Activists want India Fund to accept rightist tilt
By Ashish Kumar Sen, The Asian Age, November
Washington, Nov. 27: The root cause of
the opposition to organisations like India Development and
Relief Fund is the fact that these groups operate under the
garb of secular and non-political organisations when, in fact,
they are fronts for radical Hindu organisations.
IDRF has, time and again, denied its links to the Sangh Parivar.
In response to an article highlighting some of these ties,
IDRF issued a statement denying any such connections. It
(the IDRF) is not affiliated to any group, ism,
ideology or political party.
Says Shalini Gera, a San Jose-based activist
associated with the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, What
we would like from them [IDRF] at the very least is a clear
and open acknowledgement of their political leanings so that
whatever funds they obtain are really intended for these causes.
Ms Gera was one of the researchers who helped put together
the recent report A Foreign Exchange of Hate.
Adds Raju Rajagopal, a social activist
based in the San Francisco Bay Area, The reason it [the
IDRF] cannot confess it is an RSS outfit is that if it did,
it may lose a lot of secular people who are donating money
and may also lose corporate matching.
Referring to documents submitted to the
US Federal government in 1989 as part of its application for
tax exempt status, A Foreign Exchange of Hate states it is
clear that right from its inception the IDRFs goal was
clearly to support the Sangh Parivar in India. That
the IDRF supports Sangh organisations in India is thus not
a matter of accident but is instead definitional of its very
design, the report concludes.
The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
is a coalition of professionals, students, artists and intellectuals
who share a common concern that sectarian hatred in India
is being fuelled by money flowing from the US.
The group has the professed mission of
turning off this flow from the US to what it calls Hindutva
hate groups responsible for recurring violence against
minorities in India.
Prof. Biju Mathew, a professor at Rider
University, New Jersey, played a significant role researching
for the report. If we look at the structure of what
IDRF claims to support, there is a clear indication that a
lot of organisations it supports are Hindutva groups in India,
For example, the IDRF supports the Keshava Sewa Samiti in
Hyderabad. This organisation has the same address as the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh headquarters in Hyderabad. There is
a clear link in that sense, says Prof. Mathew.
IDRF, a registered tax-exempt charity
in the US, claims to be a non-sectarian organisation raising
funds for development and relief work
in India. Prof. Mathew alleges that far from being secular,
IDRF has been funding sectarian groups in India from
its inception and has been raising funds to support
Sangh activities from US corporations and NRIs.
To corroborate its case, the campaigns
report has set out the links between IDRF and the Sangh Parivar.
Quoting US tax department documents, the report says even
when applying for a tax-exempt charitable status from the
US government in 1989, IDRF listed nine organisations of the
type it planned to support, including Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram
(Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat) and Sewa Bharati, all of which
are linked to the RSS.
According to the report, Sangh-affiliated
organisations account for 80 per cent ($2,684,915) or more
of the total money disbursed at the discretion of the IDRF.
In contrast, only 10 per cent of the donor-designated funds
were actually earmarked for Sangh charities. Barely two per
cent ($70,620) of the money went to secular organisations.
The authors of the report allege that
69 per cent ($2,250,685) of IDRFs money goes for Hinduisation/education/tribal
activities and less than 20 per cent goes for development
and relief activities. Acting on a similar complaint
against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in the United Kingdom, the
Charity Commission is, according to its spokesperson, looking
into potential links between the VHP and extremist organisations
in India and alleged payments to these groups by the charity.
Interestingly, in 1999, the VHP failed
to be recognised by the United Nations as a cultural
organisation because of its philosophical underpinnings.
Started in 1970, the VHP of Americas first office in
New York was registered as a cultural organisation with the
goal of adding cultural enrichment and awareness
to American society, based on eternal Hindu values.
The VHP(A)s student wing, the Hindu
Students Council, has grown rapidly in the early 1990s and
has flourished in Ivy League institutions and universities
such as Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia
University, Tufts, Boston University, Carnegie-Mellon and
Princeton. Many HSCs are run by second generation Indian Americans
with immediate family connections with the VHP(A).
While the VHP in India does not have the
requisite clearance to collect funds from foreign countries,
the Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan, a trust it set up, receives
such funds. Another VHP affiliate, the Ekal Vidyalaya, started
under the Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan and taken up by Sri Vivekananda
Rural Development Society, is funded by the IDRF.
The flow of cash to the mother country
is not a novel occurrence among South Asians, explains
Prof. Vijay Prashad, an associate professor at Trinity College,
He points to Sri Lankan Tamils donating
money to the LTTE as well as contributions by European, Canadian
and American Sikhs to Khalistani groups. If dollar funds
dharma in India, the dollars for zakat raised by the Islamic
orthodoxy are not very different, Prof. Prashad adds.
In a statement issued in response to the report, IDRF refuted
the allegations calling them pure concoction, untruthful
and self-contradicting. It questioned the credibility,
motives and the political agenda of these splintered and virtually
unknown groups that have launched the hate campaign against