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Godrej, a deeply problematic association with anti-Hindu, anti-India elements and the silencing of a Dharmic LGBTQIA+ activist

Godrej cannot escape the responsibility of promoting elements like Anish and neither can it stay silent while pro-India voices are de-platformed, whether knowingly or unknowingly as a result of the influence the company holds.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

The historic decision to abrogate article 370 and finally integrate Jammu and Kashmir completely with the rest of the country has been seen as one of the landmark decisions taken by the Modi government at the centre. At the heart of it, while there are several arguments for it, the reason most often spoke about to hail the abrogation, and rightly so, is the emancipation of minorities, whether those minorities be Kashmiri Hindu, women, or the LGBTQ+ community.

The proponents of this outcome of Article 370 abrogation got a rude shock when slogans, that can only be called deeply against the very fabric of India were raised at the Mumbai Pride March. “Sharjeel tere sapno ko manzil tak pahunchayenge,” was amongst the many slogans raised at the Mumbai queer pride parade in Mumbai on Saturday, 1st February. Sharjeel Imam has been arrested and is currently behind bars for being a radical Islamist and wanting to break India up.

For a long time, the support for the Left and Islamist coteries by the LGBTQ+ community has baffled most Hindus. While the Modi government and the Hindu community has supported the LGBTQ+ community with the Modi government facilitating the striking down of Section 377, the Islamists have generally been religiously predisposed to persecuting the LGBTQ+ community.

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Read: Slogans in support of Shaheen Bagh mastermind Sharjeel Imam, ‘Azaadi’ and against CAA raised in Queer Mumbai Pride march 2020

While the outward impression one gets is that the entire LGBTQ+ is against not only the Modi government but also Hindus and Dharmics on the whole, there exists a strong, well-funded Leftist coterie that is most vocal, marginalising and persecuting the sane sections within the LGBTQ+ community. The coterie at the same time is using prestigious platforms to lobby against the interests of India not only within the country but also globally.

An article headlined “The False Link Between Article 370 and Queer Rights”, published in the Left propaganda website The Wire was recently quoted at the US House Foreign Affair’s Committee Hearing on South Asia Human Rights on the Kashmir issue by deeply anti-Hindu Nitisha Kaul, who, under the garb of being a Kashmiri Hindu, lobbies for the Islamists of Kashmir.

The article was written by one Anish Gawande, an LGBTQ+ activist. The article essentially shames the people within the LGBTQ+ community who have supported the Modi government not only after Section 377 was struck down but also for the abrogation of Article 370 leading to the complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir.

Read: Sharjeel Imam, columnist at The Wire, named as instigator of Jamia violence by Delhi Police, sent to 14-day judicial custody

Anish writes, “Newly-inducted BJP member Jay Panda, on a debate on NDTV with Shashi Tharoor, claimed that Article 370’s removal was a breather for marginalised sections of society. Journalist Abhijit Majumder went as far as to say that this was one of “two great leaps” for India’s LGBTQ+ community in the past year (the other being the striking down of Section 377). The troll army followed swiftly after: soon, “gay rights” were used as bait to target every voice decrying the changes to Article 370. Now, those with red dots as profile pictures on Twitter were not only against Dalit rights and women’s rights; they were also homophobic”.

Calling the debate around Kashmir and Section 377 as “pinkwashing”, Anish goes on to talk about the so-called Human Rights atrocities that are being heaped in Kashmir. Quoting another activist, Anish says that the BJP is using the queer community for “violent and undemocratic objectives”. Anish further talks about how the LGBTQ+ community is being used to fuel Islamophobia and oppress Muslims. He says, “What’s worrying is that this is a global phenomenon. From Marine Le Pen cosying up to the queer community in France to the Republicans using the Pulse Orlando shooting to fuel Islamophobia, there has been a slow yet steady move to use LGBTQ+ rights to wash over discrimination against other minorities”.

Ending the article, Anish writes, “Therefore, there’s an urgent need to call out the propaganda around Kashmir and Section 377. Our fight for equal rights needs to push back against all forms of discrimination: on the grounds of caste, class, religion and gender. We simply cannot afford to remain silent”.

The entire article written by Anish Gawande was based on the premise that the BJP government is perpetuating “Hindu fascism”, is against the LGBTQ+ community and is oppressing Muslims not just in Kashmir but as a matter of policy. The article even termed people from within the LGBTQ+ community who disagree with this blatant propaganda as a “troll army”.

With this lie-laden article being quoted at the US House Foreign Affair’s Committee Hearing on South Asia Human Rights, which was an exercise in genocide denial, it becomes imperative that one looks at the antecedents of Anish Gawande and understands why this narrative found a global platform.

Read: Dear fellow LGBTQ members, this was a hate parade, not a pride march

Anish Gawande is first and foremost the founder of ‘Pink List India’. ‘Pink List India’ is basically a platform that managed to google and lists the parliamentarians who support or oppose the cause of the LGBTQ+ community. His contribution to the fight for equal rights of the community starts from googling names of parliamentarians to writing articles that almost always compromise the cause of the nation.

Pink List India, which is founded by Anish Gawande displays blatant anti-India sentiments. The official handle of this initiative on Twitter came out in support of Kris Chudawala, one of the activists who was charged with sedition for the Sharjeel Imam supporting slogans raised at the Mumbai Pride March.

Pink List India even conducted a press conference in support of the seditious elements at the Mumbai Pride March 2020.

Press conference flier (source: Pink List India)

Pink List India has also extensively rallied against CAA and NRC.

Anish Gawande himself has made and endorsed several other problematic statements. He has blatantly come out in support of Sharjeel Imam, a radical Islamist who wanted to break India.

Retweet by Anish Gawande

He has also come out in support of Aishe Ghosh, who is one of the people responsible for inciting violence in JNU.

Anish has supported Shah Faesal, now booked under PSA. Faesal had vowed to take revenge against India and was detained while travelling to Turkey in order to file a case against India in the ICJ.

Anish Gawande has also spoken up against the Indian Army.

While his writing and social media posts are littered with severe hatred not only for the Modi government but also for India, Anish Gawande is being espoused and furthered by several powerful men in the country, on whose funds he furthers his dangerous agenda.

Anish Gawande is promoted and espoused by the Head of Godrej Culture Lab Parmesh Sahani. According to the website, “The Godrej India Culture Lab acts as a catalyst to challenge existing notions of culture and encourages dialogue and experimentation through innovative programming. We started in 2011 as a space for cross-pollination of ideas, and have branched out into multiple fields over the years. We curate diverse cultural programmes – be it thematic pop-ups, film screenings, exhibitions or discussions – to expose people to diverse ways of thinking. We also conduct an annual Leadership Programme for humanities students where Fellows gain perspective on the cultural industry through masterclasses, walk-throughs and by assisting us on events. Apart from that, we act as knowledge generators and have released white papers on trans inclusion in the workplace and digital media usage in Mumbai’s cultural landscape. We are also working on a project of mapping Mumbai’s cultural spaces”.

Parmesh Sahani has regularly displayed proximity to Anish and has promoted him.

Anish Gawande is also the Director of the Dara Shikoh Fellowship program. According to the website, “The Director of the Dara Shikoh Fellowship, Anish is currently pursuing a degree in Comparative Literature and Economic History at Columbia University. He is also Senior Editor for the Columbia South Asia Review and heads Voices from the Valley, a multidisciplinary initiative that seeks to globalise conversations around Kashmir. When not settled into an armchair writing essays over cups of hot chocolate, he spends his time horseback riding in the hills”.

Dara Shikoh Fellowship as a partner of Harvard US-India Initiative

In 2018, the Dara Shikoh Fellowship organised a panel on Kashmir. In his own words, Anish believes that the conversation around Kashmir leaves the Kashmiri out of the conversations and from his past posts, it is evident that ‘Nationalism’ is a concept deeply repulsive to Anish.

Harbouring views that border on anti-India is regularly espoused by Godrej Culture Lab.

An Alum of Godrej Culture Lab, Anish Gawande was featured in the Lab’s latest video inviting people to join them and as an alum, one can only assume that his proximity to the Lab head helps greatly.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEo2WUIe7xI]

What is most concerning, however, that in this ad for Godrej India Culture Lab, towards the end, Anish says that among other things, if one wishes to learn how to speak up for Kashmir through ‘digital humanities’ then Godrej Culture Lab is the place to join. This, after mentioning the Aarey protests which were spearheaded by nefarious NGO elements.

Given the views of Anish Gawande, it does not take much to understand what aspect of Kashmir that he has invited individuals to research on using digital humanities. One fully expects that the aspects of research would be heavily biased towards, if not limited to, the alleged ‘human rights violations’ in the valley by the army (since he has widely spoken against the very existence of Indian army) and the “Islamophobia” of the Indian state, considering his rampant support for Azadi slogans and Sharjeel Imam.

Read: LGBT Rights Advocacy Group trolled by people from the LGBT community for celebrating the complete integration of JK

When OpIndia tried to reach Mr Anish, unfortunately, our phone went unanswered. We will try to get in touch with him again and update this story with his response.

It is rather intriguing that Godrej knowingly or unknowingly seems to be espousing and promoting toxic elements like Anish Gawande and Parmesh Sahani who regularly undermine the interests of India.

Using influence and clout to silence opposing voices from the LBGTQ+ community

The LGBTQ+ community is as diverse in opinions as to any other socio-cultural group. While the most vocal, powerful, visible and well-funded group identifies with the Left and the Islamists, there is a larger community that consider themselves deeply dharmic.

An example of one such activist is Gopi Shankar Madurai. He is an Indian equal right and Indigenous rights activist. Shankar was one of the youngest, and the first openly intersex and genderqueer, candidates to contest in 2016 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election. Shankar is also the founder of Srishti Madurai Student Volunteer Collective. Shankar’s work inspired the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) to direct the Government of Tamil Nadu to order a ban on sex reassignment surgeries on intersex children. In December 2017 Shankar was elected to the Executive Board of ILGA Asia.

Shankar and trans woman S. Swapna staged a protest in Madurai collectorate on 7 October 2013 demanding reservation and to permit alternate genders to appear for examinations conducted by TNPSC, UPSC, SSC and Bank Exams. Later, Swapna successfully moved the Madras High Court in 2013 seeking permission to write the TNPSC Group II exam as a ‘woman’ candidate.

Gopi Shankar Madurai does not endorse the anti-Hindu narrative that is vocalised by this limited, powerful coterie. Shockingly, Gopi Shankar Madurai, a prominent voice of the LGBTQ+ has been de-platformed from a major event promoting the community and its causes simply for the views he holds.

On the 4th of February 2020, Gopi Shankar Madurai tweeted that the golden era for LGBTQIA+ rights, women rights and indigenous faiths rights has been ushered under the Modi government.

It is for this tweet that Madurai was de-platformed from an event called RISE being held at the Lali Hotels. After Madurai was de-platformed, he had even sent an email and messages to the organiser expressing regret that he was being silenced because he held a different opinion.

SMS sent by Gopi to RISE organiser without any acknowledgement

Interestingly, according to Gopi Shankar Madurai, the organiser told him that if he were to be a part of it, several others would back out, given the views expressed in his tweet, in support of BJP.

Even after de-platforming Madurai, the RISE event continued to use the ILGA logo, which was later removed after Madurai raised concerns.

OpIndia reached out to Mr Ram Sinha, the organiser of RISE. When asked, he first said that Mr Madurai had not been de-platformed. When he was told that OpIndia was in possession of the email and messages sent by Mr Madurai to him, he became cagey and said that he will not comment further and that his PR team will get in touch with us. Till the time this article was published, the PR team had not gotten in touch with Opindia.

OpIndia also reached out to one Sharif Rangnekar who was on the conference call when Gopi Shankar Madurai was de-platformed. Confirming that he was indeed on the call, Sharif confirmed that he is not the organiser of RISE, however, the extent of his association with the event stays unclear. However, Rainbow Lit Fest, which is organised by Rangnekar, is also listed as a ‘supporting organisation’ of the RISE event.

The Gopi was set to speak at RISE and has now been dropped is evidenced by this poster, which has now been deleted from everywhere.

Poster of RISE with Gopi Shankar Madurai

The event RISE from which Madurai has been de-platformed is supported and is to be attended by the Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel.

The shocking intolerance towards a member of their own community seems to have an interesting backstory to it.

One of the partners of Pride Circle, that organises the RISE event is Godrej, as evidenced from their home page.

Partners of Pride Circle

As one recalls, Parmesh Shahani is the head of the Godrej Culture Lab and shares close proximity with Anish Gawande.

Our sources tell us that RISE is already busy covering its tracks by removing the evidence of Parmesh and Anish’s involvement with RISE. However, that they are closely linked to the event is evidenced by the fact that Anish had tweeted about RISE extensively in July 2019 and Parmesh was a speaker at that event.

Tweets by Anish

Tweets by Anish

Godrej’s active involvement in RISE can also be seen from a 2019 post by Parmesh.

2019 post by Parmesh

When OpIndia got in touch with Mr Parmesh, he said that the Culture Lab has nothing to do with the RISE event but he confirmed that he did speak at their events. Further, Mr Parmesh said that he has been in New York for the past week and is unaware of the de-platforming of Mr Madurai. He also suggested that we get in touch with Godrej HR. When we did, the phone went unanswered.

Considering the extent of influence that Parmesh and Anish exert and the fact that Godrej is a partner of Pride Circle one does not need to guess the part they have played in de-platforming Gopi Shankar Madurai.

OpIndia has also learnt that the same coterie, that includes Anish Gawande has been writing to ILGA, of whose elected member Madurai is, urging them to “fire” Madurai for his “Hindutva fascist” views.

With the extent of blatant intolerance displayed towards Gopi Shankar Madurai, one wonders if Godrej as an organisation is aware that its influence is being used to silence voices who work tirelessly for the cause of the LGBTQIA+ community. Apart from Godrej, it is also to be noted that the Canadian High Commission to India is supporting an event that is silencing the voice much like fascists, simply because an LGBTQIA+ activist doesn’t support their anti-Hindu, anti-India cause.

While Gopi Shankar Madurai has been de-platformed and ostracised, there are several anti-India voices that have still found a platform in RISE.

One of those voices is Faraz Arif Ansari.

Faraz has often displayed blatant anti-Hindu stance and sheer hatred for BJP, even endorsing Islamists.

Tweets by Faraz

Tweets by Faraz

He had also come out strongly in support of the seditious statements raised at Pride March 2020 in support of Sharjeel Imam and the Shaheen Bagh Islamists.

It is intriguing that someone as blatantly partisan and hateful as Faraz is still a part of RISE while Gopi Shankar Madurai has been de-platformed for a generic tweet where he supported the government for their progressive decisions as far as policy is concerned.

If merely being “partisan” is a criterion for de-platforming, then the association with Faraz and even Anish should have ended a long time ago.

While Madurai simply expressed his support for a policy, Anish has actually officially worked with Congress for the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha Elections as evidenced by Milind Deora’s Facebook post.

Milind Deora FB post

Anish has also displayed his blatant hate for “right-wing” parties on several occasions.

Anish’s post

The dangers of Godrej sponsoring anti-India elements

In 2018, Godrej Aerospace, a unit of Godrej & Boyce, handed over the first of the 100 orders for the airframes for the air-launched version of the prestigious BrahMos missile systems to Defense Research Development Laboratories (DRDL). Godrej had won the orders for 100 sets of airframes for the air-launched missile in December 2017 from the DRDL.

According to a report in the Economic Times, congratulating Godrej Aerospace for manufacturing the first airframe, Dashrath Ram Yadav, programme director for BrahMos at the DRDL, had said: “the delivery of the first airframe assembly for the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile in such a short time frame goes a long way in showcasing Godrej’s commitment towards the project as the delivery comes in the span of just eight months.”

Sudhir Mishra, director general and CEO of BrahMos Aerospace said, indigenous manufacturing of defence equipment brings down costs and enhances the know-how about critical technologies while ensuring the reliability of spare parts. Jamshyd Godrej, chairman and managing director of Godrej & Boyce had said, it is a matter of pride that today we have handed over the first airframe assembly of the prestigious air-launched version of the BrahMos missile in just eight months. “Our partnership with BrahMos and DRDL is unique as it brings together the planning of defence units and the innovation of private enterprise to robustly achieve one strategic goal of securing the nation,” he said.

Godrej Aerospace has been associated with the BrahMos programme since the inception in 2001 manufacturing most of the metallic sub-systems in the BrahMos missile system.

Godrej has thus been associated very closely with the Defence Ministry and involved in the BrahMos programme since 2001. For a major Defence contractor to be funding and promoting anti-India elements holding deeply problematic partisan views should ideally be seen as a breach of good faith.

While their association with anti-India elements is problematic, what is even more concerning is that a Defence contractor is supporting the de-platforming of an activist simply because he spoke for the policies affected by the current Indian government. While defence comes under Godrej & Boyce which is run by Jamshyd Godrej, as chairman of the Godrej Group which includes Godrej & Boyce, Adi Godrej has a responsibility to clarify why he is funding an organisation that compromises national interest, while another part of his conglomerate is happy taking funds from the same military and state he is undermining

Thus, Godrej cannot escape the responsibility of promoting elements like Anish and neither can it stay silent while pro-India voices are de-platformed, whether knowingly or unknowingly as a result of the influence the company holds.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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