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 organization
India Development and Relief Fund of misleading donors by calling itself a
non-sectarian and non-political philanthropic organization while funneling
funds to furthering the political agenda of the Sangh Parivar. Sangh Parivar
is the umbrella term used to describe proponents of Hindutva which include
the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh. The campaign has backed its claim with a detailed,
annotated report produced by the France-based South Asia Citizens' Web and
Mumbai-based Sabrang Communications which links IDRF to Sangh Parivar

IDRF has dismissed the charge in a press release, saying the allegations are
"pure concoction, untruthful and self-contradicting."

However, Silicon Valley heavyweight hi-tech companies Cisco and Sun
Microsystems have suspended corporate grants that match the donations of
employees for IDRF.

"Cisco has suspended all donations to IDRF pending investigations of
allegations," Penny Bruce, who works with Cisco corporate public relations,
told India-West.

Kristin Huguet, who works with Sun Microsystems corporate public relations,
told India-West that Sun had also suspended matching employee donations. "All
donations to IDRF have been put on hold," Huguet said, adding that the
company is going to communicate with the Internal Revenue Service to
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 support for
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 volunteers meeting
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 and intellectuals
who share a common concern that sectarian hatreds in India are being fueled
by money flowing from the United States," says it has launched Project
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 violence," said
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 also
contributed, makes a powerful case that IDRF is for all practical purposes an
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 these
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 Web sites
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 are those
published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, either in
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 drawn is
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 Campaign." The
release added: "After reviewing the initial press reports . . . IDRF
dismisses the allegations made by the groups as pure concoction, untruthful
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 allegations do
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
against IDRF."

Srinivas Penumaka, an IDRF spokesperson, said the fact that the campaign was
timed between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, an important time for
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," he told
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 is
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
or race."

Sewa Bharati, which is mentioned in the RSS Web site as a sister
organization, has received considerable support from IDRF. Penumaka defended
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 any religion.
We are giving funds for a stated purpose."

He said that IDRF's main goal is to make sure that funds are appropriately
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 out that
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 fund post-Godhra
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 grants, but
said IDRF was working on the issue and he couldn't reveal details now.
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 who are
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. But 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 money, it's your
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, India Development and Relief
Fund at and the report, "The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and
the American Funding of Hindutva," at

"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 money, it's
your responsibility to see how the money is used."