| 12 December, 2002 Campaign responds to IDRF's rebuttal of the Foreign Exchange of Hate Report.
STOP FUNDING HATE CAMPAIGN RESPONDS TO IDRF'S REBUTTAL
WHEN THE NEEDLE POINTED TO IDRF
Before we consider the rejoinder by IDRF (http://www.idrf.org/pressrelease112202.html) let us recapitulate our position. The meticulously researched report "The Foreign Exchange of Hate" published on Nov. 20 established the following.
1) An overwhelming 83% of IDRF's funding goes to the organizations of the Sangh Parivar. A mere 2% goes to organizations that are secular. Given the fact that the Sangh Parivar organizations are only a tiny percentage of all development organizations working in India; this pattern of disbursal cannot be coincidental.
2) At least 60 of the 75 IDRF's self-identified "sister organizations" are part of the Sangh Parivar. All of the original organizations identified by the IDRF as potential recipients of its largesse at the time of its formation belong to the Sangh Parivar.
3) Most of the office bearers of IDRF are members of the Sangh. The Indian Advisor of IDRF is identified as "the organizer of Sangh Parivar activities abroad." Several IDRF office bearers have a cozy relationship with the Sangh Parivar in India.
4) Almost all Sangh Parivar organizations, including the hate-mongering Hindu Unity, list IDRF as the charity of their choice on their web pages. Several of them raise money for IDRF.
Based on the above, the report concluded that IDRF is part of the Sangh Parivar family. Why is this significant? Because, the Sangh Parivar's primary responsibility for violence against minorities has been well documented by several human rights organizations in India and elsewhere, including Human Rights Watch (http://hrw.org/press/2002/04/gujarat.htm ). Many of the Sangh Parivar organizations funded by the IDRF have been implicated in violent acts and the propagation of hatred. By funding organizations in Sangh Parivar fold, in the name of development and relief, IDRF is both providing them with a cloak of respectability, and supplying resources for their violent campaigns. In order to achieve this IDRF represents itself as a non-sectarian, non-religious non-political organization.
The report and the campaign based on the report did not claim that IDRF is legally culpable for involvement in violent activities here or in India. What it did claim however is that IDRF is part of the Sangh Parivar, a network of Hindu supremacist organizations and that insofar as it claims to be a non-sectarian organization, IDRF is misleading donors both individuals and corporate houses.
So what does the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate seek to do?
1) We want to expose the link between IDRF and the sangh, so that well-intentioned donors are not misled into thinking they are giving money for "development and relief" while their funds actually go towards supporting sectarian POLITICAL work.
2) We want U.S. corporations to stop their matching donations to the IDRF based on their formal, stated policies of not supporting any religious and political organization.
3) We also want to make it clear that while we are politically and morally opposed to the Sangh Parivar, and by extension, the IDRF, we hold that individuals who want to send their money to the Sangh Parivar through the IDRF, they should be able to do so, based on informed consent. Our Campaign is directed against the deception that the IDRF employs to cloak its political affinity.
IDRF ISSUES TAME REJOINDER
In response to our Campaign, the IDRF issued a statement, Nov. 22, 2002 which was published on their website, denying our charges. The summary of IDRF's argument is this: the report is a work of "leftist groups" and is "pure concoction, untruthful and self-contradicting."
IDRF is silent on the substance of the findings of the report. IDRF has not made any effort to engage with the substantial charges made by us in all the newspaper reports and radio shows that IDRF has participated in since the launch of our Campaign. We challenge IDRF to categorically address the two charges: 1. IDRF is part of Sangh Parivar. 2. Sangh Parivar is sectarian. Until it does so, the inescapable conclusion for the NRI community is that IDRF has no defense.
When reports of the IDRF-Sangh nexus first emerged, IDRF spokespersons categorically denied it. As evidence has mounted, their stance has changed. Their current position is that many of their volunteers may be members of Sangh Parivar, but as an organization IDRF has nothing to do with Sangh Parivar. The evidence presented in the 91-page, 147-footnoted report (most of which are gleaned from the documents of the IDRF and the Sangh), illustrates the ludicrousness of this position. To take but one example, when a discussion arose in a Sangh Parivar internet group about the proposal by an IDRF volunteer to raise money for Indian Muslims who had died in a fire while on a pilgrimage to Mecca, an IDRF spokesperson apologized for "hurt[ing] the feelings of many IDRF well-wishers" and assured the group that "new guidelines" had been put in place that would ensure that "such a thing will not be repeated in the future" (see page 68 of the report). The list of evidence establishing IDRF's sectarian dispersal of funds is long and elaborate. We demand that IDRF deny /explain how this can be construed as anything but evidence of IDRF's sectarianism.
The report on which the Campaign is based examines in detail, five key areas: education, healthcare, women, children and tribal welfare, and in addition, relief and rehabilitation efforts funded by IDRF and demonstrates that IDRF's activities in all these areas are sectarian and politically motivated. The nature of "education" supported by IDRF is geared towards generating a militant Hindu revivalism and promoting bigotry (see the article "Hindu Right Goes to School to Build a Nation" in the New York Times on May 13, 2002). The focus on "tribal welfare" is a euphemism. The Sangh Parivar has realized that the continued existence of indigenous tribal identities is a threat to its totalitarian project. Its "tribal welfare" programs are therefore aimed at "re-converting" tribals to Hinduism (notwithstanding the fact that these tribal communities were never Hindu to begin with). The Sangh Parivar's tactics in this process, include violent retribution against those who do not succumb. Many of these "reconverted" tribals are deployed in the recent violence against religious minorities. Foreign Exchange of Hate carefully documents all these objections we have to the IDRF. Further, as the report demonstrates, much of the relief work done by the agencies supported by the IDRF was sectarian and sought to lay further building blocks for an extremist form of Hinduism.
In sum, the IDRF response is an attempt to turn the attention away from the substance of our Campaign. If IDRF is indeed what it purports to be, it needs to challenge the report with facts and with a clear articulation of its relationship with the Sangh. A failure to do so will only serve to reinforce the claims of our campaign.
SANGH PARIVAR COMES TO IDRF'S AID
A number of different groups have joined hands in order to challenge our campaign. A few points are worth noting about this orchestration.
1) Most of the groups merely parrot the IDRF line while engaging in personal attacks on members of the campaign. Hindu Unity http://www.hinduunity.org is the official site of the Bajrang Dal, the paramilitary wing of the Sangh Parivar. The website which glorifies Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi's assassin, maintains a "hit-list" (http://www.hinduunity.org/hitlist.html) and identifies several "enemies" which now include members of our campaign (incidentally, the New York Times also finds a place on this hit-list). In addition, the webpage had a graphic of a noose until recently (we have archived that) and the image of dripping blood .
2) Signatories on a counter-petition launched by a group called "Let India Develop"
http://www.letindiadevelop.org are almost exclusively from Hindu upper castes. Contrast this with the diverse body of people who have signed the "Stop Funding Hate Campaign." Second, the comments column of the counter-petition was so hate-filled that the organizers thought it prudent to pull it off the web. (we do have archived copies of several of these comments). Third, the page links to an "independent report" that identifies the members of the Campaign and labels them in the familiar fashion of the Sangh Parivar as commies, terrorists, evangelists, Muslim-lovers, Christian-lovers, and pseudo-secularists. In Sangh Parivar lexicon these are all interchangeable terms.
3) Interestingly "Let India Develop" claims to represent the true heirs of Mahatma Gandhi, who incidentally fell to the bullet of Nathuram Godse, so glorified by "Hindu Unity" a sympathizer of IDRF. How can both Godse's heirs and Mahatma Gandhi's heirs support IDRF? Which of them is the true face of IDRF? An easy question to answer, particularly as Let India Develop, IDRF and Hindu Unity have the same volunteer base. The same individuals present different persona on these different websites!
4) The leader of a discussion thread, on http://www.bharat-rakshak.com, Mr. Narayanan Komerath, identifies himself as a coordinator for one of the sister-organizations of IDRF. He posted a message that gives readers a game plan for harassing the members of the Campaign at the universities where they teach. It is clear from the discussion that most of the participants agree that IDRF is affiliated with the Sangh Parivar.
5) Both in the United States and in India, Sangh Parivar activists have openly and covertly issues threats to anyone who dared criticize them, specifically targeting members of minority communities. For example, individuals in Gujarat have been threatened with violence by the Sangh Parivar because they referred to the 'Foreign Exchange of Hate' report in public fora. Another active volunteer of IDRF and Hindu Unity in New York, Mr. Narain Kataria is on record saying: "The Hindu is very angry, and when he rises all you people will not be safe. There won't be any Communist or Muslim left in India."
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
What does all this add up to? It conclusively proves our charge that IDRF is part of the Sangh Parivar. But more importantly, it actually gives us an insight into the way IDRF works. It presents itself as upholding the ideals of both Godse and Gandhi. It should not surprise anyone if in the near future we are told that Godse and Gandhi are the same. This ability to misrepresent is what makes IDRF an objectionable organization. Stop Funding Hate campaign has succeeded in establishing the crucial link between IDRF and the intolerant and violent Sangh Parivar. It will continue to strive to challenge threats to India's hard-won multireligious democracy and independence.