widens probe of charities tied to militants
Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Times, February 14 2003 22:00 original
US government is investigating a Maryland-based Hindu
charity accused of financing fundamentalist organisations
in India linked to last year's violence against Muslims
in the state of Gujarat.
charity has received donations from leading US companies
including Cisco, Sun Microsystems and Oracle.
move highlights how US authorities have widened their
scrutiny of charities suspected of supporting violence
since the September 11 attacks. Last week, the chief
executive of Benevolence International Foundation, an
Islamic charity, pleaded guilty to directing donations
to Muslim fighters in Chechnya and Bosnia.
state department has asked the justice department to
investigate a report claiming that tax-exempt charities
are funding affiliates of Rashitriya Swayamsevak Sangh,
the militant Hindu organisation that Human Rights Watch
concluded was "directly involved" in the Gujarat
report, compiled by a group of San Francisco-based Indians,
focuses on the India Development and Relief Fund, a
Maryland-based charity, which it accuses of funding
non-governmental organisations that are fronts for RSS.
IDRF, which raised more than $10m between 1997 and 2001,
says it funds poverty alleviation projects and provides
disaster relief but admits links with RSS. "No
evidence has been produced to show that NGOs used IDRF
funds to spread hate or incite violence," said
Vijay Pallod, regional vice-president of IDRF. But he
acknowledged that "some IDRF volunteers are inspired
by Sangh organisations, particularly its aspiration
of serving needy people selflessly".
report also accuses VHP of America of funding projects
sponsored by VHP of India, the religious wing of RSS,
which has been linked with violence. Guarang Vaishnav,
general- secretary of VHPA, said his organisation is
independent from the VHP of India, even though the VHP
of America is listed as the registrant for the VHP of
controversy has spread to leading US companies that
donated money to the IDRF under an employee donation-matching
scheme. Cisco contributed $70,000 to IDRF but has suspended
donations to the charity while it re-evaluates its philanthropic
MicroSystems also made small donations but has not suspended
its programme. According to Mr Pallod, Oracle has joined
Cisco in suspending donations. Human rights campaigners
say the US government may be reluctant to pursue the
will prove to be an uphill battle for the US to properly
investigate and scrutinise these organisations because
of their links to the India's ruling party, the BJP,"
said Smita Narula, senior south Asia researcher at Human
US needs India as an ally right now."