Narendra Modi has not lost any elections. The only defeats he has suffered have all been in the United States where the many attempts to get the ban lifted on his US visa were defeated by the pluralist alliance, the Coalition Against Genocide or CAG (www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org). For the last 2 weeks, CAG and Hindu America Foundation, HAF, the Hindutva advocacy group supporting Modi, have been engaged in a public war. Both groups have been trying to discredit each other. On behalf of Urdu daily Siasat Subhatul Marjan has interviewed Dr. Shaik Ubaid. He did his MBBS from Osmania Medical College, MD in Neurology from Medical College of Wisconsin and Fellowship in clinical neurophysiology from Cornell University where he taught for a few years after getting a direct appointment as an assistant professor.
Siasat: CAG and HAF are fighting in a foreign country. Modi’s supporters blame you of washing India’s dirty linen outside and also of undermining India’s sovereignty.
Dr. Ubaid: Well both HAF and CAG members are based in America. CAG members consider it their moral obligation to uphold and continue the struggle for human rights wherever they are based. So we are not actually washing India’s dirty linen in a foreign country. Also I believe that human rights should be considered the universal value. India had always spoken out against oppression from the time it gained independence, such as its stand against apartheid in South Africa. So if there are violations of human rights going on in India, other countries have equal right and obligation to speak out against it. It is Modi’s supporters such as Rajnath who come to the US with a begging bowl to request for his visa, they are the ones who are not respecting India’s sovereignty or US laws.
Dr. Ubaid: HR 417 is an excellent resolution that praises India and Hinduism. It speaks against extremism and the threat it poses to India’s pluralist ethos; that is why Hindutva extremists such as HAF are against it. More than 22 members of Congress have joined as cosponsors after the HAF launched its campaign; we now have more than 50 members of Congress cosponsoring the resolution.
Siasat: Well, CAG has hired a lobbying firm
Dr. Ubaid. CAG did not hire any lobbying firm but IAMC has hired a person to lobby, that is: educate the US policy makers about Hindutva. IAMC is an important part of CAG. But that is how things get done in Washington through paid persons-lobbyists who will go meet the politicians to educate and inform them. Modi and RSS have a lobby. Also, HAF has many full time employees in Washington. IAMC and CAG do not
Siasat: HAF blames CAG and you of being anti Hindu
Dr. Ubaid: CAG is a broad alliance of various community based organizations and activists and human rights advocates; and Hindus are very much part of CAG. Also, Hindutva is not Hinduism. We are against the violent supremacist ideology of Hindutva, which strives to eliminate, even violently, Muslims, Christians and other minorities from India. Let us not forget that they are against moderate Hindus; they killed Gandhiji. The founders of Hindutva started the movement after meeting Italy’s fascist leader Mussolini in the 1920s. Later Hitler became their hero. In Gandhiji’s home state of Gujarat, where now Modi rules, thanks to Hindutva propaganda, Hitler is a bigger hero than Gandhi for the school students. Hindutva does not recognize Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism as independent religions. It denies even the religious identity of many groups
Siasat: What do you consider HAF a Hindu group or a human rights group?
Dr. Ubaid: Neither. They are an advocacy group for Hindutva who wear the guise of a Hindu advocacy group. They call themselves a human rights group but they continuously attack not only CAG but the most respected human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They do not care for India, Hindus or human rights. If they do, then they will try to make India better by working against the human rights violations in India. They never condemned the massacres or rapes in which the government and its agencies are complicit and that is the worst kind of human rights violation and persecution as accepted universally by all. It is much worse than terrorism conducted by groups. They do not condemn the bomb blasts by Hindutva terror groups such as Abhinav Bharat and the bomb blasts in Mecca Masjid, Samjhuta Express, Malegaon, etc. They advocate for violent groups such as VHP and are linked to it. Have they condemned Bajrang Dal? They try to “contextualize” the massacres and mass scale gang-rapes by Hindutva mobs in Gujarat. Have they condemned the recent Assam and Muzaffarnagar pogroms and the hatemongering that led to them? They score 0% in the human rights test, they get an F-. They hold my MPC work against war mongering by US neoconservatives as “bad”; how can they be a human rights group? They support causes and groups that are condemned by the USCIRF and the State department for human rights violations and still hope that the US government will support them because they praise Israel! So childish, shallow and unprincipled!
HAF and its parents VHP-A and RSS endanger the political and economic future of unsuspecting Hindu American children who are snared by HAF propaganda and go to their camps and get recruited. Take the case of Sonal Shah she could have been the first Hindu cabinet member in Obama administration. When the president learnt of her VHP-A links he did not give her that position.
Siasat: What do you make of the HAF report against CAG?
Dr. Ubaid: It is a propaganda piece that is full of lies and also was put together in a very amateur way. Look at their childish diagram of boxes and names and arrows. They use the language of Islam-baiting and red-baiting hoping to please the Tea Party. The links they give is from groups known for Islamophobia and who are not respected by HRW, Amnesty or Southern Poverty Law Center. They did not even do a thorough search of our websites. They say Muslim Peace Coalition is part of CAG. This excellent and respected Coalition is not part of CAG. They say FOSA, a leftist member of CAG, has never condemned the violations of human rights in Pakistan, which it has done many times. They think that by dragging Israel’s name they can score political points. It is so stupid, because how can that support their human rights credentials. The report actually helps us go to the inter-faith circles and human rights groups in the US and prove to them that HAF is involved in hate mongering and fear peddling. The constant demonization of Christian missionaries by HAF hurts them even with the Republican Party and right wing US organizations. HAF has no strategy other than arrogant fear mongering.
Dr. Ubaid: That is what I am saying. They use the fear-mongering tactics of American Islamophobia movement and even copy their “research links”. Guilt by association, mudslinging and, lies are used by them. They call ICNA a Jamate Islami front as well as a Muslim Brotherhood front. “Come on make up your mind,” I say. I joined ICNA for a couple of years during its excellent work against the Bosnia genocide. ICNA was an independent and most dynamic American Muslim organization. When some members of ICNA tried to bring it closer to Jamate Islami, I not only protested it but left ICNA. I left in 96 or 97 along with a big group. Some of them rejoined ICNA later after it became clear that ICNA will not get closer to Jamate Islami. I and many others still did not rejoin. On the other hand I have been working with African-American Muslim groups since 1988 soon after arriving in the US.
To divert attention from the direct links to the militant and extremist VHP, HAF tried to muddy the waters by saying I am linked to ICNA. They say other silly and bizarre things to prove that I am anti-Hindu, anti-US and anti-India! Their report mentions a recent speech I gave to protest the human rights violations in Bangladesh. I protested the attacks on Bangladeshi Hindus, brought out the genocide of Biharis by Bengali nationalists and of Bengalis by the Pakistani army and its allies; in short it was a pure human rights speech. It was also in India’s interest because if Bangladesh gets destabilized then India will have a bigger Afghanistan on its east. State department of the US says the same thing. In fact my appeal to form 2 bodies- an independent international war crimes tribunal such as for Bosnia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, that will look into the genocide of both Bengalis and Biharis and second – a truth and reconciliation commission as done by Mandela in South Africa, was supported by the Muslim Majlise Mushawarat in India. My article on this topic was published in Tahelka.
Siasat: What about CCIM (Consultative Community of Indian Muslims)? HAF says Dr. Siddiqui of CCIM spoke at the first convention of IMC
Dr. Ubaid: It is another joke in the HAF report. CCIM was largely defunct by the time I helped launch Indian Muslims Alert Network (ImanNet) and then the larger IMC (Indian Muslim Council USA) after the Gujarat pogrom in 2002. CCIM was a respected group of Indians that was courted by the Indian embassy and consulates in the 1970s and 80s and fizzled out in the 90s. It shows HAF’s true mentality that anything “Indian Muslim” gives them a heart burn. They say Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqui was in CCIM. I do not know if that was true. What I know that as a result of Hindutva lobby’s accusation that he was the founder of SIMI, American law enforcement agencies investigated Dr. Siddiqui as did his university where he is a professor. They gave him a clean chit. Dr. Siddiqui travels freely to India. The Indian government and US government has put no restrictions on him or charged him. These days even the slight suspicion by Indian and US agencies will get you into legal trouble to say the least. He just gave one speech at the IMC convention and gets so much publicity, maybe we should charge him fees. (smiles)
Siasat: How is your relation with ICNA, ISNA, CAIR and other national organisations of American Muslims?
Dr. Ubaid: They respect my human rights work with CAG, Burma Task Force and Muslim Peace Coalition, but do not like it when I tell American born Muslims and Indian Muslims not to join these organisations. These organisations have to waste so much of their meagre resources defending against false accusations that they are linked to Muslim Brotherhood or Jamate Islami Pakistan. Islamophobes want just that;, and that is why they spend hundreds of millions of dollars in propaganda against American Muslims. But if American born Muslims and Muslims from India, etc launch an organization led by American born Muslims then they can just focus on the job at hand such as getting political and economic empowerment for Muslims. America is such an important country; if Muslims get empowerment here we can help human rights causes all over the world. I invite your readers to google and read my open letter to the US Muslim leadership on how to work in a climate of fear. (http://www.ccun.org/Opinion%20Editorials/2010/September/20%20o/Open%20Le…)
Siasat: It is amazing that CAG was able to defeat such a powerful Hindutva lobby in the US and got the Modi visa revoked. Since then, you have defeated the Modi and RSS juggernaut many times. It is beyond the scope of this interview to discuss how you do that time and again but let me ask you this, is it true that you are the founder of CAG and that you had elaborated on your vision in your presidential speech in the Chicago IMC convention in 2004? You see unlike the HAF researchers, I have done my research.
Dr. Ubaid: Well, sorry but I have to say “no comments” on your research. CAG is a collective alliance. It is not important to know who launched it. Lots of people were involved and many are from Hyderabad. What is important is why we launched it. We had to defeat the launch of Modi. What you see in India in 2013, it was planned to have taken place in 2005 in the US. Modi was staying in Waldorf Astoria, was going to speak at Madison Square Garden, and was to inaugurate an India Center in a California university. His visit was to be much grander than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit. We had to make that launch a failure. We planned well and truth was and is on our side. We succeeded and the Modi wing of BJP had to wait for almost a decade to launch him as a national leader and do that in India and not in the US. Not only principles but excellent planning, hard work and consistency must never be compromised if you wish to succeed. We do not have the material resources the Hindutva fronts such as HAF does but we have some brilliant minds, many hard working souls and all of us have hearts of gold that melt at every tiny tear of the oppressed. HAF cannot beat that.
Subhatul Marjan can be reached at [email protected]