On the Tenth Anniversary of Ayodhya
By Vijay Prashad
Ten years ago, on 6 December 1992, a fascist spectacle enveloped northern India and the Indian Diaspora. In the small town of Ayodhya, a well-organized band of Hindutva activists demolished the 16th Century mosque erected by Mir Baqi. News came soon after about the blood that flowed from the outskirts of Delhi to the center of Bombay. The contempt for law and order on the part of the forces of Hindutva matched the disregard for the Indian Constitution exercised by Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party in the mid-1970s - neither cared for the rules or for peace, only interested in the exercise of their own power.
The Hindutva bands attacked the mosque because they believed that it lay on the site of the birthplace of Ram, the Ramjanambhoomi. When the filmmaker Anand Patwardhan asked some cadre of Hindutva how they knew if this was the very site, they answered that it had to be so. He asked them when Ram had been born or in what century, but they had no answer. Empirical details like that tend to muddy up the certainties, and besides, the excitement of being correct far outweighed the basic protocols of the historical method. Ayodhya propelled the Hindutva forces to the center of Indian politics, and even as they remain a minority force, to control of the state. Influential Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) recognized this trend and decided to swim in the tide of history. A group called "Concerned NRIs" took out full-page advertisements in the Indian American and Indian press, proud of the acts of the fascistic band and enthusiastic that this display would energize India toward that ineffable thing called Progress. If not development in general, at least their advertisements and their general cringing servility might earn them a few contracts, a few investment deals when Hindutva begins the "privatization" or the fire-sale of the public sector's assets.
One of the most startling rumors that circulated at this time was that money from the US traveled to India to conduct these barbaric acts. In 1993, the journalist Praful Bidwai wrote in The Nation, that the core group "raised huge sums of money from its supporters in North America and Britain." In Patwardhan's movie there is a shot of bricks for the construction of the temple: each brick had embossed on it the name of a country outside India from which funds that come. But we had no smoking gun at the time.. Early in 2002, I wrote a piece on ZNET on "Suburban Whites and the Pogroms in Gujarat" that fingered the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) for its fundraising in the US toward hate in India. The piece also ran in the Indian website, Outlook, and received the fulmination of the Hindutva crowd. After over fifty pages of responses, the editor of Outlook condemned the "rather venomous responses" and that the "feedback had degenerated to personal acrimonious exchanges."
A few of the Hindutva activists threatened to call the FBI and the INS, and at least a few of them called my Dean (who, to his credit, worried more about my safety than anything else). One respondent wrote, "Mr. Prashad does not provide any evidence for [IDRF funds for murder and mayhem], and rather slanders respectable individuals, organizations and publications." Now the evidence is incontrovertible. It comes from the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate www.stopfundinghate.org and its report The Foreign Exchange of Hate.
Gujarat, site of the recent barbarities, provides the most grisly examples. IDRF funds the extreme right wing Vanvasi Kalyan Kendras (VKK), putatively set up to educate tribals in the state. The report shows us that some VKK ashrams funded by the IDRF and some of the VKK's main activists are guilty of acts of genocide in both the 1999 anti-Christian violence in the Dangs district and the 2002 anti-Muslim carnage across the state. One man, Swami Ashim Anand, took IDRF funds, consolidated Hindutva's Brown Shirts, the Bajrang Dal, across the state, groomed them for the carnage and then disappeared once his role in the 1999 violence became clear. IDRF continued to support his ashram and others like it.
It turns out, further, that not only did ordinary NRIs get duped into funding this innocuous sounding organization, but that so did several major corporations of the New Economy: Cisco, Sun, Oracle and HP. These firms match employee contributions to US-based non-profits and they are also urged by their employees to contribute additional funds to especially good charities. The large number of Indians in these firms makes it less of a surprise that a charity that works on India is one of the highest earners of New Economy largess.
This is not to say that all the Indians who work at these firms are semi-fascists, but that the organization has been able to convince the workers and the firms that it is the only bona fide group that does good work in the Indian countryside. In 1999, IDRF received $140,000 from Cisco, and entered the top five charities for the company. Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders got only $2500.
I recommend that all of you go to the Campaign's website, sign the petition against such funds and help put pressure on these firms of the New Economy. There's no substitute for a victory, and there seems to be little to give thanks for in these times of planetary cruelty.
Vijay Prashad’s latest book ‘The American Scheme’ is published by Three Essays Press.