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Letter to Stanford University’ Center for South Asia (CSA) and University of California Berkeley’s Institute for South Asian Studies
May 4, 2021 – May 7, 2021 UTC+0
If you’d like to endorse this letter, please send an email to NoFundsForHate@gmail.com
Dear Directors and Associate Directors at Stanford University’ Center for South Asia (CSA) and University of California Berkeley’s Institute for South Asian Studies (ISAS):
We are writing to bring to your attention that Ekal Vidyalaya, one of thirteen groups that comprise the Indian Philanthropy Alliance, is a Hindu nationalist organization that appears in CSA and ISAS’s lists of organizations to consider donating to during the current COVID-19 surge in India. The Center for South Asia and the Institute for South Asian Studies are prominent centers for community members that have deep interests in South Asia, in the U.S. and globally. Many faculty and student affiliates produce works that are critical of Hindu nationalism. Moreover, removing IPA from these lists counteracts an increasing trend where Hindutva groups have been attempting to gain legitimacy in U.S. academies in order to influence the study of South Asia. While we realize that the Center for South Asia, in particular, does not formally endorse the organizations listed, we urge both institutes to remove Indian Philanthropy Alliance (IPA)/Ekal Vidyalaya, from these lists.
Ekal Vidyalaya’s (EV) mission is to fold India’s Adivasi (indigenous) tribes into right-wing Hindu nationalist ideology, which is part of the Sangh Parivar’s broader mission of creating a Hindu rashtra. This mission is accomplished through its vast network of private schools (India’s largest) set in remote parts of rural India, including in the states of Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, etc. that are home to significant numbers of indigenous populations. The curriculum at these schools closely follows Hindutva ideology- EV’s history curriculum involves identifying India’s external and internal enemies and even its maths curriculum is taught through references to Hindu mythology. EV schools celebrate Hindu festivals and train students in Hindu sanskar, a mission that EV shares with affiliates such as Vanvasi Kalyan Manch, Friends of Tribal Society, Vanbandhu Parishad, etc., to advance Hindutva ideology in tribal communities. These groups are incited by the Sangh’s anti-conversion discourse and share an objective to compete with and displace Christian missionaries, sometimes resorting to physical violence. Human rights activists and scholars see Adivasi participation in Sangh-led violence against Muslim and Dalit minority communities, as for example in Gujarat in 2002, as a sign of success on the part of EV and its affiliates. In a rare public admission, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), specifically erstwhile BJP cabinet minister Murli Manohar Joshi, told the Indian Express that the work of EV’s allies has been “an important factor” in BJP’s electoral victories.
For over a decade, EV has been the subject of investigative work by Indian journalists such as Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor of The Caravan, as well as activists and scholars. Their work offers a clearer picture of EV’s links to the Sangh Parivar, its mission, and its wide-ranging impact on Indian society and politics, most alarmingly and importantly on India’s indigenous communities. Please see the list of references below for further reading.
We, as Bay Area community members and/or University affiliates, urge that you remove IPA/Ekal Vidyalaya from your recommended list of groups to donate to during this most recent COVID-19 surge.
- Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, “How one-teacher Ekal schools helped the spread of Hindutva in rural West Bengal” 09 October 2020.
- “Narendra Modi and the struggle for India’s soul: How India’s Prime Minister uses Hindu Nationalism,” The Economist, March 2 2019.
- Anand Ranganathan, “Interviewing Hartosh Bal on Ekal Vidyalayas: Why Hartosh Singh Bal feels Ekal Vidyalayas are less about education and more about indoctrination of tribals,” Newslaundry, July 2014/
- J.M., “Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups” South Asia Citizens Web, sacw.net (July 2014).
- Deepa Reddy, “Hindutva as Praxis,” Religion Compass 5/8 (2011): 412–426.
- Nikita Sud, “Constructing and Contesting a Gujarati-Hindu Ethno-religious Identity Through Development Programmes in an Indian Province,” Oxford Development Studies, 35:2 (2007): 131-148.
- Hartosh Singh Bal, “Growing Tribe” Indian Express, January 18 2004
- Nandini Sundar, “Teaching to Hate: RSS’ Pedagogical Programme,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 39, No. 16 (2004), pp. 1605-1612.
- Raju Rajagopal, “Wrong Priorities: Free Speech vs. Hate Speech” Siliconeer, October 2004.