NEW YORK (TIP): Economist Sonal R. Shah, the first Indian American to be appointed to the transition team of president Barack Obama in 2008, had written in a letter about the “frenzy” Indian media that had accused her of Hindu fundamentalism and alleged her of supporting communal violence in Gujarat, according to materials released by WikiLeaks, on Monday.
A letter written by Shah, published online by WikiLeaks, read: “I am writing to get some guidance from you in managing the India press frenzy about my alleged right-wing politics and terrorist tendencies.”
The letter is dated November 10, 2008, a week after Obama took the office of the president, making history as being the first non-white to win the US presidential election.
The letter says Indian media has been accusing her of Hindu fundamentalism and supporting Hindutva causes, which according to her, was a baseless allegation aimed to tarnish her reputation.
“There are hundreds of blog posts and articles on this and without any responses, the rumors are feeding on each other. More interestingly, they were planning a public campaign to embarrass the president-elect and have me resign. I had several calls from prominent folks in India saying the best way to counter the lies and rumors was to put something out there denying the allegations. Others suggested doing a controlled interview,” Shah wrote.
In reply to her letter, Denis McDonough the Chief of Staff asked Shah to draft a defense for them to look into.
In the ensuing letter drafted by Shah, she wrote: “A presidential transition is always a time of wild rumors and unfounded gossip, so I’d like to set to rest a few baseless reports that have been circulating on the Internet.”
“First, I’ve never been affiliated – in any way, shape or form – with any Indian political party or similar group. To clear up one false rumor: I’ve never been affiliated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization. I’ve never been involved in Indian politics, and never intend to do so,” Shah added.
“Second, my personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by such groups. I’ve always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool,” she further defended.
“Third, some Internet rumors have attempted to link me to Hindu nationalist groups through a variety of tenuous connections: Relief work I’m proud to have helped coordinate following the Gujarat earthquake of 2001, or cultural and religious affiliations of some of my family members, or apolitical humanitarian work… I have no ties to any such groups, and never have,” Shah explained.
Starting from April 2009 until August 2011, Shah served as the Director of Office of Social Innovations and Civic Participation in the White House.