Campaign Charges IDRF Is Funding Sangh Parivar
By Ashfaque Swapan, India-West,
Nov. 29, 2002
"The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate,"
a loose organization of predominantly
Indian American activists, has accused the U.S.-based non-profit
India Development and Relief Fund of misleading donors by
calling itself a
non-sectarian and non-political philanthropic organization
funds to furthering the political agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
is the umbrella term used to describe proponents of Hindutva
the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the
Swayamsevak Sangh. The campaign has backed its claim with
annotated report produced by the France-based South Asia Citizens'
Mumbai-based Sabrang Communications which links IDRF to Sangh
IDRF has dismissed the charge in a press release, saying the
"pure concoction, untruthful and self-contradicting."
However, Silicon Valley heavyweight hi-tech companies Cisco
Microsystems have suspended corporate grants that match the
employees for IDRF.
"Cisco has suspended all donations to IDRF pending investigations
allegations," Penny Bruce, who works with Cisco corporate
Kristin Huguet, who works with Sun Microsystems corporate
told India-West that Sun had also suspended matching employee
donations to IDRF have been put on hold," Huguet said,
adding that the
company is going to communicate with the Internal Revenue
determine whether IDRF qualifies to receive matching funds.
Neither Cisco nor
Sun officials could say when they will come to a decision
on this matter.
Bethesda, Md.-based IDRF has drawn considerable attention
in the Indian
American community for its massive fundraising and extensive
projects in India. According to its Web site, it has raised
over $5.5 million
in the past decade, and it has no overhead expenses, with
out-of-pocket expenses and even taking trips to visit projects
at their own
However, "The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate," which
describes itself as "a
coalition . . . professionals, students, workers, artists
who share a common concern that sectarian hatreds in India
are being fueled
by money flowing from the United States," says it has
Saffron Dollar "to put an end to the collection of hundreds
of thousands of
dollars by the most 'respectable' of the U.S.-based funding
arms of the
violent and sectarian Hindutva movement - the IDRF."
"The people behind this campaign are a very disparate
and very broad group,
and we kind of got together in the aftermath of the Gujarat
Shalini Gera, one of the campaign's activists. "It was
pretty obvious to us
that money was going from this country."
Gera said the SACW/ Sabrang report, in which their volunteers
contributed, makes a powerful case that IDRF is for all practical
RSS front organization.
The report, "The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the
American Funding of
Hindutva," says that IDRF listed nine Indian organizations
to the IRS in 1989
as representative of organizations it wanted to support. All
organizations are Sangh Parivar supporters, as attested by
Web sites of other
Sangh Parivar-supporting organizations. The online version
of the report
provides links where readers can themselves visit Sangh Parivar
which provide links or support IDRF.
"This report is a product of a careful study and analysis
of more than 150
pieces of documentary evidence, almost three-quarters of which
published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates,
printed form or electronically," the report states. "The
remaining 25 of the
documents are from secondary sources.
"The methodological emphasis on primary sources internal
to the Sangh
Parivar, is to ensure that the evidentiary basis of the conclusions
of the highest standards."
In a press release, IDRF rejected "the allegations made
by leftist groups
based in the U.S. and India, who launched an anti-IDRF Hate
release added: "After reviewing the initial press reports
. . . IDRF
dismisses the allegations made by the groups as pure concoction,
and self-contradicting. The main theme of the hate campaign
seems to be that
IDRF is 'duping' non-resident Indians and U.S. corporations
to fund the
activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in India. These
not stand up to any rational scrutiny.
"IDRF questions the credibility, motives and the political
agenda of these
splintered and virtually unknown groups that have launched
the Hate Campaign
Srinivas Penumaka, an IDRF spokesperson, said the fact that
the campaign was
timed between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, an important
fundraising, was done to hurt IDRF's fundraising efforts.
"We feel that it is
very malicious and absolutely baseless, and it is a hate campaign,"
India-West. "We feel there is a hidden political agenda."
Penumaka, who has himself been associated with the RSS when
he lived in
Hyderabad, did not deny that the nine organizations quoted
by the campaign
had Sangh Parivar connections.
"Our view is that we don't want to discriminate against
anybody based on
their own ideological inclinations as long as the fund distribution
following a certain stipulated norm," he said. "The
condition is that they
have to serve poverty-stricken people of India without regard
for their caste
Sewa Bharati, which is mentioned in the RSS Web site as a
organization, has received considerable support from IDRF.
IDRF support for it. "Whether we support Sewa Bharati,
whether it is part of
RSS, you can make a point, but the point we are trying to
make is that when
we are doing the distribution we are not discriminating against
We are giving funds for a stated purpose."
He said that IDRF's main goal is to make sure that funds are
and efficiently used for development projects; the fact that
the bulk of its
support goes to organizations which happen to have ties with
the RSS or the
Sangh Parivar is incidental.
When Penumaka was told that the SACW/ Sabrang report had pointed
IDRF's inaction following the Gujarat riots early this year
stood in sharp
contrast with its massive aid campaigns in other disasters,
he said it was a
matter of policy. "Our policy is not to fund any riot
victim," he told
India-West. "We did not fund Godhra victims. We did not
victims, primarily because we don't know who the real victims
are and a lot
of follow-up has to be done."
Penumaka said he regretted Cisco's decision to suspend matching
said IDRF was working on the issue and he couldn't reveal
He added that despite the adverse publicity, he was heartened
by the support
IDRF had received.
"The good thing we see is that a lot of supporters have
come forward to lend
a helping hand for sailing through these difficult times,"
he said. "Most of
them have contributed, a lot of them have visited these organizations
doing the actual work back in India, and these are the people
who have seen
the actual commendable work being done."
Gera, an activist with the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate,
says she is also
heartened. "I think it's been like a dream, the fact
that we have managed to
get the community to actually do some introspection and be
a little bit aware
of where the dollars are going," she said.
"At one level, if people really want to support the Sangh,
and they give the
money knowingly, at that level, we can't make much of a difference.
least for people who have been automatically giving money
and not bothering
where it's going, those people are getting sensitized to the
fact that you
just can't do development relief work by just giving money,
responsibility to see how the money is used."
Interested readers can find more information on the Web about
the Campaign to
Stop Funding Hate at www.stopfundinghate.org, India Development
Fund at www.idrf.org and the report, "The Foreign Exchange
of Hate: IDRF and
the American Funding of Hindutva," at www.stopfundinghate.org/sacw/
"At least for people who have been automatically giving
money and not
bothering where it's going, those people are getting sensitized
to the fact
that you just can't do development relief work by just giving
your responsibility to see how the money is used."