Monday, November 17, 2008

"Spindian Express"

Vijay Prashad's article in Counterpunch last week about Sonal Shah's participation in Hindu right-wing activity in the United States (she was national co-ordinator of the dreaded Vishwa Hindu Parishad's America wing in 2001), created a furore. The noise generated after the publication of article at Counterpunch and here, was directly proportional to the hype surrounding Shah's nomination into Barack Obama's advisory transition team - a phenomenon that generally sees chest-thumping at any expatriate Indian's coming to prominence in the United States.

Prashad's article drew a few responses among India's own self-styled "liberal" community. Political Scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta along with CII mentor Tarun Das and others came up with a response that went in essence, thus - Sonal Shah has impeccable credentials, she has never espoused Hindu right wing views, and those who are raising questions about her past "associations" are basically committing an act of witch-hunting.

Nowhere in the statement is it mentioned that Shah was the national co-ordinator and an active member of the VHP-A in 2001. Shah, herself in this statement, asserted that she had nothing in common with the VHP or the RSS, but she did not repudiate the fact that she had worked for the VHP-A (for earthquake relief, for which she expressed her pride). She also called the allegations of her associations with the VHP-A, false and baseless in her statement.

Vijay Prashad in turn came up with a further riposte that elucidated clearly that the allegations against Ms Shah were not on the basis of "mere association" but on the sound basis of "guilt by participation".

So much for the context. Interestingly, the decidedly right-wing paper in the country today (someone would ask me which paper is not, in India today), the Indian Express editorialised on the issue thus.

The funny statement in the editorial is this:

Her participation in collecting Gujarat earthquake relief and an organisation’s invitation to her to speak at its event have been transformed into apparently inarguable evidence of her identification with illiberal politics. This is shocking.
To the dudes at Indian Express, the "an organisation" for which Ms Shah collected relief and acted as co-ordinator was the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America, which co-ordinates activities for its parent organisation in India today for fund-raising -- money which is used to build the hate network that today operates with non-chalant disgrace and monstrosity in Orissa (Kandhamal), Karnataka and elsewhere (Gujarat circa 2002.. do you remember? ). Is this tangential??! And the organisation which invited her to speak was yet another of the RSS' many front organisations - the Ekal Vidyalaya .

Notice the clever use of "an organisation" instead of VHP-A or the Ekal Vidyalaya, by the Spindian Express. Don't you easily fail with a grade of F on accuracy, dudes?

And more:

But in diverse, robust democracies like India and America, judgment calls, especially about potential holders of public office, require a real appreciation of what it means to be a liberal: oppose all witch-hunts.
Oppose all Witch-hunts! That is rich, coming from the Witchhuntian Express! Remember Pratibha Patil's nomination to the post of President? And the daily saga of front page reports claiming her guilt in the failings of the co-operative banks she helped set up in Maharashtra? Here , here , and the best of all, here - Shekhar Gupta makes a case for the application of " due diligence " to vet the process of selection of India's highest constitutional post.

Call it "witch-hunting" or the press' right to explore the past of a public official, depending on where you stand.. there is always going to be questions raised on accountable public officials. If Pratibha Patil (deservedly, in my opinion) can be subjected to this amount of scrutiny for founding co-op banks which later (after 30 years) went bankrupt.. by the newspaper; how can it deny the same due diligence that goes about establishing credentials of a public official in the United States- Ms Shah, who was incontrovertibly, the member of the foreign wing of one of India's most dreaded medieval outfits - the VHP?

Double Standards, anyone? "Illiberalism", no? Well. that comes with the territory of Indian Express, no doubt.


T.Kumar said...

Good one but I thought Ms.Shah herself did not believe in right wing politics?

Priyanka said...

I support the 'guilt by association' point and want it to be extended to anyone supporting Mayawati