The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Who is responsible for anti-India campaign in US?

by Rajiv Malhotra

The terrorist-activist axis

In recent years, the Indian police and press have started to pay attention to certain groups with 'peace,' 'civil liberties' and 'human rights' identities.

Often, the scholars'/activists' assistance is by legitimizing a radical group through endorsement, such as when the Communist Party of India, Marxist Leninist Liberation honored the kin of about 1,000 'comrade martyrs', i e terrorists, at an event graced by several prominent 'social activists, environmentalists, and writers-turned-activists.' There are various cross-ideological alliances for activism in India where separatists of various kinds, Islamists, Christian fundamentalists and Leftists converge for collaborations. They blame Indian culture and Hinduism in particular as the fabric that holds India together, and wish to see it dismantled.

US-based Indian intellectuals

What has not been investigated adequately is the role of US-based intellectuals. Often, such 'activism' to champion the 'downtrodden' brings together well-known South Asian Studies scholars from powerful institutions, journalists and individuals linked to various Washington, DC based groups. There are numerous campus seminars and conferences promoting the 'human rights' face of these alliances. The funding mechanisms are complex and tough to unravel, because of dual-purpose
work of individuals and groups.

A well-established coterie of Indian-Americans has been actively filing one-sided complaints against India's alleged human rights violations to US authorities, with varying degrees of authenticity. Such activism has led to the recent blacklisting of India by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. This Commission itself exists largely to protect the
freedom of Christian evangelists to convert internationally. Rarely, if ever, has it condemned Christian countries over freedom of religion or investigated allegations against the proselytizers' practices.

The US State Department declared in a recent report that India is a flawed democracy. Certain Indian Americans have played a pivotal role over the past decade in bringing about such condemnation, and they see this as the mere tip of the iceberg of what they wish to achieve in 'exposing' India, and in intellectually undermining India as a nation-state. Indeed, some of them insist that India is nothing more than an undesirable collection of conflicting groups.

In the reverse direction, these US-based scholars supply academic 'theories' and 'strategies' that feed the ground campaigns in India via Indian intellectuals and NGOs. Many of them are also members of political parties back in India, and hence their work tends to be dual-purpose. Yet, the potential violations of US laws that prevent funding of foreign political parties by US citizens have apparently not been looked into.

Ironically, many of these intellectuals are also aggressively raising millions of dollars from wealthy Indians in USA and India for these South Asian Studies programmes.

Geopolitical consequences

In critical geopolitical moments, these Indian Americans against India have diluted the USA's pressure against Pakistan, by making the average American hyphenate India and Pakistan as 'equal and same' in socio-political respects. The recent Outlook article by Seema Sirohi gives a concrete example to illustrate how this is happening.

Such activism also undermines India's democracy and due process of law, because it bypass the use of legal means that are available in India to a far greater extent than in most other former colonies. Furthermore, such groups cannot show any concrete success in helping human rights by internationalising and sensationalizing the issues. They are disconnected and alienated from Indian heritage, which they look down upon as an embarrassment to their personal projection of Western identities.

The Fellowship

The reason for the lack of introspection by those involved is that many 'enlightened NGOs' see themselves as a fellowship of different kinds of rings of the heroic, wise and powerful. This 'association for a new humanity' is today's equivalent of mythical Arthurian roundtables, secret societies (such as Freemasons and esoteric groups) and councils of the wise. But these forged alliances, no matter how well intended initially, tend to attract disparate tricksters who corrupt other minions into becoming 'behind the scenes' power mongers. The ethics of deceit and treachery becomes the collective shadow and feeds 'structural violence,' i e destabilisation.

The real challenge facing the 'save the world' movement is the problem of recognising and dealing with the shadowy subversive ties of such fellowships.

Finally, every monopolistic fellowship develops both defensive and offensive strategies and tends to overreact when threatened in unanticipated ways: Hence, whistleblowers are often vilified, and their reputations and persons attacked to keep the wall of silence intact in the world of Human Rights Laundering.

Practical issues

I leave the reader to ponder the following questions:

1. Is there a need to investigate the potential existence of a transnational axis to undermine India, involving certain South Asian Studies scholar-activists in America, Indian NGOs and major US funding institutions, potentially with complicity or lack of knowledge of the full consequences?

2. Should there be a US Congressional hearing into the use of US taxpayer money to favor and spread one religion out of the many American religions in foreign lands?

3. Should there be a conflict-of-interest policy and code of ethics that will focus attention on 'dual use' human rights activities, and also prevent abuses of the power that givers have over receivers? Should there be restrictions against co-mingling of funds, people or other resources between secular apolitical philanthropy on the one hand, and either religious activity or political activity on the other? As in the case of airport security and in the case of policing money-laundering, the inconveniences caused by adopting measures of transparency in human rights work would be outweighed by the benefits to society.

4. Should there be voluntary disclosure by all individuals and organisations in the human rights and charity fields, concerning their transnational funding and links, such that the public and other organisations have the information to be able to make their own evaluations?

5. Are the numerous instances of US originated anti-Hinduism and anti-India scholarship merely random cases of the individual prejudices and personal bigotry of scholars, or are they a part of entrenched systemic biases?


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