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Sonal Shah denies links to RSS, VHP

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | November 11, 2008 10:07 IST
Last Updated: November 11, 2008 11:26 IST

Sonal Shah, who was appointed to serve on President-elect Barack Obama's [Images] official 15-member transition board chaired by John Podesta, former President Clinton's chief of staff, has said that her "personal politics has nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or any such organization."
Shah, director for Global Development at, was responding to a controversy that erupted about her VHP and RSS links on the Internet and then was picked up by newspapers in India.
In a statement released by the Obama campaign, Shah said, "As an Indian-American who has lived in this country since the age of four, serving on the Obama-Biden transition team is a unique privilege for me.  A presidential transition is always a time of excitement and, in some cases, of rumors and unfounded gossip.  I'd like to set to rest a few baseless and silly reports that have been circulating on the Internet.  First, my personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or any such organization.  I've never been involved in Indian politics, and never intend to do so. Second, I've always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool. Some factually inaccurate internet rumors have attempted to link me to Hindu nationalist groups through a variety of tenuous connections:  I'm proud to have helped coordinate relief work  following the Gujarat earthquake of 2001, or cultural and religious affiliations of some of my family members, or apolitical humanitarian work I've been privileged to do as a founder of the NGO Indicorps and as the director of global development for  Finally, I do not subscribe to the views of such Hindu nationalist groups, and never have.  Ridiculous tactics of guilt by association have been decisively repudiated by the American people. I am delighted with what the victory on November 4 says about my country, and about our place in the world.  I look forward to serving our President-elect in this time of transition."

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