Lord Ganesha. In his book, Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings (1989, Oxford University Press), Courtright is particularly crass towards Lord Ganesha. He posits:

Like the eunuch, Ganesa has the power to bless and curse; that is, to place and remove obstacles. Although there seem to be no myths or folktales in which Ganesa explicitly performs oral sex [emphasis added], his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones.[100]

Interestingly, in the above analysis, Courtright even acknowledges that there is no textual or folk evidence of such behavior by Lord Ganesha. Yet, he concludes that Lord Ganesha’s love for sweets has something to do with a desire for oral sex! Any Hindu, devout or not, will see this as a clearly biased view brazenly inserted by the author.

Courtright analyzes Ganesha’s trunk as follows:

…The elephant trunk, which perpetually hangs limp, and broken tusk are reminiscent of Siva’s own phallic character, but as these phallic analogs are either excessive or in the wrong place, they pose no threat to Siva’s power and his erotic claims on Parvati.[101]

Thus, throughout his book, Courtright misuses various tools of analysis with no basis on folk tales and Hindu texts to create dubious theories about Lord Ganesha and his characteristics.

Such analyses run across the gamut of books and articles published by these and other scholars.  And, disturbingly enough, these scholars do not have appropriate knowledge of Sanskrit or native languages such as Bengali. Professor Michael Witzel of Harvard has called out Wendy Doniger on her improper translations of Sanskrit.[102]

One wonders why FOIL and its affiliates, who claim to stand for the ideals of pluralism and for South Asians in general, fail to say anything about such blatant bias. Do they consider all pieces of evidence and refutations provided by people like Swami Tyagananda and others “a dogma of Hindu fundamentalism?”

(c)    Bhagavad Gita – A Non-Hindu Text with Non-Humanist Teachings

During the 2007 attack on HSC, Vijay Prashad wrote a Letter to a Young American Hindu,[103] which essentially called on all of HSC’s chapters to dissociate from the National Body and start another organization (“Sarvodaya”) catering to everyone. Aimed at striking a chord with young Hindu Americans and warping their understanding of things Hindu, the letter’s focus quickly turns to “Noxious Hindutva”.  Prashad weaves in his own definitions and understandings of Hinduism in the bargain. He agrees that he is not an expert on the Gita,[104] but then goes on to make some sweeping conclusions regarding the scripture. He posits that the Gita was “composed long after the Mahabharata, written in classical Sanskrit in the Gupta era, interpolated into the long epic much later”.[105] “The Gita is a sublime response to the power of Buddhism with concepts such as karma drawn from it.”[106]

What is the basis of Prashad’s bizarre statements? Romila Thapar, the Marxist historian mentioned earlier in this report, seems to arrive at the conclusion in her Early India – From the Origins to AD 1300, that the Mahabharata “‘may have been’ a localized feud, and the Bhagavad Gita a wholesale interpolation!”[107] Thapar, in A History of India, goes even further to claim that “the Epics had originally been secular… [and were] revised by the Brahmins with a view of using them as religious literature”.[108] The audacity and outlandish nature of such claims is beyond any comparison. Nonetheless, such claims are exactly what form the basis of Prashad’s conclusions about the Gita and its teachings. Anything “good” in Hinduism (i.e. Gita) must have been secular and therefore hijacked by “evil” Brahmins.  In their mad rush to denounce Hindus, Prashad, Thapar and other also ignore the fact that the Gita was spoken by Lord Krishna, a Kshatriya, to Arjuna, who was also a Kshatriya!  Similarly, the Mahabharata, of which the Gita is a part, has been composed by Sage Vyasa, who was the son of a Brahmin sage and a fisherwoman, thus making him of a “mixed caste” or “lower caste”.

Prashad’s and FOIL’s obsession with caste and the “Brahminic evils” surfaces again in his analysis of the Gita. He claims that “the genius of the text is that it takes concepts and ideas from these popular traditions [i.e. Buddhism] and brings them into line with some of the central principles of Brahmanism (varna, mainly)”.[109] So, Gita is looked upon as a mere “reconciliatory” text and the only “Brahminic” concept relevantly synthesized by the Gita is the concept of Varna.  Going by that logic, other important concepts such as Karma, Samsara, Yoga, Sankhya, the concepts of Brahman/Atman, etc. are not part of the “Brahminic” tradition and have really been borrowed from other traditions. Arguably then, the most widely read and widely cherished Hindu scripture is not really Hindu in origin! In essence, according to Prashad, ancient Hindus are not capable of producing anything fruitful and have continued to steal from other traditions.

He also advises young Hindus to see the Gita as “an experiment in truth”.[110] The timeless principles and profound teachings of the Gita are thus reduced to mere experiments. One wonders if Prashad can dare send such advice in letters to young American Muslims, Christians, Jews or even Sikhs. What would be the impact of such a letter on Prashad’s reputation? But, all is fair game when it comes to Hindus.

Prashad describes the philosophy of Bhakti (selfless devotion) as one that “drew out from the oppressed peoples of the subcontinent the ability to challenge those who stood between them and divinity (the Brahmins, for instance) and those who stood between them and a peaceful life (kings, for instance)”.[111] His statement sounds more in line with the Marxist concept of rebellions and the Maoist insurgency in India, rather than the saints’ and poets’ understanding of devotion. Interestingly, he fails to mention that these “rebellions” readily enriched the great fabric of Hinduism. And, many of the Hindu temples, Hindu families, and the so-called “upper castes” of Hindus readily recite the poetry and devotional songs of all these saints. Not to mention, famous Bhakti saints such as Narsinh Mehta, Tulsidas, etc. were Brahmins while others like Mirabai were Rajput Kshatriyas.

Unfortunately, FOIL fails to appreciate the diversity and understand the knowledgeable principles found in Hindu scriptures and texts.

Toward the conclusion of his letter, Prashad says: “to keep it alive, Hinduism requires an engagement with its history (which shows us how it evolves and changes) and with its core concepts (what we otherwise call philosophy)”.[112] However, the engagement, according to FOIL is only one way – the “outsiders,” like the Western academic scholars discussed above and radical Indian leftists of FOIL and its partners, engage Hinduism and shape its definition and history, while the “insiders” (i.e. Hindu practitioners and adherents) should be mute witnesses.  If the insiders attempt to self-define or showcase Hinduism as a dynamic tradition, they are blackballed and labeled as “Yankee Hindutvavadis” or “Hindu chauvinists”. Challenges to biased interpretations or alternative engagements of Hinduism are labeled as attacks on free speech.

Balmurli Natrajan, another long-time member of FOIL and CSFH, and a Professor of Anthropology at William Paterson University, provides similar examples of FOIL’s position on the Gita.  In a Letter to Progressive Hindus, written in SAMAR magazine (another constituent of CAG), he takes a peculiar and prejudiced view on Lord Krishna, the Gita and various Hindu deities. In an appeal to so-called progressive Hindus to reject parts or all of the scripture as not suitable, Natrajan cites:

An example could be verses 3.22-3.24 from the Gita wherein Krishna, the God who plays the part of a guru, tries to convince Arjuna to do his ‘duty’ on grounds that failure to do so would result in sankarasya or the intermingling or mixture of castes. For, no amount of intellectual camouflaging will be able to answer the question that a progressive Hindu will ask: So, what is wrong if people intermingle (or if sankarasya happens)? Who is bothered with this and why? Why does the Gita dwell so much on not doing another person’s ‘duty’? Who defines this ‘duty’? What, in other words, is the Gita upholding as a social order?[113]

The verse 3.24 that Natrajan cites is not about Arjuna but about Krishna’s role in this universe.  According to the verse, Krishna says: “If I did not perform prescribed duties, all these worlds would be put to ruination. I would be the cause of creating unwanted population, and I would thereby destroy the peace of all living beings.”[114] Krishna is saying that by not performing his own prescribed duty in this universe, he will be the cause of great discord, because others would follow suit. In verse 3.25, he also says that “the wise should act without attachment for the sake of leading people on the right path”.[115] In every culture and in every society, most people follow wise leaders. Millions of Indians followed Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian independence struggle.  Millions of people followed and still follow the teachings of Buddha, Adi Shankaracharya, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Guru Nanak, Guru Govind Singh, Chanakya and many others.  These great personalities led lives of detached action and set examples for people to follow.  Thousands of people also followed and follow Hitler, Stalin, Osama bin Laden and others throughout history and this created major chaos in the world. So, Krishna’s advice is real and applicable even in today’s world.

Turning to Natajran’s question regarding why the Gita is dwelling so much on duty it is worth noting that the Gita has many different concepts in it, and adherence to duty is just one.  But, it is important in Arjuna’s case because he was the most powerful warrior on the Pandava side and was critical to the success of the war.  His withdrawal from the battlefield would have had devastating consequences for the Pandavas and for the general society at that time.  Not to mention, Arjuna’s retreat would defame the entire Kuru dynasty and Arjuna personally.   If he had retreated from the battlefield, would he be so famous today?  But, FOIL and Natrajan easily overlook such simpler logic and context.

Unfortunately, Natrajan is again obsessively focused on caste and its supposed definition found in this verse of the Gita. His analysis of the concepts of Varna (classes) seems superficial. In fact, the word “caste” itself is a misnomer derived from the Portuguese word “Casta”.

“Varna was mistranslated as ‘caste’, and after generations of repetition, it became the prevailing view even amongst Hindus educated under the British system. This interpretation became a self-fulfilling prophecy since the British census of India used rigid caste boundaries into which they force-fit the entire population.”[116]

He asks questions to unmask the “intellectual camouflaging” he blames Hindus for in his letter; his questions are meant to invoke a sense of suspicion regarding the Gita. Thus, as per his thesis, progressive Hindus should be bold enough to even reject the entire Gita based on the verse that he provides. However, before jumping on that bandwagon, it will be wise to put that verse in context with the entire philosophical discussion that Krishna is having with Arjuna in that chapter. Also, it’s important to remember that Krishna engages Arjuna in various philosophical arguments and concepts. The “mixing of castes” (which is not properly translated by Natrajan) is one point out of so many that Krishna makes throughout the Gita to explain to Arjuna why the latter must fight in the Kurukshetra War.

Chapter 3 of the Gita is about Karma Yoga and detached action. Krishna discusses Karma Yoga as one of the means of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death. For instance, in verse 3.8, Krishna advises: “Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work.”[117] So, in essence, Arjuna must do his duty because that is the nature of all beings. This verse also has obvious truth in it because lack of proper bodily care results in health problems. Maintaining a proper physical body requires work (i.e. exercise, eating healthy, etc.). Similarly, in verse 3.19, Krishna says: “Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.”[118] It is imperative for a warrior like Arjuna to remain detached in his duties because only then can he sincerely perform them at this important juncture of the war. Krishna discusses the concept of detached action in much greater detail throughout this and other chapters. But, in Chapter 5, Krishna also says that one can attain liberation by devotional service and analytical study. In verse 5.5, Krishna advises: “One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are.”[119] But, analytical study is not the path to be followed on a battlefield. It is a soldier’s duty to fight in the battlefield and not open up books to analyze philosophical concepts (although such study can occur off the battlefield).

Just by looking at a few of these versus, one can easily understand that taking verses out of context and in isolation can lead to a misunderstanding of the powerful concepts presented in the Gita. The Gita discusses multiple approaches for attaining liberation, ranging from Karma Yoga to Bhakti Yoga to Jnana Yoga, etc. Krishna also maintains that a particular approach may be suitable for a person with certain qualities, while another approach may be more attractive to a person with a different set of qualities. But, Natrajan, like his FOIL brethren, sidelines all this to raise suspicions about the most profound Hindu philosophical concepts.

Further in the letter, Natrajan paints Lord Krishna’s teachings as non-humanist and the teachings of the various deities as filled with incest, greed, etc. Only when the teachings are taught by a human guru are they really humanist. Natrajan declares:

Coming back to Samskara, we see that not surprisingly, humanist teachings in Hinduism arise not from our host of gods and goddesses whose life stories are many times filled with outrageous kinds of deceit, manipulations, selfishness and greed [emphasis added]. Instead, all humanist Hindu teachings are from its human and humane gurus, not gods. And the best gurus teach to serve humanity and to not observe distinctions of caste, creed, and even gender in ways that create and reproduce hierarchies or inequalities. Indeed, when one such God tried to play the role of a guru as seen above in the Gita, the teachings are quite clearly non-humanistic [emphases added].[120]

In one swoop, Natrajan holds the entire host of deities as well as scriptures like the Gita guilty of immoral behavior. While there are erotic stories and sexual references to deities in poems and arts, that doesn’t permit anyone to make sweeping generalizations and paint the entire Hindu tradition red.

It is ironic that Natrajan accepts that teachings of gurus are humanist and not those of the deities. But, where are the gurus getting their teachings from? Which gurus is he referring to? The wisest teachers of Hinduism ranging from Vyasa, Valmiki, Yagnavalkya, etc. to Shankarcharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Kabir, Mirabai, Lord Chaitanya, Swami Narayan, Tulsidas, Tukaram, Narasinh Mehta, Sai Baba, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Aurobindo, Gandhi, Ramana Maharishi, Swami Chinmayananda, Srila Prabhupada, etc. have all based their teachings on various deities and their avatars such as Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Rama, Hanuman, Kali, Durga and Ganesha. So, what does Natrajan mean when he tries to separate the gurus from the deities? How do the gurus attain their knowledge without deep devotion towards and meditation upon these deities that are ultimately the personification of the Impersonal Reality known as Brahman in the scriptures? How do deities, whose stories are full of “deceit, manipulations, selfishness and greed”, inspire so many learned gurus and spiritual personalities?  Can they all be deluded?

Consider the following bhajan of Mirabai, the 16th century devotee of Krishna and a legendary saint of India:

Akanda Varne Varee Saheli, Hu to Akhanda Varne Varee…

O my companion, saheli (female friend)! I am married to The Eternal Husband (Krishna). I am now married to The Indivisible Husband.

Mira Ke Prabhu Giridhar Naagar, Santona Charne Padi Saheli

Gopi Mira’s Lord is Giridhar (who raised the mountain to save his devotees in Vrindavan). He is the true civilized, dependable, pure, selfless friend and husband. I now surrender at the feet of saints.[121]

In the above Gujarati bhajan, Mira is clearly in love with Krishna, considers him her husband and offers her complete devotion to him. Her Bhakti (selfless devotion) is extremely strong toward Krishna. Would Natrajan consider this immoral behavior and blame the saint for incest?

Coming back to the Gita, Natrajan maintains that Lord Krishna’s teachings are “quite clearly non-humanistic” based on one example of verses 3.22-3.24 that he cites. However, even an amateur student of the Gita and Hindu scripture knows that Hinduism is vastly filled with humanist and pluralistic teachings. The Gita is rich in humanist teachings and has been the source of inspiration for hundreds of millions of people all over the world, both religious and secular, Hindu and non-Hindu, ranging from Gandhi to Thoreau and Einstein, from Shankaracharya to Aurobindo to Vivekananda and many other modern and ancient personalities.  In fact, the entire Hindu scriptural treasure is filled with universal, pluralist and humanist teachings.

Verse 9.26 of the Gita, declares: “Whoever with devotion offers Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that I accept—the devout gift of the pure-minded”[122] Similarly, verse 9.29 says: “I am the same to all beings: to Me there is none hateful or dear. But those who worship Me with devotion are in Me, and I too am in them.”[123]

Verse 2.64 declares: “But the self-controlled man, moving among objects, with his sense under restraint and free from both attraction and repulsion, attains peace.”[124]

Verse 17.20 declares: “Charity given out of duty, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person is considered to be in the mode of goodness.”[125]

Here are some famous perspectives on the Gita:

When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day. – Mahatma Gandhi

The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of enduring value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.  – Aldous Huxley

The Bhagavad-Gita is a true scripture of the human race a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization. – Sri Aurobindo

In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial. – Henry David Thoreau[126]

One wonders where these giants of civilization are wrong in their interpretation of the Gita when compared to Natrajan’s own take on it.

(d)   Ramayana Argues for Colonization

In 1996, Vijay Prashad gave a talk on the occasion of Diwali, one of the most important Hindu festivals. One would expect the talk to have been about Diwali and its significance to Hindus.  But no, the topic was “Diwali and Decolonization”. Stating that there are multiple tales surrounding Diwali, Prashad quickly shifts his focus to demolish the stature of Lord Rama in the Hindu tradition. He laments on the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue and the subsequent riots and then blames Lord Rama, no less, for the controversy! He wonders: “The blood which has sanctified this deity makes me wonder if there is any need to remember Diwali through him…”[127] He then describes Rama as a “commonplace hero” who was transformed later into a “personal God accessible to the masses”. Though Hindus view Rama as a model of righteousness and compassion, Prashad distinguishes Rama’s righteousness from the righteousness found in the Vedas, as if they are separate. He states: “Rama does not keep to his varna domain, but consorts with various oppressed castes and outcast tribes.”[128] So, if, through his own conduct, Rama shows compassion and friendliness to others in the society, this is not acceptable since, in Prashad’s view, the “Brahminic Vedic texts” are frozen and can only be viewed as oppressive.  In essence, Hindus are damned either way. If Hinduism has examples of personalities and deities transcending class barriers or overcoming any restrictions, those have to be necessarily viewed with suspicion and discarded as not part of the “core oppressive Brahminic religion”.

Then, he makes one of his most outrageous statements:

The various texts offer the story of Ram to make pedagogical and moral points: the Ramayana argues for the colonization of the peoples of the subcontinent while the Ramcaritmanas argues for the worship of an iconic figure [emphasis added] rather than, for instance, a consideration of the Upanishads’ metaphysics.[129]

Without providing any evidence or context to his position, Prashad categorically pulls down with such obvious abandon one of the most revered texts of Hinduism as sanctioning colonization! His reference to Rama’s battle with Ravana can be seen in the framework of his biased beliefs in the Aryan/Dravidian racist theories that claim colonization of the “black” southern Dravidians by the “white” northern Aryans.

His argument sounds extremely similar to the crackpot theories peddled by the likes of Kancha Ilaiah, whose ideas and work FOIL members widely support. For example, in his book Why I am not a Hindu, Ilaiah maintains that the “Ramayana is some primeval race war in which the Aryans suppressed the Dravidian south.”[130] It seems that both Prashad and Ilaiah are oblivious to the fact that one of the most popular versions of Ramayana, especially in “Dravidian South”, was composed by Tamil poet Kamban. Why would a “Dravidian” poet compose a glorifying tale of a “colonizer”? What’s more, Ravana himself was a learned Brahmin and son of sage Vishrava and grandson of sage Pulatsya.[131] So, in terms of “caste hierarchy”, Ravana (Brahmin) was of a higher caste than Rama (Kshatriya)! Similarly, Ravana is described by Valmiki as having knowledge of the Vedas and being a great devotee of Shiva. He was a Samavedin and composed the Shiva Thandava Stotram[132]. So, why would a “Dravidian” king be a Brahmin and knowledgeable both in Sanskrit as well as the Vedas? This information contradicts Prashad’s and Ilaiah’s views on the Ramayana.

Similarly, as quoted above, Prashad asserts that “Ramcaritmanas argues for the worship of an iconic figure rather than, for instance, a consideration of the Upanishads’ metaphysics.” Prashad again subjects Hindu texts to ridicule and suspicion while making outrageous and unsubstantiated statements. His deficient knowledge of Hinduism shines out brightly with such comments. Ramcharitmanas as well as many other Bhakti works are richly embedded in the Saguna (with qualities) Brahman concept of the Upanishads and express this philosophical concept beautifully. Tulsidas, the revered author of Ramcharitmanas, preferred the Saguna Brahman form of the Absolute Reality over the Nirguna (without qualities) Brahman. Thus, to him, Lord Rama was the embodiment of that Saguna Brahman. Rambhadracharya (2008, pp. 943–948, Ramcharitmanas 7.111.1–7.114.7) illustrates this from the Uttar Kand of Ramcharitmanas:

In the Uttar Kand of Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas describes in detail a debate between Kakbhushundi and Lomasha about whether God is Nirguna (as argued by Lomasha adhering to monism) or Saguna (as argued by Kakbhushundi adhering to dualism). Kakbhushundi repeatedly refutes all the arguments of Lomasha, to the point when Lomasha becomes angry and curses Kakbhushundi to be a crow. Lomasha repents later when Kakbhushundi happily accepts the curse, but refuses to give up the Bhakti of Rama, the Saguna Brahma[133]

The Svetashvatara Upanishad provides splendid examples of the connection between the philosophy of Bhakti and the Upanishads. Chapter 1, verse 11 mentions:

When the Lord is known, all fetters fall off; with the cessation of miseries, birth and death come to an end. From meditation on Him there arises, after the dissolution of the body, the third state, that of universal lordship. And lastly, the aspirant, transcending that state also, abides in the complete Bliss of Brahman.[134]

Similarly, Chapter 4, Verse 11, states:

By truly realizing (sic) Him who, though non-dual, dwells in prakriti, both in its primary and in its secondary aspect and in Whom this whole world comes together and dissolves – by truly realizing (sic) Him who is the Lord, the bestower (sic) of blessings, the Adorable God, one attains the supreme peace.[135]

Furthermore, it is surprising that Prashad takes issues with Tulsidas’ work, since Tulsidas is one of the most famous Bhakti saints and Ramcharitmanas is one of the cornerstones of Bhakti writings. In fact, Prashad himself describes Bhakti as “… one of the foundation stones of modern Hinduism.”[136] So, what is Prashad implying by demoting this great work of Bhakti in comparison with the Upanishads? Or, is he holding Rama in contempt and therefore implying that Ramcharitmanas argues for worship of this “contemptuous icon”? It is interesting to note that he holds Kabir, Mira and such other saints in high esteem and lauds them for starting “spiritual and social rebellions,”[137] while taking a dim view of Tulsidas’ stature and contributions. If he blasts the Ramcharitmanas, he is blasting the entire Bhakti movement since it essentially calls for unconditional devotion to “iconic figures” such as Rama, Krishna, Vishnu and Shiva.

Interestingly, Kabir had this to say about the name of Rama (Raam Naam): “If any one utters Raam Naam even in dream, I would like to make a pair of shoes out of my skin for his daily use.”[138] One of the verses in Kabir’s bhajans is as follows:

bhajo re bhaiyaa bhajo re bhaiyaa raam govind harii raam govind harii bhajo re bhaiyaa raam govind harii … [139]

Translation: Brother, chant Brother, chant the name of Raam, Govind (Krishna), Hari (Vishnu) Raam, Govind, Hari, chant, O Brother, Raam, Govind, Hari

If Prashad takes issue with the Ramcharitmanas because it is “non-Upanishadic,” he is indeed taking issue with the works of Kabir, Mira, Tukaram, Narasinh Mehta, Lord Chaitanya and numerous other Bhakti saints that have enriched India and Hinduism.

Further in his talk, Prashad equates Sita’s “test of loyalty”[140] in Ramayana with the situation of India. He says: “Like the roots of Diwali, the history of our republic is marked by the tales of many Sitas – women, Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, the working-class – who have had to face tests of loyalty, ordeals of fire.”[141] However, in the beginning of his talk, Prashad maintains that there is “no single story which explains Diwali.”[142] That’s a correct statement, since Diwali is celebrated with various stories and also by Jains and Sikhs.[143] Yet, in an attempt to spotlight the “oppression by Hindus,” Prashad makes the story of Ramayana as the “roots of Diwali”. And, in his categorization of “Sitas,” he leaves out the mass killings of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan as well as in India, during Partition. Examples: “The Great Calcutta Killing of August 1946 was an immediate consequence of Jinnah’s call for ‘direct action’ for the achievement of Pakistan, which he certainly knew meant violence here and elsewhere in the country,”[144] and the October 10, 1946 massacre of Hindus in Noakhali (roughly two weeks before Diwali in 1946):

The majority of the population in the area was Muslim, around 82%, while most of the land belonged to Hindu landlords. As a consequence of the riots in Calcutta, a massive anti-Hindu pogrom was organized by Muslim locals so as to cleanse the region (of) Hindu presence either by killing them or by forcing them to flee the area. The death toll is close to 5,000, according to the Press (Sengupta, 2007: 138), though Moon considered that it should rather be counted in hundreds (Moon, 1998: 59). It is claimed that nearly 75% of Hindus in the area left the place. (Sengupta, 2007; Moon, 1998).[145]

Senator Edward Kennedy, submitting a report to the US Senate about the 1971 Bangladesh massacres, had the following to say:

Field reports to the US government, countless eyewitness journalistic accounts, reports of international agencies such as the World Bank, and additional information available to the subcommittee document the reign of terror which grips East Bengal (East Pakistan). (The) hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community, who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H.’ All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.[146]

How about the ethnic cleansing of an estimated 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits[147] in Kashmir in the late 1980s and early ‘90s? KPS Gill, the famous former Director General of Police of Punjab, has this to say about the situation of Kashmiri Pandits: “Among the worst victims of this conflict are the Kashmiri Pandits, descendents (sic) of Hindu priests and among the original inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley.”[148] He describes that, while people have made a huge noise about other riots in India, very little is known about the pogroms against these Pandits, who were integral to the economy of the Kashmir Valley and to the cultural harmony that existed there.

On [January 13,] 1990, a Kashmiri Pandit nurse working at the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was raped and later killed by Pakistan-backed terrorists. The incident was preceded by massacres of Pandit families in the Telwani and Sangrama villages of Budgam district and other places in the Kashmir Valley. While the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) claimed a ‘secular’ agenda of liberation from Indian rule, the terrorist intent was clearly to drive non-Muslim ‘infidels’ out of the State and establish Nizam-e-Mustafa (literally, the Order of the Prophet; government according to the Shariah). Accounts of Pandits from this traumatic period reveal that it was not unusual to see posters and announcements – including many articles and declarations in local newspapers – telling them to leave the Valley. Pandit properties were either destroyed or taken over by terrorists or by local Muslims, and there was a continuous succession of brutal killings, a trend that continues even today.[149]

It is even peculiar that Prashad in his 2007 letter to young American Hindus at the height of the attack on HSC, talks about his Hindu and Sikh heritage. However, he hardly seems to care about his Hindu heritage and brethren or making a strong case for people like the Kashmiri Pandits.

Why do FOIL and the CAG continue to ignore Hindus and the atrocities they have faced, even in the past 50 years? While the Partition riots killed many Muslims and this should not be forgotten, presenting a one-sided view of the story only highlights the bias of FOIL and CAG and continues to simmer the pot of communal mistrust and hatred between Hindus and Muslims.

Toward the end of his talk, Prashad quotes Gandhi: “It is good to swim in the waters of tradition, but to sink in them is suicide.”[150] However, Prashad hasn’t even “skinny dipped” in the waters of the Hindu tradition because he has already developed a preconceived notion that these waters are dirty.

(e)    Sketchy South Asian History

The figure below is an extract of a page on South Asian History from FOIL’s SouthAsianHistoryPage-FOILSite2website. For all the South Asian history and cultural expertise that FOIL’s members claim, it is surprising that they have only covered “Indian” history and left major gaps in their so-called “sketches”. Prehistoric Era is defined as 5000-1500 BC.[151] Interestingly, when one clicks on the link, one is led to a different website on the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, containing links to papers and articles debunking the racist Aryan Invasion Theory – the same theory that FOIL and its members subscribe to.

In the section called Ancient India (1500-711),[152] one can only find two write-ups. The first one is about the Greeks and their expedition to India in search of the Ocean. The second is about “The First Victory of Caste in South Asia”. Ironically, FOIL could not find anything else to write about India in the roughly 800-year time span! There are no writing on the Gupta Empire, the Maurya Empire, etc. or on Indian trade with Persia, Greece and other parts of the world.  How about famous Indian institution of Takshashila?  Or the achievements of India in sciences, mathematics, ship-building, architecture, etc.? Ditto. And how about the travels of Chinese pilgrims Fa Xian and Xuanzang (Huen Tsang) to India and their documentation of the richness and inclusiveness of Indians?  FOIL doesn’t find it important to highlight such chapters of South Asian History.  According to FOIL, such important achievements seem pale in comparison to the Greek invasion of India.

FOIL’s obsession with caste resurfaces again in the second article. Even though there is growing evidence that caste identity faultlines became invigorated and politicized through the British censuses of India,[153] the only two things that FOIL can find to talk about are a foreign invasion of India and the so-called victory of caste.

The Medieval Period (712 – 1564) is completely blank. It begs the question why. Could it be co-incidental that 712 AD marks the first Muslim invasion of South Asia? Mohammad bin Qasim invaded India in 712 AD and conquered Sindh, which became the province of the Omayyad Khilafat.[154]  Following his conquest, for the next 800 years, there were a series of Muslim invasions, including establishment of the Delhi sultanate between 1206 and 1526 – all of which culminated in the establishment of the Mughal dynasty in 1526. The period also witnessed great achievements by the Vijaynagara and Maratha empires, for example. Why wasn’t FOIL interested in such important historical points?

Continuing on, in the Early Modern Period (1565-1946), one can see a similar pattern – only three articles. The first one portrays Shivaji and his “complexities”. The second talks about the Revolt of 1857 and the third is a brief history of the Communist Movement in Kerala, citing the works of the General Secretary of the Community Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat and showing how the Left “liberated” the oppressed castes from the clutches of upper caste Hindus.  The article is essentially a rebuttal of an argument made by Victor Fic in his book Kerala: Yenan of India, Rise of Communist Power: 1937-1969 (1970, Nachiketa Publications).[155] Fic argues that the Communist movement manipulated local castes and religious identities on its road to power in Kerala.[156] Prashad, in his essay, declares: “to utilize caste for electoral purposes or to hold power is to play with a politics of fission … The Left movement neither ignores nor manipulates caste.”[157]

However, manipulations of the Communist party in Kerala are pointed out by independent observers. KP Joseph, a former civil servant, a consultant to the United Nations, director of INSIST (Institute of Studies in Social Transformation) as well as author of several books, has extensively studied Marxism/Communism and their claims of emancipation of the Kerala underclass. In an interview with Pradeep Krishnan of Haindava Keralam, Joseph highlights the hypocritical nature of the Communist party in Kerala:

In Kerala, Marxism provided opportunity to the scions of feudal families to extend exploitation and domination of the underclass feeding the latter with visions of Utopia. Instead of seeking emancipation through education, large numbers of youth of the underclass became followers of Marxist upper crust feudal leaders and they (sic) perished in the flames of Calcutta thesis uprisings. It took fifty years for the Marxist parties in Kerala to put an avarna [i.e. an ‘outcaste’ or ‘untouchable’] in the chair of the Chief Minister (VS Achuthanandan). It is not known how many years will it take for West Bengal to do so. Feudalism in Kerala would have crumbled without Marxism and feudal scions would have been compelled to work hard for a living but for Marxist politics.  Leaders ranging from Jyoti Basu to EMS to Nayanar to AK Gopalan to Prakash Karat (the Marxist supreme leaders) rose from the upper crust of feudal society. Much of their life stories show that they used ideology to ride and cling to power, rather than for emancipation of the oppressed from poverty and backwardness. If the Marxist leaders were indeed different from the normal run of leaders, they would not have been Chief Minister for life (like Jyoti Basu) or assumed chief ministership again and yet again (as EMS and Nayanar did). In 1957, EMS was working for the party in New Delhi and TV Thomas was the elected party leader in the Kerala Assembly. Thomas was a capable leader. EMS had, therefore, no business to come down to Kerala to take over as Chief Minister. Even afterwards, there were occasions to yield the chief ministership to the likes of Susheela Gopalan and VS Achuthanandan, but the upper caste leaders clung to power. The record of the leaders proved that the secret agenda of the Marxist leaders was always power and not emancipation.[158]

Coming back to our “selective” historians, they have left blank the entire section from 1947 onwards. Surely there are worthy historical aspects/developments of India (or “South Asia”) that can be included here.

In summary, for the entire 5,000 years history, all that FOIL finds worthy of highlighting are a foreign invasion of India, some caste politics and its supposed history, a derogatory and half-baked picture of Shivaji and the Communist role in the Malabar region of Kerala along the lines of caste.

(f)     Shivaji – AQuestionable Monarch

We have already seen FOIL’s selective portrayal of Indian history in the above section. But, FOIL’s tendency to devalue important Indian figures needs further elaboration. As part of the “Sketches out of South Asian History”, Prashad discusses the “The Complexities of Shivaji.”[159] This article is essentially in response to an event held in New York by an organization called HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) in which a speaker, Shripati Shastry, described how Shivaji fought Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and was a defender of Hindu civilization. Prashad questions this portrayal of Shivaji by asking that “the historical record should be scoured to check if Shivaji indeed did fight Aurangzeb to (defend) ‘Hindu civilization’ and if he made it his purpose to cleanse the subcontinent of ‘foreigners.’”[160] In his analysis, Prashad reduces Shivaji to “a rebellious zamindar and hill-chief [who]…claimed to be a ‘Hindu” king when it suited him…”[161]  He says further that “[in] 1668, Shivaji’s repeated petitions to Aurangzeb won him the title ‘Raja’ and the Chakan fort. After the Mughal treasury refused to reimburse him for a trip he took to Agra, he took up arms again”.[162] Such statements make Shivaji appear as a whining, spiteful weasel.

Then, to raise more suspicions on Shivaji’s character, he tells us about his son’s conduct, as if that is a black mark on Shivaji himself. He adds: “one might add that Shambhaji, Shivaji’s son, raped a Brahmin woman in December 1678: such facts often get lost in the blind valorization of historical figures.”

Prashad’s pronouncements about Shivaji’s stature as a Hindu king and as mere “hill chief” also need further examination. While in his earlier life, Shivaji was given charge of his father’s Jagir (territory) of Pune, history indeed is more complex than Prashad’s version.

Shivaji was a Maratha aristocrat of the Bhonsle clan who is considered the founder of the Maratha Empire.[163] Shivaji learned much from his father Shahaji Bhonsle’s failed attempts at political independence, his exceptional military capabilities and achievements, his knowledge of Sanskrit, Hindu ethos, patronage of the arts, his war strategies and peacetime diplomacy. Jijabai, his mother, also instilled in Shivaji a natural love for self-determination and an aversion to external political domination.[164] In 1657, while Aurangzeb attacked Golconda and Bijapur, Shivaji, using guerrilla tactics, took control of three Adilshahi forts formerly under his father’s command.[165] With these victories, Shivaji assumed de facto leadership of many independent Maratha clans.  Shivaji’s small and ill-equipped army survived an all-out Adilshahi attack, and Shivaji personally killed the Adilshahi general, Afzal Khan.[166] With this event, the Marathas transformed into a powerful military force, capturing more and more Adilshahi and Mughal territories.[167] At the end of 1676, Shivaji Maharaj launched a wave of conquests in southern India with a massive force of 50,000 (30,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry).[168] How can a mere hill chief command a force of 50,000? Furthermore, Shivaji established an effective civil and military administration and had a powerful navy.

Cooper (2003) writes the following:

By 1659, he had a fleet of 20 warships and continued to expand his naval presence to strengthen the Maratha Empire’s coastal borders. He even launched an amphibious assault on the Sidi Yakub’s fort of Danda Rajapur….Toward the end of his career, he had control of 360 forts to secure his growing kingdom. Shivaji himself constructed about 15-20 totally new forts (including key sea forts like Sindhudurg), but he also rebuilt or repaired many strategically placed forts to create a chain of 300 or more, stretched over a thousand kilometers across the rugged crest of the Western Ghats. [169]

Traveling through the forts of Shivaji, Adrian Hamilton of The Independent remarks:

Aurangzeb spent the best part of 30 years trying to crush the light-footed, rapid-action mountain people of Shivaji’s army. In the process, he ruined his health and expended his treasury – fruitlessly, as it turned out, for the Marathas continued to expand their holdings for a full century after Shivaji’s death.[170]

All of the above clearly show that Shivaji was not “a rebellious zamindar and hill-chief” but one of the greatest kings of medieval India.

(g)   Hinduism = Spiritual Fascism

As discussed earlier, lunatic and racist theories about Hinduism and India are routinely spat out of the mouth of Kancha Ilaiah. In fact, he has made a career out of it and has written books that venomously denounce Hinduism. Ilaiah is a darling of Christian missionaries and Islamic organizations and is featured prominently in these circles as a representative authority on Hinduism and India. Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), a Colorado, USA-based organization run by hardcore Christian missionaries, awarded Ilaiah a post-doctoral fellowship.[171] DFN’s connections with CAG are discussed in through FIACONA, here. On its website, DFN list Ilaiah among “Indian Champions.”[172] One of DFN’s Advisory Board members, John Gilman, is the head of Dayspring International, which describes its goals in India very directly:

The worship of a hundred million gods will disappear. Idolatry will be cast down. But, what will replace it? National Dalit leaders plead to the Church in India, saying, ‘Come and tell us about your Jesus. Teach us your scriptures.’ They believe this is the only hope for India, a nation that could be on the brink of a bloody civil war – or on the brink of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit unlike any in history. There has never been a better soul-winning opportunity than right now in the nation of India.[173]

FOIL and its members do not distance themselves from personalities like Ilaiah; instead, they wholeheartedly support him and recommend his works as legitimate representations of Hinduism and India. Such dangerous endorsement is a shining example of how FOIL and its members really feel about Hinduism and India. On surface, FOIL and its members appear to fight for the oppressed and for all South Asians. The reality, however, is quite different.

Kancha Ilaiah is the chairman of the political science department at Osmania University.[174] It is appalling that such people are in important positions and it reflects negatively upon the university’s credentials. He is an activist for the Dalit (referred to as the outcastes of India) movement and expresses deep hatred for all things Hindu. Ilaiah twists and highly exaggerates selective aspects of Hinduism and India to demonize the two. In addition, his penchant for misrepresentation of facts is notorious. He is a Buddhist but considers Buddha’s realization of truth as more “political rather than religious.”[175] He also believes that Buddha was basically a “non-Aryan” and came from a tribal background. However, Buddha’s Shakya clan belonged to the Gautama gotra, which is a Brahmin gotra.[176] And, the Shakyas trace their lineage to the Ikshvaku dynasty (also known as Suryavanshis), the same dynasty that Lord Rama belonged to.[177] His mother, Queen Maha Maya (Māyādevī) and Suddhodana’s wife, was a Koliyan princess.[178] So, Buddha was a Kshatriya Shakya prince. Playing by Ilaiah’s own twisted logic then, Ilaiah is following the teachings of an “Aryan” prince!

Malhotra and Neelakandan (2011) quote from a report in The Indian Express that he made a strong presentation before India’s National Conference on Human Rights, saying, “We want to kill Sanskrit in this country.”[179] In an interview, he also advocated, “We should close down the IITs and the IIMs as they pander to the upper-caste economy of the country.”[180] Similarly, in an interview with Christianity Today, Ilaiah considered Hinduism “a kind of spiritual fascism because the Hindu books say that Aryans wrote them, and Nazi Germany’s Hitler believed he belonged to an Aryan race.”[181] Modern intellectuals know that Hitler and the Nazis misappropriated Hindu spiritual symbols like the Swastika and the concept of Aryans based on popular Eurocentric theories of those times. However, that doesn’t stop Ilaiah from equating Hindus with Nazis. He conveniently disregards the fact that symbols like Aum and Swastika are used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[182] Not only that, Swastika is also known to have been found in other ancient religions and cultures around the world, as shown by an exhibit in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.[183]

In his book Why I am Not a Hindu (2005, Samya) Ilaiah launches a vicious diatribe against Hinduism, Hindus and Hindu deities. Facts are ignored or misplaced and statements are made as if they are fact.  Ilaiah is suspicious of the Brahmins and Krishna, and also considers Krishna a character manufactured by the “evil Brahmins”:

Who is Krishna? Why did the Brahmins create such a god? It is the same Krishna who is said to have authored the most Brahminical text the Bhagavad Gita. At a time when the Shudras had no right to education, how did a Yadava write the Gita? How did a Yadava writer not provide any social space for Yadavas themselves, leave alone other Dalit bahujans? (Pages 82 & 83 of English version; P. 101 of Telugu version).[184]

His bizarre views and lack of regard for facts are yet again illustrated in the following sentences.  Regarding the Mahabharata, Ilaiah says:

The fight was between the minority Pandavas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas were always a minority – they constitute 15% of the population) and the majority Kauravas.  The hundred Kauravas stood against Brahminical Dharma and represented Dalit bahujans, whereas the five Pandavas represented the Brahminical minority. In the fight for land (and for the kingdom) Krishna stands by the minority. The majority were not willing to give up the land they acquired through sweat and blood.[185]

Such sentences are so inaccurate, out of sync with facts and blatantly out of context that it is extremely difficult to even take them seriously. Every child in India who has ever read any version of the Mahabharata (save Ilaiah’s of course), has seen any number of the TV versions of the epic or heard stories from the epic, knows that the Pandavas and the Kauravas were first cousins from the same family! They were also educated under the same Brahmin teachers. Any serious scholar or student of the epic would have major reservations against such unsubstantiated statements.

Ilaiah continues his attack on Krishna and the Mahabharata and superimposes the “struggle of the outcastes” on the epic:

Finally, Krishna resorts to violence. After the defeat of the majority in struggle for land, the Gita was used to create a much stronger consent system to ensure that no serious revolts emerged from the Dalit bahujan social base.

Whenever such attempts were made, either by Yadavas or by other Dalit forces, Krishna’s Gita was effectively used to manipulate them into submission. (p. 85 & 86. Eng; p.105 Tel.).[186]

One struggles to ask questions such as why would some first cousins be Brahmins and others be some Dalit bahujans? Where is the evidence that Kauravas stood against “Brahminical Dharma”?  When did the Kauravas ever acquire the land through “sweat and blood”? Where is the evidence that the Gita was used as a hegemonic “consent system” to suppress any revolts?

Malhotra and Neelakandan (2011) also note the following:

In his latest book, titled Post-Hindu India, Ilaiah constructs a racist ideology of hatred against Hinduism in general and Brahmins in particular. In his attempt to revive pseudo-scientific racism, he purports to study what he terms as ‘Brahmin psychology’ and then goes on to characterize Brahmins as sub-humans, stating that Brahmin communitarianism ‘acts like the communitarianism of penguins and sheep, which hardly builds the energy for individual struggle for survival’…He states that Brahmins are worse than animals, because in their case, even the animal instincts are ‘underdeveloped’…[concluding] that the Brahmin childhood formation itself has ‘genetic and social characteristics of non-transformability.’[187]

Advocating a Civil War in India

Based on this hatred, “[Ilaiah] envisions a civil war in India, urging the Dalit-Bahujans to start a civil war at the macro and micro level.”[188] He recommends:

Historically-upper castes have suppressed the lower-caste masses with weapons, as the Hindu gods’ origin itself is rooted in the culture of weapon usage. The SC/ST/OBCs will then have to turn to a war of weapons in the process of elimination of Hindu violence from India.[189]

“Predicting a ‘major civil war’ on the lines of violent upheavals that happened in Europe, Ilaiah sees [this as a] ‘necessary evil’ and claims that ‘Dalits have enormous potential to lead the civil war in India’ with inputs from ‘Buddhism and Christianity…growing into planthood.’”[190]  “However, Ilaiah’s mention of Buddhism is only lip service in order to build up a unified army against Hinduism, because elsewhere in the book he states that Indian Dalits find Jesus to be a more powerful liberator than Buddha.”[191] Ilaiah’s inaccurate views on Buddha have also been demonstrated earlier.

 

FOIL and Kancha Ilaiah

Ilaiah is a resource for FOIL to demonize Hinduism as a non-pluralistic, oppressive tradition.

An excerpt from Kancha Ilaiah’s interview with FOIL members

KanchaIlaiahInterview2

In July 1997, FOIL’s Biju Mathew and Chris Chekuri interviewed Ilaiah in response to the “force-fed celebration of 50 years of independence”[192] of India. The text of the interview, titled The State of Dalit Mobilization: An Interview with Kancha Ilaiah, was transcribed by fellow FOIL members Vamsicharan Vakulabharanam, Radhika Lal and Mir Ali Raza in the November 1997 edition of its newsletter Ghadar.[193] FOIL highlights several points made by Ilaiah in special boxes to endorse his views. For example, as the above figure shows, Ilaiah blames Hinduism for having “…created untouchability within its caste structure…”[194]  Similarly, Ilaiah, takes the position that Brahminism (which is what he calls Hinduism) is “anti-labor and anti-production”[195], a theme that resonates with the radical leftist ideology of FOIL.

Further down the interview and as also illustrated in the figure, on FOIL’s question regarding “creating a mass base for consciousness-raising about civil rights,”[196] Ilaiah agrees with the Communist view of “counter-violence”[197] and doesn’t see a need to give up such violence. He maintains:

Hinduism is a religion of violence. All Hindu gods killed their enemies and became heroic images. This is the only religion in the world where the killer becomes god. Whom did they kill? From Brahma to Krishna, those who were killed were Dalit bahujans. Now these images and the stories and narratives and everything is out there in the civil society. Now, because of this, the consciousness of worshipping the killer or worshipping violence did not give any space for human rights.[198]

As a measure of further support for Ilaiah, it is important to point out that FOIL’s project CSFH recommends his venomous works amongst the “Resources for a Progressive Hindu.”[199] Similarly, a 2009 book Against Stigma: Studies in Caste, Race and Justice Since Durban (2009, Orient Blackswan Pvt Ltd), edited by Balmurli Natrajan of FOIL, features an essay by Ilaiah, called Caste, race and nation: A discourse in binary history.[200]

(h)   NRIs – Unintelligent, Hindu Extremists; Not Enough Drunks

FOIL takes a rather unkind view of the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) community in America. In sweeping generalizations, FOIL is audacious enough to label the entire community as unintelligent souls who have sold themselves to Corporate America and those who support extremism.

First, Vijay Prashad proposes a call for “model minority suicide.”[201] According to Prashad, “South Asians are disproportionately successful in America not because they are inherently more intelligent or work harder, but mostly because of immigration law [emphasis added].”[202] He then adds that “between 1966 and 1977…83 percent of Indians who immigrated to America entered under the category of professional and technical workers: about 20,000 scientists with Ph.D.s, 40,000 engineers and 25,000 medical doctors.”[203] So, all those scientists, doctors and engineers apparently didn’t need to work hard after coming to America and were not intelligent at all.  They made name and fame just by the fact they had good degrees and by the good graces of the US government. It cannot be that these intellectuals, understanding the hardships and obstacles in India, arrived in the US in search of better opportunities and worked their way to the top by utilizing their skills and educational background. Rather, it is as if the US government automatically planted them in guaranteed top posts for the rest of their lives.

Prashad lambasts these intellectuals for asking their kids to work hard and to get a better education. “Parents are setting up INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] standards for their kids,”[204] a reference to the opening up of US immigration for Asians in the 1960s. “South Asian young people who don’t conform to the myth…deny their parents access to the power centers of the community: joining the chamber of commerce, becoming a leader in the temple or heading a community organization.”[205] Prashad thus portrays NRIs as power grabbers and seekers of false statuses. And, if their kids don’t become the model minorities, somehow, the NRIs will not be in any prominent positions in any community organization. The individual talents, leadership skills and business acumen of these NRIs amount to nothing. While it is true that youth in Indian American community face enormous pressure at times from their parents to conform to certain values, to get a good education and excel in various fields, it is simply not fair to assassinate the character of the entire community.

Similarly, setting high standards of performance, though agreeable by most, “can be very confining”, [206] according to Prashad. “It’s not human. It’s like taking a group of scientists and making a colony on Mars and pretending the whole world should be scientists. Where are the artists, the poets, the drunks? Where is everybody that makes history possible?”[207] Is Prashad implying that the standards should be relaxed in such a way that Indian American kids become the drunks of the society? Or, does he not want Indian American kids to strive for eminence in the fields of science, technology, business, politics, law, etc.? Is entrepreneurship frowned upon?  Prashad seems to be conveniently ignoring the fact that Indian Americans have excelled in many fields besides just science. While initial immigrants may have been more in the labs, later generation Indian Americans have expanded in multiple fields.

The contributions and achievements of Indian Americans in various fields besides science are well known. In 1982, Vinod Khosla co-founded Sun Microsystems,[208] a world famous company known for the famous Java platform. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed Dr. Joy Cherian as the first Indian Commissioner of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).[209] In 1989, Rohit Jagessar founded RBC Radio, the first Asian Indian radio station in the US.[210] In 1994, Guitarist Kim Thayil, of Indian origin, wins Grammy award for his Indian-inspired guitar work on the album Superunknown by his band Soundgarden.[211] In 1999, filmmaker Manoj Night Shyamalan enters film history with his film The Sixth Sense, which turned out to be one of the all-time highest-grossing films worldwide.[212] In 2001, Professor Jamshed Bharucha [born in Mumbai] was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Dartmouth College, the first person of Indian descent to serve as dean of a school at an Ivy League institution.[213] In 2001, Professor Dipak C. Jain [born in Tezpur – Assam, India] was appointed as dean of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.[214] In 2006, Indra Nooyi [born in Chennai, India] was appointed as CEO of PepsiCo.[215] She also serves as a member of the boards of the International Rescue Committee, Catalyst and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Trustees of Eisenhower Fellowships, and currently serves as Chairman of the U.S.–India Business Council.[216] In 2007, Vikram Pandit [born in Maharashtra, India] was appointed as CEO of Citigroup.[217]  He also serves on the boards of Columbia University, Columbia Business School, the Indian School of Business and The Trinity School.[218]  In 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appointed Neel Kashkari as the Interim U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability.[219] In 2008, Raj Chetty was appointed as professor of economics at Harvard University.[220] At that time, he was the youngest person [at age 29] to ever receive tenure of professorship in the Harvard economics department and one of the top eight young economists of the world. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Rajiv Shah, M.D. as the new head of United States Agency for International Development.[221] In 2010, President of Harvard University Catherine Drew Gilpin Faust appointed Nitin Nohria as the 10th dean of Harvard Business School.[222] Sanjaya Malakar was a finalist on the sixth season of the show American Idol.[223] Karsh Kale is a well-known Indian producer, composer and musician who has performed with top artistes of the world, including Zakir Hussain, Sting, Paul Oakenfold, Ravi Shankar, etc.[224] Kal Penn, whose real name is Kalpen Suresh Modi, is a well-known Indian American actor in Hollywood.[225] He is not a son of a rich doctor, but of a fragrance evaluator for a perfume company and of an engineer.[226] In early 2009, Penn was offered the position of Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, which he accepted.[227] Padma Lakshmi is the famous Indian American model, actress and cookbook author. Jhumpa Lahiri is the famous Indian American author of books like Interpreter of Maladies (1999) and The Namesake (2003).[228] The former won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

One can simply conduct a quick web search to understand the achievements of Indian Americans.  The list is incredibly long and it covers almost every major field, from science, technology and mathematics, to business, law, politics, and literature, art, music, etc. Reducing the abilities of Indian Americans to a “mere policy quirk” is highly superficial and dismissive.

Jason Richwine of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, in writing about the success of Indian American immigrants, says that “education and culture can take people only so far.”[229]  According to him, intelligence has a lot more to do with success. He cites a 2003 New Immigrant Survey of basic cognition which was administered to children of arriving immigrants. He describes the results of the survey as follows:

When statistical adjustments are used to convert the backward digit span results to full-scale IQ scores, Indian Americans place at about 112 on a bell-shaped IQ distribution, with white Americans at 100. 112 is the 79th percentile of the white distribution. For more context, consider that Ashkenazi Jews are a famously intelligent ethnic group, and their mean IQ is somewhere around 110.[230]

Thus, Indian Americans exhibit sharp IQs and intellectual capacity as a group. This is certainly one important reason for their rise within the American society.

Two things are clear from the above examples: 1) While immigration policies of the 1960s and today may have helped bring in talents from India, the ascendance of Indian Americans to the top echelon of American society is in great part due to their hard work, values and intellectual abilities; and 2) Indian Americans are in a broad range of fields besides just science and medicine. Unfortunately for Prashad, though, there are not enough Indian American “drunks” and “criminals”.

Even worse, “Prashad wants South Asians to commit ‘model minority suicide’ by being outspoken and individualistic…”[231] However, it appears the outspokenness and individualism are to be defined by FOIL only and not the community. When NRIs speak out against the biased portrayals of Hinduism in academia by various scholars like Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright and others discussed earlier, or when NRIs (including California parents) fight for an equal portrayal of Hinduism in 6th grade textbooks in comparison to the Abrahamic religions, they are automatically deemed as Hindu extremists and “Yankee Hindutvavadis” by FOIL and their cohorts in CAG.

Writing for FOIL, Mathew and Prashad comment further:

The NRIs are caught in a contradiction. At one level they yearn to be well-integrated into American society, for it is, after all, the American Dream of a two-car garage and house (a dream monopolized (sic) by White Americans) that brought them to this land. At another level, they seek to retain their identity, a need that is heightened by the contradictions of integration. The NRI’s relation to nationalism and identity is not just a product of the nationalist construction of India by Hindutva ideologues, but also continuously mediated by the NRI’s link to the American Dream.[232]

Thus, the individualistic expression of Indian identity within the American society is a problem for FOIL. The identification with India as an ancestral land is automatically deemed “Hindu extremism”. Retention of spiritual, religious and cultural aspects of Indian heritage is also frowned upon and deemed as some sort of “guilt trip” compensating for the “greed” to prosper and fulfill the American Dream.

When NRIs start internet groups or forums that cater to a specific subsection of the community, or to India in general, FOIL feels uneasy. According to Mathew and Prashad:

While the nets are often heralded as ‘free’ spaces, they are also spaces of isolation. An India-related newsgroup rarely attracts a non-Indian (or non-South Asian); a Hinduism-related site attracts only those interested in Hinduism or for that matter a Gujarati Samaj mailing list only occasionally contains non-Gujaratis. Thus, these isolated sites become spawning grounds for the technocrats who need to re-invent their identity each night after having sold their souls to Corporate America during the day.[233]

Here, FOIL takes issue with the fact that India- (or Hinduism or Gujarati) related groups or discussion forums will mainly attract Indians (or Hindus or Gujaratis) and not others. It amounts to implying that sports discussions and forums should also attract non-sports fans; music discussions and forums should attract non-music fans; discussions on the Quran and Mohammed should attract non-Muslims; white supremacist discussions and forums should attract people who don’t believe in it. It is ironic that FOIL and its affiliates have exactly the same type of “isolated” discussions and forums that focus on Marxist/Communist views of the world (for example: http://insaf.net/pipermail/nyfoil-l_insaf.net/), demonizing the Indian state and devaluing Hinduism.

In addition, somehow, these hobbies and passions are considered needs to reinvent an identity, after having sold our souls to Corporate America. Someone who makes an honest living in Corporate America while also taking the time to learn and discuss about one’s culture/religion or to participate in causes related to one’s culture/religion, is considered the slave of “imperialist capitalism”. The same person who works for Corporate America during the day and attends community religious events or a temple function is considered a “sinner” who somehow needs to reconcile his guilt of being in cahoots with these “imperialist bourgeoisie”. One wonders how FOIL feels about orthodox Jews or about Muslims who also work in Corporate America and sometimes pray while at work.

When NRIs exercise their political clout or organize themselves for causes related to India’s development, their efforts are reduced to expressions of greed and guilt. Or, their efforts are scrutinized with suspicion by FOIL and its affiliates. “Wealthy not because of natural selection, but because of the state selection of the U.S., NRI engineers, doctors and scientists lived with the guilt that they had abandoned their nation whose taxes educated them at least in the Indian Institutes of Technology and other such major research institutions.”[234] Similarly, “[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.”[235] Even within this spectrum, the NRIs are criminalized further. Prashad adds – “And what are issues that motivate desis [emphasis original]? Things to do with the ‘homeland’ or things that have to do with the exploitation and oppression of desis [emphasis original] and others in the U.S.?”[236] So, NRIs are now aiding and abetting the exploitation and oppression of people, according to Prashad. And according to FOIL, it is not possible for the NRIs to have sympathy toward people of India because they realize and have experienced first-hand the challenges that India faces in terms of development, education, infrastructure, social issue, etc.

On one hand, FOIL and its affiliates demonize NRIs and especially Hindus for the “evils of the caste system” and not raising their voices against poverty and the status of lower caste people.  On the other, if an NRI donates money or volunteers for a cause that is India-centric, including the ones that FOIL demonizes her for, she cannot be sincere about it. Is a cause only valid when it resonates with FOIL, its affiliates and their ideologies?

Prashad and Mathew then describe the social, cultural and religious events held by NRIs as part of an extremist scheme. “Yankee Hindutva operates through multiple organizational (sic) forms, including Gita-reading groups [emphasis original], mahila sabhas [emphasis original], temple-based functions and pujas, informal baby-sitting groups, cultural events of various kinds and summer camps.”[237] Now, groups that get together, read the Gita and discuss its philosophy are labeled as “Yankee Hindutvavadis” or Yankee Hindu extremists. Similarly, temple events and ceremonies are considered the breeding grounds for Hindu extremism. Mahila Sabhas (gathering of women) are extremists and so are baby-sitting groups!

In the same manner, according to FOIL, NRIs have an extremely narrow-minded view of India and its culture and don’t understand the various nuances that go along with them. This is apparently due to their narrow education in India.

[The] NRIs present themselves as a cultural commodity even though they themselves came to the US without extensive training in the arts of their own culture (that is, during their narrow-minded and extensive education in the post-colonial educational system of India, they never gained the nuanced idea of their cultural history).[238]

It is worthwhile to note that many of the history books in India have been written by Marxist/Leftist historians like Romila Thapar. So, FOIL’s position here is obfuscating. On the one hand, FOIL chides the NRI for standing up against biased portrayals of India and Hinduism.  Then, it disapproves of their educational training in India, even when most of it is based on Marxist/Leftist textbooks. What is FOIL’s idea of Indian cultural history then?

In summary, FOIL portrays NRIs as a group of greedy, unintelligent, extremist lunatics who are slaves of the imperialist capitalism of America. They apply enormous pressure on their children, confine them to narrow career paths and don’t let them become the “drunks” of the society.  While FOIL encourages individualistic expressions of identity, it reprimands the NRIs for considering India as their ancestral homeland, and raising their voices against injustice and bias in the media, academia or in other areas. Forums and organizations started by NRIs are labeled as isolated spaces that really exist as a need to reinvent one’s identity after slaving away during the day in Corporate America. NRI activism in the political arena is not considered sincere and is a result of some underlying greed; in essence, they are supporting oppression of people in US and India. Social and religious events such as women’s gatherings, baby-sitting groups, temple ceremonies and celebrations, etc. are considered the breeding grounds for “extreme right-wing activities”. And, NRIs’ sense of history and cultural knowledge is shallow, even when it is based on the writings of popular Marxist/Leftist historians like Romila Thapar.

(i)     Indian Independence – Hegemonic Vision of National Community

On August 15, 1997, India celebrated 50 years of independence. The year was marked with huge celebrations and joyous outpourings from all around the world, including of course, India. India received wishes from almost all the countries in the world and from major leaders, spiritual personalities, media and film personalities, industrial icons and so on.

However, FOIL was not in the same mood. In an article titled 50 Years?, FOIL said the parades and celebrations were “attempts to suture hegemonic visions of national community”[239]and “it is crucial to underscore the limits of national identification in the varied and particular forms of violence and deprivation inflicted on bodies named South Asian.”[240] In other words, FOIL seems to imply that the vision of India is that of hegemony. It maintains that the “hegemonic majority of India” is suppressing minority populations, a thought that pervades throughout FOIL’s writings.

For example, FOIL mentions that “…the equation of nation and community with the state can make us less mindful of state violence against South Asians.”[241] But, FOIL only focuses on India as usual. It spotlights the “atrocities” of the Indian armed forces in Kashmir, where “the Indian government’s arming of paramilitary groups is responsible for summary executions and torture of its subject[ed] peoples, as well election-related intimidation of voters, contributing to the militarization of life in that region.”[242] One would expect a discussion of military oppression to include both India and Pakistan, since both are part of South Asia and both the countries celebrated 50 years of independence. Sadly, the bias is strong against India. In the same article, FOIL continues to highlight “undemocratic measures” of the Indian government. The economic reforms of 1990 are also denounced in typical Communist slander of capitalism. FOIL asserts: “Economic liberalization with the interests of capital at the center and the concomitant erosion of labor rights indicate the state’s complicity in furthering human bondage and exploitation.”[243]

FOIL then refers to many “evils” of independent India, such as the rights for gays and lesbians, the Babri Masjid riots, the Bombay communal riots of 1993 (after the embassy bombings by terrorists) and of “good Hindu wives” being burnt for dowry. And, when it discusses a Uniform Civil Code in India it cautions against “insidiously [reasserting] Hindu Brahminical hegemony.” Thus, time and again, the negatives of India are only slapped onto Hinduism and the problems of South Asia are made to look as if they occur only in India. When discussing the Uniform Civil Code, FOIL deliberately ignores the Muslim Personal Shariah Law and bodies such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) that work to impose a separate personal law for Muslims in India. One of the objectives of the AIMPLB is:

[to] constitute a permanent standing committee comprising Ulema and legal experts to study laws, rules, regulations and circulars issued by the central and state governments and other governmental and semi-governmental agencies or the Bills introduced in Parliament and state legislatures from the point of view of their impact on the Muslim Personal Law.[244]

In other words, the Board aims to review laws set by the government and see whether they are in line with Muslim Shariah Law or not. Such “reviews” by a particular religious community should not be favored in a truly secular and pluralistic country. One should not be surprised if FOIL and other radical leftists are outraged if a “Hindu Personal Law Board” was formed to do the same.

As already noted, 1997 also marked the 50th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, a fact FOIL ignored in its analysis of the “hegemony” being practiced in South Asia. As Pakistan declared itself an Islamic nation in the 1950s and has since pursued a decidedly Islamic course in its political and social life, Hindus as a minority in Pakistan have had considerably fewer privileges, rights and protections in comparison to minorities in India. Since Hindus are not “People of the Book” like Christians, they have generally been given fewer rights in Pakistan by the Muslim majority than the country’s Christians even if Hindus have equal rights under the law. In 2008, Ali Eteraz, writing for The Guardian in an article titled Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus, gives some disturbing statistics: “According to some sources, at the founding of Pakistan, Hindus comprised nearly 15% of the country’s population and now number barely 2%. Many have left, many have been killed, and many have converted to other religions to protect themselves.”[245] In July 2010, around 60 members of the minority Hindus in Karachi were attacked and ethnically cleansed following an incident when a Hindu youth drank from a water tap near an Islamic mosque.[246] In 2011, an article in India Today magazine provided gory details of the situation of Hindus in Pakistan, from kidnapping, gang-raping and forced conversions of young girls, to state-sanctioned revisions of Pakistani history to killings of Hindus under “blasphemy laws”.  Qaswar Abbas, writing in India Today, shares:

[In] one incident, a 17-year-old girl was gangraped (sic) in Nagarparker area while in another incident, a 15-year-old girl was allegedly abducted from Aaklee village and forced to convert. The Aaklee incident prompted an instant migration of about 71 Hindu families to Rajasthan. Members of the Hindu community in Kotri town in Sindh province recently protested …the kidnapping of four teenagers, Anita, Kishni, Ajay and Sagar.[247]

Marvi Memon of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and one of the only lawmakers to stand up for Hindus, describes the situation in her own words:

The tragedy is that as a result of these kidnappings, many Hindu families have migrated to India. After all, it is better to live in another country than in perpetual fear in Pakistan. It has become routine for Hindus to be humiliated at the hands of the influential Muslim community in Pakistan…Years of keeping a low profile have affected the sense of identity of the Hindus. They have become a people without a true identity…if there is no awareness and concern for the Hindus of Pakistan, they will remain a voiceless people and eventually cease to exist.[248]

Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other minorities have been targets of numerous rapes, killings, abductions and such in Bangladesh as well.

Anyone who points to the atrocities on Hindus is automatically labeled as “Hindu Chauvinist” or “Hindu Extremist” by FOIL. Do Hindus not matter? If India was founded on a hegemonic vision of nationalism, Pakistan and Bangladesh are shining examples of religious and cultural hegemony at its worst.

 

[1] Vijay Prashand and Biju Mathew, “FOIL”, Sanskriti, December 25, 1995,  http://www.proxsa.org/resources/sanskriti/dec95/foil.html, accessed November 27, 2013

[2]http://cumc.columbia.edu/ihn/faculty_/ramakrishnan, accessed November 27, 2013

[3] http://www.singhfoundation.org/, accessed November 27, 2013

[4] See “Forum of Indian Leftists”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum_of_Indian_Leftists, accessed November 27, 2013

[5] See Page 62 of SAMAR’s summer/fall 1997 issue at http://www.saadigitalarchive.org/item/20130130-1280.  Accessed January 23, 2014

[6] Balmurli Natrajan, “Letter to a Progressive Hindu”, SAMAR, Issue 28, February 28, 2008, http://samarmagazine.org/archive/articles/255, accessed November 28, 2013.

[7] See faculty profile of Prashad at http://internet2.trincoll.edu/facProfiles/Default.aspx?fid=1000767. Accessed November 28, 2013

[8] See overview of Kellner’s business strategies on the company’s website at http://www.kellnerdileo.com/index.php?page=strategies.  Accessed December 3, 2013

[9] Malhotra, R. & Neelakandan A. (2011). Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines (p. 225). New Delhi, India: Amaryllis.

[10] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 225

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] Vinod Kumar, “Prof. Vijay Prashad and Hindu Holocaust Museum”, http://www.voi.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=244&Itemid=1. Accessed December 30, 2013.

[14] See background information on Mathew provided at Rider University’s website.  http://www.rider.edu/faculty/biju-mathew.  Accessed December 30, 2013

[15] See reference the following article where Mathew discusses his arrival to the US. Yoginder Sikand and Biju Mathew, “Stop Funding Hate”, August 12, 2005, http://www.countercurrents.org/comm-mathew120805.htm. Accessed December 30, 2013.

[16] Biju Mathew, “AN ANTI-INDIAN NATIONALIST IDEOLOGY”, http://www.proxsa.org/politics/hindutva/hindutva.html. Accessed December 30, 2013.

[17] Yoginder Sikand and Biju Mathew, “Stop Funding Hate”, August 12, 2005, http://www.countercurrents.org/comm-mathew120805.htm. Accessed December 30, 2013.

[18] Yoginder Sikand and Biju Mathew, “Stop Funding Hate”, August 12, 2005, http://www.countercurrents.org/comm-mathew120805.htm.  Accessed December 30, 2013.

[19] VK Shashikumar, “Preparing for the harvest…”, Tehelka, p.1,  http://www.tehelka.com/story_main.asp?filename=ts013004shashi.asp&id=1. Accessed December 30, 2013.

[20] Shashikumar, Ibid., 2

[21] Shashikumar, Ibid., 2

[22] See entry for Chatterji on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angana_P._Chatterji. Accessed December 30, 2013

[23] See entry for CIIS on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Institute_of_Integral_Studies, accessed December 30, 2013

[24] Richard Springer, “CIIS Fires Two Professors after Student Complaints”, India West,

http://www.indiawest.com/news/1981-ciis-fires-two-professors-after-student-complaints.html#R32sPpYG8rU1fCXU.99,   December 4, 2011.  Accessed November  28, 2013

[25] See “Research and Advocacy” bullet under Sub-Section “Identity & Role” under Section “About ISI” at http://www.isidelhi.org.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=24&Itemid=12.  Accessed November 28, 2013

[26] Ibid

[27] See information on “Caste system among Indian Christians”, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_among_Indian_Christians.  Accessed December 30, 2013

[28] See information on “Caste system among South Asian Muslims” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_among_South_Asian_Muslims.  Accessed December 30, 2013

[29] Joseph Benjamin, “Human Rights in Indian Situation”, Indian Social Institute, https://web.archive.org/web/20111014144304/http://isidelhi.org.in/contents/pub-11.pdf.  Accessed December 30, 2013

[30] http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=4011.  Accessed December 30, 2013

[31] (Malhotra and Neelakandan, 2011, 264)

[32] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[33] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[34] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[35] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[36] See entry on Chatterji in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angana_P._Chatterji.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[37] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[38] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[39] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 265

[40] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[41] Malhotra and Neelakandan, ibid

[42] Ashfaque Swapan, “IDRF Supporters Dispute Charges, Critics Unimpressed”, India West, January 10, 2003, available at http://stopfundinghate.org/resources/news/011003IndiaWest.htm.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[43] Vinay Lal, “The Cultural Politics of Indian Nuclearism”, http://www.proxsa.org/politics/nonuke/vlal.html.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[44] Vishal Agarwal, “Hating Hindus as a Fun Activity”, Voice of India, January 2 2010, Page 3, http://www.voi.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=355&Itemid=1&limit=1&limitstart=2.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[45] Agarwal, 3

[46] Agarwal, ibid

[47] Agarwal, ibid

[48] Agarwal, ibid

[49] Vishal Agarwal, “Hating Hindus as a Fun Activity”, Voice of India, January 2 2010, Page 5, http://www.voi.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=355&Itemid=1&limit=1&limitstart=4.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[50] Vishal Agarwal, “Hating Hindus as a Fun Activity”, Voice of India, January 2 2010, Page 1, http://www.voi.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=355&Itemid=1.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[51] Vinay Lal, “The Fragments of Bamiyan”, Page 5, http://www.vinaylal.com/ESSAYS%28GP%29/bamiyan3.pdf.   Accessed December 31, 2013

[52] Ibid

[53] Lal, 7

[54] Vinay Lal, “The Sexuality of a Celibate Life”, May 5, 2011, http://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/the-sexuality-of-a-celibate-life/, Accessed December 31, 2013

[55] Ibid

[56] Ibid

[57] For example, Ravishankar signs his name on behalf of FOIL in this 2006 letter to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Buddhadev Bhattacharya: https://www.mail-archive.com/greenyouth@googlegroups.com/msg01102.html.  Accessed January 21, 2014

[58] See “Your Public Interest Registry” Search for CSFH at http://pir.org/services/whois/?domain=stopfundinghate.org&submitted=1&Submit=Search.  Ravishankar’s email (ravishan2u@gmail.com) is the main contact email for the CSFH domain.  Accessed January 21, 2014

[59] Ra Ravishankar, “Project Saffron Dollar”, December 3, 2002, The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, http://www.stopfundinghate.org/resources/news/120302Indymedia.htm.  Accessed January 29, 2014

[60] Ravishankar, ibid

[61] Ravishankar, ibid

[62] See the entry on Ummah Tameer E-Nau (UTN) at “Additional Background Information on Charities Designated Under Executive Order 1322”, US Department of The Treasury, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/terrorist-illicit-finance/Pages/protecting-charities_execorder_13224-p.aspx.  Accessed January 29, 2014

[63] Ibid

[64] Ibid

[65] Ra Ravishankar and Shefali Chandra, “Brahmanizing the Diaspora”, Ghadar: a publication of the forum of inquilabi leftists, Volume 7: June 2004, http://ghadar.insaf.net/June2004/MainPages/Editorial2.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[66] See Ravishankar’s letter to the School Board dated February 21, 2006 on FOSA’s website at http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/LetterToCAStateBoard_RR.pdf.  Accessed January 21, 2014

[67] See Swami’s profile on the website of University of Arkansa at http://anthropology.uark.edu/7013.php.  Accessed January 29, 2014

[68] Ibid

[69] Raja Harish Swamy, “Disaster Capitalism: Tsunami Reconstruction and Neoliberalism in Nagapattinam, South India”, May 2011, Page vi, Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin.  Available online at http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CEEQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Frepositories.lib.utexas.edu%2Fbitstream%2Fhandle%2F2152%2FETD-UT-2011-05-3461%2FSWAMY-DISSERTATION.pdf%3Fsequence%3D1&ei=-3ToUonvC-_ksAS5w4DQAg&usg=AFQjCNGRHiuijw7Vm74ZETEYndohmKinzA&bvm=bv.60157871,d.cWc.  Accessed January 29, 2014

[70] Raja Swamy, “White, Zionist, and Hindu Racism: The Durban Question”, September 3, 2001, Media Monitors Network, http://www.mediamonitors.net/rajaharishswamy1.html.  Accessed January 29, 2014

[71] Swamy, ibid

[72] See the sub-heading “History of the university and the Gupta heyday” in the Wikipedia entry of Nalanda at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalanda.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[73] Ibid. See the sub-heading “Decline and end” in the Wikipedia entry.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[74] Swamy, ibid

[75] Arun Shourie, “To Undo the Scandal, Undo the Control”, The Arun Shourie Site, http://arunshourie.voiceofdharma.com/articles/scandal.htm.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[76] Shourie, ibid

[77] Alexander Berzin, “The Historical Interaction between the Buddhist and Islamic Cultures before the Mongol Empire: Part III Part III: The Spread of Islam among and by the Turkic Peoples (840 – 1206 CE)

20 The Ghurid Campaigns on the Indian Subcontinent”, 1996, lightly revised January 2003, December 2006, The Berzin Archives, http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/e-books/unpublished_manuscripts/historical_interaction/pt3/history_cultures_20.html#n4.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[78] Swamy, ibid

[79] Harsh Narain, “Jizyah and the Spread of Islam”, Chapter III, Voice of India, New Delhi, accessed online at http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/jtsi/ch03.htm.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[80] M.A. Khan, “Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery”, pp. 107-108, (2009, iUniverse), accessed online at http://books.google.com/books?id=uHNddAz5cfAC&pg=PA107&dq=alauddin+khilji+jizya&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3hzrUozPH-zgsAS6-4LwDA&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=alauddin%20khilji%20jizya&f=false.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[81] Swamy is the registering agent for Pheku.in as per the Whois.Net domain registration search: http://www.whois.net/whois/pheku.in.  Accessed January 30, 2014

[82] “NaMo Inspires New Comedy Channel”, MediaCrooks, August 25, 2013, http://www.mediacrooks.com/2013/08/namo-inspires-new-comedy-channel.html#.UvRKvbTdeSp.  Accessed January 31, 2014

[83] http://pheku.in/the-argument/.  Accessed February 6, 2014

[84] “Pheku.in: Yet another Congress failure to malign Modi”, Niti Central, August 24, 2013, http://www.niticentral.com/2013/08/24/phekuin-yet-another-congress-failure-to-malign-modi-123435.html. Accessed February 6, 2014

[85] Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, Lying Religiously: The Hindu Students Council And The Politics Of Deception, April 15, 2007, Page 7.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[86] Ibid

[87] http://www.hindustudentscouncil.org/mantras-and-prayers.  Accessed February 6, 2014

[88] Subhamoy Das, “Gandhi on God & Religion”, About.com, http://hinduism.about.com/od/history/a/gandhiquotes.htm.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[89] Rupali Gupta, “Sanatana Dharma…a.k.a Hinduism”, Page 2, http://www.chinmayasaaket.org/articles/others/Sanatana_Dharma_aka_Hinduism.pdf.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[90] Sri Swami Sivananda, “ALL ABOUT HINDUISM”, The Divine Life Trust Society, 1999, World Wide Web Edition, http://www.dlshq.org/download/hinduismbk.htm. Accessed December 31, 2013

[91] HH Shri Swami Chidananda, “UNITED WE STAND, SURVIVE AND FLOURISH”, Page 2, http://ihrf.com/bookSection/publications/unity.pdf.  Accessed December 31, 2013

[92] See definition of Sanatana Dharma on Britannica’s Online Edition at http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/665848/sanatana-dharma.   Accessed January 1, 2014

[93] See entry on Hinduism on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism. Accessed January 1, 2014

[94] Ra Ravishankar and Shefali Chandra, “Brahmanizing the Diaspora”, Ghadar: a publication of the forum of inquilabi leftists, Volume 7: June 2004, http://ghadar.insaf.net/June2004/MainPages/Editorial2.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[95] Rajiv Malhotra, “RISA Lila – 1: Wendy’s Child Syndrome”, September 6, 2002, http://rajivmalhotra.sulekha.com/blog/post/2002/09/risa-lila-1-wendy-s-child-syndrome.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[96] Vishal Agarwal and Kalavai Venkat, “When the Cigar becomes a Phallus: A Review of Paul Courtright’s ‘Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings’ (Oxford University Press, 1985) Part I and II – The Text”, July 7, 2004, http://vishalagarwal.voiceofdharma.com/articles/devis/cigar.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[97] Malhotra, ibid

[98] Malhotra, ibid

[99] Malhotra, ibid

[100] Malhotra, ibid

[101] Agarwal and Venkat, ibid

[102] Malhotra, ibid

[103] Vijay Prashad, “Letter to a Young American Hindu”, May 21, 2007, http://www.passtheroti.com/posts/487. Accessed January 1, 2014

[104] Prashad, ibid

[105] Prashad, ibid

[106] Prashad, ibid

[107] Kalavai Venkat, “A Critical Review of Romila Thapar’s Early India – From The Origins to AD 1300”, Page 14, http://voiceofdharma.org/indology/EarlyIndia.pdf.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[108] Indrani Bandopadhayay, “The Bhagavad Gita”, http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/asia/as-bandy.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[109] Prashad, ibid

[110] Prashad, ibid

[111] Prashad, ibid

[112] Prashad, Ibid

[113] Balmurli Natrajan, “Letter to a Progressive Hindu”, SAMAR, Issue 28, February 28, 2008, http://samarmagazine.org/archive/articles/255.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[114] A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” Chapter 3, Verse 24, The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc., http://vedabase.net/bg/3/en1.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[115] Ibid, Chapter 3, Verse 25

[116] Rajiv Malhotra, “Bhagvadgita on Caste”, http://www.infinityfoundation.com/ECITcaste3frameset.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[117] Swami Prabhupada, Ibid, Chapter 3, Verse 8

[118] Swami Prabhupada, Ibid, Chapter 3, Verse 19

[119] A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” Chapter 5, Verse 5, The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc., http://vedabase.net/bg/5/en3.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[120] Natrajan, Ibid

[121] “Akhand Var Ne Vari Hu – I Am Married To The Eternal Husband”, http://www.gitananda.org/bhajans/akhand-var-ne-vari-hu.html. Accessed January 1, 2014

[122] “Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita, English translation and commentary by Swami Swarupananda, [1909]“, Chapter 9, Verse 26, http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sbg/sbg14.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[123] Ibid Chapter 9, Verse 29

[124] Swami Chinmayanand, “Peace while one has much work and responsibility”, Chinmaya Mission Chicago, http://www.mychinmaya.org/index.php?id=topic_2.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[125] A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” Chapter 17, Verse 20, The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc., http://vedabase.net/bg/17/en.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[126] Subhamoy Das, “In Praise of the Bhagavad Gita: Great Comments by Great People”, About.Com, http://hinduism.about.com/od/thegita/a/famousquotes.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[127] Vijay Prashad, “Diwali and Decolonization, a talk at Brown University”, October 26, 1996, http://www.foil.org/culture/diwali.html.  Accessed Janunary 1, 2014

[128] Prashad, Ibid

[129] Prashad Ibid

[130] Ranbir Singh, “Review of Kancha Ilaiah’s ‘Why I am not a Hindu’”, February 13, 2011 http://www.chakranews.com/review-of-kancha-ilaiahs-why-i-am-not-a-hindu/1100.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[131] Devdutt, “This was Ravan Too”, September 30, 2009, http://devdutt.com/articles/ramayana/this-was-ravan-too.html. Accessed January 1, 2014

[132] P.R. Ramachander, “Shiva Thandava stotram by Ravana”, http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Shiva_Thandava_stotram_by_Ravana. Accessed January 1, 2014

[133] Please refer to sub-section “Nirguna and Saguna Brahman” in Wikipedia’s entry of Tulsidas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsidas. Accessed January 1, 2014

[134] Swami Nikhilananda, “Holy Upanishads – Svetasvatara Upanishad”, English translation, http://www.ishwar.com/hinduism/holy_upanishads/svetasvatara_upanishad/.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[135] Nikhilananda, Ibid

[136] Prashad, Ibid

[137] Prashad, Ibid

[138] Swami Sivananda, “Name, Faith and Love, GLORY of RAMA NAM”, http://www.sivanandaonline.org/public_html/?cmd=displaysection&section_id=1042.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[139] “Introduction to Sant Kabir”, extracted from “Devotion Alone Matters to God”, The Hindu, December 29, 1997, http://sanskritdocuments.org/hindi/bhajan/kabir.htm.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[140] Prashad Ibid

[141] Prashad Ibid

[142] Prashad Ibid

[143] See the entry of Diwali in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali.   Accessed January 1, 2014

[144] Paul R. Brass, “The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946–47: means, methods, and

Purposes”, Journal of Genocide Research (2003), 5(1), 71–101, http://faculty.washington.edu/brass/Partition.pdf,accessed January 1, 2014

[145] Lionel Baixas, “Thematic Chronology of Mass Violence in Pakistan, 1947-2007”, June 24, 2008, http://www.massviolence.org/Thematic-Chronology-of-Mass-Violence-in-Pakistan-1947-2007. Accessed January 1, 2014

[146] Vivek Gumaste, “The Hindu genocide that Hindus and the world forgot”, http://www.indiatribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2105&Itemid=524. Accessed January 1, 2014

[147] K.P.S Gill, “The Kashmiri Pandits: An Ethnic Cleansing the World Forgot”, http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/kpsgill/2003/chapter9.htm. Accessed January 1, 2014

[148] Gill, Ibid

[149] Gill, Ibid

[150] Prashad, Ibid

[151] “Sketches of South Asian History”, http://www.proxsa.org/history/index.html.   Accessed January 1, 2014

[152] Ibid

[153] “Six Provocations”, from the website of the book Breaking India. Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines.  2011, New Delhi, India: Amaryllis. Available at http://www.breakingindia.com/six-provocations. Accessed January 1, 2014

[154] “The Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526)”, http://www.facts-about-india.com/the-delhi-sultanate.php. Accessed January 1, 2014

[155] Vijay Prashad, “Caste, Nationalism and Communism in Malabar (1900-1948)”, http://www.proxsa.org/history/malabar.html. Accessed January 1, 2014

[156] Prashad, Ibid

[157] Prashad, Ibid

[158] Pradeep Krishnan, “The day of Communism/Marxism in India are over”, in an interview with Sri KP Joseph, Haindava Keralam, June 8, 2011, http://haindavakeralam.com/HKPage.aspx?PageID=13997&SKIN=B. Accessed January 1, 2014

[159] Vijay Prashad, “The Complexities of Shivaji”, http://www.proxsa.org/history/shivaji.html.  Accessed January 1, 2014

[160] Prashad, Ibid

[161] Prashad, Ibid

[162] Prashad, Ibid

[163] See the entry on “Maratha Empire” on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maratha_Empire. Accessed January 1, 2014

[164] See the entry on the “Early Life of Shivaji” on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_life_of_Shivaji, accessed June 30, 2011

[165] See the entry on “Aurangzeb” on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurangzeb#Rebellions. Accessed January 2, 2014

[166] Ibid

[167] Ibid

[168] See the entry on Battles involving the Maratha Empire on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_involving_the_Maratha_Empire.  Accessed January 2, 2014

[169] Randolph, G.S. Cooper (2003). The Anglo-Maratha Campaigns and the Contest for India: The Struggle for Control of the South Asian Military Economy. (pp. 29-31). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, accessed online at http://books.google.com/books?id=qweZWra_tbwC&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=shivaji+navy&source=bl&ots=FJgJ7PRr3a&sig=HU7sefgGEyClVofCEGLvXf-wYGE&hl=en&ei=quUETp_ONdCRgQeXqpjDDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=shivaji%20navy&f=false.  Accessed January 2, 2014

[170] Adrian Hamilton, “Shivaji: At home with a Hindu hero”, December 15, 2010, The Independent online edition, http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/asia/shivaji-at-home-with-a-hindu-hero-2160480.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[171] Malhotra and Neelakandan 225

[172] http://www.dalitnetwork.org/go?/dfn/about/C25/. Accessed January 2, 2014

[173] Malhotra and Neelakandan 222

[174] See the entry on Kancha Ilaiah at Wikiquote, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Kancha_Ilaiah. Accessed January 2, 2014

[175] Nisha Venugopal, “Kancha Ilaiah: ‘God as political philosopher’”, in discussing the book “God as Political Philosopher: Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism” (Ilaiah, 2000), http://samyukta.info/site/book/export/html/216.  Accessed January 2, 2014

[176] See the section titled “The Brahmin Lineage: Gautama Gotra” in the entry on Shakya in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya. Accessed January 2 2014

[177] See the section titled “The accounts of Buddhist texts” in the entry on Shakya in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya. Accessed January 2 2014

[178] See the section titled “Conception and birth” in the entry on Gautama Buddha in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha.  Accessed January 2 2014

[179] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 225

[180] Ibid

[181]“Interview with Dr. Kancha Ilaiah – Leading Dalit Rights Campaigner in India”, November 12, 2005, http://www.christiantoday.com/article/interview.with.dr.kancha.ilaiah.leading.dalit.rights.campaigner.in.india/4495-2.htm. Accessed January 2, 2014

[182] See the entry on Swastika in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika.  Accessed January 2 2014

[183] The Museum, in response to questions “Why is there a Swastika on the saddle in the First Nations Gallery?” provides a brief explanation of the existence of the symbol in many ancient Native American cultures. http://archive-ca.com/page/401350/2012-10-09/http://www.royalsaskmuseum.ca/research/faqs/ex_8.shtml. Accessed January 2, 2014

[184] M.V.R. Shastry, ‘A Critical Review of Kancha Ilaiah’s Why I am Not a Hindu’”, http://voiceofdharma.org/indology/Ilaiah.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[185] Shastry, Ibid

[186] Shastry, Ibid

[187] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 226-227

[188] Ibid

[189] Ibid

[190] Malhotra and Neelkandan, 228

[191] Ibid

[192] Vamsicharan Vakulabharanam et al, “The State of Dalit Mobilization: An Interview with Kancha Ilaiah, Ghadar: A Publication of the Forum of Inqualabi Leftists Vol. 1, No.2, November 26, 1997 http://www.proxsa.org/resources/ghadar/v1n2/ilaiah.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[193] Vakulabaranam et al, Ibid

[194] Vakulabaranam et al, Ibid

[195] Vakulabaranam et al, Ibid

[196] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid

[197] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid

[198] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid

[199] http://stopfundinghate.org/resources.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[200] See description of Content at http://www.vedamsbooks.com/no61310/against-stigma-studies-caste-race-justice-since-durban-edited-by-balmurli-natrajan-paul-greenough. Accessed January 2, 2014

[201] “Smashing the Myth of the Model Minority”, http://asiasociety.org/policy-politics/social-issues/human-rights/smashing-myth-model-minority?page=0%2C1. Accessed January 2, 2014

[202] John Blake, “South Asian Atlantans Feel Burden of Model Minority Myth”, February 3, 2002, http://www.modelminority.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=222:south-asian-atlantans-feel-burden-of-model-minority-myth-&catid=41:identity&Itemid=56, accessed January 2, 2014

[203] Blake, ibid

[204] Blake, ibid

[205] Blake, ibid

[206] Blake, ibid

[207] Blake, ibid

[208] See the achievements of various Indian Americans under the section “Immigration and progression timeline” in the entry on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_American. Accessed January 2, 2014

[209] Ibid

[210] Ibid

[211] Ibid

[212] Ibid

[213] Ibid

[214] Ibid

[215] Ibid

[216] Ibid

[217] Ibid

[218] Ibid

[219] Ibid

[220] Ibid

[221] Ibid

[222] Ibid

[223] See the list of various Indian Americans at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_Americans. Accessed January 2, 2014

[224] See the entry on Karsh Kale in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karsh_Kale. Accessed January 2, 2014

[225] See the entry on Kal Penn in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kal_Penn. Accessed January 2, 2014

[226] Ibid

[227] Ibid

[228] See the entry on Jhumpa Lahiri in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhumpa_Lahiri. Accessed January 2, 2014

[229] Jason Richwine, “Indian Americans: The New Model Minority”, February 24, 2009, Forbes.com, http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/24/bobby-jindal-indian-americans-opinions-contributors_immigrants_minority.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[230] Richwine, ibid

[231] Blake, ibid

[232] Biju Mathew and Vijay Prashad, “The Saffron Dollar”, http://www.proxsa.org/politics/hindutva/nridollar.html.  Accessed January 2, 2014

[233] Mathew and Prashad, ibid

[234] Vijay Prashad, “Countering Yankee Hindutva”, Frontline Magazine, Vol. 19, Issue 25, December 7-20, 2002, http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl1925/stories/20021220005302800.htm.Accessed January 2, 2014

[235] Prashad, ibid

[236] Prashad, ibid

[237] Prashad, ibid

[238] Prashad, ibid

[239] Amitava Kumar, Biju Mathew et al, “50 Years?”, Ghadar, a publication of the forum of Indian leftists, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 26, 1997, http://www.proxsa.org/resources/ghadar/v1n2/edit.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[240] Kumar, Mathew et al, ibid

[241] Kumar, Mathew et al, ibid

[242] Kumar, Mathew et al, ibid

[243] Kumar, Mathew et al, ibid

[244] See the entry on the Muslim Personal Law Board in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_India_Muslim_Personal_Law_Board. Accessed January 2, 2014

[245] Ali Eteraz, “Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus”, April 11, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/11/protectingpakistanshindus. Accessed January 2, 2014

[246] See the section titled “Persecution” in the entry in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Pakistan. Accessed January 2, 2014

[247] Qaswar Abbas, “Soft Target in Pakistan: Abduction, oppression and forced conversion is fate of Hindus in Pak”, May 30, 2011, Indian Today. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/hindus-in-pakistan-victims-of-abduction-forced-conversions-and-oppresion/1/138751.html. Accessed January 2, 2014

[248] Abbas, ibid