The Curious/Criminal Case of Sonal Shah…and another instance of RSS involvement in Bomb Blasts in India
By Amaresh Misra and the All India Patriotic Forum (AIPF) Team
The euphoria over Obama’s election is still not over; yet secular Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the US are livid over one major transgression committed by President-elect Obama’s transition team. According to news reports, Sonal Shah, a successful US based Indian-Gujarati businesswomen and founder of Indicorps—an organization active in several sectors, facilitating exchanges between Indian and US mainly software professionals—with links to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), two notorious, Hindu supremacist fascist outfits of India, has been appointed as one of the advisers to the new President-elect.
This might have gone unnoticed were it not for the spirited defense mounted by Sonal Shah’s supporters, mostly RSS and VHP people in India. In fact the Secretary of VHPA (America) has gone on record stating that Sonal Shah was a member of the organization but that her membership has expired. Overlooked by the English media, several statements of RSS leaders have appeared in the Hindi Press. One truly bizarre assertion made by an Indore based RSS leader in the Dainik Bhaskar goes on to “extol Ms. Shah for belonging to that super breed of Hindus who have entered the haloed precincts of the US Government and who now should do all in her power to see to it that minority appeasement ends in the US too!”
Minority appeasement in the US! Is it not true that America has elected a minority President? So the American electorate has committed the greatest sin—appeasement of minorities! And the RSS leader of Indore is hoping that minority appeasement would end through a Hindu fundamentalist working in the office of—hold your breath—a super-product of minority appeasement!
Another gem comes from Kota, a small town in Rajasthan. Here in an issue of Rajasthan Patrika, two RSS and VHP leaders have in a joint statement hailed Sonal Shah’s appointment in Obama’s team. They have gone on to state explicitly that “no matter what—let the Indian Congress Government appease minorities. President Obama has shown determination by appointing a proud member of the VHP, the daughter of Ramesh Shah, a very senior VHP leader, in his team. After all, American NRIs have really helped the Hindu cause here by sending us money. In fact during the Ram Mandir movement, they were very generous. Then that Masjid was demolished; which was something very good. Shri Ramesh Shah was in the forefront of rejoicing after the Masjid was demolished. Now his daughter has been anointed and it is good for Hindus the world over”.
The third `praise’ appears in Dainik Jagran, a rabid Hindi newspaper, known for stoking the fires of bloodthirsty mobs out to kill Muslims right after the December 6th Babari Masjid demolition; and known also for obliquely supporting Narendra Modi at the height of Gujarat riots. While commenting on the Sonal Shah phenomenon, RSS and VHP leaders have “condemned Muslim groups agitating against the appointment of Sonal Shah. These leaders (Muslim) are all pseudo secularists—they do not know ABC of secularism. They are being joined by pseudo-secular Hindus. The fact is that the Congress Government is arresting Hindus for the Malegaon blasts. The Government arrested Saadhvi Pragya Singh and then they are now questioning Mahant Adityanath, the great BJP leader of Gorakhpur. Sonal Shah’s appointment has sent the right message. In India, Hindus are being persecuted while in America they are being felicitated”.
However, the same Dainik Jagran issue carries another statement by Swami Omnkaranand, a disciple of Jagadguru Swami Swarupanand, the anti-RSS Shankaracharya of Dwarika and Badrinath. While condemning Saadhvi Pragya Singh and the serving and ex-army officers accused in the Malegaon blasts, Omkaranand has branded `Hindu terrorists’ as irreligious (adharmik) non-Hindus. When asked about Sonal Shah, Swami Omkaranand said that he “did not know much about Sonal Shah—but he knew Ramesh Shah, her father”. When quizzed further, Omkaranand said that “Ramesh Shah had tried to seek an appointment with the Dwarika Shankaracharya—if I remember correctly he was accompanied by his daughter and her name was Sonal Shah. The Dwarika Shankaracharya met them—and the daughter and the father both requested the Shankaracharya to support the VHP. Then the Shankaracharya got angry—he lashed out at them and narrated an incident wherein he (the Shankaracharya) had a debate with Golwalkar, the RSS leader. The argument was about the status of Lord Ram—Golwalkar was saying that he did not consider Ram to be a God, only a Mahapurush; then the Shankaracharya replied that this is what Ravana used to say—so now in which category is Golwalkar who calls himself a true representative of Hindu interests, has gone on to stand?”
Swami Omkaranand further elaborated that “the Shankacharya asked Ramesh and Sonal Shah to leave the room as he considers the VHP, BJP and the RSS adharmik who have killed innocent Muslims in Ayodhya and Gujarat. Then Ramesh Shah tried offering some money to the Shankaracharya upon which the situation became very ugly and the Shankaracharya Sevaks would have given a sound thrashing to Ramesh Shah if he had not escaped”.
When did Sonal and Ramesh go to meet the Dwarika Shankaracharya? The reference to Gujarat riots reveals that it was after that event—so if Swami Omkaranand is to be believed, Sonal Shah visited Dwarika to plead for the VHP, after the infamous riots in which thousands of Muslims were massacred and murdered brutally by VHP backed mobs. This proves that Sonal Shah is lying when she says that she had never been a member of the VHP—here she is trying to plead for the VHP with her father. This also casts a long shadow of doubt on the statement issued by the Shah family that they had condemned Gujarat riots.
The VHP-RSS-BJP seems to be a hydra headed organization with tentacles everywhere. They are supposed to have infiltrated the Indian and the US administration in a big way—the fact is that Sonal Shah has also been involved Ekal Vidyalas, the RSS run scheme of single teacher schools in tribal areas in India. The Ekal Vidayala has a full functioning unit in the US where they collect money in the name of tribal welfare and then direct it towards VHP activities in Gujarat and the rest of India. A recent UNI Press report categorically states:
“In the run up to the recent arrests of Saadhvi Pragya Singh and serving and ex-army officers in the Malegaon blast case, a whole lot of RSS run or affiliated organizations are under the scanner of the ATS Mumbai. There is an alleged link of several organizations based in the US. The ATS Mumbai has confidential reports on several US based organizations. They are alleged to have sent money to the RSS and VHP during the Gujarat riots. These organizations work under several heads in the US and change their identities frequently. They include `Overseas Friends of the BJP’, the Ekal Vidyalaya, the Hindu American Foundation and the IDRA and several such outfits which keep mushrooming. There is also an allegation that the RSS related groups have ganged up with Christian Right-Wing groups to destabilize the US Government.”
Despite denying her links with VHP, Sonal Shah has not denied links to Ekal Vidayalayas and other organizations. Her father continues to a leader of the Overseas Friends of the BJP. These organizations are accused to funding riots, pogroms and terror in India. What is her answer to this?
Then there comes the article from Vijay Prashad, the head of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford CT. Prashad mentions that “the Asian American Hotel Owner’s Association AAHOA supported Modi in Madison Square Garden with empty chairs. Ms. Sonal Shah is a supporter of and gets support from the same organization”.
Vijay Prashad goes on to add:
“The BJP, the party in power during the Gujarat killings, but also a host of organizations known as the Sangh Parivar… these include groups whose U. S. affiliate drew in Sonal Shah’s parents, and to which she also gave her time and energy. This is not in the distant past. In 2004, while at the CAP, Sonal Shah gave the keynote address in Miami for the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of the USA. The Ekal Vidyalaya is an organization given over to`education’ in tribal areas of India. It is the policy of the Ekal Vidyalaya to organize tribal peoples into the “Hindu community” and to eschew the Christianity and animism that many practice. The climate created by the Ekal Vidyalaya and the VHP in the tribal areas of India led to the recent massacres of Indian Christians. Sonal Shah’s father Ramesh is in charge of the Ekal Vidyalaya in the U. S. She didn’t take the time in Miami to raise these concerns. Rather she talked about her Indicorps project, which has sent volunteers to work with groups like Ekal Vidyalaya. The language of social justice and cultural rights work well to cover over the fascism that is otherwise being promoted”.
A new instance of RSS involvement in the recent Assam blasts has come to light:
“ULFA on Tuesday alleged that RSS was behind the deadly October 30 blasts in Assam and ethnic violence in Bodo Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD). The blast claimed 85 lives while 55 people died in the ethnic violence in BTAD areas. In an e-mail statement, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa further alleged that Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarmah was an agent of RSS and was blaming ULFA to cover up his involvement in the blasts. “Whether Sarmah is in Congress or AGP, he is in reality an RSS agent and to cover up his involvement is making misleading statements like ULFA and Jehadi are the same,” he said. Rajkhowa claimed the ULFA has enough evidence to prove RSS’s involvement in the October 30 blasts in four towns of Assam, including Guwahati. “A few months ago, the ULFA in its mouthpiece Freedom had mentioned about the secret directive sent by RSS to carry out blasts in different parts of the country but the state government took no steps in this direction,” he said. Moreover, the recent blasts in different parts of the country and the subsequent arrests have also proved that RSS and BJP are involved in blasts in states ruled by non-BJP governments, Rajkhowa alleged. He said that ULFA has never targeted indigenous Assamese population and has no links with jehadi or any other religious fundamentalist organization”.
A second instance of RSS involvement has surfaced in Kerala as recently as 11th November 2008:
“In yet another mysterious bomb explosion, two RSS activists were killed near Athyarkavu temple at Cheruvancherry here on Monday morning. Those killed were RSS karyavahak Kanhan Pradeepan, 38, and another worker Lalaveetil Dili alias Dileesh, 35. Pradeepan was an accused in the Ashna murder attempt case. Incidentally, the court had only announced a couple of days ago that the judgment in the Ashna case would be pronounced on November 14. According to the police, the explosion might have taken place while the two were engaged in making bombs. The impact of the blast was such that their bodies were blown to pieces. Burnt human flesh and mutilated organs were strewn in and around a well near the temple. Parts of the body of Pradeepan had to be scooped out of the well. Locals who rushed to the spot could find only the charred remains of the bodies. It was festival time at Athyarkavu and there were devotees at the temple late into Sunday night. The area is supposedly a BJP-RSS stronghold and the temple “under the control” of the latter. Reliable sources say the RSS workers were killed not while making the bombs but while shifting the bombs, kept in a hedge near the temple, to another place. The police sources, however, refused to confirm this version. The incident was as much a shock to the local people as it was startling to the police who are busy investigating terrorists links of youths in the district. Shops and other commercial establishments remained closed in Cheruvancherry town and vehicles kept off the road in the area following the incident. Forensic experts were trying to analyse the cause of the explosion, and police officials were camping in the area”.
South India and West India have emerged as a major experiment ground of the RSS Sangh Parivar. In February 2008 the Tamil Nadu Police arrested activists of the Hindu Munani, a RSS outfit for planting bombs in the RSS Headquarters in Tenkasi:
“The cat is finally out of the bag. In numerous bomb blasts that have taken place in the country, the investigating agencies as well as the media swoop on certain Muslim organisations and brand them as terrorists, who perpetrated the ghastly crime. Irrespective of whether the crime has taken place in a Masjid or Mandir or Market, the same stereotype stories are flashed everywhere. However the Tamilnadu Police have turned the tables and their investigations have turned the tide towards the real perpetrators of such crimes. It has arrested 3 Sangh Parivar activists for triggering blasts in the RSS office at Tenkasi. Tenkasi is a busy town in Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. Since its location is close to the famous Courtallam waterfalls it attracts a large number of tourists. Hindus belonging to various castes as well as Muslims and Christians have been living in harmony in this town from time immemorial. Tenkasi means Kasi of South. This town has a famous temple called Kasi Viswanathar Temple. Though the local Sangh Parivar outfit called Hindu Munnani has been long objecting to the renovation of the Bazaar Masjid situated very near to the temple, perfect communal harmony has prevailed in this town. Muslims living in this town are basically involved in various kinds of trade.
The Sangh parivar elements have been trying to communally polarise this town for a long period of time. However their attempts in the past have become futile. But the killing of Kumara Pandian, an activist of Hindu Munnani in December 2006 disturbed the peaceful atmosphere in Tenkasi. Kumara Pandian was murdered by group of Muslim gangsters out of personal animosity. However the Sangh Parivar elements targeted leading Muslim businessmen as well as Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) and alleged they were behind the murder. On March 2, 2007, Mohideen Sait Khan the then District President of TMMK and resident of Tenkasi was brutally attacked by Hindu Munnani activists. He suffered grievous injuries in several parts of his body. However he survived the attack. The police arrested a handful of Hindu Munnani activists in this case.
Tenkasi was now boiling with communal fervour. On 14th August (just a day before the Independence Day Celebrations) 6 persons (3 Hindus and 3 Muslims) were hacked to death in a fight between two groups. These two groups comprised persons who were charged for the Murder of Kumara Pandian and assault on Mohideen Sait Khan and were out on bail. Police clamped down on both sides and arrested a number of persons from both communities. In the aftermath of these incidents, when Tenkasi was limping back to normalcy just two days before the Republic day, on 24th January, there were bomb blasts in the RSS office in Tenkasi and in the Bus Stand around 9 pm. The media carried big stories about the blasts. The Sangh Parivar organised demonstrations in various parts of the state, demanding the arrest of Muslim ‘terrorist’, who according to them have committed the crime. However the Tamilnadu Police did not budge like their counterparts in other states. A special team led by Mr. Kannappan, DIG, Tirunelveli range made a thorough investigation and have arrested so far 3 persons S Ravi Pandian (42), a cable TV operator, S Kumar (28), an auto driver, both from Tenkasi, and V Narayana Sharma (26) of Sencottai, all Sangh Parivar activists. The last name accused had assembled 14 pipe bombs in the office of Ravi Pandian.
Explosive experts were deployed to probe the blasts at the RSS office and the bus-stand. Earlier it was thought that unidentified persons had hurled crude bombs at these places. But now it has been found that low-intensity ‘pipe’ bombs had been placed in these areas, a police official told PTI. The power to the area was disconnected before the incident.
According to Sanjeev Kumar, IG, South Zone, the bomb blast inside the new bus stand was planned to divert the police investigation. DIG of Police Kannappan said the trio tested the capacity of the bombs at Papanasam before executing the plan. Since the bombs contained substances like ammonium nitrate, electric detonators, batteries and timer devices, the explosion was possible within 30 to 40 seconds, said Kannappan.
The Investigation is still going on. The Police said 14 pipe bombs were assembled and the operations began from July last year. The arrested persons have confessed that the trio executed the plan to create a divide between the rival communities and thereby pave way for a backlash and generate sympathy for the family of the four deceased. They have also confessed that in the past they could not generate support from the Hindu community in Tenkasi and thought this blast would give the right impact.
With the Lok Sabha elections approaching, it is reliably learnt that Sangh Parivar outfits want to repeat Coimbatore in Tenkasi to get sympathy votes. The BJP which contested the last Assembly elections alone drew a blank. It is desperate to mobilise the Hindu votes and enacted the pranks in Tenkasi—kudos to Tamilnadu Police who have exposed their nefarious intentions.
The Tirunelveli Police have also indicated that the explosives used in Tenkasi are similar those used in the Makkah Masjid blast at Hyderabad. They have also indicated that these blasts would not have been triggered without the knowledge of the top brass of Sangh Parivar outfits in Tamilnadu.
In the light of the revelations of the Tamilnadu Police, the CBI should reinvestigate the Makkah Masjid Blasts and other Blasts which took place in different parts of the country. In all these blasts, there is a general feeling that mechanically the investigating agencies have blamed certain outfits and booked innocent persons instead of the real accused. Will the CBI and Home Ministry wake up”?
These incidents follow the `terrorist’ attack on Nagpur’s RSS Headquarters, which were branded as fake by the Nagpur Police itself, and the Nanded Blasts, the Modassa incidents and the recent Kanpur blasts where Bajrang Dal members were found to have been making bombs.
A Narco test was conducted on some of the RSS affiliates accused involved in the 2005 Nanded blasts at the Bajrang Dal Headquarters. The results are startling:
“Hindu terror is here, if investigating agencies are to be believed. The arrest and subsequent interrogation of Sadhvi Pragya Singh, an Army officer and others for their alleged involvement in the Malegaon blasts of 2008 indicate the growing involvement of rightwing Hindu activists in terror acts. While ‘Hindu terror acts’ are made out to be a relatively new concept, the fact remains that the first signs of Hindu terror came to the fore as way back as 2006, when a bomb went off while bding assembled in a Hindu activist’s house in Nanded, Maharashtra.
Confessions by those arrested in that incident, during a narco-analysis test, throw light on how some Hindus decided to execute terror strikes, their modus operandi and the source of funding. Two of the accused have spelt out in detail the reason for them taking the terror path, and investigating officers say the causes are very similar to the one being attached to the recent Malegaon blasts. Manoharrao Pande, one of the accused in the case, said they were trained in handling explosive devices. He also said one of the persons, Himanshu Pande, who died while assembling the explosives, was a master at it. He said all terror attacks that occurred in the Marathwada region, including in Jalna, Purnea and Parbhani, were planned by Himanshu. The explosives, he said, were stored in a gym and the same was brought by Himanshu from Pune.
Fund-raising: While businessmen from Saudi Arabia are believed to pump in funds to sponsor terror by Islamic groups, some Hindu groups mobilised funds from locals. Pande said they had collected Rs 45,000 for making bombs and a minor part of this amount came from the money earned by the gym. He also mentioned that some rightwing Hindu outfits and local political leaders supported them. The motive: Another accused in the same case, Bhanurao Vithalrao Choudhary, during his narco-analysis test spelt out the motive behind carrying out terror strikes in the country. He said the bomb that exploded by accident in Nanded was actually meant to target a mosque at Aurangabad the next day. He, too, mentioned Himanshu, saying the latter was the one who told them they needed to fight Muslim terror.
Choudhary said Himanshu was perturbed by the fact that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim [Images] had got away unpunished and hence revenge had to be exacted. According to Himanshu, Dawood was responsible for the Gateway of India blast in 2003 which killed many. Sanjay said the motive behind the attacks that were planned by them was to safeguard Hindutva by targeting the Muslim population in the country. Aleem Faizee, social activist working for the Malegaon blast victims, said during investigation the police recovered a map depicting the Aurangabad mosque. Worse, the cops also found fake beards and Muslim outfits. The intention was to plant bombs under the guise of a Muslim to mislead investigators into believing that the bombs were planted by Muslims.
Interestingly, the statements given by some of the accused arrested in connection with the recent Delhi blasts mentions that their leader, Riyaz Bhatkal, had told them the blasts were being undertaken only to avenge the Mecca Masjid blasts which, he believed, were undertaken by some Hindu outfits to shift the blame on Muslims. Faizee said the recent developments in the Malegaon case and the revelations by the two accused raised a doubt regarding the perpetrators behind various other blasts that rocked the country”.
While the RSS is almost getting away with murder, the medical center of the All India Insitute of Medical Sciences refused to givethe postmortem reports of the Muslim boys killed in the September 18thBatala House encounter in Delhi:
“Petitions filed under the RTI Act in connection with the October 19 encounter in Batla House have generated more controversy than information. Information in the matter was sought from the NHRC, AIIMS, Delhi Police and the Supreme Court by petitioner Afroz Alam Sahil. Afroz Alam wanted information regarding postmortem reports and the doctors involved from AIIMS, and also a copy of the postmortem reports…in a reply, officials from the AIIMS Trauma Centre stated they could not pass on information related to medico legal records under sections 8(1)b and 8(1)h of the RTI. These sections are meant for information expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal, or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court.
An irate Afroz Alam states in his blog, Soochna Express: “The denial of information by AIIMS is illogical. In this case, the court has not issued any orders regarding the Batla House case and we are not violating Section 8(1)b of the RTI. They said that information cannot be provided because it would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of the offenders. I want to state that information we sought is not related to any police investigation.”
The Delhi Police and Supreme Court have not replied to the petition till now. “If institutions like the Supreme Court do not take RTI seriously, then what is the use of having such an Act?” Alam asks. The information received from the NHRC states that 2,560 cases of police encounter/alleged fake encounters have come up and it has granted compensation in 16 such cases so far”.
Finally, a significant section of Indian intellectuals and business leaders have come out in support of Sonal Shah. In signed statement they have distanced themselves from VHP and RSS and said that they believe Sonal is `distanced’ from them. Here is a list of the signatories:
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President, Centre for Policy Research
Tarun Das, Chief Mentor, Confederation of Indian Industry
Devesh Kapur, Director, Center for Advanced Studies of India, The University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Convenor, Lok Satta Party
Ajay G. Piramal, Chairman, Piramal Enterprises Limited
Pankaj Chandra, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
Reuben Abraham, Professor, Indian School of Business
Roopa Purushothaman, Head, Future Capital Research
Veena Siddharth, Vice President, International Division, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Former Asia Division Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
Amongst these names, Pratap Bhanu Mehta is a respected columnist of Indian Express; but Tarun Das, Devesh Thakur and Ajay Piramal are known to have RSS-VHP links at some point. In fact, Ajay Piramal belongs to the Piramal group of industries which has in the past has donated liberally to the RSS, VHP and several other organizations. Other corporate individuals have all had RSS links at some point or the other. And Veena Siddharth, in her own words stands guilty by association.
Liberal intellectuals in India have shown an amazing blindness to the fascist threat. In at least two Times of India edit page pieces, written by Yogendra Yadav and Brinda Karat, the Central Committee member of the CPI-M, the line of argument is the same that Muslim communalism must be condemned first; Hindu communalism is basically restricted to a few groups and likewise. Yogendra Yadav performs the unbelievable somersault of actually talking about `Hindu grievances’—he of course has nothing to say about the arrest of Saadhvi Pragya Singh, and the opening of a whole net of worms which day by day is exposing people in the army, members of Parliament of the BJP and top administrators, as terrorists involved in bombing Muslim areas in Malegaon and Hyderabad, incidents in which initially Muslims were arrested!
The entire conspiracy underway stinks from top to bottom—it seems that the RSS, in keeping with its history of organizing riots, an uprising against the secular Indian nation-State established in 1947 with British help, and pogrom against not only Indian Muslims but the Indian Communist parties as well, has now brought majority communalism to its logical conclusion. This is what Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru had argued all along—that majority communalism is more dangerous than minority communalism as the latter is defensive while the former has the ability to turn the Indian State into a fascist entity.
This is what is happening—the Indian State is turning fascist bit by bit—it is not going to survive for long. The latest revelation in the Malegaon incidents has an army officer saying that Muslims helped him in organizing the Malegaon blasts in Muslim areas. Last month the Police Commissioner of Mumbai, Hasan Ghaffoor held a Press Conference in which he states that Muslims helped him in nabbing alleged (Muslim) masterminds of the Delhi-Ahmedabad blasts from Poona!
What is happening? There is a conspiracy within a conspiracy—something sickening—it seems that Muslims boys angry over the Babari Masjid demolition in December 1992 were detained and tortured by Indian security agencies. A databank was made of these boys and they were allowed to go; then before Gujarat riots, Narendra Modi called a meeting of Muslim leaders, for `educational purposes’ in Gujarat. This meeting was surrounded by Police personals; later, it turned out that the entire affair was set-up masterminded by Modi himself! The Muslims present in the 2001 meeting were all profiled and entered into a database—then their names started cropping up as masterminds of the Indian Mujahideen after the current spate of blasts!
Now where has Indian Mujahideen gone? The name of a new Muslim organization cropped up in relation to the Assam blasts. But even that name disappeared—now ULFA has come out openly to state that RSS is behind the Assam blasts.
When respected individuals like Brinda Karat write about BJP’s double standards, they are right. But one gets the feeling that they do not have the full picture at their disposal. Brinda and others have consistently refused to acknowledge at least in print that SIMI and the Indian Mujahideen are basically inventions of the Indian security agencies. Brinda only has to watch the recent American film `Body of Lies’, starring Russell Crow to see how terrorists are invented by security agencies.