Narayanan Menon Komerath

‘IDRF announced a donation of $25,000 towards relief efforts following the World Trade Center collapse... the people responsible for perpetrating the disaster were Muslims, and the victims largely non-Muslim.’

Thus did Girish Agrawal, Angana Chatterji, Shalini Gera, Biju Mathew, Ali Mir, S Ravi Rajan and Elahe Heptullah brilliantly ‘prove’, in a report after ‘five years of meticulous research’ (M5R), their ‘simple and single conclusion – the IDRF does fund hate’.The donation mentioned was to the families of New York firefighters after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA. This exemplified the heavily-funded, choreographed hate campaign by Ms Teesta Setalvad’s private limited company Sabrang Communications and the US-based Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL) in 2002-03 to deprive Indian orphans, tribal kids, earthquake victims and leprosy patients of their only source of hope.

Their assault collapsed in utter humiliation. FOIL’s spokesman Dr Vinay Lal, Associate Professor of History at the University of California at Los Angeles, removed all doubt about their standards, stubbornly maintaining that the Meeraj Medical Centre, an affiliate of the Presbyterian Church of North America, was an ‘RSS’ institution set up for the sole purpose of ‘hinduization’. People laughed off that ‘research’, not to mention intellectual honesty since there wasn’t any, in 2003. As realisation dawned that their falsehoods had been exposed, they slunk away, declared that the ‘fascists’ (their term for those who failed to bow to their Politburo) had latched on to ‘one error’ and used that cruelly to destroy their credibility. True, we nearly hurt ourselves laughing at their ‘FAQ’ and the declarations of Dr Vinay Lal (who always took pains to proclaim that he was Associate Professor of History at UCLA and hence superior to us ignorant, mere Indian peasants). But they didn’t specify which particular howler was the ‘error’ of the hundreds in their ‘report’ and their ‘FAQ’ and their myriad press releases and articles and interviews.

For a while, there was relative quiet. Then they found new contracts as ‘Kashmir researchers’. But, like the wild onions in my lawn, they’re back again and flowering, hoping you’ve forgotten. So ‘it’s yesterday once more’.*

As a shocked world rushed aid to the tsunami-devastated areas, FOIL was equally busy. It spewed hate, exhorted the gullible not to support the rescuers, again using the same bogus M5R ‘report’. It did this from email servers run by the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and using Pakistani propaganda websites, through its new spokesman and so-called ‘watchdog academic’, ‘Ra’ Ravishankar. Obstructing help to the needy is, after all, what FOIL does best. But it is by no means the only thing it does well.

Dr Angana Chatterji of the Progressive South Asians (PROXSA) which is the mother-ship of FOIL and of their ‘Coalition Against Genocide’ created ‘news’ again. Their network has now expanded to such impressive names as ‘Promise of India’. Not surprising. With the Marxist communists actively in Government in New Delhi, they can smell their stated goal: Lal kile par lal nishaan Maang raha hai Hindustan. The Red Banner over the Red Fort – demands India – a mandatory essay topic for candidates taking the State Education Board Exams in Marxist-ruled West Bengal. Probably a required question on all job applications when the Lal Nishaan files over the Lal Kila. My congratulations to the Comrades.

* This essay in its original form appeared in http://www.indiacause.com, which see for detailed references, supporting notes and links. The title is taken from ‘Yesterday Once More. Memories of the Carpenters and their music’, www.yesterdayoncemore.net. For the full lyric, see www.lyricsdepot.com.

I feel that the desi community deserves to learn much more about the toils of FOIL – by far the most powerful ‘South Asian’ organisation in America after General Musharraf’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Then again, per Pakistani newspapers, they may not be that different at all. FOIL is the hottest item in Indian- American politics today. The Comrades have worked tirelessly – and, quite contrary to what they say, they did not start in February 2005, shocked by the Gujarat Chief Minister’s impending visit, or in March 2002, shocked by the Gujarat riots. Their ‘Coalition Against Genocide’ is just the latest in a vast web of organisations, all run, and possibly funded, by basically the same entities. They started many years ago. Some of what follows is repeated from what was posted on the internet—my thanks to that user.

1. Origins
In May 1997, Indians all over the world were preparing for the 50th anniversary of Independence. So was FOIL in the US – not to celebrate, but to focus on India’s failure to come up to their standards of perfection. In their own words:

Ghadar—a bimonthly publication of the forum of Indian leftists Volume 1: Number 1, May 1, 1997 Editorial: Ghadar arrives!.... a journal slash newsletter slash rag that is born out of a need for the left to have a print medium for organising and discussion. We, the ‘left’, are diasporic Indians (and South Asians) in the US, and some in Europe, who have banded together under FOIL (Forum of Indian Leftists). FOIL’s goals are to put forth into the mainstream the ideas of secularism, social justice, and equality. .. Names such as ‘Red Brownie’, ‘Samvaad’, and ‘Counterfoil’ poured in. ‘Ghadar’ won by a reasonable margin in a vote. … this issue was put together by Sanjay Anand, Rahul De, Shubra Gururani, Bikku Kuruvilia, Biju Mathew, Niraj Pant, Gautam Premnath, Mir Ali Raza, Sharmila Rudrappa, Anitha, S. and Gautam Sethi. Address all correspondence to: Ghadar, c/o Mir Ali Raza, School of Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. Or by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This publication is partially funded by readers like you.

The patriotism brought tears to my eyes. I wondered who funded the rest. But why May Day 1997? Just to celebrate the Bolshevik Bloodbath of 1917? The answer was readily explained:

Speakers Bureau: Going along pretty well too. The brochure is ready and beginning to get circulated. Some offers to speak have also come along. Especially in the context of the 50th year of independence this may be a very important project. There are many places/organisations who are desperately looking for people who can come and deliver 30 minute talks. Why not ensure a good lefty talk? Also, most places offer modest honorariums and these monies could be the best way to fund various FOIL activities. What we lack currently are volunteers who are willing to spend those 2 or 3 days in the next nine months doing this. Vijay Prashad is coordinating this project.

2. Sidhartha describes the origins of FOIL in 2000

In 1991, Biju Mathew, Sangeeta Kamat and Madhav Prasad started … Sanskriti. It dealt with issues ranging from the Narmada movement to communalism to Hinduja investments in Columbia University’s ‘Indic Studies’ programme. .. FOIL grew out of Sanskriti. It now connects hundreds of South Asians through the Net. Biju Mathew was the spirit behind it, although in the early days Vijay Prasad, the rambunctious Marxist scholar from Hartford .. was an ardent collaborator. FOIL became both a clearing-house and a networking tool. It put talks onto the Net (for example: ‘Diwali and decolonisation’).

As for ‘Genocide’, they have been fantasising about that for a long time. Niraj Pant went through contortions in ‘Ghadar’ in 1997, trying to argue that the active and articulate presence of women in Indian society and politics proved his fantasy of a predilection towards genocide against minorities. The second issue of Ghadar summarised FOIL’s Independence Day celebration. I’ll leave the pleasure of perusing that to the reader.1

The Ghadar creators’ list was essentially unchanged. No doubt FOIL agitated after the May 11, 1998 nuclear tests (as opposed to the Pakistani tests) and were instrumental in getting the US to impose sanctions on India – after all, look at their awesome influence in the State Department, White House, Congress, etc., per Angana Chatterji. By the third issue (November 1998) they listed an email server ‘as a space for discussion, information, and the mobilisation of support for various petitions and rallies’, coordinated by Raju Rajan at an IBM.com email address, as well as a PROXSA website and two more run by ‘FOILers’ SP Udaykumar and Harsh Kapoor. Ghadar, the ‘bimonthly’ journal, then disappeared, to surface again in May 2000. The globalisation protests were only a few months away. The editorial board had expanded.

3. Victorious – Over the New York Traffic Police
In September 2000, FOIL participated in ‘New York People’s Assembly Against Imperialist Globalisation (NYPAAIG), a new multi-tendency city-wide anti-imperialist coalition, and the occasion was the final day of the UN Millennium Summit’. In their own words: ‘NYPAAIG was formed, bringing together such organisations as the Colombia Action Committee (CAC), International Action Center (IAC), Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP), Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Forum of Indian Leftists, Direct Action Network and Student Liberation Action Movement.’

Manco Rojas of the CSRP spoke, denouncing Peruvian President Fujimori as a fascist puppet of US imperialism, calling for support for the people’s war led by the Communist Party of Peru to overthrow Fujimori. After further speakers, the crowd chanted ‘USA-CIA Out of Peru!’ and ‘Fujimori, CIA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?’ before marching to the El Salvador consulate. This was victory number two for the people: the police had declared no marching. ‘Many heads turned at the sight of 90 people carrying signs and a 22 foot banner reading “Down with US Imperialism!’ and chanting “Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, US Rule is Gonna Fall!” ‘

Another victory. Another blow against the system of democratically-elected governments. Another call to overthrow elected governments, in the best traditions of the Red Revolution. Another traffic jam caused to the Petty-Bourgeois Running Dogs of the Paper Tigers of Capitalist Imperialism (if I remember right those Maoist rants from the loudspeakers in Marxist-ruled Kerala). FOIL’s later condemnation of IDRF for sending money to the families of fallen New York firefighters is seen to be no accident – it is completely consistent with their contempt of law and order and of those who must enforce it.

4. Heroes of the Red Revolution
FOIL’s leading light, as seen above, is Dr Vijay Prashad of Trinity College, Connecticut. He is the author of ‘Red Salute to Comrade Uncle Ho’ (Ho Chi Minh, communist dictator of North Vietnam who caused the deaths of several million innocent Vietnamese, and over 55,000 Americans and Australians sent to protect them). Dr Prashad has long worried about the dangers of the dreaded Yankee-Yehudi-Yindoo (YYY) combine to the true ‘democracies’ of the world. See his definition:

The restless lions of west and south Asia join the tigers of east Asia to encircle China and the predominantly Muslim states of west and central Asia. … eager to undermine the political process with the sorts of hardware that ensures that our world remains undemocratic. Empire is alive and well.

Dr Vijay Prashad is disgusted by the desi community’s obscene traditions of working for a living, bringing up families, abiding by the law, etc. Caswell quotes a Prashad declaration, eerily redolent of a desi Rev. Jim Jones: ‘My main idea is for us to commit model minority suicide!’ And he’s clearly striving to help the community along towards this noble goal.

FOIL’s other intellectual giant, as the above indicates, is Dr Biju Mathew. He is described, at least since early 2002, as a ‘Professor’ – a promotion that Rider University, New Jersey, appears to be failing to recognize – they still described him in 2005 as an associate professor! Dr Mathew’s Rider University website invites students to be inspired by the UnaBomber Manifesto, Puerto Rican secessionists, and various Marxist discussion groups. They are also asked to donate money to worthy causes such as FOIL’s travel and entertainment kitty, the SINGH Foundation. Last we checked, the SINGH Foundation had a 52% overhead above their ‘direct program costs’. And what were these charitable direct programs? They consisted of screening hate movies, travel for their trustees and visiting comrades, and support for the Youth Solidarity Summer whose graduates include people now high up in the Indian Muslim Council. Rider University students were specifically exhorted to send money to SINGH for their friends and later sponsors, the wife-husband duo Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand of the private limited company Sabrang Communications, who claimed a dire need to avoid working for a living.

This is another FOIL success story. Today Ms Setalvad and her organisation are famous all over India and Pakistan as heroic defenders of (non-Hindu) human rights and combatants against (Hindu) ‘communalism’. Their organisation is a major recipient of Congress Party largesse, including from the Madhya Pradesh State Government before the 1999 elections, and their excellence in campaign work was recognized publicly with the Rajiv Gandhi Prize. More recently, Ms Setalvad and her friends are known as those accused by Ms Zaheera Shaikh, the 20-year-old riot survivor from the Best Bakery tragedy, of kidnapping and threatening Ms Shaikh into signing ‘affidavits’ composed by Ms Setalvad. In 2002, people noticed that Ms Setalvad’s website prominently displayed a map of ‘South Asia’ with all of Jammu-Kashmir, and parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan as being part of Pakistan. However, she appears to be above Indian law regarding such propaganda.

Today, Ms Setalvad is obviously doing much better than the pathetic situation depicted by her ‘appeal’, though one recognizes that the high life in Juhu, the Mumbai equivalent of Beverly Hills, must still require a good deal of money. Thus the SINGH Foundation appears to uphold the best traditions of Marxist philosophy, ‘Rob the Rich and Feed the Poor – and WE are The Poor!’ and ‘To Each According to His/Her Needs!’ Ms Setalvad’s gratitude showed in her generous support of FOIL’s ‘5-year Meticulous Report’ masterpiece, which was at the core of their hyena-pack attack on the IDRF. Let me not convey the impression that all the writings of FOIL are so negative. Quite the contrary, I assure you. I have seen in them nothing even remotely negative about Communist China, the Soviet Gulag, the Siberian People’s Paradises, the Tienanmen Square People’s Liberation Army Tank- Tread Lubrication Event where they ran over the Democracydemanding ‘splittists’ (children), The Red Guards Re-Education Movement, Fidel Castro’s respect for the idea that dissidence is the highest form of patriotism, Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese People’s Paradise, the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot and the Genocides (sorry! ‘Re-Educations’, perhaps?) in Cambodia, the Sudan, or Rwanda, or the Myanmar dictatorship. Comrade Fidel is lovingly praised in FOIL writings. Likewise, in ‘Red Star Over West Bengal’, Dr Prashad speaks lovingly of the Marxist communist government of West Bengal, which hosted him for a conducted tour of that People’s Paradise. He wants us to be assured that it is free of crime, corruption or inefficiency, the people delighted with the wonderfully approachable and compassionate Political Officers at the rural offices. Of course, the media reports on the horrors of Marxist rule in West Bengal, for example on opposition candidates being ruthlessly assassinated, must all be imperialist lies?

The point of the above FOIL Primer is to show its long history of dedication to the Red Cause, and the fact that it is extremely well-organised with a network, at least since 1998, and confirmed to be so since 2000, of ‘hundreds’ of active members.

The general criterion for their activism appears to be: ‘Is this something that helps people get jobs, get education, get hope, get the right to vote and express their views? If so, FOIL it!’ I am sure this takes a rather rare talent and mindset, far more so than nuclear science or genetic engineering.

Now to some indications of funding sources that keep such organisations and their efforts thriving.

5. The Shansi-Oberlin Declaration
In late Fall 2001, America, in upheaval after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, realised some measure of common cause with India and Israel, the dreaded ‘YYY’ alliance. Some people had other priorities in mind. Oberlin College, Ohio, was busily organising a conference for April 2002. The conference was titled ‘Siting Secularism in India’. Papers were solicited. The funding for the conference came from the generous Oberlin Shansi Foundation. Interestingly, Prof. Anuradha Needham of the English Department, listed as the organiser and contact point for the conference, was also listed as a trustee of the very Foundation that was funding the conference she was organising. If the conference produced any Proceedings, they are not to be found on the internet, and the actual list of speakers is also long gone. What remains however is the Oberlin Declaration of April 21, 2002. Coming within weeks of the Gujarat riots triggered by the Godhra atrocity of February 27, the 45 signatories declared the Indian Government guilty of genocide, etc., etc. The signatories came from the US, India, UK and France. ‘Professor’(?) Biju Mathew of Rider University, ‘Professor’(?) Raza Mir of Monmouth College and Harsh Kapoor of the South Asia Citizens’ Web were all there. Harsh Kapoor had flown in all the way from France for the event. Six days after the conference, the Declaration appeared on Kapoor’s PROXSA website run by the South Asia Citizens’ Web in France.

How was such a conference with so stellar a constellation of Marxist and related invitees organised in so timely a manner? Why was the Shansi Foundation so interested in ‘Siting Secularism in India’, and who is the Shansi Foundation? These questions apparently drove internet user Abdul Bin Mao to a different age, and across the world. The facts cited by Bin Mao are on the internet all right, as of this writing.2

6. The Shansi Connection
Oberlin College is an ancient institution, reputed for its liberal admission policies and inclusive environment. It was also thus favored by ‘leftist’ (some would say ‘communist’) academics, from the days of the Russian Revolution, through the horrors of the McCarthy era. ‘Shansi’ used to be ‘Shanxi’, a city and province in China. In the 19th century, Christian missionaries from the US opened a mission there. During the Boxer Rebellion, the missionaries were killed and dumped in ditches. After the rebellion was suppressed, their remains were exhumed and moved to a proper graveyard. The Mission’s sponsors evolved into an academic institution, fostering China-US exchanges. They also expanded into India, particularly south India, bringing Chinese studies there, and Indians to the US. The thrust was still to spread Chinese culture. In the 1950s, all contact with the People’s Republic was cut off, and the Foundation focused more on India.

Then, circa 1998 (coincidentally, about when FOIL found resources to start ‘Ghadar’) the Shansi Foundation found favor with the Beijing regime again. Now there are excellent contacts with Shansi University – presumably with official blessings from the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China.

7. The Second Coming of Ghadar
Ghadar reappeared suddenly after a two-year absence, and with evident hurry, on February 21, 2002. ‘After lying dormant for nearly two years, this occasional publication of the Forum of Indian Leftists has been revived through the efforts of those who felt its absence. This issue was put together by Priyamvada Gopal, Ashwini Tambe, Anhoni Patel, Murli Natrajan, Biju Mathew, Raza Mir, Amitava Kumar, Rahu De’, Gautam Premnath, Usha Zacharias and Maya Yajnik.’

8. Guilty conscience? The curious declaration of how FOIL got together
In late 2001/early 2002, with activity heating up, there was apparently a conference in the Washington, DC area, attended by leaders of FOIL, the political-activist ‘charities’ AID-INDIA, ASHA and ICA, the SINGH Foundation, EktaOnline, FOSA (Friends of South Asia) and their gang. The exterior purpose was to organise the attack against Indian-American charitable fundraising.

Now we come to the surprise. FOIL claims that its members were able to organise so quickly after the riots broke out, only because they had screened a movie by Anand Patwardhan in January 2002. From the June 21, 2002 issue of Ghadar:

When news stories from Gujarat first hit our screens in late February, we had just finished organising a screening of Anand Patwardhan’s film ‘Jung aur Aman’ (War and Peace). Unlike some other Patwardhan film shows, which have been sabotaged by vitriolic Hindutvavadis, the DC event had a highly sympathetic audience, and provided an opportunity for us to connect with each other. The email addresses exchanged helped mobilise an immediate response four days later, as the horror of state ministers condoning killings and police inaction unfolded. About seven of us, from organisations such as FOIL (Forum of Indian Leftists), ASHA for Education- DC, and AID (Association for India’s Development) met, finalised a date for a peace rally and a meeting with the ambassador, made posters and agreed on the text of a petition. We mobilised every media outlet at our means, including local desi newspapers; publicized the petition on the internet; and distributed flyers at public events, including desi film screenings. Three days later, the petition denouncing the state’s complicity and inaction had been signed by 600 signatories.

Remember that in 1998 they had already established email lists and servers, had websites all over the world, and they had been continuously in contact since 1991. FOIL, PROXSA, FOSA, and SACW started their diligent ‘research’ (which consisted of downloading pages posted by IDRF on the website www.idrf.org) ‘five years of meticulous research’ before November 2002. Shouldn’t I assume from this that all the co-authors of the report had known each other since November 1997? Apparently not, according to FOIL’s ‘FAQ’, as of January 2003: ‘We found each other—via the internet and through personal contacts—in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots earlier this year.’

Consider the evidence. From the PROXSA website on FOIL (date impossible to determine, but certainly post-1997 and pre- 2002): ‘We feel it is time to launch such a forum so that in time we might join together to take common positions and intervene on political matters. Isolation only helps the ruling clique; we need to organise ourselves. Hence FOIL!’

As for ‘mobilising every media outlet at our disposal’, the same page had given directions years earlier:

Project on Media Presence: The unique strength of the Indian left outside India is that a significant number of us make our living through writing—either within the academy or outside it. For a group with such a skill it is indeed surprising that our presence in the Diaspora’s media arms—newspapers, magazines, TV shows etc. is next to non-existent. A constant and visible effort in such centrists newspapers such as India Abroad, India Tribune, India West etc. is possible with a little planning. One way of looking at it is simply that between the fifty odd of us, if each of us volunteer to put out one article for one such newspaper or magazine every year we would have said something literally every week. Contact Amitava Kumar for volunteering on this project.

My congratulations to Amitava Kumar. The media co-option was certainly visible when the attack on IDRF came out – obedient articles uncritically parroting FOIL’s propaganda appeared with regularity from AK Sen of OUTLOOK, Ashwin Mahesh of India Together, Ashfaq Swapan of India West and Aziz Haniffa of India Abroad.

Why the apparent guilty conscience? What were they covering up? The Oberlin Declaration? Why? What was wrong in crediting the conference for bringing vital members together? Why hide their links?

One final point: According to the same PROXSA page, the objective of FOIL was:

Our bourgeois ‘leaders’ and their friends in Washington need to get a wake-up call which blows their eardrums: I think we can in our noisy, desi manner concoct something suitable. Let FOIL be that noise!

Now I am by no means suggesting that the ‘noise’ that ‘blew eardrums’ was the one on September 11, 2001. But, as for later events, who am I to say?

9. Academic integrity, FOIL style
Perhaps the incredible denial of their prior association was simply habit. Dr Shalini Gera, then associated with the Stanford University Medical School, is no stranger to the medical profession, and could see perfectly well that the Vivekananda Medical Mission in Kerala was bringing desperately needed succor to people who literally had no access, and no money to access, any other medical care. But that did not stop her in M5R from describing that organisation of heroes, and those who funded them, as hatemongers. Her later employer advertised her thus:

Dr Gera makes a valuable addition to the [firm name deleted] team. Her interdisciplinary background and strong quantitative and analytical skills are important in projects requiring technical knowledge and intellectual rigor. Her familiarity with academic and pharmaceutical research provides the necessary background for undertaking several complicated projects in highly specialised fields. She has written articles for scientific publications as well as popular trade journals, and can communicate effectively with technical as well as non-technical audience.

Awesome. But don’t ‘familiarity with academic research’ and ‘communicating effectively with a non-technical audience’ come with a responsibility to be honest? Can a person of such ‘intellectual rigor’ be unaware that the report she co-authored was blatantly false, and used cooked-up ‘data’ to prove what is diametrically opposite to the truth?

Another experience might shed better light on this mystery. One week after FOIL put up a petition attacking IDRF, concerned citizens got together and put up a site called www.LetIndiaDevelop.org with a petition to Let India Develop. Within days, that petition had left FOIL’s petition in the dust, as people rushed to tell FOIL to quit hate-mongering and go do something useful.

The attackers then bought the name “www.LetIndia Develop.com” and used it to mislead voters to their site instead. When outraged readers alerted the Internet Service Provider to this blatant fraud, the ISP published the name and address of the buyer. The address of the site-buyer was revealed as PO Box 20136, Stanford, CA 94309. This was the same as the mailing address of the ‘Friends Of South Asia’ (FOSA), run by Akhila Raman. Ms Raman, then described as a software consultant, later became a ‘Kashmir researcher’ and a prominent organiser of the ‘Kashmir Forum’ which the Pakistani media described as being funded and dictated to from Islamabad:

The only thing international about the conference was that it was held in Washington, but its principal audience appeared to be the establishment in Pakistan, which obviously had accorded its full blessings to the event. ....no word was available as to the costs of the exercise and which agency, organisation or individual had defrayed them. The patronising hand of the lone state agency which in recent years has taken almost sole responsibility for Kashmir, was much in evidence. A member of the Pakistani national legislature said ‘a certain outfit’ in Islamabad had cleared the list of those invited to speak. The list of invitees from Pakistan remained confined to those who were expected to represent the official line or the line of the any. No representative of any major political party, barring the official Muslim League, was given an invitation.

Today, that PO Box is listed as the address to send checks to ‘Ekta’ for ‘Organising Youth!’ (OY!). The owner’s telephone number listed there, however, is that of Shalini Gera, with a Stonewood Lane, San Jose address. Any connection to Dr Gera? Your guess is as good as mine. By the way, ‘Ekta’ is associated with ‘ICA’ – the ‘Indians for Collective Action’ that is now very active in the ‘Coalition Against Genocide’. Before their website was ‘cleansed’, ICA hosted the SINGH Foundation’s advertising.

10. California Integral Studies: 12,000 × 5 = 1,000,000?
Dr Angana Chatterji is no stranger to the realities of tribal village life in the Narmada valley, unless I am wrong in believing her claims of having been there, as she and her well-funded gang obstructed the government’s desperate efforts to deliver drinking water to the thirsty, long-suffering women and children of Kutch. She knows how much the tribal kids in India need access to education, and hope for the future, if she spent any time looking at the tribal people she was supposedly protecting from the Narmada dam waters. She knew this as she attempted to destroy the Ekal Vidyalayas – the one-teacher schools, by attacking IDRF for helping to fund them.

Now I am curious about the Narmada controversy, which pitted the thirst of arid Kutch and the desperate need for irrigation and electric power to create jobs and food, against the homes and livelihood of several tribal villages in the Maharashtra/Gujarat catchment area of the Narmada dam. This drew much admiration (including mine) for Ms Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Front) as Defender of the People. I too felt strongly that the villagers in the catchment area must be properly compensated and rehabilitated, before the waters were allowed to rise. But what happened in reality was something else entirely. The agitation became politicised, grew more powerful than the government, and with tear-jerker novelists and foreignfunded propaganda, managed to get the World Bank to withdraw support as the delays dragged on. The project was delayed by at least seven years, probably by many more, and the costs to India multiplied. The women of Kutch walked miles in the desert sun every one of those days, carrying meager pots of water for their families’ survival. Did the Saviours of the People use the reprieve to get the catchment area cleared and the villagers rehabilitated? Was Stalin a saint?

When the Supreme Court of India disposed of the final objections and the dam was filled and the water flowed through the canals of Kutch, the scenes of tearful rejoicing were heartrending – as one thought of the years wasted keeping these hardy people thirsty.

Angana Chatterji cites ‘a million’ tribal people ‘damned’ by the Supreme Court of India’s eventual overruling of the agitators. However, the number of displaced families is cited as ‘12,000’. From where did Chatterji get the ‘million’ figure? A tribal family has an average of 83 members? Or 1,000,000 sounded grander than 60,000 which is probably far less than the number of people whom she was obstructing from access to drinking water? As for the initial stated objective of getting fair compensation and rehabilitation assistance to the displaced villagers, I am yet to see any evidence that Chatterji and her gang ever contributed an iota to anything other than political grandstanding and riot-incitement. The tribal people were eventually left to fend for themselves as the agitators lost political interest, in the best traditions of Limousine-Marxist anarchism. The villagers even told the patronising American-returned ‘social servants’ funded by the organisation AID to get lost and leave them alone.

This sort of bloating of figures for political purposes, and the obvious cooking of data in the M5R, led me to check into some things where I am qualified to judge for myself. In the American university system, novices with PhDs and a few years of experience, are hired as Assistant Professors, and given up to 6 years to either get promoted to Associate Professor or get out. Promotion to Associate Professor generally comes with, or is followed by, grant of tenure. But that is a far cry from getting promoted to ‘Professor’.

That promotion may come after six or more years in the Associate Professor rank to most people, and is based on merit, not seniority. Some retire as Associate Professor - perfectly respectable. What is not respectable, nor tolerated in any respectable institution, is for people to arrogate the rank of ‘Professor’ in presenting themselves to the outside world. In kindergartners it may be cute, like the young lady of my acquaintance who used to respond at age 5 to ‘What grade are you in?’ with ‘MBBS’! But in grownups, such claims are no less contemptible than claiming a false degree (a degree only takes 2 to 3 years, versus 6 years of hard work for promotion to Professor) – and doing so in a letter to the Federal Government might actually bring serious action. Which may explain sudden attacks of truth about Chatterji’s rank – aberrations in Dr Chatterji’s claims about herself. I could fill a page with proof of similar bogus claims, but the point, I believe, is made. There is no room for doubt on this issue.3

Dr Chatterji’s practice of inflating her credentials is apparently routine for FOIL members’ standards of integrity. Dr Biju Mathew has been describing himself as ‘Professor’ when Rider University, New Jersey continues to describe him as ‘Associate Professor’. Dr Usha Zacharias, editor of the Ghadar edition that was rushed out a week before the Godhra atrocity, and Dr Raza Mir extend the practice to its logical extreme. She describes herself as ‘Professor’ though Westfield State College, Massachusetts insists that she is an ‘Assistant Professor’. Mir’s webpage at the William Paterson University now describes him as an Associate Professor, and lists his prior experience as ‘Assistant Professor’ at Monmouth University – while he was claiming to be a ‘Professor’ there. The up-and-coming FOIL leader, ‘Ra’ Ravishankar, graduate assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, describes himself in newspaper diatribes as ‘an academic’. Wow! I’ve attended kindergarten at a Catholic convent, and spent a couple of years as student in a Catholic junior college. I guess that makes me a ‘Cardinal’?

To people outside academia, these issues may seem small, but consider that industry routinely and automatically fires people caught claiming false degrees on their resumes. A degree takes at most four years or so. A promotion to Professor takes six. If credential-bloating is acceptable from faculty at their employers’ institutions, what kinds of institutions are these to send your children for an education, or to trust for research results? Can you trust research results from people who write ‘a million’ when the truth is under 60,000? Do you trust them to insist on standards before conferring degrees? Do PhDs from CIIS, for example, mean anything beyond undergraduates playing ‘Dr’ there, given that their faculty claim ranks that they have never achieved? Rider University, Trinity College and Westfield State College, mercifully, don’t seem to claim to give PhDs.

11. Concluding Remarks
Ever wondered why Angana Chatterji and Biju Mathew don’t go around displaying pictures of the innocents in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa or Nepal, machine-gunned by the Maoist terrorists who share FOIL’s philosophy (and perhaps their sources of funding)? Why don’t they publish pictures of innocents with their limbs chopped off by the Naxalites? Could it be because those are the same Naxalite terrorists who must have been at that Terrorist Convention that FOIL’s associates attended? You won’t hear the Coalition Against Genocide being bothered by the genocides in Cambodia or Tibet or Bangladesh, or the ethnic cleansing in the Kashmir Valley or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or terrorist-infested Assam. Excuse me – Chatterji was mentioned in a CIIS letter expressing sympathy with Tibetans protesting genocide, but the gist of the letter was to let them know of Chatterji’s own ‘sacrifice’ – a THREE-DAY ‘hunger strike’ – against the World Bank. My women colleagues will be delighted to hear that what they call ‘diet’ is now a noble ‘hunger strike’. I am proud to declare that I go on a ‘Five-hour Hunger Strike’ every working day – between 6:45 and 11:45.

You won’t find pictures on the FOIL websites of the babies who died gasping for breath when Air India Flight 182 was blown up over the Irish Sea, or the 20,000 or more innocent victims of the Khalistan terrorists – terrorists whose comrades FOIL and IMC applauded as invited speakers to demand the breakup of my mother country at the IMC-FOIL Convention in California.

Associate Professor Angana Chatterji represents FOIL and the California Institute of Integral Studies very well. From someone who attended one of her diatribes: ‘She flared up and said that she is a PROFESSOR at the Institute, and that I was calling her a liar’. Hmmm! How unnecessary!

Satyameva jayate.

1. “50 years?” Editorial, GHADAR, Vol. 1, No.2, November 26, 1997.

2. Abdul Bin Mao, “Who Knew About the Godhra Riots– And Other Mysteries”,

3. Academic promotions, FOIL Style:

  • August 2002, Angana Chatterji in Asian Age: “Angana Chatterji is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, US.”
  • August 2002, Angana Chatterji in Milli Gazette “Angana Chatterji is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.”
  • June 2002: Angana Chatterji in DAWN of Karachi “Angana Chatterji, Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology California Institute of Integral Studies...”
  • December 2002, Angana Chatterji in Dissident Voice: “Angana Chatterji is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies...”
  • November 2003: Angana Chatterji in SACW: “Angana Chatterji is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies” (and numerous other instances…)
  • Two rare attacks of honesty:
    February 2005: Letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
  • Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies.”
  • March 2005, Angana Chatterji in Asian Age: “Angana Chatterji is Associate Professor of Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies, and member, Coalition Against Genocide”
    Back to old habits:
    March 2005, OUTLOOK, Letter signed by:
  • Dr Angana Chatterji, Professor of Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco.
  • Dr Usha Zacharias, Professor of Communications, Westfield State College, Massachusetts.
    Congratulations on your (self) promotions, Drs Chatterji, Zacharias, Mathew and Prashad!