Proposed BJP Government Watch (BJW) Article (fwd)

Anshuman Pandey apandey at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Sun Apr 19 01:07:21 UTC 1998

Some members of INDOLOGY might find interest in the following newa article
from India Today of April 13, 98 regarding a proposed BJP watchdog headed
by Dr. S. P. Udayakumar of UofM, Minneapolis. Please excuse me if some of
you have already received this through a different mailing list.

Anshuman Pandey

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998 15:39:26 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sam Lanfranco <lanfran at>
Subject: Proposed BJP Government Watch (BJW) Article

Reposted from:

>From India Today April 13, 1998

 Conspiracy Theory

An NRI left-right battle may lead to an international group monitoring
Vajpayee's ministry.

By Ashok Malik with Arthur J Pais

With the BJP-led alliance settling into office, a variety of political
passions have found expression among its adversaries. Among the more
peculiar -- and certainly the most adventurous -- is one from across the
seven seas: the BJP Government Watch (BJW). The brainchild of S.P.
Udayakumar, the BJW is planned as a committee of social scientists,
journalists and assorted Marxist thinkers which will monitor Atal Bihari
Vajpayee's Government.

Udayakumar is a research associate and co-director at the Institute on
Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. A native of
Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu, he says he has "at least 10 internationally
acclaimed" scholars ready to back the BJW but can't reveal their names
yet. The list is a bit of an open secret though -- supposedly covering
names such as Tanika Sarkar, Gyanendra Pandey, Praful Bidwai and Aijaz

N. Ram, editor of fortnightly Frontline, is among those who has been
invited to join the BJW. As he puts it, "Given the RSS' semi-fascist
origins, we are suspicious about the BJP's attitude towards civil society
and democracy." Yet, with India's free press and independent judiciary,
isn't democracy safe? "The BJP threatens the institutions of civil
society," cautions Ram, "in any case we are not seeking to replace the
press or judiciary. The BJW is more an academic working group."

Others don't display the same certitude. K.N. Panikkar, history
professor at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, admits to having
received a letter from Udayakumar but knows "no details". Asked to
speculate on the efficacy of the BJW, all Panikkar says is, "It depends
on the character and purpose of the group." Romilla Thapar, doyenne of
leftist historiography, too has apparently been requested to join the
BJW. However, when contacted she said she had only "heard some talk which
it would be premature to talk about".

Udayakumar -- whose doctoral thesis at the Hawaii University some years
ago was a comparative analysis of the Sangh Parivar and the Nazis -- has a
clear charter for the BJW. "Recent events," he says, "have challenged many
people like me to monitor the Sangh Parivar and the BJP and raise our
voices against the growth of fascism." All very well; but precisely how
will Udayakumar and his friends "monitor" the new administration?

The man is clearly on the defensive here: "The BJW is as nascent as
the BJP Government. The BJP has a hidden agenda. Our group will seek
to expose it." Pinned down to specifics, Udayakumar talks of a
compact BJW: "If there are just about 24 scholars involved, we could
keep it effective." So what will the BJW do with the valuable
information it collects? Ram says Udayakumar will be the repository
and "sole spokesman" of this saffron surveillance squad. He will
take the findings to "the press and maybe a special page on the

Udayakumar, whose ultimate aim is to write a book which is
tentatively titled Bigots Encylopaedia, is actually in the midst of
a trenchant battle between the NRI left and right across the
campuses of America. The BJW is an offshoot of this conflict.
Its chief target is the Hindu Students Council (HSC), born in 1990
but already 13,000- strong. Seeking to "speak for Hindu Americans",
the HSC doubles as a sort of social service league, cleaning
national highways and so on.

Alarmed, the HSC's opponents are swinging into action. An anti-
BJP website has been developed and cultural camps (one's called
Underground Ruptures) are being organised. Now, with the "help
from secular groups like the Indian Progressive Students,
Udayakumar hopes to keep the Vajpayee regime on its toes.
As theories on the reversal of the "brain drain" go, this
one takes the bakery.

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