2003 IAMC Convention

In 2003, IAMC organized its first ever convention in Washington, D.C.  In the convention announcement, IAMC noted that “an impressive array of speakers from vastly diverse backgrounds will assemble to hold groundbreaking discussions on issues related to human rights, sectarian violence, militant nationalism and social amity in India.”[1]  Besides the lack of any speaker to express counter opinions, the dubious diversity of the speakers can be seen through the roster of speakers who attended. According to the convention announcement, the prominent speakers included, among others: Fr. Cedric Prakash, Praful Bidwai, Dr. Lise McKean, Dr. KP Singh, Dr. Angana Chatterji, Smita Narula, P. D. John, Dr. Hari Sharma, and Raju Rajagopal.[2]

The report has already discussed Cedric Prakash and Angana Chatterji.  And, Dr. Hari Sharma is the President of the International South Asia Forum (INSAF), while Raju Rajagopal is the President of Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), according to the convention announcement[3].  Both INSAF and CAC are FOIL’s affiliates and have been discussed at various points within the report.

Praful Bidwai

Praful Bidwai is a left-wing political activist in India and “founder-member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace”[4]  He is also a FOIL affiliates and has written several articles on FOIL’s website[5] and whose articles are recommended by SACW and other FOIL sister organizations.  Bidwai, in strongly criticizing the US preparation to go to war with the Taliban government and the Al Qaeda, issued a note condemning such “unilateral action”[6] and that India should not be a party to such unilateral US action, while deploring the Vajpayee government’s willingness to compromise India’s sovereignty.[7]  Bidwai also blindly endorsed the highly biased report compiled by Campaign to Stop Funding Hate on the Indian American charity IDRF, claiming that the charity diverted money to “finance violent activities in Gujarat state, which in early 2002 witnessed a pogrom of Muslims.”[8]  Bidwai, in line with the whole nexus, is highly selective in his analysis about the 2002 riots as well as about the CSFH report itself.

Lise McKean

Malhotra and Neelakandan document Lise McKean’s hatred towards Hindus and India in their new book Breaking India.  “Whenever there is unrest in India, she shows up as a commentator to educate American audiences about what is wrong with Indian culture.”[9]  In her book, Divine Enterprise: Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Movement, “she associates everything even remotely connected with Hindu spirituality (such as a cement advertisement featuring a yogi) to the ominous image of Hindu nationalism.”[10]  McKean doesn’t even spare the well-respected Divine Life Society in Rishikesh, India.  According to her, “The respectability of the Divine Life Society, no less than sensationalization (sic) of guru scandals and human sacrifice, however, tends to obfuscate the problem this book addresses: the relation of gurus, religious organizations, and rituals to circuits of power and domination in India.”[11] “She sees even Mahatma Gandhi as belonging to the ‘lineage of Hindu nationalists’.’’[12]  She resonates with the Christian Right’s demand that US foreign policy should be based on protecting the specific interests of non-Hindus in India.[13]

KP Singh

KP Singh is a Dalit activist in India who works with Christian Right Wing and Missionary Organizations to malign Hinduism and India.    He is also associated with PIFRAS (Policy Institute for Religion and State) of Washington, DC.[14]  PIFRAS is known for its Right Wing Christian leanings and has organized several conference aimed at highlighting ‘human rights issues’ in India with a strong bias towards Christian evangelical efforts in India. In 2002, at a symposium on South Asia organized by PIFRAS, Singh made a highly unsubstantiated claim that “since India’s independence, about three million Dalit women have been raped and one million Dalits have been killed.”[15] “In 2004, on the eve of India’s General Elections, PIFRAS, along with the Center for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism (University of Leicester, England) organized a panel discussion on ‘India’s National Elections and US Foreign Policy Interests’, where Marxist historian Ram Puniyani was the invited speaker along with Mr. John Prabhudoss, executive director of PIFRAS.  The main position presented was that India’s forty million Christians are threatened by ‘Hindu state governments’ that have passed laws to hold evangelism accountable for coercion.”[16]

In 2008, Singh was one of the main organizers of the International Convention of Dalits and Minorities in New York “to discuss problems faced by Indian minorities and Dalits and find amicable solutions”,[17] yet another example of collusion between various players in the highly popular anti-India/anti-Hindu workspace.  The conference also featured Teesta Setalvad as one of the main speakers who spoke on “communal combat in the villages and human rights”.[18]  Ezra Sargunam, the head of the Evangelical Church of India, was also a key speaker at the conference[19].  Sargunam is an aggressive evangelical in India and is the “visionary behind the movement to evangelize and plant churches among all of the people groups of India”.[20]  To see the remarkable progress of Sargunam, as of 2010, “[the ECI has] planted over 3,000 churches across the Indian subcontinent.  They have consistently done this at the rate of 3 churches a week—with a goal of one church a day!”[21]  Citing Sargunam’s idea that Christian forms culturally appropriate in the Hindu context must be allowed to take root, the Greater Atlanta Christian School, in its study of Hinduism, quotes Sargunam as saying: “Christ must increase, Christianity must decrease…A Christianity which is closely identified with the West must be eventually shipped back to where it came from.”[22]  In 2003, Sargunam, after returning from a conversion event in Patna, India, had the following to say:

I just returned from Patna, India, and am sending this praise note from Calcutta, en route Chennai. “But the spectacular baptismal event that has dwarfed the others took place in Patna, where we had in all two batches of 135 converts baptized in the river Ganges – in the very ‘Holy river’, where millions of the idol and demon worshipping pagans go every once in awhile to have a holy dip.[emphasis added][23]

P.D. John (John Prabhudoss)

P.D. John is actually John Prabhudoss, the Executive Director of PIFRAS.  In the 2002 PIFRAS symposium on South Asia, Prabhudoss, in his opening remarks, compares the conflicts in India to those of the Middle East, Sierra Leone, Central Africa, Kosovo, Chechnya and East Timor,[24]thus equating India with some of the most cruel and violent regions in the world.  In the same remarks, Prabhudoss provides a quick overview of India and its culture in a classic ‘white man’s burden’ style in which India, before the British, was a wild and uncivilized society “[whose] population was overwhelmingly poor and illiterate and [whose] cultural antecedents did not appear propitious either.”[25]  “It was (and remains) one of the most deeply hierarchical societies in the world, which, according to some, had little conception of the egalitarianism and individualism thought to be necessary for a functioning liberal democracy.”[26]  This leads the audience to think that the British provided the only efficient system of governance across all of India.  The legendary local systems of governance as well as those of large monarchies are completely discounted.  Prabhudoss also dismisses fact that India was one of the richest countries in the world with a vast spiritual and religious tradition before the arrival of the British.  Indian society was a beacon of interreligious harmony eons before the arrival of the white man from Europe.

Similarly, Prabhudoss subscribes to the Aryan/Dravidian divisions and states that “[the] geographic regions of India are linguistically and culturally distinct. There are more than a dozen major languages, grouped into those of Dravidian South India and Indo-European (or Aryan) North India.”[27]  This is again an attempt to show that Indian society is a hodgepodge of identities with no common threads binding the ‘mind-numbing’ diversity of the populace.  His stance sounds very similar to those taken by euro-centric philosophers, academics and statesmen in nineteenth century Europe.

Prabhudoss’ speech is also centered on the agenda to look at all conflicts from a religious lens and to especially highlight the ‘Hindu violence’ in India.  His speech is peppered with such points.  As if to show something negative about Hindus, he states that “India is essentially a secular state in spite of an overwhelming [emphasis added] Hindu population.”[28]  Thus, that overwhelming Hindu population is naturally an oppressor of minorities.  He then goes on to highlight the ‘atrocities’ against Christians in India and how the then BJP government was on a “full scale assault on the religious minorities in India until the Indian American Christian organizations in the US got together and made a lot of noise about it.”[29]  Similarly, “Christian church institutions and the Christian population are paying the price for [the silence and inaction of the United States] even today. Many states are passing laws with the help of the Hindu radical parties, which effectively ban all conversions from Hinduism to Christianity.”[30]  Thus, Prabhudoss advocates US intervention in India’s internal matters, especially those related to evangelical Christian work.  Prabhudoss is effectively lobbying to ensure a free reign for evangelicals in their aggressive and devious efforts to convert Hindus to Christianity.  He even blames the “pro-Hindu lobby in Washington”[31] for aiding and abetting ‘Hindu radicals’ in India and twisting US foreign policy against India.  By the same token, how would Prabhudoss feel if someone states that the United States is an overwhelmingly Christian country; and, since there have been incidents of violence against minorities by White Supremacists as well as lack of ‘reservation’ for religious minorities, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and India should intervene in its internal matters to ensure the rights of minorities?  Or, how would the United States government feel about a symposium organized by Prabhudoss on such a theme?

His opening remarks are then followed with speeches by others like Rep. Joe Pitts, who has strong right-wing evangelical connections.[32]  The same symposium featured speakers such as John Dayal, KP Singh, Lise Mckean, Bishop Percy Fernandez, the General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference in India and many others known for their strong Christian evangelical connections as well as those with prejudiced views of the India and Hinduism.[33]  The symposium also featured an exhibit by Shabnam Hashmi[34].

In 2003, PIFRAS, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) and NRI-SAHI, a FOIL sister organization, invited peace activist Nirmala Deshpande to talk about interreligious harmony.  Not surprisingly, this session was also geared towards showing Hindus as oppressors of minorities.  It is disturbing that Ms. Deshpande believed the FOIL propaganda that US based NRIs are funding hatred in India.  “On being asked about the reported flow of funds from sections of the Indian Diaspora community in the US to groups in India fomenting religious hatred, she said, ‘in her visit to various cities in the US she was speaking to the Indian community on such problems’.”[35]  One wonders if she actually read the half-baked FOIL report on IDRF or whether she was going by the words of FOIL, PIFRAS and others.  One would expect someone like Ms. Deshpande to have done her own research to hear both sides of the story before labeling such charitable works as ‘problems’.

Interestingly, Prabhudoss is a Member at Large of FIACONA[36] and John Dayal of the All India Christian Council who was discussed earlier, is on the Advisory Board of FIACONA[37].  FIACONA subscribes to the myth of St. Thomas’ arrival and martyrdom in India.  According to its website, under the section of the history of Christianity in India, FIACONA states that “[the dawn of Christianity to South Asia dates back to the arrival of Saint Thomas to Kodungallur in Kerala in 52 AD and establishment of the Seven Churches. He returned to Mylapore, Chennai in 72 AD where he attained martyrdom.”[38]   This is a deliberate attempt to establish the antiquity of Christianity in India contrary to known facts.

Smita Narula

Smita Narula is a professor of Law and a Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the school of Law at New York University.[39] She has written extensively on the ‘atrocities against Christians and Dalits’ in India and takes a pejorative view on Hinduism.  She considers caste as a “defining feature of Hinduism”[40] in her book Broken People: Caste Violence against India’s ‘Untouchables’ (Human Rights Watch, 1999).  Her writings and testimonials serve as ammunition for many Christian organizations that disguise themselves as fighters of Dalit human rights.  For example, the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and Narula’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) have issued several reports and statements together to highlight the atrocities on Dalits in India, Nepal and other South Asian countries.[41]  “IDSN believes that equating caste with race will open the floodgates to international interventions in India’s internal affairs that would help Christian conversions, and it makes the false claim that Indian Christianity does not suffer from caste biases.”[42]  “In 2007, pressured by the sustained anti-India campaigning, the UN selected India as the first [emphasis author’s] country to be reviewed for human rights violations.”[43]  IDSN worked with the CHRGJ and National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights and others organizations like the Lutheran World Federation to submit its own report on India.[44]

Narula is also affiliated with the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS), along with David Haslam of the Dalit Solidarity Network of UK.[45]  Martin Macwan, of Dalit Shakti Kendra, discussed in Section 2.08 is the Founding Director, Chairman and Permanent Trustee of IIDS.[46]  Macwan is also the National Convenor for the National Council of Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR),[47] also discussed in Section 2.08.   In 2001, Macwan wrote a lengthy letter to the UN’s Third Participatory Committee to World Conference Against Racism and argued for equating caste discrimination to racism and thus call out India’s record against racial prejudice.[48]

“She also participated in the DFN [Dalit Freedom Network, discussed in Section 2.08] briefing before the US Congress, under a resolution introduced by right-wing Trent Franks (who is on the DFN board), asking the US government to pressure India on caste discrimination.”[49]

[1] “IMC-USA to hold first ever convention of its kind on India-related issues”, http://iamc.com/press-release/imc-usa_to_hold_first_ever_convention_of_its_kind_on_india-related_issues/, June 23, 2003, accessed July 25, 2011

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.[1]

[5] See, for example “Organized Labour (sic)” http://www.proxsa.org/economy/labor/orglabr.html and “Sept 11, 2011 CNDP Statement” http://www.proxsa.org/resources/9-11/CNDP-0109-statement.htm, accessed July 25, 2011

[6] See Praful Bidwai, “Sept 11, 2011 CNDP Statement”, http://www.proxsa.org/resources/9-11/CNDP-0109-statement.htm; and Praful Bidwai, “Flawed bid to woo overseas Indians, http://stopfundinghate.org/resources/news/012103AsiaTimes.htm, January 21, 2003, accessed July 25, 2011.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Praful Bidwai, “Flawed bid to woo overseas Indians”, http://stopfundinghate.org/resources/news/012103AsiaTimes.htm, accessed July 25, 2011

[9] Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan, Breaking India. Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, (India: Manipal Press Ltd, 2011), 258

[10] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 258

[11] According to quotation from McKean’s book, as noted by Malhotra and Neelakandan, 258

[12] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 258

[13] Ibid.

[15] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 237

[16] Ibid.

[17] See announcement in the Yahoo Groups India Unity by Singh,  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/india-unity/message/25406,  accessed July 25, 2011

[18] See the News Announcement of the Convention at http://www.ambedkartimes.com/the_news.htm, accessed July 25, 2011

[19] See main picture featuring Sargunam and others in the article “Historic Dalit-Muslim Convention in New York”, July 17, 2008, accessed July 25, 2011

[21] Ibid.

[22] “Hinduism”, The Greater Atlanta Christian School, http://www.greateratlantachristian.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=4775, page 51

[23] V. V. S. Sarma, “Christian Invasion of India – Case Study of Andhra Pradesh”, www.indrajaveda.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/indcrusade.doc, accessed July 25, 2011

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.[24]

[27] Ibid.[24]

[28] Ibid.[24]

[29] Ibid.[24]

[30] Ibid.[24]

[31] Ibid.[24]

[32] See references to Pitts’ political positions and affiliations at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_R._Pitts.  For example, he is an evangelical Christian who has opposed the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Chester County courthouse and has been the chairman of the Value Action Team, a group of Republicans that coordinate legislation with the Christian Right.  Accessed July 25, 2011

[33] See the Symposium Schedule at http://www.pifras.org/Programs/Past_Programs/Symp2002/symp2002.html, accessed July 25, 2011.

[34] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[41] See a list of publications at IDSN’s website at http://www.idsn.org/news-resources/publications/, accessed July 25, 2011

[42] Malhotra and Neelankandan, 310

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.[42]

[45] See list of Academicians Abroad at http://www.dalitstudies.org.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=75&Itemid=80, accessed July 25, 2011

[47] See signatories of “LETTER FROM NCDHR” at http://wcar.alrc.net/mainfile2.php/Urgent+Appeals/37/?print=yes, accessed July 25, 2011

[48] Ibid.

[49] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 322

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s