Manavi – An Organization for South Asian Women

Manavi was founded in New Jersey in 1985 to address issues faced by South Asian women in the US. It has organized events in and around the tri-state area to raise issues concerning domestic violence and abuse, on behalf of South Asian women. While its mission is admirable, it is deeply unfortunate that Manavi associates itself with the CAG, many of whose members and organizations have clearly disturbing political and extremist agendas. More bafflingly, it is not clear why Manavi chose to involve itself in political issues in India when its mission is to address problems faced by South Asian women in the US. And, why is Manavi solely focusing on such issues in India and no other South Asian country? After all, it deems itself as a South Asian organization.

In 2004, Manavi, along with other South Asian women’s groups, wrote an Open Letter to the Women of Gujarat, denouncing the 2002 Gujarat riots. In line with the other members of the CAG, Manavi labels the riots as “…state-sponsored genocide…”[1] and a “…pre-meditated attack”[2] on the Muslim community. These statements are glaringly similar to those issued by other members of the CAG such as IAMC, FOIL, etc. and are not based on any real investigation or report. Even though it has been proven that the attack on the Godhra train sparked widespread riots and Chief Minister Narendra Modi did not “sponsor” this, Manavi chose to rely on selective data and half-truths fed by other members and supporters of the CAG. While Manavi, in the letter, mentions “[it wishes] to convey to the women of Gujarat that [they] have not forgotten them”,[3] there is no sympathy for, or even a casual mention of the Hindu women who were brutally burnt in the mob attack on the train. Manavi did not issue any statements or sympathetic appeals in 2002 when it was known that many women and children were roasted alive in the burning train.

Similarly, in March 2005, Manavi joined other members of the CAG to protest Narendra Modi’s speech in New York. During the protest, Anu Gurnani of Manavi declared: “We condemn the state-sponsored violence and systematic targeting of women and children [emphasis added] that took place under Modi’s leadership.”[4] Sadly, Manavi is never seen protesting with similar fervor regarding violence and oppression of women in Pakistan, Bangladesh or in instances within the Indian Muslim community. What about the women and children burnt in the train? Or how about the gang rape on December 2, 2012 of a six-year-old Hindu girl, Wijenti Meghwar on a street in the Sindh Province of Pakistan?[5] Rape and violent conversion of Hindu women have become commonplace in Pakistan and members of the minority Hindu community are fleeing Pakistan every day. Similarly, The Indian Express, “citing a report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), claims that nearly 2,000 women from minority sects, including Hinduism, were ‘forcibly converted to Islam through rape, torture and kidnappings’ in 2011 alone.”[6] In the same manner, a blog of Bangladeshi Hindus reports that, on March 19, 2010, Anju Rani Das, a 16-year-old girl, was gang-raped by eight Muslim men after being kidnapped from her brother’s custody.[7] And, according to a 2011 article in Mid-Day, a Bangladeshi court sentenced 11 men for the gang rape of an adolescent Hindu girl in 2001.[8]

Manavi and the other women organizations in the CAG remain silent when it comes to protesting such horrific status of Hindu women in Pakistan and Bangladesh. As an organization claiming to represent all South Asian women, shouldn’t Manavi be equally concerned about the desperate situation of the Hindu women in South Asia?

It is equally important to ask: Do all Manavi members endorse its association with groups and individuals that demonize India and Hinduism as well as hold Hindu deities in contempt? Or, is this a design of some members of Manavi? Does Manavi support the idea that all problems of South Asia are a result of India and Hinduism? Why does Manavi hobnob with groups and individual members of the CAG that have gone on record calling Hinduism “Spiritual Fascism”, calling Hindu deities “incestuous” and “colonizers”, sympathizing with terrorist organizations and supporting an armed violent struggle in India? Does Manavi tacitly endorse such statements and ideologies?

Section 27.01        Manavi and The FOIL Connection

Manavi’s connections to the Forum of Inquilabi Leftists (FOIL) go back to the late 1990s via key coordinators. For example, Miabi Chatterji, a key past coordinator of Manavi, served in a similar capacity at the Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS is discussed here).[9] In 2005, Chatterji represented YSS in a protest against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, along with Anu Gurnani of Manavi.[10]

Similarly, in 2002, Manavi organized a Peace Rally for South Asia (screenshot below) along with FOIL, INSAF, SAMAR Magazine, YSS and other radical leftist groups to call a halt to the military conflict between India and Pakistan and the surge of troops at the India-Pakistan border after the 2001 attack on Indian Parliament by Pakistan-based terror groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.[11] While denouncing the troop surge, Manavi and others did not demand Pakistan to end its support for such terrorist groups. Furthermore, it is important to note that Manavi is getting involved in South Asian geopolitical issues and thus steering away from its intended mission (which is to help battered South Asian women in the US). Again, Manavi doesn’t seem to join any mainstream Hindu or Indian organization in protests related to Kashmiri Pandits, the situation of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh, or the attacks on Indian Parliament, the Akshardham temple, Mumbai and so on.

Note: Relevant CAG Members and FOIL affiliates are highlighted in boxes below (along with Manavi).

Manavi-FOIL-INSAF-SAMAR Connection

 

[1] “Open Letter to the Women of Gujarat”, Manavi Newsletter, Volume XV, Issue 1, Spring 2004, pages 9-10 http://www.manavi.org/documents/manavinewsletter2004.pdf. Accessed January 19, 2014

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] See the following Press release on IAMC’s website: “Indian Muslim Councl-USA (sic) Participates in Pluralism Rally”, March 20, 2005, http://iamc.com/press-release/indian_muslim_councl-usa_participates_in_pluralism_rally/.  Accessed January 19, 2014

[5] Abbas Kassar, “PAKISTAN: The rape of 6 year old girl and the negligence of the police and doctors”, Asian Human Rights Commission, http://www.humanrights.asia/opinions/columns/AHRC-ETC-006-2013. Accessed January 19, 2014

[6] Angela Millar, “Hindu girls still targeted for rape in Pakistan: world remains silent”, January 6, 2013, EuropeNews, http://europenews.dk/en/node/62604. Accessed January 19, 2014

[7] Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari, “Kidnapping of Hindu Girls for Raping or Conversion and Marriage to Muslims”, Hindus of Bangladesh, http://hindubd.blogspot.com/2010/05/kidnapping-of-hindu-girls-for-raping-or.html. Accessed January 19, 2014

[8] “Bangladesh court jails 11 for gang rape of Hindu girl”, May 5, 2011, Mid-Day, http://www.mid-day.com/news/2011/may/050511-Hindu-girl-raped-bangladesh-convicted.htm. Accessed January 19, 2014

[9] See the list of Key YSS Volunteers at https://web.archive.org/web/20030822095025/http://www.proxsa.org/yss/yss2003/collective.htm.

[10] See the March 21, 2005 Press release by Coalition Against Genocide titled “COALITION AGAINST GENOCIDE REAFFIRMS STRUGGLE AGAINST EXTREMIST HINDU GROUPS” at http://www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org/press/msg.pr.21mar2005.pdf. Accessed on January 21, 2014

[11] See the following message #2 posted in the “South Asia Citizens Wire – Dispatch #1 | 22 February 2002” on INSAF’s website: http://insaf.net/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/2002/001286.html. Acessed February 14, 2014