IDRF Supporters Dispute Charges, Critics Unimpressed
By Ashfaque Swapan
India West, January 10, 2003 website
Supporters of the India Development and Relief Fund have
announced "an outpouring of spontaneous support from
well- wishers of India from all walks of life and from all
across the globe" following charges by critics that the
U .S.-based non- profit has been misleading donors with its
apolitical facade while furthering the agenda of the Hindu
nationalist Sangh Parivar in India.
IDRF's critics remain unimpressed, saying in a press release
that the response "does not in any way counter the arguments
of the report and campaign. Instead, (supporters) to dismiss
the authors by calling them names."
The "Stop Hatred and Let India Develop" campaign
(www.letindiadevelop.org) said in a press release that their
campaign in support of IDRF has already received over 5,000
“This campaign was started in direct response to an organized
hate movement initiated by Mumbai-based Sabrang Communications
Private Limited, the worldwide Forum of Indian Leftists, France-based
South Asia Citizens' Web and California-based Friends of South
Asia," the press release added.
"The 91-page report of Sabrang/ FOIL is a masterpiece
of manipulation of facts and arguments by assertion,"
Ramesh Rao, a Missouri-based college professor, told India
West. "The thrust of the report is that the IDRF has
funded RSS-affiliated social work programs, and by association,
IDRF is an RSS supporter, and in turn therefore supports hate.
"We do not agree that RSS is a hate organization, but
we are not holding a brief for RSS here. Polemics on whether
RSS is a 'hate organization' are totally irrelevant and an
intentionally obfuscatory device of hate campaign against
"Our statement is simple IDRF is an apolitical social
welfare organization with an admirable track record of funding
UCLA historian Vinay Lal, a spokesperson for the Campaign
to Stop Funding the Hate ( www.stopfundinghate.org) scoffs
at the rebuttal by IDRF supporters. 'The supposition that
the authors of the report are spreading hate is astounding,
and entirely un- imaginative, since the accusation of fomenting
hate is merely turned upon them," he said.
"The authors of the report have nowhere suggested that
they do not wish to see India develop; nor are they counseling
hatred towards anyone. Yet their particular argument, namely
that IDRF has become a conduit for funneling money to organizations
affiliated to the RSS or to other Hindutva organizations,
is deliberately misrepresented as an argument against the
development of India. IDRF's defenders deploy precisely the
same strategies that the Bush administration is using to denigrate
civil libertarians - tarnishing dissenters as traitorous,
anti-national, and so on. Let us not forget that the assassin
of Gandhi, and his mends, supporters and patrons similarly
represented the Mahatma as a friend of Muslims and of Pakistan."
IDRF supporters point to several factual errors in the critique
of its activities. The report categorizes Miraj Medical Center
as RSS-affiliated, but it is actually affiliated with the
Church of North India, their press release says. The report
also describes Maharashtra-based Jnana Pra- bodhini as RSS-affiliated,
IDRF supporting press release argues that "this fine
institution is also funded by the Government of India, industry,
and welfare organizations including Asha and AID in the U.S."
In a press release, the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate acknowledged
that its characterization of Miraj Medical Center was mistaken.
"We thank Mr. Rao and the LID volunteers for pointing
this error out because without knowing, they have helped our
case immensely," the release said. "The Miraj Medical
Center account is a Donor Directed Fund and NOT an IDRF grant
recipient as the LID release claims." The press release
added that their argument that IDRF sends funds under its
control to RSS-affiliated organizations still stands, because
support for the medical center fell beyond that criterion.
As for the Jnan Prabodhini, the CSFH said that just because
other non-sectarian organizations support a group does not
mean the organization is not RSS-affiliated. "It is critical
to note that they have not denied that Jnana Prabodhini is
an RSS outfit," their release said. "If they do
want it to be out of the 83 percent (of RSS-related projects)
then they should be able to prove that it is not an RSS operation.
Their inability to do so can be explained very simply. It
is indeed an RSS organization. The organization was launched
and headed by an RSS worker, V. V. Pendse."
Meanwhile, IDRF supporters take issue with a petition by
South Asian academics criticizing its role(I-W,Dec.13)."Drubbed
by popular opinion, Sabrang/ FOIL/FOSA now reveals its contempt
for democracy and the Indian American community," their
press release said. "Their Web site brags the support
of some 'South Asia academics.' We respectfully submit that
one does not require a Ph.D. in South Asia Studies to read
the Sabrang/FOIL/SACW report and form their own informed judgment
regarding the report's claims and motivations."
Since IDRF supporters are dismissing critics as leftists
with an axe to grind, India-West asked Ramesh Rao how he explained
the fact that U .S.. corporations like Oracle and Cisco had
discontinued matching funds and several mainstream American
academics had agreed with the critique.
"Both of the above questions are really best directed
to the persons/corporate entities that you cite," he
replied. "There are more than 4,000 faculty of Indian
origin teaching in the U.S. I know from speaking to them that
there are many who are skeptical of the Sabrang report, some
undecided about it, and a few who have rejected it completely."
He added that over 200 academics had signed petitions supporting
However, UCLA historian Vinay Lal, a critic of IDRF, says
it is significant that IDRF had been criticized by "300
faculty presently working in American universities, who together
account for the bulk of the faculty working in South Asian
history in the U.S."
Rao, on the other hand, expressed confidence that IDRF, on
the other hand, ex- pressed confidence that IDRF will emerge
stronger from the controversy.
"We trust that U.S. corporations and Indian Americans
can see what we see: that someone who calls the Miraj Medical
Center an RSS-affiliate, just to manufacture data to support
their false conclusion, is simply expressing blind prejudice
and bigotry, whatever their education, title or rank,"
The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate is unconvinced. "Mr.
Rao's LID release does not in any way counter the arguments
of the report and the Campaign," its press release says.
"Instead, Mr. Rao seeks to dismiss the authors by calling
them names. Calling the authors of the report 'left-anarchist-fundamentalist'
cannot be a substitute for substance. . .Our call to all readers
is once again simple -'Let us join hands and stop the funding
Box Quote 1: “Our statements is simple – IDRF is an apolitical
social welfare organization with admirable track record of
funding non-sectarian services.” -- IDRF supporter Ramesh
Box Quote 2: “The authors of the report have nowhere suggested
that they do not wish to see India develop; nor are they counseling
hatred towards anyone.” -- Vinay Lal of the Campaign to Stop