Pressure to withdraw charity status of RSS, HSS in U.K.

By Hasan Suroor

The Hindu, March 4, 2003 original

LONDON MARCH. 4. Britain's Charity Commission is under renewed pressure to withdraw the charity status of the U.K. unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, which have been accused of diverting charitable donations to fund sectarian violence in India.

A group of cross-community social activists from a number of London-based south Asian organisations held a candle-light vigil outside the offices of the Commission here on Monday evening and later gave a petition demanding immediate action.

The Commission, which is investigating complaints of misuse of funds by these two organisations, has said that so far it has not established "sufficient evidence" to warrant a formal inquiry into the affairs of the VHP but it is keeping its activities "under review" and would welcome any information that might help. The files on VHP would be kept open "pending receipt of any further information". It has also not ruled out a visit to Gujarat to investigate the allegations. In their petition, the protestors said that while the inquiry dragged on, money continued to
"pour in from unsuspecting donors in Britain to Hindutva groups in the guise of charity". A spokesperson for the South Asia Solidarity Group, which organised the vigil, said there was enough evidence to "deregister" these organisations.

The petition, signed by 14 organisations including several women's groups, alleged t! hat funds raised in the name of welfare causes were being used to fund campaigns against minorities in India. It said extensive evidence had been collected by independent human rights organisations such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in support of these allegations.