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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sonal Shah Renounces Hindu Group


I seriously doubt if Sonal Shah renounced her affiliation with VHP because of pressure, she is American raised and most Indian kids raised here are immune to hate ideology that a "FEW" Indian parents attempt to inject in their kids. Shame on those few parents who poison their kids.

She probably thought it will go away, when it did not she chose to express her sincerity.

It is a shame that a FEW Indians are so hateful against the other Indians for questioning her qualifications.

Vijay and Ubaid did their democractic duty to question indeed, they simply wanted clarifications and thank God and every one who did their due dilegence in asking her to tell her stand on the affiliation issue, we have it now and she is in clear.

She is going to be loved by one and all. I am glad she has sincerely expressed her freedom, she has a good heart and a good soul. God bless her!

Mike Ghouse

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 4:00 PM
Under Pressure, Shah Renounces Hindu Group
By GAUTHAM NAGESH, Government Executive
http://lostintransition.nationaljournal.com/2008/12/shah-renounces.php

After weeks of questions, Obama transition team member and former Google executive Sonal Shah today renounced her former connection to a Hindu organization accused of fomenting violence against Muslims and Christians in India.

In a statement obtained exclusively by NextGov and National Journal, Shah says that if she could have anticipated the role of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the 2002 outbreak of communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat, she never would have associated with the group's American branch a year earlier:

In 2002, Gujarat suffered one of the most profound tragedies in its long history, when extremist political leaders, including some associated with the VHP, incited riots that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Had I been able to foresee the role of the VHP in India in these heinous events, or anticipate that the VHP of America could possibly stand by silently in the face of its Indian counterpart's complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002 -- thereby undermining the American group's cultural and humanitarian efforts with which I was involved -- I would not have associated with the VHP of America.

The controversy escalated this weekend when Shah asked supporters for their help in stopping the spread of allegations that she had been a member of the VHP.

In an e-mail sent Friday night and obtained by NextGov, Shah asked her supporters for help combating the allegations and expressed fear that the Obama transition team would ask her to resign as a result of the story.

"I need your help," wrote Shah. "This is gaining legs as the National Journal also picked it up and likely Fox. I need to moblize [sic] people against the leftists and the right wing. There is a likely chance that they will ask me to resign as team does not need my publicity."

The controversy has been gathering steam in the Indian press and South Asian blogosphere for weeks now, but it went mainstream on Thursday when former GOP Senator Rick Santorum published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer questioning the appointment of Shah to the transition team -- prompting a Lost In Transition post Friday.

Shah, a Google executive who previously worked for Goldman Sachs and served as a Treasury official in the Clinton years, was appointed to the Obama transition team in November and has since been tapped to be part of the three-person team to develop technology policy. She is also reportedly being considered for Secretary of Energy.

However, her appointment to the administration has drawn strong reactions from the South Asian community. While many prominent Indian-Americans have stood behind Shah, others have raised doubts about her past. Dr. Shaikh Ubaid is part of a group including several Muslim and Sikh associations and dozens of college professors that sent letters to both Shah and President-elect Obama, requesting further information on Shah's past associations.

"When she was appointed, it was initially a proud moment for us, her being an Indian-American," said Ubaid in an interview given before Shah's latest statement. However, the reports regarding Shah's past ties to the VHP gave Ubaid and others a cause for concern.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad is an international Hindu organization which is a part of the Sangh Parivar, the Indian nationalist movement organized around Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political face of Hindutva; VHP is the social wing of the movement.

The nonprofit group Human Rights Watch as well as the U.S. State Department have condemned the BJP-led government and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for not stopping the 2002 violence in Gujarat following the burning of a train containing Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob. In rioting that followed, more than a thousand people were killed, the majority of whom were Muslims.

"I'm not saying Sonal Shah is involved in that," Ubaid said. "But we have questions."

On Nov. 11, Shah had released a statement where she termed the allegations "baseless and silly reports" stemming from her charitable work for victims of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. She denied any involvement in Indian politics, but her critics quickly pointed out that nowhere in the original statement did Shah formally acknowledge her role in the VHP-America or specifically condemn the violence in Gujarat and the actions of Narendra Modi.

Both Ubaid and Vijay Prashad, a South Asian history professor at Trinity College (Conn.) who wrote the original article questioning Shah's ties to the VHP, pointed to a recent interview in which a VHP-America leader indicated that Shah was more than tangentially connected to the group. Prashad, interviewed before Shah's latest statement, called her a "leading figure" of the organization from 1998 to the early 2000s and said her claims of having participated only in the organization's earthquake relief efforts were "disingenuous."

"I can understand someone raised in a suburb, whose parents are apolitical, coming to college, seeing the earthquake, finding an organization and getting involved in raising funds [without knowing any better]," said Prashad. "But here is someone not from an apolitical household. She was well aware of the politics. And she had been in a leadership role. It was not just happenstance."

Shah's brother Anand said that she was co-opted by the organization's leadership, who were eager to show a younger face to the public.

"If the situation wasn't what it is, if it was someone else, I would be asking these questions," said Anand Shah. "It's not a non-serious issue; the questions being raised are legitimate ones." But he added that he hoped people would judge his sister by her own words and actions, and not by her associations.

The text of Sonal Shah's full statement is as follows:

I was recently maligned by a professor at a college in Connecticut who wrote an article in CounterPunch accusing me of association with Hindu extremism. Then, a few days ago, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, published an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, to which this site linked, that echoed the CounterPunch accusations. These attacks sadden me, but they share one other thing in common: the accusations are false.

In reaction to these attacks, my closest friends -- and many strangers -- have rallied to my side. I am touched by this outpouring of support. And as painful as this episode has been for me personally, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with the seriousness that it deserves, but the conversation should proceed on the basis of verified facts and reasoned argument, not innuendo and defamation.

Indian politics and history are contested and emotive, but also unfamiliar to most Americans. I understand why so many Indians and Indian-Americans feel strongly about religious extremism in India, because I share the same concerns.

I am an American, and my political engagements have always and only been American. I served as a U.S. Treasury Department official for seven years, and now work on global development policy at Google.org. And I am honored to serve on the Presidential Transition Team of President-elect Obama while on leave from Google.org.

I emigrated from India at the age of four, and grew up in Houston. Like many Americans, I remain proud of my heritage. But my engagement with India has been exclusively cultural and humanitarian. After the devastating earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, I worked on behalf of a consortium of Indian-American organizations to raise funds for humanitarian relief. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHP-A), an independent charity associated with the eponymous Indian political group, was among these organizations, and it was the only one to list my name on its website. I am not affiliated with any of these organizations, including the VHP-A, and have not worked with any of them since 2001.

The experience with the Gujarat earthquake did, however, teach me an important lesson. It pointed up a lack of dedicated infrastructure to help alleviate suffering in India, so together with my brother and sister, I founded Indicorps, an organization modeled on the U.S. Peace Corps that enables young Indian-Americans to spend a year in service to marginalized communities in India. The fellows come from every religious background, and have worked among every religious community in India. Indeed, some Indicorps fellows focus on inter-faith dialogue as part of their projects.

In 2002, Gujarat suffered one of the most profound tragedies in its long history, when extremist political leaders, including some associated with the VHP, incited riots that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Had I been able to foresee the role of the VHP in India in these heinous events, or anticipate that the VHP of America could possibly stand by silently in the face of its Indian counterpart's complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002 -- thereby undermining the American group's cultural and humanitarian efforts with which I was involved -- I would not have associated with the VHP of America.

Sadly, CounterPunch and Senator Santorum have suggested that I somehow endorse that violence and the ongoing violence in Orissa. I do not - I deplore it. But more than that, I have worked against it, and will continue to do so. I have already denounced the groups at issue and am hopeful that we can begin to have an honest conversation about the ways immigrant and diaspora communities can engage constructively in social and humanitarian work abroad.

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