| 14 February, 2003 Is curtailing funding of hatred resulting in denial of development for the needy? A consideration of the deceptive 'trickle down development' argument used in defence of the IDRF.
In response to claims that exposing IDRF constitutes denying development to India’s poor.
The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate has received a lot of angry responses from supporters of the IDRF. While most of these responses amount to little more than verbose hate-mail, a few ‘sophisticated’ responses claim that efforts against the IDRF actually undermine the interests of the poor. For instance, one type of response asserts that despite the IDRF’s sectarian basis, small amounts of ‘development’ funds benefit the poor and marginalized in India, and that by opposing the IDRF, the campaign to stop funding hate ends up working against the interests of these poor and marginalized people, denying them the meager benefits of whatever small amounts trickle down to them. Some individuals even claim that the campaign is a setback for secularism, on the basis of the above spurious argument!
The first striking aspect of this argument is that it takes on an extremely utilitarian perspective of development: that no matter what happens in the process, the fact that some benefits trickle down to some people justifies the whole process. A second striking feature of this argument is that it completely ignores the wealth of information available, which shreds the IDRF’s claims that it is engaged in developmental work. The Foreign Exchange of Hate report notes that a measly 4 percent of IDRF funds go towards economic empowerment activities. Notably, these are funds distributed at the discretion of the IDRF and not those designated for specific charities by donors. If one were to include funds directed to ‘health’ and ‘welfare activities, under ‘development,’ the most liberal estimate of the total percentage of IDRF funds available for ‘development’ does not exceed 16 percent.
While it may be difficult to assess exactly what of this 16 percent constitutes any significant contribution to the welfare and development of poor and marginalized people, it is clear that the money marked for ‘education’ is used within an openly sectarian agenda. Close to 70 percent of IDRF’s funding is directed towards sectarian indoctrination activities targeting mostly rural and tribal communities.The so-called ‘tribal education’ initiatives funded by the IDRF are VHP operations, and more than perfectly blend into the sectarian agenda of the RSS: the project of destroying any semblance of tribal culture and identity and replacing this with Hinduized substitutes. This process is aimed at the Adivasis in order to diminish efforts to strengthen their cultural and political status in the context of caste Hindu society. The attacks on Christian missionaries, is also part of this strategy. The Christian missionaries by all accounts have never engaged in organizing murdering mobs, but are accused of being ‘anti-Hindu’ because they proselytize while engaging in social work.
Meanwhile violent individuals like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram’s Swami Ashimanand go around fomenting hatred and organizing murdering mobs to attack Christians and Muslims, with the support of IDRF funds. Appendices F and G of the Foreign Exchange of Hate report adequately detail how the Sangh Parivar’s efforts among tribal communities in India are directed towards Hinduization of these communities, aggressively diminishing the importance of tribal languages, practices and cultures, and most importantly, polarizing communities by fomenting hatred and violence against both tribals who oppose the Sangh’s agenda, and Christian and Muslim members of these communities.
Even if Christian proselytizing occurs in these areas, tribal peoples have never been violently forced to deny their own history or culture as a result. In any case, it is problematic to equate minority conversion activities with those of any majority population, because at the base of the majority approach, is an effort to destroy difference for the sake of an engineered homogenization.
Additionally, majoritarian conversion activities allow Adivasis no choice in determining the form and content of their own worldviews, religious or otherwise. IDRF sponsored Sangh projects have almost exclusively focused on the Hinduization of tribal peoples, the so-called reconversions leading to provocations and violence on many occasions. Blaming Christian missionaries for being ‘anti-Hindu’ is a cowardly attempt to shift the focus away from the roots of the violence: the base hatred of the Hindutva ideology. In this sense, the IDRF and its Sangh affiliates are virulently anti-Adivasi even though they claim to be interested in their well-being.
The sheer arrogance of the Sangh Parivar is blatantly evident in the term used to describe the alleged beneficiaries of Hindutva development: Vanvasi, or ‘forest dweller’ is used by Sangh organizations and the IDRF to describe Adivasis, or ‘indigenous people’ of India. The Sangh’s idea of bringing the dubious benefits of Hindutvadi ‘development’ to these peoples involves starting with the symbolic deletion of their history as original inhabitants of India and locks them within the language of Brahmanical conceits about indigenous people. By using the term ‘Vanavasi,’ the Sangh and the IDRF, seriously undermine indigenous self-respect movements, deny Adivasi culture and heritage, an independent frame of reference and promote the fallacious myth that the Adivasis are simply ‘fallen Hindus’ being brought ‘back into the 'fold!' Contrary to the Sangh view, Adivasis by and large reject any notion that they were part of the ‘Hindu’ fold prior to their so-called ‘reconversion.’ None of the supporters of the IDRF dare touch the issue of how well IDRF sponsored Sangh programs in the Adivasi areas coincides with the BJP efforts to increase its electoral advantage, albeit on the backs of increasing numbers of suffering victims of Hindutva.
Despite all this, even if we were to consider that a meager amount of benefits do ‘trickle down’ to tribal communities from the funds sent by IDRF, the human and economic losses resulting from communal riots provoked and carried out by the chief beneficiaries of IDRF’s largesse, make any such benefits irrelevant and microscopic in comparison.
From IDRF support to the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram to the funding of textbooks distributed by Sangh Parivar organizations, that espouse hateful and bigoted views of Muslims and Christians, the IDRF’s record is one of strident opposition to even the pretense of conventional notions of development, as embodied in ideas of general good and universal benefit. That there are direct financial and organizational connections between their hate-funding activities, the intensified efforts at provocation and polarization, the premeditated and organized attacks on Christians in the tribal belt, and the recruitment of thousands of ‘Hinduized’ tribals in the Sangh’s pogroms of Muslims in Gujarat is beyond doubt. It is in this brutally fascist context that one has to examine IDRF supporters’ notions of development.
Over and above all these fraudulent ‘education’ and ‘development’ schemes, the remaining 80 percent of IDRF’s discretionary funds go towards openly sectarian activities. Given such a dismal record, what sense does it make to claim that critics of the IDRF are helping to deny ‘development’ to poor communities? If anything, the campaign to stop funding hate has opened a necessary line of defense for these very communities, imperiled as they obviously are, by the nefarious activities of organizations like the IDRF and its Sangh affiliates. It is now clear that when the IDRF insultingly talks about ‘adopting a village’ it is actually asking the gullible to pay for the destruction of tribal society, since its primary goal is not development but the catastrophic Hindutva project of not only destroying tribal identity, but also any potential for Adivasi economic and political independence, in order to fuel the process of completely destroying the seriously endangered secular fabric of India.
Even organizations like the Nazi party and the Fascists of Italy, did ‘social work,’ and fed and housed the ‘selected’ hungry and homeless. They also massacred millions of ‘selected’ human beings. How could anyone suggest that criticizing these villains amounts to denying development to poor Germans or Italians? Or take for instance white supremacist organizations in the U.S. who claim to be defenders of poor white people from the evil state and all non white peoples. They espouse racial supremacist ideas and carry out acts of brutality against people based on such racist hatred. What kind of person would praise their contributions to the development or well-being of the people they claim to act on behalf of? How would IDRF supporters respond if a racist attack resulted in some Hindu Indian victims? Would they applaud these organizations for their helping poor farmers in rural America?
People unwittingly voicing support for the IDRF ought to compare the situation in India with similar situations and derive conclusions based on evidence and a sense of fairness, not blind prejudice or uninformed parroting of tired cliches. When an organization is fanatically bent on fomenting hatred and communal pogroms, it matters little whether they spend 4 percent or 16 percent of their funds on welfare or relief. When even this measly 4-16 percent is mobilized to further the agenda of sectarian mobilization, communal hatred and pogroms against minorities, the very question of any associated benefits is a vile obscenity cast on the collective face of humanity.
It is no coincidence that the most vocal denunciations of the campaign to stop funding hate come from pro-IDRF voices that are pro-Hindutvadi in orientation and virulently sectarian in outlook. The type of ‘development’ such supporters of IDRF envision is clearly evident in their genocidal and fascistic outlook, especially in the tone and content of their outbursts. Those who criticize opponents of the IDRF’s activities citing ‘trickle down development benefits’ ought to take note that the IDRF’s support base includes many people who openly express hatred in their statements and actions, who are more than committed to destroying the possibilities for real development and the dream of a pluralistic and vibrant democracy. Vendors of the insulting ‘let India develop’ plea represent in their ignorance everything that true egalitarian social development ought to root out and defeat: an unrelenting thirst for violence, domination and thuggery; a gigantic appetite for lies, and an astonishing lack of any shame whatsoever. What else explains the sick mindset of individuals who conveniently use the image of Gandhiji to sell their damaged goods while their staunchest supporters memorialize Gandhiji’s assassin on their webpages?