|CSFH urges people to make the responsible choice in favor of supporting secular groups with a long-standing commitment to the pluralistic ethos and democratic ideals of India.
December 31, 2004
GIVE GENEROUSLY AND HELP REBUILD WHOLE COMMUNITIES
As the death toll climbs past 120,000 and the world comes to grips with the devastation caused by the deadly Indian Ocean tsunamis, numerous organizations across Asia are stepping up to organize relief and rehabilitation. The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH) is humbled by the sheer dedication and determination of these initiatives and urges all individuals in the U.S. and elsewhere to support them by donating generously.
CSFH also appeals to donors to ensure that their well-intended donations do not end up in sectarian hands. It is our combined responsibility to ensure that this tragedy does not provide another opportunity for communal/hate groups to gain a foothold in a plural society.
NON SECTARIAN GRASSROOTS GROUPS ANNOUNCE THEIR RELIEF PLANS
The response to the tsunami tragedy in the US has been heartening, with hundreds of dedicated volunteers putting in enormous amounts of effort to raise resources for relief operations in India and elsewhere. Many of these groups have a long history of carrying out grass-roots, non-sectarian development work in India, and have been able to effectively mobilize their networks at this time to coordinate and bring relief. Below is a partial list of such organizations:
- AID - Association for India's Development
- America India Foundation
- Asha For Education
- India Literacy Project
- India Relief and Education Fund
- Indians for Collective Action
- Singh Foundation
These groups are partnering with various mass-based organizations and NGOs in India, such as the Tamil Nadu Science Forum, the National Fishworkers Forum, Vidyarambam, APVVU (Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Workers Union), People's Watch, Bharathi Trust, and Bhoomika Trust. All of these organizations have a long history of working closely with affected communities and a reputation for complete transparency and accountability.
Given that this tragedy is a transnational disaster, CSFH also recognizes the work of groups such as Doctors Without Borders (http://www.msf.org) in responding to emergencies and peoples needs all over the world. We particularly note the immense loss of life in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, and urge you to consider extending your generosity to help our suffering Asian neighbours if you are able to. The following International Red Cross websites are country specific:
Sri Lanka: http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/sri_lanka!Open
Additionally we urge you to also spread the word about the Red Cross's 'Family Links' initiative which helps locate separated family members throughout the affected region. You can find out more about this from http://www.icrc.org/home.nsf/home/webfamilylinks
STAY CLEAR OF SECTARIAN GROUPS SUCH AS IDRF, HSS, SEWA INTERNATIONAL and VHPA
At the same time, the CSFH also reminds donors that such natural calamities have been used in the past by communal/hate groups to mobilize support for their own sectarian agendas. Such crass opportunism occurred following the Latur earthquake in 1993, in the wake of the Orissa cyclone in 1999, and again when a massive earthquake shook Gujarat in 2001. Each time, sectarian groups swooped in on these areas engulfed in tragedy and established their presence in the grief-stricken communities at the pretext of providing relief (using, in large part, the resources provided by unsuspecting donors in the US). Not only did this lead to unequal disbursement of relief among various communities, but it also caused further fracturing of these struggling communities along lines of caste and religion.
This time too, India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Sewa International and Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America (VHPA) have all put out appeals for Tsunami relief. All these groups are affiliates of the hate-filled, violent and anti-minority Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has been implicated by numerous national and international human rights groups for engineering the anti-Muslim Gujarat pogroms in 2002 and the anti-Christian violence in 1998-2000 (http://www.stopfundinghate.org). The RSS is a secretive organization, openly sectarian in its operations, and is prohibited by the Government of India from accepting funds from overseas. Consequently, its US affiliates are raising funds in the name of Sewa Bharati, Jana Sankshema Samiti and Vivekananda Kendra in India, all of which are fronts for the RSS.
KEEPING SOCIAL JUSTICE ON THE AGENDA
We would also like to note that there are a wide range of linguistic, regional and cultural associations have also stepped forward to gather resources. Such organizations are well equipped to intervene in activities on the ground precisely because of their social and cultural affinities. Because of these reasons, sectarian groups try to use these organizations as vehicles to advance their own agendas. We therefore urge all members to not only take an active part in the fund raising activities of these organizations but also be involved in discussions on how and where the funds will be used. Disasters of this kind are occasions when we should be on high alert to keep social justice at the top of the agenda.
Short-term relief that ends up fomenting religious/ethnic hatreds and violence, not only exploits peoples' suffering for narrow political goals, it also damages the suffering communities in the long term. Groups aligned with the RSS have been responsible for untold violence and misery across India, including the recent Gujarat carnage which left over 2000 people dead and over 150,000 homeless. CSFH urges people to make the responsible choice in favor of supporting secular groups with a long-standing commitment to the pluralistic ethos and democratic ideals of India.