Sonal Shah & Barack Obama Please Clarify Communal Links - Don't Restore Modi's Visa to USA sign now

To : * His Excellency Mr. Barack H. Obama, President Elect, United States of America

* US Senate & Congress, Democrats, Republicans & Human Rights Organizations



Dear Sir,



We write this Petition from India, and from other countries, regarding a member of your Transition team, Ms Sonal Shah.



Observations:



1. Ms. Sonal Shah's record as an economist and a philanthropic activist is well-known. She is highly respected by former and current colleagues and is, according to testimony of people who have worked with her both in India and the USA, a kind and thoughtful person. We are proud that a person of Indian origin is part of the preparation team for the historic presidency of Mr. Barack Obama.



2. Our concern is with her connections to some Indian politicians and "social organisations" who publicly argue that Hindu culture is the highest ideal and must dominate civil life in India. Some of the groups which she is loosely associated with, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) have been proven to undertake violent campaigns against religious minorities in India.



3. We welcome her clear statement on Nov. 11, 2008 (http://www.asianamericansforobama.com/statement-by-sonal-shah-transition-board-member-for-president-elect-barack-obama) that she despises "politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool" and that she doesn't share the views of the VHP and RSS.



4. However, we remained concerned because of credible media and civil society reports within India which express deep concern over Ms. Shah's true allegiances. These are not accusations produced out of spite or a desire for the politics of innuendo. Instead, they were sparked and launched after RSS and VHP leaders celebrated Ms. Shah's appointment and claimed her as their own.



5. Her links with Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat are understandable but disturbing. Mr. Modi is the political leader of Ms. Shah's home state and a prominent leader in India so her association with him is understandable. However, he is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the world to be banned from entering the United States under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. Again, RSS and VHP sources within India say her appointment will be a step towards restoring Mr. Modi's visa to the USA.



6. Lastly, as a founder of the non-government organisation Indicorps, we are worried that Ms. Shah is apparently denying documented proof that the funds given in the USA have been misused within India by IDRF, an organisation which Indicorps is affiliated with, to further a rightwing Hindu ideology. (See "Foreign Exchange of Hate", report by Stop Funding Hate, 2002, http://stopfundinghate.org/sacw/index.html)



7. Even todate, media reports quote VHP-America general secretary, Gaurang Vaishnav & independent sources stating that Ms. Shah was the National Project Coordinator of the VHPA and on its governing council. Her father Ramesh Shah, 64, is a vice-president in Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) and her mother Kokilaben, 62, is OFBJP's chapter coordinator for Houston. Modi is reportedly impressed by Indicorps, the voluntary organisation started by the Shah siblings - Sonal, Roopal and Anand. So, all the world has to do is wait & watch.



Requests

1. We ask Ms. Shah and the Obama staff to issue a clear statement about her opinion on the visa issue for Mr. Modi.



2. We also ask that Ms. Shah & the Obama staff make clear her & her family links with the VHP and other such communal organizations. The world needs to know their stand, now that her statement in the link above, has now proved to be false.



3. Beyond condemning the views of Hindu nationalist groups, we urge Ms. Shah to publicly acknowledge the need for justice and rehabilitation for the victims of rapes and ethnic cleansing in Orissa (2007-2008) and Gujarat (2002) which were carried out by rightwing Hindu activists.



4. We are worried and disconcerted that Ms. Shah appears not to have been fully vetted before she was placed on Mr. Obama's transition panel. We request Obama officials or staff to publicly clarify their determination not to endorse future links between the Obama Presidency and India's VHP and RSS or other such sectarian groups.



Urgently Yours, in the name of all those suffering religious persecution & human rights abuse in India.

* Dr. John Dayal ( [email protected] )

International Human Rights Activist & Secretary General, All India Christian Council



* Joseph Dias ( [email protected] )
Indian Christian Activist & General Secretary, The CSF www.thecsf.org

And other signatories from the world over ..

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Sally PinedaBy:
International PolicyIn:
Petition target:
Barack Obama, Sonal Shah, Democrats, Republicans, US Senate, US Congress, European Union, International Human Rights Organizations, United Nations

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