By Special Correspondent
New York : As “champions of militant Hindu supremacism” (Hindutva) are trying to re-invent themselves after former President Donald Trump’s defeat, Human Rights Coalitions on Wednesday warned that Sonal Shah and people of her ilk have become active under garb of champions of Asian Americans in the US.
After Hinduvta champions were exposed by civil society groups, the Coalitions said efforts were made to hide their real identity or to show their disassociation of the Hindtuva groups. It also advised noted Indian-origin TV journalist Fareed Zakaria and others not to be fell into trap of the newly formed The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) which is a new front for Hindutva groups.
In a statement, the Coalitions underlined that ever since several human rights groups, South Asian progressive activists and protestors against the Donald Trump administration in the US and the Narendra Modi regime in India, including the Alliance to Save and Protect America from Infiltration by Religious Extremists (ASPAIRE), Coalition of Americans for Pluralism in India (CAPI) and Coalition to Stop Genocide in India, have stepped up their efforts to expose several prominent and politically ambitious Indians in the US and their links with the far right Hindu extremists groups in India, efforts are on by those exposed to cover up their association with these groups.
The statement pointed out that Hindutva leaders, however, do so without formally denouncing these hate groups and publicly renouncing their affiliations with them. Many youth leaders of Hinduva supremacy fronts (not to be confused with Hinduism) which started spreading their wings in the US, a couple of decades ago have been infiltrating the Democratic and the Republican Parties. They have become more aggressive after Narendra Modi, who is also a product of these extremist groups, became the Prime Minister of India in 2014.
One of those exposed was Sonal Shah, who has now surfaced as the founding President of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), launched on May 3. TAAF describes her as a “foremost global leader on social impact and innovation”. Efforts seem to be on by her to connect with the larger and therefore influential Asian American community, leaving behind the narrower Hindutva identity.
She shot to the limelight in November 2008, when the newly elected President Barack Obama nominated her for the post of energy secretary. She had to however settle as director of the White House office of social innovation and civic participation, a department created by her, after she was called off for her Hindutva links.
Recently, when Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, withdrew her nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) amid bipartisan opposition in the senate, as President Joe Biden was announcing his team, Shah’s name too surfaced for the post.
However Shah was again called out for her links with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a strident Hindu extremist group in India, and VHP-A (America) it’s sister organization in the US. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had in its World Factbook of 2018, labeled VHP as a militant group. This group was instrumental in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, in which more than 2000 people were brutally killed and about 200,000 people were rendered homeless, triggering national and international outrage.
Shah was the national co-ordinator for VHP-A to raise funds for the 2001 Gujarat earthquake victims, which was accused of helping only Hindu victims and not the Muslim victims. She has also been associated with Ekal Vidyalayas, a movement founded by the VHP with the major objective of countering Christianity among Adivasis (forest people) in India who follow their own religion but struggling to get their identity back.
Her father Ramesh Shah was the vice-president of the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP), and had campaigned extensively for L K Advani, prime minister aspirant and architect of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, which has seared the Hindu-Muslim unity in the country like none other.
The HIndutva groups who aggressively pursue their minority rights here, very conveniently ignore minority rights violations in India. They also actively defend these violations, with fake narratives. Of late, since the attacks on American Asians grew, after the covid crisis, these Hindutva groups have started associating themselves with the wider Asian American and Pacific Islander community (AAPI), to tag along as victims as well.
According to Pew research, Asian Americans have the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group, 3.5 times faster than the overall U.S. population. The U.S. Asian American population grew from nearly 12 million to over 20 million from 2000 to 2012, a 72% increase. American Asian Pacific Islander’s (AAPI), form the 3rd largest demographic in America.
Shah, as the only Indian in the top management of TAAF, in the company of other prominent and accomplished Asian’s including Li Lu, Founder and Chairman of Himalaya Capital, a multi-billion-dollar investment firm and Joseph Y. Bae is Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts (KKR), a global investment firm with over $365 billion in assets under management, smacks of opportunism.
Indra Nooyi, former CEO PepsiCo and Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN, are amongst some of TAAF’s American Indian advisors.
“The right way to reinvent herself would be to publicly denounce all her links with HIndutva and publicly denounce the atrocities being committed in India on the minorities and other marginalized people, under prime minister Narendra Modi. Associating with an organization like this, with a mission to address and protect the rights of the Asian Americans, is nothing short of hypocrisy, if she cannot call out the human rights violations, in her ancestral country first”, said Dr Ubaid Shaik, co-chair of ASPAIRE and a founder of Coalition to Stop Genocide in India.
“Second generation Indian Americans like Sonal Shah, cannot claim to be unaware of the hatred and violence spread by the HIndutva groups in India and in the US, when they are associated with these groups, in leadership roles, carrying on the hateful legacy of their parents, despite leading a privileged existence in the US,” said Masood Rab, Founder of the Coalition of Americans for Pluralism in India (CAPI) and also co-chair of ASPAIRE.
We are asking Fareed Zakaria and other leaders in TAAF that they should not allow themselves to be fooled by Sonal Shah,” Shujat Khan, another coalition leader, stated.