Chapter 3: ENGAGING THE HINDU STUDENTS COUNCIL
Here we summarize some of the efforts by CSFH to engage in public discussions and reach out to various HSC chapters and individuals since April 2007. These efforts continue and are meant to encourage the various stakeholders to look at, discuss, and think about the links between National HSC and the Sangh Parivar. The stakeholders here include the HSC chapters, of course, and also those groups and individuals in the U.S. that identify as “Hindu,” or “Indian,” or “South Asian.” Such groups include those with primarily religious or socio-cultural agendas, as well as individuals and groups with broad secular and progressive mandates who are engaged in peace and justice issues and are working against violence. We seek to continue this engagement in the form of a series of questions posed to the HSC about their activities linked to the Sangh Parivar.
As mentioned above, there have been two broad responses from the HSC to the evidence that CSFH has presented. The first is the response of local HSC chapters. Several have contacted us and we have developed an important engagement with some of them. We wish to continue and broaden this engagement and build a dialog with the desi-American student population (more below). The second is the very different response of the National HSC, which has chosen to respond largely in the form of two press statements, neither engaging in any substantive manner with the evidence we presented about the links between HSC and the Sangh Parivar (http://www.hscnet.org/press.php). The second press release was nothing more than an ad-hominem attack on CSFH members, and even prompted the Stanford HSC chapter to ask that National HSC retract the statement and desist from engaging in such politics (http://www.stanford.edu/group/hsc/video.html). In the video recording of the meeting at Stanford where attendees asked for the retraction, the HSC regional coordinator for Northern California can be seen attempting to deny the links between HSC and the Sangh (see the discussion in Chapter 2, supra).
On our part, CSFH continues to welcome engagement with HSC chapters and welcomes serious discussion about the linkages between the HSC and the Sangh Parivar.
3.1. CSFH Engagement (with HSC chapters, desi-youth, media)
- In April 2007, CSFH discussed the HSC–Sangh Parivar links at an open forum during the Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS) in New York City. Of the approximately forty desi-American youth present at the forum, a number of students decided to write letters to the HSC members on their campus seeking an engagement on this issue.
- Since April 2007, CSFH has been in touch with a number of HSC chapters and with university faculty on campuses with HSC chapters in an effort to engage them in a conversation about the National HSC and its links to the Sangh Parivar. The interactions have ranged from email exchanges to extended conversations such as with the Stanford HSC. The broad aim of these engagements is to initiate a public dialog on the problematic presence of an organization such as HSC in the “liberal multicultural” space of American universities. The presence of HSC is problematic because of its links to the Sangh, especially the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, perhaps the ‘leading light’ among the violent hate groups that comprise the Sangh Parivar.
- CSFH has put forth eight questions since April 2007 to further the discussion on the issue of HSC–Sangh linkage. These questions, available on our website, were also sent via e-mail to several HSC chapter officers.
- CSFH has had inquiries about our research from independent citizen groups and media. We have generally responded via e-mail, and on one occasion, engaged in a conversation on a radio show.
The most compelling engagement with the HSC has been with the HSC chapter at Stanford. This exchange culminated in the chapter organizing a public discussion to discuss the evidence presented by CSFH on the links between HSC and the Sangh Parivar. Briefly, our exchanges included:
- A long email exchange which dealt with broad moral, ethical and substantive issues raised by CSFH in the context of Hindus and Hinduism in America, organizations that purport to speak for Hindus in America, the principles of peace and tolerance, and the notion of violence;
- A public discussion that the HSC Stanford chapter hosted on its own initiative in which CSFH’s letter to HSC Stanford was read out. A video recording of the discussion is also available on the HSC Stanford page on Stanford University’s website. 72
- A statement which says: “Recognize that organizations like CSFH can be valuable partners in helping us stay clear of fundamentalism, and thus, their activism is of great benefit and will act as our conscience.”73
3.2. Questions For Continued Discussion
In the spirit of building upon the engagements CSFH has initiated, here are some key questions that remain unanswered by National HSC. These questions should be seen as open invitations for dialogue in multiple forms by the larger public who we believe are stakeholders in interrogating links between organizations purporting to be tolerant and peace-loving, and organizations that have an ideology of hate. This is especially critical when the supposedly tolerant and peace-loving organizations appear to be no more than a façade, a project of the hate group to soften its public image and insert itself into the larger public space.
- What did VHP General Secretary Ashok Singhal mean when he said: “Now the first project we have in mind is strengthening the HSC”?
- How does the National HSC explain its continuing links with the VHP-A – years after it claimed to have become an “independently run organization?”
- Why has the National HSC password protected the alt.hindu archives? Is the obscuring of these discussions which happened in the public domain in the mid 1990s linked to CSFH’s “Truth Out on HSC’s” campaign?
- The domain registration page for the National HSC's website (hscnet.org), along with several other Sangh websites hosted on the Global Hindu Electronic Networks (GHEN/Hindunet), used to list "Hindunet Inc" as the "Admin Organization" and/or "Ajay Shah" as the "Admin Name.” However, since the launch of our "Truth Out on HSCs!" campaign, the "Admin Name" for the National HSC's website has been changed to the rather cryptic "hv", and the “Admin Organization" has been left blank. Furthermore, all references to the HSC have been removed from the Hindunet/GHEN contact page. Notably, the copyright paragraph at the bottom of the contact page has also been cleansed of any reference to the HSC, thereby suggesting that GHEN is indeed unconnected to the HSC. Why has the National HSC just recently changed the Admin information for hscnet.org and also changed the contact page on Hindunet (hindunet.com/contact.htm)? Is it an effort to keep the chapters from seeing the connections between the National HSC and the Sangh Parivar?
- Why did the National HSC build the Sangh Parivar's Global Internet infrastructure and why does it continue to maintain it?
- What justifies inviting an ideologue of hate like Sadhvi Rithambara when the HSC vision statement claims “The entire creation is one big family” and “Let everybody be happy, healthy, and blessed”?
- Were the students from HSC aware that Ram Madhav is a representative of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)? Will the HSC continue to provide venues to promote the politics and personalities of the RSS?
- If HSC has been "independently run since 1993," why did VHP-A seek to trademark HSC’s logo and name in 2003, the very next year after the anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat? This is critical when one notes that the "groups most directly involved ... include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that heads the Gujarat state government. Collectively, they are known as the sangh parivar, or family of Hindu nationalist organizations.”
CSFH is happy that some HSC chapters have addressed the issue with the seriousness it deserves. We urge all HSC members, and the Indian-American community at large, to examine the evidence and the arguments in detail and arrive at their own conclusions. We are, as always, open to any individual or groups who wish to discuss any particular details or conclusions.
We believe that HSC chapters in the US have a special responsibility. The National HSC derives its legitimacy through a claim of an extensive chapter network across the US. Therefore, it is the responsibility of individual HSC chapters to decide whether they wish to be part of such a legitimation for the forces of the extreme Hindu right. We urge all HSC chapters to re-position themselves to be distinct and distant from the Sangh Parivar.
72. See http://www.stanford.edu/group/hsc/video.html