As the name of my Blog-as-Book-in-Progress indicates, I am interested in unpacking, discovering, inviting ideas about what it means to live ethically every day in democratic spaces and how we may all contribute to creating and increasing democratic spaces.
Now let me narrate an event that took place in New York City as the beginning point in my Blog-as-book-in-progress.
How auspicious! My first entry begins on the birth anniversary of Gandhiji, my inspiration, my mentor. I did not plan it this way. It just happened this way. I feel my effort is blessed. I accept the work before me with humility and strength.
Subject: Consul-General in New York City Violates Spirit of Gandhiji's Birth Anniversary October 2, 2007
Dr. Chithra KarunaKaran
The following is a complaint against the Consul General of India in New York city, Ms. Neelam Deo and her press colleague Dr. Neena Malhotra.
The central point of my complaint is that the Consul General of India participated in an event *which they appropriately sponsored * but was politicized as an electioneering gimmick by the BJP/RSS. The consul general demonstrated her ineptness in handling the public demands of her office. Dr. Malhotra was even worse. She sided with the BJP/RSS demonstrators. She appears to be a BJP/RSS sympathizer instead of remaining politically neutral and demanding that the BJP/RSS put away their politically motivated electioneering placards at an event commemorating Gandhiji's birth.
What could the Consul and her press colleague have said and done? Let me provide a possible script for the Consul:
"My Dear Participants. Today is the Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a celebration of his life and a remembrance of his work. It is not a partisan or political event. I will not address this meeting unless and until we are assembled here as a group to pay homage and respect to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi. Thank you for lowering your political party placards and putting them away. I will now proceed."
I was a witness to the event which took place in New York City on October 2, 2007 Gandhiji's birthday. On that day the consul general gave a speech at the Gandhi's statue in Union Square Park. I was present throughout the event.
IT WAS GANDHI'S BIRTH ANNIVERSARY, not a partisan political campaign event. The electioneering of the BJP/RSS and the fumbling ineptness of the consul general and her colleague dishonored this event in Gandhiji's inspiring memory.
THE BJP/RSS members attended and demonstrated at the function with party placards and politicized the event. They carried and held up placards which called for Sonia Gandhi to "Quit India."
Members of the group sported and distributed cotton tees with Gandhi's image on the front and the electioneering message with Sonia's name on the back, demanding that she "Quit India." (!)
The Indian consulate appropriately sponsored the event. But Ms. Deo and Dr. Malhotra made no attempt to request the BJP to remove their party placards at Gandhiji's birth anniversary event. In fact, Dr. Malhotra sided with the BJP/RSS. The media took pictures of the event showing the BJP/RSS holding up their party placards naming Sonia and demanding she "Quit India" on Gandhiji's birth anniversary, while the consulate general spoke at the event.
It was a debasement of the historic call to the British to Quit India
I gave a TV interview to TV Asia at their invitation, condemning both the BJP/RSS and the consul- general and her press colleague for their actions at the event. I informed the onlookers and spectators that the BJP/RSS were like the KKK -- ethnofascists,racists, and murderers of vulnerable minoritites. Let us never forget that Nathuram Godse was an RSS man.
The consul general and her colleague and the BJP/RSS degraded and devalued Gandhiji's birth anniversary remembrance celebration by introducing and colluding (even if unwittingly or ineptly) in party poliitcis at the event.
Gandhiji's birth anniversary is not an occasion for partisan electioneering. It was clearly not intended for the general public as a political event.
Onlookers were surprised and confused about the event.
Ms Deo demonstrated her ineptness at handling the public demands of her office which is service to the whole people and duly elected government of India.Both Deo and Malhotra should be recalled and dismissed from the important NYC consulate-general's office.I expect to receive a reply apprising me of what steps you have taken on this matter.These deplorable actions should not be repeated on October 2, 2008
Dr. Chithra Karunakaran
City University of New York CUNY)
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice