I appreciate your giving us the opportunity to see the RSS in action up close
nest Monday. I also appreciate arguments against giving such political
operators the respectful treatment that Madhava will get here. The
normalization of RSS monstrosity is chilling; it is like living in one of those
films about the Nazis. This is a very sticky situation, but such is the world we
I am grateful to you for attending to this touchy situation. As it happens,OUP
Delhi is publishing a new edition of MAKING INDIA HINDU, the Indian version of
the edited volume that came out here as CONTESTING THE NATION, which emerged
from a South Asia seminar inspired by the violence before, during and after the
destruction of the Babri Masjid. No sooner had I finished the new preface,
bringing the Hindutva-in-Indian politics situation up-to-date, post-2004
elections, than I got an invitation to speak at Madison on the subject, and the
title of my talk there is "Hindutva in Indian Politics after the 2004
Elections." What a coincidence!
So you can imagine that I was thrilled -- as I told everyone as they protested
Madhav's visit to me in person, on the phone, and in email –- that I am quite
happy, in fact, that you have provided me a chance to report at Madison exactly
what the RSS is officially saying now. This is a great opportunity.
It is interesting that the RSS seems to be putting on a new public face and
Madhav seems to be touring the US in search of support political and financial
from fellow-traveling political groups and others in the “soft-Hindutva” camp
and still others who just respect the power that Hindutvawallahs have in India
as well as among rich NRIs, business families, etc. This visit thus seems to
itself be part of the RSS political strategy of the moment. Penn is a site of
RSS strategic action. We cannot avoid that.
I signed Ania and Suvir's brilliant protest letter because it is important to
let everyone at Penn in positions of authority know that having such people as
Madhav here receiving our courtesy is not just University business as usual.
It is problematic ethically, especially when viewed in the comparative Nazi-KKK
light, on a campus so very, very sensitive otherwise to racist and anti-semitic
In addition, having Madhav here under such protected, genteel conditions is a
really hard slap in the face for vast numbers of good people on the other side
of the ethical fence who do not have the opportunity to speak about the crimes
of the RSS from positions of power and authority at CASI or Penn.
It is worthy of consideration by CASI that some balance be attempted in the
representation of Indian politics at CASI. Yes, it is true, as you say, that
the RSS is powerful and important in India; but are not others powerful and
important, too? Is it not true that regionalism is a powerful force in India,
probably the most powerful force, one that all the national parties must work
with to make governments with coalitions? Indian politics is not actually
about the BJP, RSS, Congress and big national figures or ideologies, but about
many contending ideologies and political forces that generate coalitions,
however “stable” they might be. The RSS represents a powerful nationalist
ideology of a particular sort, a particularly violent, discriminatory,
chauvinist, majoritarian, nasty sort. Perhaps the diversity of voices that
represent India inside India and outside merit the kind of respect Madhav will
get. It is that official academic respect being shown to the RSS -- after all
they have done, instigated, justified, and organized -- that makes people mad.
I know you understand all this and I look forward to benefiting from more of
your good work at CASI.