US, UK to probe Parivar funding

By Seema Mustafa

The Asian Age, February 25, 2003 original - NOTE: Due to an unfortunate error in the original edition of this article, the IDRF is mistakenly identified with the IRDF. The IRDF is actually an organization which is not affiliated to the IDRF in any way, and has justifiably objected to this error. However, since we cannot legally change the text of the original article from Asian Age, we have agreed to insert this important clarification. Therefore, please note that in the below text, all references to IRDF are erroneous, and should be taken as referances to the IDRF, which is the object of our focus.

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The US state department has asked the justice department to look into reports suggesting that the India Development Relief Fund is siphoning off funds received from major US companies and individuals to RSS-run institutions with the express purpose of furthering the "Hindutva" agenda and not for charitable or development purposes.

The IDRF has denied having received any information about an inquiry although organisations associated with the investigation in the US maintain that they have been told by state department officials that the inquiry is on the cards. The Wall Street Journal and London’s Financial Times have carried lengthy reports recently detailing the funding and linking the IRDF and Sewa International in the UK to RSS-affiliated outfits reportedly involved in fomenting violence in India. The IRDF has now launched a "hate campaign" against all those involved in the investigation of its funds, particularly as its collection drive has been seriously affected by the disclosures that were also carried in the Indian media and sections of the foreign press last year.

The reports that are now being looked into by both the US and British authorities have detailed at length evidence that shows that 80 per cent of the funds being collected by the IDRF were being diverted to Sangh Parivar organisations alone. It has been pointed out that of the 67 organisations affiliated to the IRDF, 52 are directly associated with the Parivar.

The IRDF, on its website, claims to have collected $10 million in the past 10 years alone.

Cisco, Sun Microsystems and Oracle are some of the companies that have donated money to the fund, ostensibly for development-related work. There is considerable interest in both Washington and London about reports maintaining that several organisations that have received substantial donations from the IRDF in India were involved in mobilising communal violence. There is concern expressed through the media abroad that the IRDF was giving money to "top affiliates of the RSS which Human Rights Watch said were directly involved in the Gujarat riots."

It has been pointed out by the Citizens Tribunal of senior judges that had enquired into the Gujarat violence that the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and the Vivekananda Kendra, both beneficiaries of IRDF donations, "motivated adivasis against other minorities in Gujarat." Another organisation, Sewa Bharati, funded by the IRDF, organised a Hindu Sangam in Madhya Pradesh last January. A senior professor at the California Institute of Integrated Studies in San Francisco, Angana Chatterjee, has written, "IDRF’s funding to Sangh organisations aids the spread of the ideology and practice of Hindutva that actively produces the very conditions for social violence that are detrimental to India’s national interests."

The British are inquiring into the reported misuse of funds by Sewa International through the Charities Commission. The Financial Times report three days ago is expected to speed up the inquiry into the organisation that has been diverting funds meant for charitable causes to activities quite different from the aims and the objectives of the registered institute. These two organisations, which have registered a rapid growth in the US and Britain, are known to have "intimate connections" with the RSS and its front organisations in India. The IRDF was set up in 1989, ostensibly for funding organisations in India that "assist in development and tribal well-being."