Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tehelka Exposes the Brains behind Modi Sarkar and the biases they carry

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The Brains Behind Modi Sarkar

How did a little-known think-tank end up supplying so many bureaucrats to the NDA government? Brijesh Singh reports

What do Ajit Doval, Nripendra Misra and PK Misra have in common? Of course, they are top bureaucrats whom Narendra Modi handpicked to run his team. There is another common factor. They all hail from New Delhi-based think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).
FormerIB director Ajit Doval was steering the ship at VIF as founder-director before he was appointed as Modi’s National Security Adviser. He was advising Modi even before the government was formed. In fact, it was Doval who came up with the idea of inviting South Asian leaders to Modi’s oath-taking ceremony.
After his stint as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman was over, Nripendra Misra became a member of the VIF’s executive council. Now, he is Modi’s principal secretary. There was a legal hitch in his appointment as TRAI law bars former chairmen from holding government positions. But Modi wanted him so bad that he tabled an ordinance to amend the law.
Former Union agriculture secretary PK Misra was associated with the VIF as a Senior Fellow. Now, he is the additional principal secretary to the prime minister.
Other VIF members whom the Modi regime has tapped for inputs include former RAW chief CD Sahay, former urban development secretary Anil Baijal, former ambassador to Russia Prabhat Shukla, former IAF chief SG Inamdar and former BSF chief Prakash Singh.
Former army chief Gen (retd) NC Vij has replaced Doval as VIF director. Sources claim that many other VIF members are likely to be enrolled in the government at significant posts soon. There are reports that former DRDO director general VK Saraswat, who is currently the dean of the Centre for Scientific and Technological Studies at VIF, might replace Chief Scientific Adviser R Chidambaram.
Interestingly, the first book that Modi released after assuming office was Getting India Back on Track. Its editor is none other than Bibek Debroy, who is the dean of VIF’s Centre for Economic Studies.
So, what is the VIF? Who are the people associated with it? When and how did the think-tank become a breeding ground of candidates to fill Modi’s bureaucracy?
VIF is Doval’s brainchild. After his retirement from the IB in 2005, he focussed his energies in creating the think-tank. On 10 December 2009, Mata Amritanandamayi and Justice MN Venkatachaliah inaugurated the foundation.
The VIF is affiliated to the Kanyakumari- based Vivekananda Kendra, which was established by RSS organiser Eknath Ranade in 1970. In 1993, the Narasimha Rao government allotted land to the Vivekanada Kendra in Chanakyapuri. And VIF was founded at the same spot.
The think-tank’s website introduces the organisation in the following words, “The VIF is a New Delhi-based think-tank set up with the collaborative efforts of India’s leading security experts, diplomats, industrialists and philanthropists under the aegis of the Vivekananda Kendra. The VIF’s objective is to become a centre of excellence to kick-start innovative ideas and thoughts that can lead to a stronger, secure and prosperous India playing its destined role in global affairs.”
About its vision and mission, the website adds, “The VIF is an independent, non-partisan institution that promotes quality research and in-depth studies and is a platform for dialogue and conflict resolution. It strives to bring together the best minds in India to ideate on key national and international issues; promote initiatives that further the cause of peace and global harmony; monitor social, economic and political trends that have a bearing on India’s unity and integrity.”
The VIF has many scholars as members of its advisory and executive councils, besides former army chiefs, former ambassadors, foreign secretaries, retired RAW and IB officials, bureaucrats as well as other key officials who have held top posts at the Centre (see box).
The VIF chiefly works in eight different areas: national security and strategic studies, international relations and diplomacy, neighbourhood studies, governance and political studies, economic studies, historical and civilisational studies, technological and scientific studies, and media studies.
The VIF invites scholars and experts from all over the world for conferences and lectures. It presents India’s outlook before the New Delhi-based diplomatic community and takes their inputs to further the country’s political, strategic, economic and cultural interests. It also holds dialogues with policymakers on current affairs. It gives policy advice to government representatives, MPs, members of the judiciary and civil society. It also carries out exchange of ideas with academic institutes and research centres.
“The foundation has done commendable work in the past 5-6 years,” says former RAW chief Anand Verma, who is now a member of the VIF advisory board. “Top-level research has been conducted in various fields. Numerous seminars of national and international significance have been organised. It has held dialogues with various global think-tanks. Senior officials, including government and nongovernmental ones, from all over the world are invited for interactions. Since the think-tank has its own rules, many of its discussions are not made public.”
Modi has had a long association with the VIF. Sources reveal that he constantly took counsel from this institute regarding economic and security issues when he was the Gujarat chief minister. In fact, the VIF core team helped Modi draft the blueprint of his election campaign.
“We were confident that Modi would be elected as prime minister,” says a VIF member. “That’s why we had been working on developing foreign, security and economic policies, etc. During the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, he was provided all the necessary inputs on various issues by the VIF. In fact, the major intellectual inputs for his political campaign in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu was organised by the foundation.”
Sources in the foundation confirm Modi’s affinity towards VIF, which prominent BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders approach for inputs on governance issues.
The links between Modi and the VIF became apparent last year. When Congress leaders attacked Modi in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, Doval jumped to his defence. The then VIF director argued that Ishrat was a member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Congress-led UPA government was politicising the whole matter.
In the run-up to the General Election, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal alleged that under Modi’s watch, industrialists made huge profits in Gujarat, while no actual development had taken place in the state.
Following the accusation, a group named Concerned Citizens sprang to life and came out with a statement that AAP was making unsubstantiated allegations in a bid to help the Congress in the General Election. The members included Doval, author MV Kamath, journalist MJ Akbar, former Jammu & Kashmir governor SK Sinha, former bureaucrat MN Buch and economist Bibek Debroy. It was clearly part of the foundation’s strategy.
The VIF’s major achievement has been the building up of an anti-UPA (read anti- Congress) atmosphere in the past few years. Sources close to the foundation claim that VIF members played a significant role in mobilising the anti-corruption movement across the country in 2011.
“In April 2011, the decision to create an anti-corruption forum under Baba Ramdev was taken here,” reveals a VIF member on the condition of anonymity. “It had been planned for almost a year.In collaboration with KN Govindacharya’s Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan, the foundation organised a two-day seminar on black money and corruption on 1 April 2011. Baba Ramdev, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi attended the programme. At the end of the seminar, an anti-corruption front was formed with Baba Ramdev as patron and Govindacharya as organiser. The members included Ajit Doval, Bhishm Agnihotri (ambassador-at-large to the US when the NDA was in power), Prof R Vaidyanathan from IIM Bangalore, Ved Pratap Vaidik, journalist and Baba Ramdev’s close aide, and (author and financial expert) S Gurumurthy.”
Meanwhile, Govindacharya organised a meeting between Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. VIF members devised a strategy that both of them will push the anti-corruption movement forward. Three days after the seminar, Hazare began a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. By the end of April, Ramdev had also announced an anti-UPA protest on 4 June at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.
Rumour has it that the plan to corner the Congress was allegedly drafted by VIF at the behest of the BJP and the RSS. On one hand, Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev were raking up the corruption issue and protesting against the government. On the other hand, the BJP was adding fuel to fire. This is why senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh kept referring to the anti-corruption movement as an RSS conspiracy. But as the movement reached its peak and the UPA government came up with absurd steps to tackle the situation, nobody paid him any heed.
The VIF’s alleged links with the RSS has come in handy for Modi’s critics. Sangh leaders regularly visit the VIF, while RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP leader LK Advani actively engage with it. Recently, Bhagwat was at the VIF to release former diplomat OP Gupta’s book Defining Hindutva. Since the VIF emerged out of the Vivekananda Kendra, critics believe it would be a mistake to consider the VIF separate from the RSS.
“VIF is an RSS project,” says a critic. “The first thing you notice when you enter the building is a photograph of Eknath Ranade. VIF is filled with right-wing officials. As they were marginalised intellectually, they created their own think-tank. It is a desperate attempt to get acknowledged in the intellectual world. If it is not so, then why does the RSS chief keep visiting the VIF?”
The critic provides some examples of the VIF’s alleged right-wing bias. “When the controversy over Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History erupted, Senior Fellow Makkhan Lal wrote that the incident has provided pseudo-secularists and anti-Hindus an opportunity to play their old trick where, in the name of freedom of speech, they bitterly criticise the Hindus,” he says. “While analysing the Lok Sabha election mandate, joint-director Prabhat Shukla wrote that the results were the outcome of the exploitation of Hindus, which has been going on for decades. Another fellow, Anirban Ganguly, wrote in his research paper titled Man and Environment in India: Past Traditions and Present Challenges about how Hinduism is intrinsically aware of the natural surroundings and that the tradition finds mention in the Vedas and Arthashastra. If it is not right-wing ideology, then what is?”
However, KG Suresh, editor of the foundation’s magazine Patrika, rubbishes such allegations. “I don’t understand why there is so much negative reporting,” he says. “A picture is being projected as if everyone in the foundation is roaming around in khakis. It is wrong to link the foundation with the RSS. We are totally apolitical. Neither the BJP nor the RSS is funding us.
“We are neither pro-BJP nor anti- Congress. When the UPA was in power, we backed the government on the Devyani Khobragade issue. Similarly, we supported the UPA in the land swap deal with Bangladesh, while the Opposition raised a furore. Hence, it is wrong to call us anti- Congress. It is true that the top leadership of the BJP and the RSS take inputs from us on various issues, but even Congress leaders participate in our seminars.”
Verma is also at pains to emphasise that the VIF has no political leanings. “The think-tank is absolutely non-political and secular,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the RSS. The sole objective of the foundation is to find solutions to the various challenges before the country.
“I don’t look at the RSS the same way as the Congress does. What wrong is the RSS doing? It is only trying to restore the esteem of the Hindu community. Those who don’t understand it, abuse the Sangh. It is establishing the ancient sanskritik principles. It’s doing good work.
“When Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech in Chicago in 1893, it caught the world’s attention. But he was criticised for giving rise to a new Hinduism. If even Vivekananda is not considered secular, then who can be considered so?”
Agrees Maroof Raza, a consultant and strategic affairs expert with Times Now, who regularly participates in various programmes organised by the foundation. “Although there are rumours about VIF’s association with the RSS, no right-wing bias has come to light,” he says. “In fact, the foundation is doing excellent work.”
To buttress his point, Verma adds, “Recently, we organised a conference on the Kashmir issue and members from the PDP, Congress and National Conference took part in the discussion. (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief ) Maulana Mahmood Madani also visited the foundation recently. So has the head of Pakistan’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Even the Dalai Lama has attended several programmes here.”
Adds another VIF member, “When the UPA was in power, many PMO officials attended our seminars. In fact, minister Kumari Selja came here to release a book.”
Shedding light on the VIF’s objectives, Verma says, “Among significant issues taken up by the foundation, one is to present the correct cultural, traditional and spiritual aspects of India. We have studied from books that offered a distorted version of our history. Today, we learn history from books prepared by the British and (Thomas) Macaulay. Their objective was to make us feel inferior and destroy our fundamental Indian values. We need to know our actual history and the foundation is working towards it. The history of India is being rewritten in 10-11 volumes, of which half are ready.
“It was necessary to establish VIF. The situation was such that whenever someone talked about Indian culture, Leftist intellectuals would dismiss him or her. They felt he or she was preaching Hinduism. The Leftist historians see RSS conspiracy in anything that involves culture.”
Adds Suresh, “Indian history must be nationalised. The Left has already been marginalised politically. Now, it will be marginalised intellectually. We had been on the margins so far, now it is their turn.”
Another VIF member echoes the sentiment. “Most of the think-tanks are governed by Leftists,” he says. “Ours is a platform for non-Leftists and nationalists who were considered untouchables in the intellectual world.”
On the subject of funding, Verma says, “This institute is funded by people from all over the world. It is not funded by any government organisation. People like you and me fund it.” In 2013, VIF reportedly received donations worth 1.5 crore.
Verma rubbishes allegations that the Sangh Parivar played a part in the appointment of Doval and Misra, saying that their elevation was made purely on merit. “I know the bureaucracy inside out,” says Verma. “I can declare with conviction that they have no match in the entire civil services. Just as they say about Modi, there is nobody like Doval.”
But are they not close to the Sangh Parivar? “Doval is a completely apolitical person,” he replies. “Yes, personally he may have cultural preferences, but in public life, he is very professional.”
As VIF basks in the newfound limelight, foreign dignitaries are making a beeline to the think-tank. Just days after Doval’s elevation, two Chinese delegations came calling. The same day, a 17-member British team, including Royal College of Defence Studies commandant David Bill, visited the place. Later, a delegation from the US Army War College held discussions with VIF’s security experts on nuclear weapons. Experts from the French Atomic Energy Agency and diplomats also paid a visit to discuss various matters, including security issues.
As more and more VIF members join the Narendra Modi sarkar, it is a no-brainer that the think-tank will play a key role in formulating the country’s foreign, economic and security policies.
Translated from Tehelka Hindi by Naushin Rehman
(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 31, Dated 2 August 2014)

India is a Hindu nation, I'm a 'Hindu Christian': Goa Deputy Chief Minister

Panaji: In comments that may trigger a controversy, senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister of Goa Francis D'Souza, Friday, said that India is Hindu nation and he considers himself a 'Christian Hindu'. 

D'Souza made the remark while defending his cabinet colleague Deepak Dhavalikar who said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could make the country a 'Hindu nation'. 

"It was always a Hindu nation and will always be a Hindu nation. You don't have to create a Hindu nation," D'Souza said. 

The Mapusa MLA, who is considered number two-man in the Parrikar cabinet, went on to assert that he considered himself a "Christian Hindu". 
"India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I - I am a Christian Hindu," D'Souza said.  
D'Souza insisted that Dhavalikar had no "clarity in his mind" because India was already a Hindu nation.  
Cooperation minister Pandurang 'Deepak' Dhavalikar courted controversy when he said that India would become a 'Hindu Rashtra' under the leadership of Modi. 
Belonging to the Maharashtrawadi Goamntak Party (MGP), an alliance partner of Bharatiya Janata Party government, Dhavlikar made the statement while speaking on a motion in the Goa assembly congratulating Modi for becoming the PM.

"If we all support it and we stand by Narendra Modi systematically, then I feel a Hindu Rashtra will be established," Dhavalikar said.

His elder brother Ramkrishna Dhavlikar, who is also a minister, had recently courted controversy by opposing pub culture and tourists wearing bikinis in Goa.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Update of the situation in Chhattisgarh

The collector Mr. Ankit Anand called a meeting of various Christian leaders on July 23, 2014 on the recent issue of resolutions being taken by Gram Sabhas in Bastar and Jagdalpur districts outlawing non-Hindu religions from villages in these districts.

While the media reports that more than 50 villages have passed these resolutions, Anand admitted to only three gram panchayats passing these resolutions while speaking to Times of India earlier. The resolutions have been backed by VHP and Mr. Suresh Yadav the local VHP leader has openly acknowledged this.

Mr. Anand reportedly told the Christians that while he cannot challenge the resolutions he is initiating peace committees in which Christians will be included to resolve the issue in an amicable manner. He had earlier told the media, "any resolution by village council banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void." But now Mr. Anand seems to be following the well-designed VHP strategy of creating a conflict and then thriving on it.

Peace committees are needed when there are two or more opposing parties of equal or comparable strengthen and when both have worked towards creation of a conflict. The issue in this case is not this.

Christians and other non-Hindu religions have been banned using an existing provision of legislature which has been misinterpreted and the tribal identity has been reduced to that of a Hindu according to the narrow definition of the Hindutva brigade, ignoring the rich religious and cultural history of Tribals. This has been achieved thanks to the nefarious designs of the VHP supported ably by the BJP and others. Christians mainly are the one non-Hindu group that have suffered exclusion and violence as a result of VHP works intensifying in the area.

It is a classic case of aggression by one party and then making the situation to look like both parties have been aggressive on similar scale. Christians are victims; they do not need peace committees but protection. They are not aggressors quite unlike the VHP that need pacifying via peace committees. Christians are already committed to peace in an area where peace if threatened by the VHP and the official machinery propelled by the BJP.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another village in Chhattisgarh outlaws ‘Non-Hindu’ religions

Despite the outcry by Christian organizations over the misuse of the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act section 129 (G) and despite assurances from the administration that these resolutions that are basically against the spirit of the constitution, will be revoked, the Gram Sabha of Parapur yesterday passed a resolution under the same section to outlaw any non-Hindu presence or worship from the village. Parapur lies in the Lohandiguda block of Bastar District.

What is notable that in all these meetings where these resolutions are passed people from the Vishawa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the BJP are also present who then make the usual allegations of conversions against Christians. So it is not hard to see who is behind these community resolutions.

Suresh Yadav of the VHP has been quoted in the past as well that he and his organization are behind this exercise in order to counter Christian missionaries.

However last Sunday i.e. 13th July 2014 people from the VHP had visited Christians in Parapur and Gadiya village and had threatened the Christian families living in these villages to leave the village i.e. make it Christian free, by 20th July 2014 or face the consequences.

Because this matter was taken up by some Christian organizations with the administration, the Churches in Gadiya and Parapur received police protection on Sunday the 20th July 2014. Suresh Yadav of the VHP called this protection of Churches unnecessary and raised questions on the security forces provided for by the administration.

So far more than 60 Gram Sabhas have taken this decision and the state government has not moved to intervene in the matter in a major way.

Christian organizations like EFI and Chhattisgarh Christian Forum have said that they will approach the court if need be.

What is also worthy of mention is that the VHP itself has taken a huge conversion project and are busy converting the Tribals to Hinduism. The tribals are not Hindus but animists originally worshipping ancestors (bada dev and budha dev) but the huge flow of money along with administrative support to the VHP and Bajrang Dal has resulted in many old tribal worship places being deserted and the coming up of hanuman, ram and durga temples. Tribals are being given money to celebrate Ganesh Utsav and other functions. Historically there is no record of tribals celebrating either these festivals or identifying themselves as Hindus.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Revoke Ban on Non-Hindu Missionaries in Bastar: Delhi Archbishop

Demanding a withdrawal of the reported ban on "entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries" in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district, the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi said it had implications for the "secular ethos of India" and damaged its international reputation.
According to media reports, more than 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section Section 129(G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, banning "all non-Hindu relegious propoganda, prayers and speeches in villages", Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto said in a statement.
"This move is in violation of Constitutional rights and guarantees to citizens of India, such as the freedom of faith and the freedom of movement, expression and association," he said.
"It is a grave assault on the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples' groups," he said, adding that the move has serious implications for democratic functioning in such areas.
"It will also encourage fundamentalist and extremist religious organisations to indulge in hate campaigns against the Christian community," the Archbishop said.
Couto called for an immediate reversal of the ban and the intervention of the state government in the matter.

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Another village bans non-Hindu religious activities, govt sits idle

RAIPUR: Amid controversy over right wing groups motivating gram sabhas or village councils to adopt resolutions banning non-Hindu religious activities in villages in tribal Bastar, Chhattisgarh government seem to be adopting wait and watch policy on how to deal with the situation.
Yet another village, Belar in Lohandiguda block of Bastar district, convened its gram sabha on Sunday and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities. On May 10, gram sabha at village Sirisguda in Tongpal block convened under the provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, adopted a similar resolution banning non-Hindu missionaries. The resolution stated that "To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions."
Bastar's district Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Suresh Yadav claimed that village councils of more than 50 gram panchayats has already adopted such resolutions to ban outsider missionaries from their respective villages.
However, Bastar district collector Ankit Anand told TOI, "To our knowledge, only three gram panchayats have passed such a resolution but it is not being enforced anywhere." "Initially, it was brought to our notice that some outsiders were trying to attend gram sabha meeting. Gram sabha is a body of locals and outsiders cannot attend it," he pointed out, admitting that "any resolution by village council banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void." He maintained that there was no tension in any of the villages.
Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal said it's the latest strategy of right wing groups to use the influential gram sabhas to adopt such controversial resolutions to mislead the locals to believe that banning non-Hindus is well within the law. Pointing out that panchayat bodies cannot override Article 25 of the constitution that guarantees freedom of religion to all, Pannalal said the state government was silent on the issue for the last three months even as right wing groups were trying to influence gram panchayats in other districts to adopt similar resolution.
Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Chhiaranjan Bakshi told TOI that the matter has been brought up with the Adivasi Mahasabha, a body of local tribals in Bastar, which has registered its strong protest against adopting such resolutions. "CPI national leadership has been apprised about the development and we will do something more against such tactics by right wing groups," he said it's an attempt divide the tribals on religious lines and create trouble.

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Christians see iron ore mafia behind ban on non-Hindu missionaries in Bastar villages

Christians in Chhattisgarh have accused iron ore mafia behind the recent ban on non-Hindu missionaries in the five tribal villages of Bastar.

Recently, gram sabhas of the villages passed orders under the Panchayat Act prohibiting non-Hindus from practising religious activities and prayers in their villages. While various Christian bodies have condemned the act, local Christians claimed that it is a systematic ploy by mining barons to clear the area, muffle the dissent and hand it over to the miners.

“The real reason behind the ban is iron ore. This region is rich in iron ore, and some local mafias want to evict people who are aware of the issue and can stall the mining,” Arun Pannalal, president Chhattisgarh Christian Forum told The Indian Express.

Terming the ban as “a blatant misuse of the Panchayat Act that violates fundamental rights of freedom of religion”, Pannalal said they are planning to move the High Court against the gram sabha’s ban.

Christians have also alleged that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) provoked people to pass the order and the state government is protecting them. According to Pannalal, around 52 Christians were attacked by VHP cadres in the recent days. “People are holding mahapanchayats in other parts of the state for the last six months. Several sarpanch have issued circulars against the missionaries,” he said.

Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto also expressed his deep concern over the ban on “non-Hindu missionaries at the behest of some fundamentalist groups”. “This seriously impacts the secular ethos of India and damages its international reputation,” Couto said.

Calling for an immediate reversal of the ban and intervention of the BJP-led government in the matter, Couto said: “In the past, largescale violence against the Christians has been preceded by such hate campaigns.”

Click here for source

Monday, July 07, 2014

In Bastar, 50 villages ban non-Hindu missionaries

An aggressive campaign by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had led to a ban on the entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians, in more than 50 villages of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region in the last six months.

According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, over 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.”

The Sirisguda gram panchayat in the Tokapal block of Bastar passed the order at a special Gram Sabha organised on May 10.

The order, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, says, “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.”

In Sirisguda, the dispute started when Christian families refused donations for an annual Hindu religious festival.

“They refused donations and used derogatory language against Hindu gods so the Gram Sabha banned them,” claimed Sirisguda sarpanch Jamuna Baghel.

PDS rations denied
In the recent past, some Christians were allegedly attacked in the village and have been denied ration on the orders of the village panchayat.

“It’s been over two months now that we have been denied ration in the village and 10 Christians were attacked when they went to collect ration,” claimed Sonuru Mandavi, whose family converted to Christianity in 2002.

“The villagers came to us with their problems. The VHP only told them about the law. Now that the gram panchayats have passed the orders, it is the responsibility of the district administration to implement it otherwise we will protest. We will also approach the CM and the Governor to get the ban imposed,” asserted Mr. Yadav.

The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), however, has alleged that the ban is “illegal and unconstitutional”.

“It is similar to what khap panchayats do. How can you ask us to block our religious activities on the basis of a panchayat Act?” asked Arun Pannalal, CCF president. He said the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion to all.

To a question, Bastar Collector Ankit Anand said, “In Bastar, religious conversion is not such a big issue. We will ensure that distribution of ration to the villagers is not interrupted.”

From the archives:

Making inroads into the tribal belt

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

New report shows how Hindutva groups operate in US, send money to India

A report on Hindu Nationalism in the United States explores the financial links between the Sangh Parivar's various affiliates and the American counterparts that send them money.

Every year, charitable organisations based in the US donate millions of dollars of funding to non-profit groups affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, either in India or overseas. A new report published by the South Asia Citizens Web reveals just how much, and to whom it is going.
The report, titled ‘Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups’, was released via on July 1. It studies the rise within Indo-American Hindu communities, and in US universities, of various non-profit organisations affiliated with Sangh Parivar groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Most of these American organisations are registered as tax-exempt charities. The report analyses official tax records to ascertain what they do with the funds they collect. It finds that these organisations spend several million dollars a year to fund numerous NGOs in India.
The foreign funding of NGOs has been a contentious issue in India for the past month, since a leaked Intelligence Bureau report addressed to various government offices claimed that non-profits such as Greenpeace, Amnesty and Action Aid, which receive funds from abroad, have lowered economic growth in India by 2% to 3%.
The report by South Asia Citizens Web focuses on the ways in which Hindu groups in the US fund Indian NGOs, but such community-based organisations affiliated to different political groups around the world are common in multicultural countries like the US.
The American Israel Public Affairs Council, for instance, is a Jewish group that lobbies for pro-Israel policies in the US, and has local organisations on many campuses. Similarly, there are Christian, Muslim and other advocacy groups.
Here are some of the significant points discussed in the SACW report:
The American counterparts of the RSS and VHP: The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, both tax-exempt organisations, were founded in 1989 and 1970 respectively. Both organisations operate youth and family camps and educational programmes for children to promote Hindu culture and identity.
From 2002 to 2012, the HSS spent $1.4 million towards its youth and family camps. The VHPA has spent more than $1 million on the same in that period.
The HSS holds weekly ‘Balgokulam’ classes for children, which involve yoga, values-education and sessions of praying to a saffron flag. These classes take place in 140 HSS ‘shakhas’ or chapters across the US:

The VHPA, meanwhile, has 19 chapters and calls its children’s classes Bal Vihar programmes.
The India Development and Relief Fund, based in Maryland, USA: According to a 2002 report by Sabrang Communications and South Asia Citizens Web, 50% of IDRF disbursements between 1994 and 2000 went to Sangh Parivar groups in India. From 2002 to 2012, the organisation has disbursed more than $17.3 million to hundreds of recipient organisations in India, most of them Sangh-affiliated development and relief groups such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India, Param Shakti Peeth and Sewa International. A lot of the relief work involves development of adivasi communities.

Other funders: The report also studies the tax records of four other US-based development-related charities that have connections to Sangh leaders: the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, Param Shakti Peeth, Sewa International and the VHPA. It finds that from 2001 to 2012 these five organisations together allocated more than $55 million to projects, most of them in India. The leadership of many of these organisations overlaps.

Besides this, the Hindu Charity Trust of Texas donated $7,000 each to Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation and to ‘RSS village schools’ in 2006, and $14,000 to ‘VHP schools’ in Gujarat in 2007.
The Vivek Welfare and Education Foundation allocated $10,000 to the VHP in 2006 for ‘education, medical aid and relief to the poor in India’.
The Hindu University of America: The educational wing of the VHPA, this tax-exempt university was launched in 1985. It offers courses and degrees in Hinduism, Hindu philosophy, yoga, meditation, Sanskrit and Vedic astrology, among others. The Vivek Welfare Educational Foundation, a Sangh-affiliate, donated $4.2 million to the university from 2002 to 2008.
The Bajrang Dal: Unlike most of the other organisations, there is no tax-exempt counterpart for the Sangh’s militant youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, which has been described as “extremist” by the US State Department’s annual reports on International Religious Freedom because of assaults on religious minorities.

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