September 29, 2004



Professor Francine Frankel


Center for the Advanced Study of India

University of Pennsylvania



Dear Professor Frankel


As your colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, and as concerned academics, we write to register our astonishment, and our protest, at your decision to invite Ram Madhav, the official spokesman for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of India to speak on our campus under the aegis of the Center for the Advanced Study of India. As you, and literally millions of people in India who have been taught to fear the murderous militancy of RSS cadres know, this is an organization which was founded with the sole purpose of fabricating a Hindu-rashtra, a Hindu state and nation, out of the multi-religious communities or India. Its history, right to the present moment, is a history of orchestrated violence against non-Hindu communities, and it has, along with its brother organizations in the Sangh Parivar like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, been responsible for the most reprehensible forms of communal violence and political thuggery seen in India. (Just in case you have missed hearing about these activities, we are appending three news reports on very recent attacks on Christian missionaries by cadres of the RSS).


That the RSS and the Sangh Parivar have been politically successful, and have helped elect coalition governments led by their functionaries does not in any way mean that the RSS is any different from the fascist organizations that led national governments in twentieth-century Europe. Indeed, as is well documented, the founders of the RSS modeled themselves on Nazi practices, particularly their genocidal violence against Jews. Thus, the bland, even celebratory prose with which CASI announces Ram Madhav’s visit is disingenuous at best and at worst, an outright dissimulation of the reality of the RSS.:


The RSS, or “National Volunteer Corps,” believes that India’s national and

global identity should be based on the concept of Hindutva, or “Hindu-ness.”

Since 2002, Mr. Madhav has been the organization’s key link to the Indian

press, and has spoken candidly of its relationship to the Bharatiya Janata

Party (BJP).  He represents a younger generation of RSS pracharak (functionary)

and a new face of an organization that traditionally has not emphasized public



This announcement makes Ram Madhav sound like a young public relations officer for a hitherto quiet organization of socio-cultural “do gooders” rather than describe him accurately as the public face of an organization that has vitiated public and political life in India for over half a century now.


Nor should our protest be understood as an attempt to quell free speech on our campus, but we are clear that, just as the McNeill Center for American Studies would not lend legitimacy to a spokesman for the Aryan Nations or some such US racist and fascist organization, CASI ought not to be legitimizing the RSS and its functionaries. If CASI wished to stage a political debate, or indeed offer equal time to a non-RSS speaker to make available to the audience an accurate account of the RSS and its crimes, then we might think the forum more appropriate. However, we would still wonder why our university should play host to the spokesman of an organization that has also vandalized art exhibitions, movie theaters, and auditoriums in India only because the art or movies or talks being staged interrogated the violence of the values and ideals propagated by the RSS, or, in some cases, simply enacted the secular values and ideals incorporated into the Constitution of India.


We hope that our letter will cause you to rethink your invitation to Ram Madhav and to the RSS. Unfortunately, at least two of us are on leave and will be not be here in Philadelphia when Madhav is slated to speak here, or else we would have found ways—as interlocutors and protestors—to let him know how abhorrent we find all that he stands for.






Suvir Kaul

Professor of English


Ania Loomba

Catherine Bryson Professor of English


David Ludden

Professor of History


Ritty Lukose

Assistant Professor of Education




Six missionaries injured in mob attack

The Hindu, India - Sep 25, 2004


RSS men held for attacking missionaries

Times of India, India - Sep 27, 2004


Deccan Herald - September 28, 2004 | Editorial




Seven Christian missionaries were attacked allegedly by RSS workers at a Scheduled Caste colony on Saturday in Kerala, for providing material assistance to a Dalit family. This certainly indicates a growing trend of religious intolerance in the country and in the state. The missionaries were targeted allegedly for their attempt to proselytise Hindus. Hindu fundamentalist groups have been active in the state for a long time and there have been many cases of violence and breach of peace in the recent past. The acts of violence only discredit the state of Kerala which enjoys the highest literacy rate in the country. The concept of conversion through coercion has a fundamental flaw, especially in a democracy, since citizens are endowed with their own free will and have to decide about their choice of religion. Moreover, unlike in a totalitarian system, they have a right to freedom of expression to highlight coercion, if any.


Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have also witnessed religious violence in recent times. For instance, there was the killing of an of an Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa five years ago. An American missionary, Bishop Joseph W Cooper, who belongs to an evangelist denomination, was attacked in January 2003 in Kerala for similar reasons and was asked to leave the country. The victims of religious violence in Kerala include a Kenyan national who, like Cooper, entered the country on a tourist visa. Some arrests have been made in connection with the attack on the missionaries last week and there is need for investigation to unravel the full conspiracy. It is for the state government to ensure that there is complete religious freedom in the state and all those responsible for the attack are brought to book. The free exchange of spiritual messages should transcend national boundaries and people should have the unfettered right to pursue the religion of their choice. India is traditionally known for its tolerance and hospitality for every major religious stream running through the country from Judaism to Christianity and Islam to Zoroastrianism. There is need to be vigilant against attempts to vitiate this great tradition