Published: 12 December 2002
Reporter: Jonathan Miller
Broadcast: Channel 4 News
(original URL:

Earlier this year riots in Gujarat claimed over a thousand lives – mostly Muslims killed by Hindus. Today, as Indians go to the state polls, a special investigation by Channel 4 News reveals that a high profile British charity has been raising funds for extreme Hindu groups involved in the massacre.

SEWA International has been praised by Prince Charles and backed by many prominent British Asians but we show that some of its donations are channelled directly to Hindu fundamentalists in India. At a time when the British government is trying to clamp down on the financing of extremist groups from within Britain, Jonathan Miller reports on unsuspecting help for violence in India.

Sunday morning in West London and young Hindus are attending a local branch of the RSS, India's biggest Hindu nationalist group. Its British arm, the HSS, is a charity registered here for nearly 30 years. Every week across Britain there are 72 meetings like this one.

Rahul Deolia:
As most ethnic minority youngsters will tell you it's important to know who you are and where you come from in order to face the rest of society that's the way it is and that's how HSS has helped me coming to Shakha develop a sense of identity.

But is the HSS really just a watered down version of this? Up to 60 British volunteers, like Rahul, come to India for training every year on funds raised by the HSS charity. Critics express concern about the organisation's ideology.

Lord Desai, LSE:
The RSS is like a fascist youth movement like black shirts or something like that but perhaps with deeper roots because the RSS has been there for 75 years plus.

In that time the RSS has evolved a unique and some say potentially lethal philosophy.

Chetan Bhatt, Goldsmith College, London:
The core ideas of the RSS are based on an ideology called Hindutva or Hindu nationalism. This was an idea formed in the 1920s and at the root of it is the idea that India has to be an exclusive nation state, where minorities must demonstrate unconditional love and obedience to the nation. Otherwise they will be converted forcibly or removed. So for example one popular Hindutva slogan is that Muslims in India have only two places: Pakistan or Kabristan, Kabristan meaning the graveyard.

In March, the burning alive of 58 Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob in Gujarat enraged Hindu nationalists.

PV Ruperlia, Secretary HSS (UK):
It boils up my blood hindus in India have gone through a period of humiliating subjugation for the past seven hundred years we are prepared to forgive for that we can not forget it.

The Hindu nationalist backlash was immediate, in the Indian state of Gujarat more than 2,000 Muslims were killed and several hundred thousand displaced, in the worst communal disturbance since partition.

Several inquiries including one by the British High Commission saw the hand of the RSS and its associated organisations behind the violence. Back in Britain, Channel Four News has learned how Special Branch responded to the Gujarat violence: they started a watching brief on the HSS. In addition, the charity commission were alerted to allegations that money raised for the HSS in Britain might fund communal violence in India. In September they
announced a formal investigation into the Leicester based charity. This is focusing on Sewa International, the HSS's welfare and relief arm, which raises millions for Indian emergencies and development.

Simon Gillespie, Director of Operations, Charity Commission:
Our concern is to make sure that any charity directs its funds properly to that charitable cause to make sure that they are not misleading donors in the process so we want to make sure there's a very clear line between the money given here in the UK and the needy people in Gujarat.

For months Channel Four News has been investigating the activities of the HSS, how they raise money and what they do with it. Their appeal for earthquake victims in Gujarat last year raised more than £4–million and could hardly have been more high–profile. It earned the praise of the Prince of Wales whose office wrote that "the Prince continues to be most impressed by the excellent work being done by Sewa International (and sends his
best wishes to all the staff and volunteers)." Sewa recruited four peers as patrons, including President of the Liberal Democrat Party Lord Dholakia–and Cabinet minister Paul Boateng attended a fund–raising event. Many donors are unaware that Sewa International is part of the HSS. That's because Sewa is not actually a registered charity, it simply borrows the HSS charity registration number. Among those who now feel deceived is
Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn one of the patrons in its earthquake appeal.

Lord Adam Patel:
Well, I was absolutely shocked. They were involved directly or indirectly in many communal riots, they were involved in the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque. So I said what's going on? Have I lent my name to the wrong organisation?

Channel 4 News:
But it does appear they have indeed done good work.

Lord Adam Patel:
If they have I congratulate them, but I don't approve of their association.

In August, Lord Patel wrote a letter demanding details of Sewa's links to Hindu nationalist groups in India. When he did not receive answers, he resigned.

So just what is the money raised by Sewa used for in India? And what is its connection with Sewa's parent organisation the HSS and the extremist activities of the RSS in India? We logged on to the Sewa International website. You can make a donation by credit card. Unless you specify a particular cause, Sewa will then pass your money on to any one of a whole host of projects they support in India – no doubt many of them good works. But one of the most high–profile is the Kalyan Ashram, a project to help the poorest of the poor in India, the tribal people. The Indian project's website says it's 'dedicated to weaning' tribal people 'away from the evil influence of foreign missionaries and anti–national forces'. We heard about a campaign by Kalyan Ashram to convert thousands of tribal people to Hinduism in Gujarat. The conversion campaign started in 1997, the year in which accounts filed with the Charity Commission show Sewa International began funding Kalyan Ashram.

Chetan Bhatt, Goldsmith College, London:
The activities of individuals led to systematic violence for example attacks on churches the burning down of churches in towards the end of 1988 and in 1999, increased violence and hostility towards the Christian population in Gujarat.

When we asked the HSS about this, they provided a statement from Kalyan Ashram in Gujarat which said: "Kalyan Ashram has never destroyed any places of worship." But we wanted to find out whether money given by British donors to Sewa International, apparently to help the poor in India, could actually end up funding sectarian violence there. We sent a team to Gujarat to find out. There we heard allegations that sectarian violence by Kalyan Ashram was still going on. The team went to the Baroda region of Gujarat, scene of some of the worst violence against Muslims earlier this year. Fifty–six people were killed here in just a few days, hundreds more injured, 29 mosques were destroyed, thousands were driven from their homes. In village after village, we spoke to several victims who blamed the violence on Kalyan Ashram. One of them was Mohammed Hajji.

Mohammed Hajji:
We had to run away from our village. This is our house which they burnt. They looted our property. About a 150 homes were destroyed here. And this is our mosque which they burned down. We had no fight, quarrel, problem of any sort with the tribals we used to live peacefully with them.

That night a Hindu activist who had witnessed Kalyan Ashram operations at first hand gave us the inside story on the riots. We've had to protect his identity. He told us the local Kalyan Ashram boss had organised the attacks in Mohammed Haji 's area.

Hindu activist:
He threatened the villagers saying that if they didn't join in provoking the Muslims and burning them, they would also be treated like Muslims and burnt. And he said the government is on our side, nothing will happen to you. So the Kalyan Ashram activists gave the villagers bows and arrows and revolvers and such arms.

When our team went to the Ashram boss's home village his family said he was on the run from the police. The police accuse him of leading a mob of 2,000 tribal people in another big attack. And in a chilling aside, a local Hindu activist told of Kalyan Ashram's plans for yet more violence.

Family member:
The Christians have made a church in our village. We have thought several times of destroying it. One day we will definitely break it down.

Retired Indian Supreme Court Judge P.B. Sawant has spent months hearing evidence for an independent tribunal on the Gujarat violence. He has no doubts about Kalyan Ashram's role.

P.B. Sawant Retired Supreme Court Judge:
The organisation called Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram through which the tribals are being indoctrinated into communal philosophy was roped in and all those who were trained there were also enrolled for violence.

The President of Kalyan Ashram in Gujarat denied his organisation was involved in violence. He also denied any dealings with the HSS and even, at first, with Sewa International.

Channel 4 News:
You don't have help from Sewa International?
Dr RK Shah, President Kalyan Ashram (Gujarat)

Channel 4 News:
Because they list you as one of the projects which they sponsor?
Dr RK Shah, President Kalyan Ashram (Gujarat):
They were providing assistance and scholarships to students, school fees, there might be some tribal students who are receiving from Sewa International.

It turns out Dr Shah's missing worker in Baroda, accused of leading the violence there, was in charge of tribal students – the work that Dr Shah suggests is funded by Sewa International. Justice Sawant is adamant that overseas funding like that from Sewa International is fuelling sectarian violence in India and that there must be greater scrutiny.

P.B. Sawant Retired Supreme Court Judge:
The communal violence that erupted as well as the communal indoctrination which has been going on all these activities were being funded by this money that came from Sewa International. They believe that the money is going for their welfare and rural development but that is not so. It may be a part of the activities but much of goes for this communal indoctrination.

Back in Britain Channel Four News spoke to a number of donors to Sewa International who were surprised by its links to violence. A Bradford businessman who gave £7,000:

Mr Madan:
With that knowledge there's no way one would have contributed anything at all. We are not allied to or affiliated with or support any extremist organisations of any sort.

A Wellingborough councillor who helped raise £30,000:

Mr Crofts:
Money was raised by schools by other fundraising activities I don't think people would have given money knowing money was going to the RSS in India.

But in Leicester, the HSS National Secretary says the charity can't be held to account for every penny sent to India.

PV Ruperlia, Secretary HSS (UK):
We totally condemn any form of violence or intimidation against anyone wherever he is. We raise funds in this country in total good faith and hand over to the connected parties not only in India but for other purposes as well and once the funds are given away it is not always physically humanly possible to keep a track.

The HSS remains a British registered charity – eligible for tax breaks, respected by the establishment and recipients of local authority money. Channel Four News has compiled a list of councils who have funded the HSS and Sewa International: Brent, Newham, Leeds, Bradford, Hillingdon (LOSE), Coventry. The HSS, all the time, confident that political correctness would guarantee a steady flow of funds.

Lord Desai:
The host society, the British white society does not understand enough about this and they don't want to interfere they feel it would be racist to stop these kind of fund raising, who are they to stop the RSS raising money here they are so worried about the charge of racism they suspend their critical judgement.

The Charity Commission has told us they believe the HSS is complying with their rules of accounting, but the allegations of deception and involvement in violence that we've discovered have not yet formed any part of their investigation. Tomorrow we will be presenting them with this dossier of evidence obtained in compiling our report.