IDRF Admits to Being an RSS Operation: Issues New Report Defending the RSS
"After spending the last three months claiming that the report, ‘A Foreign Exchange of Hate,’—which exposed the links that the IDRF has to the Sangh Parivar—is wrong, IDRF now not only acknowledges the links in a newly released report (and goes on to defend the RSS for ‘doing good work’), but attempts to conceal this by aggressive posturing of independence and factuality." March 3, 2003
The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
P.O. Box 20136 Stanford CA 94309
Date/Time: Monday, March 03, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IDRF Admits to Being an RSS Operation:
Issues New Report Defending the RSS
After spending the last three months claiming that the report, ‘A Foreign Exchange of Hate,’—which exposed the links that the IDRF has to the Sangh Parivar—is wrong, IDRF now not only acknowledges the links in a newly released report (and goes on to defend the RSS for ‘doing good work’), but attempts to conceal this by aggressive posturing of independence and factuality.
The report “A Factual Response,” written by a group of IDRF supporters calling themselves Friends of India, says,
"the RSS and its affiliates are neither sectarian nor hate organizations but the victims of unrelenting propaganda by vested Indian and foreign interests"
Having acknowledged that IDRF is indeed part of the Sangh, the report sidesteps all charges of Sangh’s documented role in violence against minorities, and its orchestration of communal violence, such as the Gujarat carnage of a year ago, and instead claims that the RSS has a “peerless record over the decades in providing timely, selfless and courageous disaster relief work.” All of this, behind a thin veil of asserted independence and factuality, which is curious, since the authors seek to establish the credentials of RSS by quoting from RSS sources such as HV Seshadri and KR Malkani, and using office bearers of the VHP, HSS and IDRF as consultants.
But of course, the report wants us to ignore the much more forceful and convincing claims by office bearers of various Sangh outfits, as illustrated by the following typical examples:
Kaushik Mehta, one of the two joint general secretaries of the VHP in Gujarat said:
“Then it was decided there should be a model for reprisals. It was important to teach a lesson that could be emulated…. We had also sensed that once again the Centre was moving towards blaming the ISI for perpetrating the Godhra attack. All the 2,000 men, women and children could not have been ISI agents [so we had to move fast].” (Excerpt from an hour-long conversation with The Telegraph of Calcutta in the VHP office in Ahmedabad on March 7, 2002.)
Harish Bhai Bhatt, vice president of VHP Gujarat and all-India vice president of the Bajrang Dal):
“I am the first enemy of the Muslims. ... Killing Muslims [hundreds of innocent ones in the past five days of rioting was] necessary. All Muslims had to be taught a lesson…. If the Muslims do not learn, it will be very harmful for them.” (New York Times, March 5, 2002)
Admitting the RSS Link
As quoted in the July 22, 2002, issue of Outlook magazine, Dr. Vinod Prakash, President of IDRF, told Outlook reporter Ashish Sen that “The IDRF has given absolutely no money to the RSS.” This was followed quite immediately by Nagraj Patil, an IDRF VP who categorically stated on Sulekha that “There is no relation between VHP/RSS and IDRF. Fullpoint.” Thirteen weeks after the release of the ‘A Foreign Exchange of Hate (FxH)’ report and the start of the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, IDRF’s supporters are reduced to saying that there is no “legal” link between IDRF and RSS. We agree. It would be impossible to have a legal link with the RSS since the RSS is not a legal entity: No registration under the law of any country. No membership rolls, and no publicly audited financial statements.
But read the latest document closely, according to the FIS report, “The RSS is not registered as an organization. However, the various trusts, which in turn actually manage the activities carried out under the name of the RSS, are registered…” Then, does not giving money to the “various trusts” which engage in the “actual activities” of the RSS amount to giving money to the RSS? Why is the IDRF engaging in such sophistry? If the RSS is indeed such a peerless organization, as they would now like us to believe, why spend all this time trying to deny the relationship?
The FIS report makes no effort to deny that over 80% of the IDRF-designated funds are being disbursed to RSS affiliates or that IDRF office bearers have extensive links with other Sangh Parivar organizations in India and the US. Having admitted on all counts that it is an RSS operation, IDRF now has no choice left but to defend the RSS on grounds of doing service. A fascist organization is difficult to defend except along the grain that it undertakes service work and therefore its hate mongering and violence must be discounted.
The Defense of the RSS
The basic idea that this new report from the Sangh Parivar tries to deliver is that the RSS, in spite of its hate education and violent pogroms, must be seen for the good it does through the service work it undertakes. The FIS report refuses to confront the various documentations of Sangh involvement in anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat last year (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Union reports), or the charges of anti-Christian violence in 1999-2000 (Human Rights Watch, the US State Department).
Instead, the FIS report presents the service work as the only one that must be evaluated by heaping on the reader again and again the numbers of homes rebuilt after the Gujarat earthquake for instance. It attempts to suggest that the FxH report somehow missed this aspect of the work of Sewa Bharati. Not only does the FxH not miss the RSS work in the Gujarat Earthquake, it highlights how the earthquake relief was disbursed along communal lines, that the RSS disrupted the relief efforts by non-Hindu organizations, and that the homes and villages that IDRF helped RSS rebuild had temples and crematoriums, but no mosques, churches or graveyards. Newspapers articles reported that “food packets were offered by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal only to those who shouted, "Jai Siya Ram." Members from the minority communities and those belonging to the lower castes were deprived of tents and other facilities which were grabbed by the upper castes. One of the "Hindutva" champions, Ashok Singhal of the VHP, screamed that the Catholic Church's donation of Rs. 20 crores for quake relief should not be accepted because of the Pope's alleged obsession with conversion.” (Of hope beyond, V. Gangadhar, The Hindu, Feb 25, 2001). The FIS report refuses to engage with the fundamental fact of discrimination in its overwhelming zeal to prove the yeoman service provided by RSS volunteers.
While characterizing the RSS as a social service organization with the good of all Indians at heart, the authors of FIS carelessly leave out the warning contained in the 2002 RSS resolution “Let the Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority.” The same resolution also justified the Gujarat violence in which over 2000 Muslims were killed and over 100,000 Muslims were displaced as ‘natural and spontaneous.’ Similarly, while characterizing the VHP as being “active in delivering a wide range of social, educational, and relief services,” the FIS folks apparently overlooked the fact that the VHP admits to active participation in the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat and is now providing legal help to its cadres charged in the riots. See what Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, chairman of the Gujarat Unit of the VHP had to say in a tape-recorded interview to Rediff.com on March 12, 2002
In the morning (of February 28, 2002) we sat down and prepared the list [of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad]….”
“Karvun j pade, karvun j pade (it had to be done, it had to be done). We don't like it, but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind…. [the rioters were] kelvayela Hindu chokra (well-bred Hindu boys).”
“The VHP has formed a panel of 50 lawyers to help release the arrested people accused of rioting and looting. None of the lawyers will charge any fees because they believe in the RSS ideology."
The VHP President, Ashok Singhal, praised the ethnic cleansing that took place in Gujarat, and
“spoke glowingly of how whole villages had been ‘emptied of Islam’, and how whole communities of Muslims had been dispatched to refugee camps. This was a victory for Hindu society, he added, a first for the religion. ‘People say I praise Gujarat. Yes I do,’ he told an appreciative, but modest, audience.” (Indian Express, Sept 3, 2002)
The FxH does not ignore the evidence of service as FIS claims. It simply says, the so-called “social service” wing of the RSS is not separate from the wing that indulges in violence. They are of the same ideological and operational structure. Building schools is crucial to recruiting cadres that have been tutored in a certain ideology that treats every Christian and Muslim as a ‘foreigner.’ Working in tribal areas is necessary to RSS’s aims of using tribals as foot soldiers in the next pogrom against Muslims and Christians. The FxH report details the hate that is being spread through RSS schools and tribal welfare centers, facts that have been independently verified by investigations conducted by the British TV Channel 4 and the Financial Times of London. The FIS report would have done better by explaining why communal violence in Gujarat has sharply increased only in those tribal areas where RSS outfits such as Ekal Vidyalays and the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram are active, rather than offering testimonials by a self-professed researcher of dubious scholarship.
The Independence of Being Led by the Nose
The FIS report attempts to lay its claims to factuality based on unsubstantiated claims to independence and plurality. Let us examine these:
- The FxH report uses IDRF’s own documentation to prove its links to the Sangh, and RSS’s own literature to highlight the Sangh’s hate ideology. It would have been far easier for the FxH report to make the exact same case that it does by quoting a whole range of journalists and reporters who have already positioned themselves against the Sangh. In sharp contrast, the consultants to the FIS report are all without exception Sangh leaders. Outside of the data provided by the Sangh leaders the report quotes extensively from other articles written by its own authors as data – Mr. Rao’s Sulekha pieces written with the sole intent of propagating the Sangh come back as evidence. How convenient! However this should not surprise us, for the IDRF is a past master at such deception. Look at their website. IDRF quotes its own volunteers as if they were independent evaluators of a project.
- The FxH report and the CSFH campaign have drawn the support of more than 300 academics, many of them well known South Asia experts. This endorsement of the report by a large number of senior professors who have risen to excellence within the domain of South Asian studies should mean something. However, the only thing that the FIS report has to say about this is, “That many of these South Asia experts are viscerally opposed to the RSS and its affiliates can be seen from a variety of academic discussion lists.” So much for the FIS’s independence and their capacity to respect a diversity of opinions.
- Investigative reporting by British media (Channel 4 and the Financial Times) has also verified the conclusions of the FxH report. Many other newspaper and magazine articles have examined the report in detail and found its conclusions worthwhile. Even the FIS authors rue that “We thus see the unrelenting press of articles, editorials, interviews, letters to editors, and campaigns to ‘inform’ the public about the IDRF, and almost an overwhelming majority of them being anti-IDRF.” While they easily dismiss this as “demonization” of the RSS by a “secular orthodoxy,” we believe that this widespread acceptance of the report is a far firmer test of independence than anything that the FIS authors have to offer.
- The claim to a liberal pluralist ethos is an ingenuous one. Hiding behind a cloak of language which preys on two predispositions that it hopes its readers will have –a fear that to say anything negative about Hinduism within the multicultural framework would be politically incorrect, and the second an assumption that if one slaps a Marxist/left label on to people, their work can then be dismissed without argument. The FIS report makes no effort to explain how the FxH report can be considered as furtherance of an argument for ‘proletarian revolution’ (to be considered Marxist), nor how a charge of Marxism changes the conclusions regarding IDRF’s connections to the RSS. It is revealing of the Sangh’s mindset that calling for an end to hate and violence against marginalized communities now automatically gets one labeled everything from anti-Hindu to anti-national to Marxist!
In short, the FIS report hardly contradicts the FxH charge that IDRF funds sectarian and hate activities. All that the authors attempt to do is to justify, and worse, confer respectability to, sectarian hatred and violence.