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Diaspora groups raise eyebrows: Top US non-pofit newsroom has VHP influencer as CEO

By Our Representative 

One of the United States’ biggest nonprofit newsrooms, The Texas Tribune, has run into controversy over the appointment of Sonal Shah as the organization’s chief executive officer because of her alleged links with the Vishwa Hindu, Parishad (VHP), whom diaspora rights groups call Hindu supremacist, citing Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) categorizing it as a “religious militant organization”.
Shah, who reportedly has extensive experience in social innovation and nonprofits, will take over from Evan Smith, who was a founder of The Tribune since 2009. It is a free to read news portal with 10,000 paid subscribers and 175,000 newsletter subscribers. She will take over from Smith in January 2023.
Shah has been an active member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), the US counterpart of VHP, which rights groups say is one of the principal non-state actors responsible for whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-Christian hate, bigotry, and violence.
The US Department of State, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International are known to have implicated VHP in numerous incidents of “deadly” anti-minority violence in India.
Last year, VHPA invited Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati for a virtual event. Saraswati is a Hindu militant priest spearheading a pan-India campaign to commit genocide of the country’s 200 million Muslims.
During Shah's stint with VHPA, internal emails are cited to suggest, she often advised the group about its image management.
Shah has supported Ekal Vidyalaya, another VHP-led project in India, which has been accused of spreading the RSS agenda of Hindu supremacy and of promoting anti-minority hate among young children.
Shah has also volunteered for Sewa International USA (a charity group currently chaired by Ramesh Bhutada, the Vice President of Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh, the international wing of RSS in the US.) Sewa International is the foreign service wing of RSS’s Sewa Bharati India.
Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), claiming to be the nation’s largest advocacy organization for Indian American Muslims, urging The Tribune to reconsider its decision, said, her links with India’s Hindu supremacist groups are “well-doumented.”
“If her appointment is not rescinded, it will demonstrate a total disregard by The Tribune for the sentiments of the American Muslim community, especially Indian American Muslims and Indian minorities who are facing an onslaught of hate from Hindu extremist groups like VHP and RSS in India,” said IAMC executive director Rasheed Ahmed.
“The Texas Tribune’s board of directors must reconsider its decision and revisit its vetting process for candidates to be appointed for such important positions in the organization,” he added.
In 2008, Shah’s appointment to the then-US President-elect Barack Obama's transition team advisory board prompted condemnation for her “Hindu extremist links.”
Her recent appointment as Chief Commissioner of President Joe Biden’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and later to the Advisory Council of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was also marred in controversy, prompting more than 20,000 people to sign a petition calling for her removal.

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