Hindu Vivek Kendra

4. Sabrang

4.1 What is of equal interest is the background of one of the publishers, namely, Sabrang Communications Private Limited. (The other is The South Asia Citizens Web, France, of which we have not bothered to find much.) Sabrang is promoted by the husband-wife duo of Javed Anand and Teesta Setalvad. Together they edit a magazine called Communalism Combat, set up some seven/eight years ago. They claim to be intrepid fighters of communalism of all hues. However, in a recent editorial they have said:
· Whenever Communalism Combat is blamed for being 'too pro-minority', we hold the sangh parivar and the rest of the saffron brotherhood responsible for this editorial 'tilt'. Had Hindutva not hijacked the national agenda and targeted the country's religious minorities, so much time and attention would not have been needed to defend Muslims and Christians from the vitriol, vilification and violence that is deliberately directed at them. In fact, but for the hate mongers, this magazine itself would not have been necessary. In such an imagined paradise of communal peace, had your editors still been involved in an issue-based publication, it would have very likely have focussed on how one half of India (comprising Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and men who respond to other identity markers) treats the other half - women. (Editorial, "Minorities within minorities", Communalism Combat, May 2001.)
4.2 At the time, the President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Maharashtra, commented as follows:
· According to the husband-wife duo, the Sangh is a very responsible organisation - it is responsible for all the evils in the country! Secondly, the national agenda was being set by non-Sangh (perhaps anti-Sangh) organisations in the past, but is now being set (their word is 'hijacked') by the Sangh. Third, there are deliberate attacks (physical and non-physical) against the religious minorities. Fourth, the reason for the existence of "Communalism Combat" is the Sangh.

· The first allegation is too comical to be commented upon.

· The second allegation in many ways is a credit for the Sangh. I do not think that I would be wrong if I say that it is only since 1985 that the Sangh started to influence the national agenda. Until that time, the dominant ideology at the intellectual level was what was professed to be Marxism. The alleged practitioners of this ideology had a completely open field, and in addition they demanded and received more than adequate funding from the people, through state patronage.

· I hope that the husband-wife duo is not arguing that there was a paradise prevailing at the time when the Sangh started to influence the national agenda. I think it can be quite easily established that by any factor the country is not any worse off today than what it was then, and that in many factors it is in fact better off.

· So the issue that the duo has to handle is why was India not a land of milk and honey in 1985. Given their predilection, I am sure that they will refuse to do this analysis, since it would establish why the Sangh has been able to dominate the national agenda today. Their use of the word 'hijack' more than clearly establishes their mind set, as well as their agenda. In this they do not wish to even face the truth, because not only would it be uncomfortable for them, but would also expose their hollowness.

· It is because of the abject failure of those who claim to be Marxist that the people have turned to the Sangh and the ideology of Hindutva. Shri Arun Shourie in his speech to the RSS cadre from all over India in November 1992, said: "Causes which the RSS has taken up have (now) been embraced by the country.... That you will persevere for as long as that turning around takes, about that I have little apprehension: the way you have persevered over the last 50 years itself assures us of that."

· If this is to be called hijacking, I will not argue about it.

· The third allegation is a canard that is standard in the practice of secularism in this country. The secular fundamentalists have to go to this extent now that they are cornered. Commenting on a bombing of a church in Bihar recently, an editorial in an English paper from Goa, commented: "Seemingly, the act was committed by unknown miscreants to issue threatening notes in Hindi with saffron ink, asking Christians to leave India. The question is: is it the handiwork of the Pakistan's ISI, which is bent on fanning communal frenzy, to belittle Indian in the eyes of the world? Unless the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) or the Centre establishes that, one will assume, it is the design of the old anti-Christian communal outfits, like Bajrang Dal."

· It does not matter to the secular fundamentalists that there is something called natural justice. It does not matter to them that many of the extreme cases of the attacks on Christians have been proved to be either secular acts or downright fabrication by the Christian organizations. It does not matter to them that the communal acts have been after extreme provocation by the Christian organizations. You see, the Sangh is a very responsible organization!

· Re the fourth allegation. I guess the husband-wife duo should really be giving a royalty to the Sangh for ensuring their existence as alleged journalists, or whatever they call themselves.

4.3 Interestingly, the editorial further says:
· The large-scale gender killings through the obnoxious practices of foeticide, infanticide, dowry-related murders and deaths through acute malnutrition of the girl child have led to a situation where the number of women per every thousand population is on a dangerous decline. It's an ugly reality that should make every Indian of the male gender hang his head in shame, but the high command of Hindutva particularly so as the 'national mainstream' which they claim to represent contributes more than its share to what is nothing short of homicide.
4.4 To this, the VHP functionary wrote as follows:
· So, you see, the Sangh is not only behind all sorts of abuses against women, but it is actually a murderous organisation! Since the husband-wife duo is fond of filing public interest litigations, I am sure they will filing one in the Supreme Court asking the honourable justices to direct the government to file a case against the Sangh for gender cleansing.

4.7 This interview took place after the elections were over. While the election process was on, Setalvad was asked about the source of finance. In The Asian Age (September 4, 1999), Setalvad had said that the support comes from four political parties, some corporate house and certain NGOs. In India Today (September 13, 1999), she said it was "from a wide spectrum of well-wishers including corporates, trade unions, women's group and NGOs." There is an axiom that it is very hard to be consistent when one is telling lies. The reports also said that Setalvad and her team for this campaign operated from the residence of a Congress leader, and worked closely with the media cell of the party.

4.8 Sabrang, therefore, sees no inconsistency in asking for transparency of others, without reciprocating itself.

4.9 Setalvad is also a well-travelled person. Between August 31 to September 7, 2002, she was at Durban to attend a United Nations' programme called "World Conference Against Racism". The Statesman ( September 30, 2001) carried a picture of her sitting next to one John Dayal. Dayal has a placard around his neck which says: "Hindutva - rapes and kills Dalits, Muslims, Christians in India". This is the same Dayal who has been prominent in calumnising the Sangh, particularly in context of the violence against Christians.

4.10 It needs to be stated that the link between Mathew and Communalism Combat is nothing new. In January 1998, Rediff on Net, carried a profile, in two parts, of VHP-A by Mathew, which said that it was an arrangement with Communalism Combat. These reports are available at:

Whether Mathew chooses to be a Communist, or whether Communalism Combat chooses to be anti-RSS, is a decision that they are free to take themselves. However, just as they claim to expose the ideological position of the Sangh, it is necessary for them to state their own ideological stance. If in this stance, they wish to oppose the Sangh, then there is an obligation on them to stand up to a higher test of impartiality.