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URGENT UPDATE From Friends of South Asia
 
Conversation with Biju Mathew, SAT, Apr 8, 3pm at STANFORD - CANCELLED
 
FOSA / Biju Mathew target of slander and rightwing propaganda at Stanford
Last opportunity to see Biju Mathew this week: TONIGHT, San Francisco
 
SF Bay Area, Friday, Apr 7, 2006: We regret to announce that concerted campaign of slander and calumny against FOSA and Biju Mathew have forced us to cancel the event scheduled for tomorrow. We apologize for giving you such a short notice, but ask for your support as we continue our struggle to raise progressive issues in public fora. We, in FOSA, have a commitment to the working class community, the antiwar groups and the anti-fascist groups in the South Asian diaspora and assure you that we WILL get labor organizer and antiwar activist Biju Mathew on the Stanford campus. It just won’t be tomorrow.  We ask for your understanding and support.
 
As many of you know, Friends of South Asia has been a leading champion of progressive voices in the South Asian community, as a result of which, it has come into direct conflict with the many rightwing elements, especially given our stances for promoting India-Pakistan peace, and our opposition to US imperialism.  Of late, our active participation in ensuring that history textbooks in the State of California represent scholarly consensus and not the views of narrow, sectarian Hindu Right has made us a particular target of vile and calumnious assaults.
 
FOSA has been advertising its intention of hosting Biju Mathew, a prominent intellectual and activist, for well over a week.  However, it was only yesterday that an anonymous individual alerted the Stanford University officials of a bureaucratic error on our side when we made the room reservation many days ago.  FOSA is not a registered student organization at Stanford, and we had not followed the proper protocol of working with other co-sponsoring student organizations which makes FOSA eligible to access and use facilities on-campus.  As a result of this complaint yesterday, our room reservation was deemed invalid. This, despite the fact that FOSA has many students members on campus, has actively participated  and co-organized many Stanford events before, and representatives of Stanford groups such as Saheli and Sanskriti met with Stanford officials today to say that not only are they supportive of the effort, but are fully involved in its organizing.  Given the short notice, it is not possible for us to find another venue at Stanford tomorrow to hold this event and we are forced to cancel it.
 
 While we apologize to you for this last minute cancellation, and take full responsibility for not making ourselves fully aware of Stanford Event policies before we started the process of arranging for space on campus, we note that this forced cancellation is the result of a larger campaign of defamation and hostility against FOSA. This comes in the context of an  article in the Stanford Daily this morning which is outright slander and propaganda, where a single anonymous source is quoted verbatim without verifying his/her credentials or the validity of the information therein. This article ("Leftist speaker sparks debate" by Patrick Leahy, Apr 7, 2006 )  makes outrageous allegations against FOSA, as well as the speaker, Biju Mathew as having sympathies with “terrorist” organizations.  The article is full of misleading information and unproven allegations, the kind of yellow journalism that would make National Inquirer blush.  FOSA is accused of having at the same time, connections with both “Islamist” and “communist” groups!  The “Communist Party of India (Marxist)”, a political party in India, the largest democracy in the world, and one that controls the legislatures in two states and is a partner in the national coalition at the center is accused of being a “terrorist” group.   The allegations are clearly inspired by the virulent brand of right-wing fundamentalism known as "Hindutva" which believes in shutting down secular, progressive voices in the South Asian community, in order to push the agenda of  "Hindu Supremacy", bestowing second-class citizenship on minorities, and promote actions such as the pogroms against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
 
We believe that it is all the more important at this juncture for us, as secular, progressive South Asians who believe in peace and justice, to stand up against such intimidation and bullying, and re-claim our right to get our voices out into the  community. We are heartened to note the warm support we have received from student organizations on-campus, especially in light of these recent developments. With their support, we assure you that Biju Mathew WILL speak at Stanford and FOSA WILL address problems of working classes, sectarian politics and US imperialism. While following full protocol.  It just won’t be tomorrow…
 
Stay Tuned!
 
In the meanwhile, if you want to hear Biju Mathew speak this week in the SF Bay Area, then your last chance is TONIGHT, at 7PM, at Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco. More info at http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/bijumathew.  Please also write to the Stanford Daily.  You also can reach us at mail[at]friendsofsouthasia.org




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