Indian diaspora funding Hindu extremism
By Angana Chatterji
The Milli Gazette, Sun, Dec 15, 2002 original
"In the United States, where substantial funds are
raised for Hindu extremist agendas, the U.S. Government must
act to ensure that organizations that broker terror should
not continue to enjoy their non-profit status within the USA."
It is now no secret that the Sangh Parivar, the collective
name given to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa
Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and other Hindu extremist
organizations, is exploiting religion (Hindutva) to foment
communal violence in India. To this end they are organizing
the ultra-right, non-secular and undemocratic forces in India.
What is less known is how these forces of injustice and bigotry
are funded, especially by the Indian-Hindu communities living
These organizations receive substantial contributions from
Hindus in the United States and elsewhere. The Indian magazine,
"Outlook," in its July 22, 2002, issue published
an article by A. K. Sen, titled, 'Deflections to the Right'.
The piece highlighted a component of the chain of funding
that sustains Hindu extremism. The article states that the
India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) is one of the more
conspicuous charity organizations that raises funds in the
United States to support the RSS battalions in India. IDRF
lists Sewa International as its counterpart in India. Sewa
International and the various organizations it oversees receive
over two-thirds of the IDRF funding. Incidentally, Sewa International,
in its mission to transform India, states on its website in
a section on 'Experiments and Results' with 'Social Harmony'
that social consolidation can be achieved through social cohesion.
Among other things, the website quotes Manya H. V. Sehadarji,
Sarkaryawah of the RSS, as saying: "The ultimate object
of all these endeavours is Hindu Sangathan-consolidation and
strengthening of the Hindu society."
Hindu extremism, like other xenophobic movements, functions
through carefully fashioned exclusionary principles whereby
all non-Hindus and dissenting Hindus, identified as Hindu
traitors, become second-class citizens. In addition, justification
of caste inequities, subordination of Dalits ('lower' caste
communities), women, adivasis (tribal) and other minorities,
and the consolidation of a cohesive middle-class base are
critical to its momentum.
In the United States, where substantial funds are raised
for Hindu extremist agendas, the U.S. Government must act
to ensure that organizations that broker terror should not
continue to enjoy their non-profit status within the USA.
It is interesting that in 1999, the VHP failed to gain recognition
at the United Nations as 'a cultural organization' because
of its philosophical underpinnings. However, the VHP of America
is an independent charity registered in the United States
in the 1970s, where it has, and continues to, receive funds
from a variety of individuals and organizations.
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Americans of Indian descent
must examine the politics of hate encouraged by extremist
Hindu organizations in the name of charity and social work.
Indians, one of the most financially successful groups in
the United States, must take seriously their moral obligation
to ensure that their dollars are not funding malice and scrutinize
the organizations that are on the receiving end in India.
The issue is not whether these organizations are undertaking
charitable work, but whether they are doing so to promote
separatist and non-secular ideals. Param Vaibhav Ke Path Par
(On The Road To Great Glory), written by Sadanand Damodar
Sapre, and published in 1997 by Suruchi Prakashan, Jhandewalan,
New Delhi, the central publication house of the RSS, lists
the 40-plus organizations maintained by the RSS in India for
its multivariate programs.
In addition, the VHP and other Parivar outfits aim at the
communalization of education through the 'Vanavasi Kalyan
Ashram' and 'Ekal Vidyalas' (schools). One strategy is to
Hinduize adivasi communities, exploit divisions among the
marginalized and indoctrinate the youth, in order to both
turn them against one another and use them as foot soldiers
in the larger cause of religious nationalism. Such inculcation
has had serious repercussions in Gujarat, India, this year
where tribals were manipulated into attacking Muslims during
the carnage in February and March 2002.
While Hindu fundamentalists do not have a monopoly on religious
intolerance in India, their actions are holding the country
hostage. Well-organized, widespread and acting in the name
of [Hinduism] the majority religion in India, Hindu extremism
is positioned to silence diversity through force and terror,
the rhetoric of Hindu supremacy and the positioning of minority
groups as depraved enemies who must be punished.
Indians at home and abroad must oppose the deep infiltration
of the Hindutva brigade into the press, as well as other institutions
-- political, military, bureaucratic, civic, business, educational
and law and order -- of India. Such infiltration is creating
a nation where religious fundamentalists violate the Constitution
of India and the state tolerates such violation. While the
present BJP regime at the center has overt and close links
to organizations within the Sangh Parivar, citizens are assured
that secularism and democracy are sacred and secure. The reality
is different. The Indian government's handling of communal
violence and sanctioning of communal discourse is clear to
the observers and threatens to jeopardize India's capacity
to function as a nation.
The VHP, in its meeting with Muslim leaders in New Delhi
on July 15, 2002, stated that if Muslims agreed to resettle
Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir, Muslims in Gujarat would be rehabilitated.
The Hindus must understand that issues connected to the democratization
of Pakistan, ethical resolutions to Kashmir, or gender reforms
within Islam are separate from India's commitment to upholding
the rights of minorities or to reforms within Hinduism.
Hindu extremism against Muslims and other minorities in India
collapses distinctions that must be made to honour human rights
in India. Also, Hindutva's discourse of history posits Hindus
and Hinduism as being under siege and preposterously asserts
the idea of India as a Hindu Nation. Such revisionist history
strategically and hideously poses that a vengeful justice
can be found for the crimes of history committed by non-Hindu
rulers. Retribution is sought by attacking contemporary Muslims,
Christians, Sikhs and others in India.
Hinduism is critical to the fabric of India, as are all the
other cultures and religions that inhabit it and frame the
imagination of the Indian nations. It will require considerable
effort on the part of progressive Indians to conceive a secular
nation where religion is indeed separate from the integrity
of the state and where pluralism guarantees rights and respect
to the religious and non-religious alike. Every Hindu, and
every citizen, must denounce that to be Indian is to be Hindu,
challenge assertions that a secular Constitution is anti-Hindu
and refute the call for a Hindu Nation in India as anti-national.
Patriotism and nationalism demand that all social, political
and religious groups work for an India free of disenfranchisement,
institutionalized violence, corruption and rampant inequities.
The Indians cannot permit India's secular and democratic fabric
to be irreparably compromised. q
Angana Chatterji is a professor of social
and cultural anthropology at the California Institute of Integral