South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection (SAMAR)

SAMAR is listed as one of the signatories to the CAG agenda. Though the magazine is registered as a non-profit organization with the State of New York,[1] it is spearheaded by and contains writings and collaborations from many of the same group of people from FOIL and other radical leftist organizations listed in the CAG. Hence, yet, again, CAG’s claim that this is a broad-based and independent organization is a farce.

According to its website, SAMAR was first launched in 1992 in print edition “…to give voice to progressive and radical perspectives on issues affecting the South Asian community such as communal violence and the plight of working class South Asians.”[2] Indeed, the magazine is replete with articles from well known radical leftists such as Vijay Prashad, Biju Mathew, Angana Chatterjee, Balmurli Natrajan and various other members of FOIL. The current editorial team includes Beena Ahmad, Surabhi Kukke, Ahalya Satkunaratnam, Anantha Sudhakar, Virali Modi-Parekh, and Saba Waheed.[3] The information below provides examples of various Editors, Editorial Associates and Contributors of SAMAR that are or were part of FOIL.

 

Section 30.01    SAMAR’s Editors, Contributors and Advisors – The FOIL Connection

To understand SAMAR’s ideological allegiance to the CAG, one need not look hard. Just browse the various issues of the magazine and it becomes obvious that many of its Editors, Editorial Associates and Contributors are from FOIL.

For example, Saba Waheed, one of the current editorial members, was actively associated with the Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS), FOIL’s youth wing, and has been on the editorial board since at least 2003.[4] Similarly, Surabhi Kukke, another editorial member, was also actively involved with the YSS.[5] A sample list of various Editors, Editorial Associates and Contributors is provided in the next section.

The information below highlights some of the writings of prominent FOIL and CAG members in SAMAR to illustrate the magazine’s ideological tilt.

  • In Issue 16 of SAMAR, dated December 16, 2003, Angana Chatterji of FOIL and CSFH, wrote an article, Challenging the Foreign Exchange of Hate,[6] lambasting the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), as a follow-up to and propagation of the FOIL and CSFH report, wrongly accusing IDRF of channeling donations to fund extremist organizations in India. In addition, Chatterji takes readers on a ride by asserting that the “members of [CSFH] are an independent and diverse group [emphasis added] of Indian and Indo-American professionals in the United States who seek to educate Indian-American communities about the potential appropriation of their money by fundamentalist groups who use it to fund hate campaigns against minorities.”[7]
  • In Issue 19 of SAMAR, dated January 24, 2005, Chatterji is featured yet again, spewing venom at Hindu groups while also viewing Hinduism with contempt in her article Becoming in Diaspora. For Chatterji, South Asian immigrant politics is all about Hindu nationalism. She has no room to discuss such radical groups in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and the like, except the quest for an independent Kashmir. She views development work done by organizations like Ekal Vidyalaya with suspicion and wrongly accuses them of indoctrinating tribals into Hinduism,[8] while commending YSS for doing good “anti-oppression work.”[9] Then, in the concluding paragraph, she showers praises on the various radical leftist organizations that have been discussed throughout this report, as well as those in the CAG. Commending FOIL, she declares that it “[creates] openings for vibrant politicization, building and intervening upon family, community, cultural arrangements, education, in ways that support change and confront history.”[10] As seen throughout this report, FOIL’s and YSS’s ways of dealing with such “politicization” and “confronting history” include: vehemently supporting biased views of Hinduism and India; endorsing the Hinduism = Spiritual Fascism equation; calling Ramayana a book of colonizers; and, calling Bhagavad Gita a non-Hindu text with questionable teachings, among many other things.
  • In Issue 28 of SAMAR, dated February 25, 2008, Balmurli Natrajan of FOIL and CSFH, wrote an article, Letter to a Progressive Hindu, essentially pouring his hatred of Hindus and Hinduism in the form of several categorizations/generalizations and accusations. Natrajan accuses the Gujarati-American NRI population of funding some sort of hate agenda of Narendra Modi. He states:

Modi enjoys a messianic hero status among his NRI supporters in the US, particularly with Gujarati-Americans, many of whom actively legitimized and financially supported Modi in the recent elections through web-based campaigns such as www.supportgujarat.org. Here, Modi and the state of Gujarat are constructed not as hate-mongering perpetrators of human rights violations, but rather icons of charisma (Moditva or Modi-ness), neoliberal nationalism (Vibrant Gujarat based on Development or the so-called economic success of Gujarat), and democracy (defined simply as security versus terrorism with no regard for state terrorism or civil liberties) [emphases original].[11]

Hence, Natrajan equates attempts by Gujarati-Americans to support development and progress in Gujarat to some sort of support for hate-mongering perpetrators of human rights violations. It doesn’t matter to Natrajan that the hundreds of thousands of Gujarati-Americans are supporting a person who has brought significant development to their home state. It doesn’t matter to Natrajan that Mr. Modi was democratically elected multiple times by the people of Gujarat. Natrajan has only one agenda – lynch Mr. Modi for the Gujarat riots.

In the same essay, Natrajan accuses the youth organization, Hindu Students Council, of following some sort of extremist Hindu agenda. Natrajan also blasts Hindu groups and community members who protested the bizarre psychoanalytical interpretations of Hindu deities and saints by the Wendy Donigers, Paul Courtrights and Jeffrey Kripals of the world. Similarly, Natrajan feels that the chanting of the Rigveda in the US Senate some years ago “…legitimized caste-based thinking contained in the Rig Veda.”[12]

Further in the essay, Natrajan demonizes Lord Krishna and Hindu deities by misinterpreting the word sankarasya from the Bhagavad Gita as well as the stories of Puranas and Hindu deities. He then essentially encourages the so-called “progressive Hindus” to reject the entire Bhagavad Gita based on one verse taken out of context to fit his agenda.

Then, he makes a rather shocking claim:

Coming back to Samskara [a novel he discusses in the article earlier], 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[emphasis added].[13]

Not surprisingly, SAMAR’s articles lack any such criticism of Christianity or Islam in South Asia. In the 20 plus years of existence of SAMAR, Natrajan and other contributors/editors have not said anything about verses in the Quran that are often used by Islamists and terrorists to wage wars against infidels. Neither have they said anything about verses used by Christian evangelicals to convert Hindus and other non-Abrahamic followers in India and around the world.

In contrast to such poor representations of Hinduism and Hindus, consider the portrayal of Islam in SAMAR’s articles.

  • In Issue 40 of SAMAR, dated May 31, 2013, Hamzah Saif wrote a book review of FOIL member Saadia Toor’s The State of Islam: Culture And Cold War Politics In Pakistan (2011, Pluto Press). Saif is very cautious about blaming any of the problems of Pakistan or the situation of minorities there on Islam. Instead, Saif calls Toor’s book “…a forceful corrective to the dialogue on Pakistan even before one flips the cover…”[14] Saif defends Islam in Toor’s book and states that the problem is not Islam but rather “….successive governments’ opportunistic and myopic employment of Islam, often in contradictory ways, to enervate challenges to the ruling elite.”[15] The paragraph states as follows:

Far from a country bound to a trajectory of increasing religiosity…Toor presents a history of Islam and Pakistan characterized by ‘contingency, contradictions, breaks and spikes’(3). Neither inherently locked into retrograde Islamism, nor awaiting salvation through modernity, Pakistan’s rightward drift is a story of successive governments’ opportunistic and myopic employment of Islam, often in contradictory ways, [emphasis added] to enervate challenges to the ruling elite.[16]

One yearns to find such spirited defense for Hinduism in SAMAR or in any of the writings of FOIL and its affiliates. Would they say that the social problems of India (e.g. the Caste System) are really “opportunistic and myopic employment of Hinduism?” Instead, they harp on the Caste System and the notion of patriarchy as if those sum up all of Hinduism and that the issues are a result of Hinduism. And, government policies such as the development of the atomic bomb are mapped on to references in the Bhagavad Gita, as seen by M.V. Ramana’s article The Bomb of the Blue God, discussed in Chapter 14, Section 14.01 (cover of the article reproduced below)

MV Ramana Article Cover - Bomb of the Blue God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similarly, SAMAR’s entire collection of articles on the topic of “Communalism” centers on Hindus, Gujarat riots and communal problems that are caused by Hindus only. No discussions of involvement of Muslims in any riots in India, Bangladesh or in Pakistan. No mention of the communal atmosphere created by evangelical Christians in tribal areas or in rural India. No sympathy or spirited appeals for Kashmiri Pandits or the Hindu victims of the numerous riots in India and elsewhere in South Asia.

Section 30.02    FOIL Members as Editors or Contributors of SAMAR

 

As can be seen from the table below, many FOIL members have been involved with SAMAR and have shaped its evolution from Day One. In essence, SAMAR has been another medium for FOIL to share its radical leftist thought leadership through the print and online media and to blame everything that goes wrong on the so-called “Hindu extremism” and “Indian state.atrocities”.

 

[1]See SAMAR, Inc. information on the New York State Division of Corporations at http://appext20.dos.ny.gov/corp_public/CORPSEARCH.ENTITY_INFORMATION?p_nameid=2038547&p_corpid=1979125&p_entity_name=samar&p_name_type=%25&p_search_type=BEGINS&p_srch_results_page=2. Accessed January 23, 2014

[2] http://www.samarmagazine.org/about. Accessed January 21, 2014

[3] Ibid

[4] See the list of YSS Organizers at the following link of YSS’ old website: https://web.archive.org/web/20030822095025/http://www.proxsa.org/yss/yss2003/collective.htm. Accessed January 22, 2014

[5] See the YSS 1999 event information at: http://www.proxsa.org/yss/yss99/brochure.html. Accessed January 22, 2014

[6] Angana Chatterji, “Challenging the Foreign Exchange of Hate”, December 16, 2003, Issue 16, SAMAR, http://www.samarmagazine.org/archive/articles/136. Accessed January 22, 2014

[7] Chatterji, ibid

[8] Angana Chatterji, “Becoming in Diaspora”, January 24, 2005, Issue 19, SAMAR, http://samarmagazine.org/archive/articles/194. Accessed January 22, 2014

[9] Chatterji, ibid

[10] Chatterji, ibid

[11] Balmurli Natrajan, “Letter to a Progressive Hindu”, February 25, 2008, Issue 28, SAMAR, http://samarmagazine.org/archive/articles/255. Accessed January 22, 2014

[12] Natrajan, ibid

[13] Natrajan, ibid

[14] Hamzah Saif, “Book Review: The State of Islam: Culture And Cold War Politics In Pakistan by Saadia Toor”, May 31, 2013, Issue 40, SAMAR, http://samarmagazine.org/archive/articles/434. Accessed January 22, 2014

[15] Saif, ibid

[16] Saif, ibid