RSS-backed charities under UK scanner
Rashmee Z Ahmed
TIMES NEWS NETWORK [FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2002 10:27:47
PM ] original
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LONDON: In a significant knee-jerk response to allegations
that the saffron pound helped pay for the Gujarat violence,
the British authorities have widened the scope of an "open
inquiry" into the alleged hate-funding activities of
two leading Hindu charitable organisations, Sewa International
and the Hindu Swaymsewak Sangh (HSS).
The move was confirmed to TNN on Friday by the British Treasury-funded
charities watchdog, the Charity Commission, who said it planned
to investigate thoroughly the alleged links of Sewa and HSS
with Indian groups such as the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Gujarat.
It comes within weeks of a similar move across the Atlantic,
in the US.
On Thursday night, Channel 4 television reported that Vanvasi
Ashram, which it said was directly implicated in the Gujarat
violence, received millions of pounds from Sewa International.
Sewa International President Shanti Lal Mistry told TNN
he reserved comment on these "false allegations"
until the British authorities make up their minds. He said
wanted to see Channel 4's dossier of evidence and, if refused,
would use legal means to do so.
If the allegations are proved, both groups could technically
be stripped of charitable status. According to campaigners
putting pressure on the government to "ban" the
groups, the loss of charitable status would be a black mark
against organisations claiming to represent Britain's one
The Channel 4 special investigation, which travelled to
Gujarat and started in a West London shakha, one of 72 run
by the HSS in the UK, firmly indicted Sewa and HSS for "raising
funds for extreme Hindu groups involved in the massacre (of
It said, "The HSS remains a British registered charity
- eligible for tax breaks, respected by the establishment
and recipients of local authority moneyâ ¦(including
from the Indian-dominant areas of) Brent, Newham, Leeds, Bradford,
Hillingdon (LOSE), Coventry".
It quoted Lord Meghnad Desai to say the HSS is confident
that political correctness would guarantee a steady flow of
But highly placed sources within Sewa insisted the bulk
of the £2.5 million it raised for the Gujarat earthquake,
in concert with the VHP and other groups, was given to
Sewa Bharti in India.
The sources admitted Sewa International had paid Vanvasi
some money, but insisted it was just a "couple of thousand
pounds for sponsoring one or two students for education".
Late on Friday, members of Awaaz-South Asia Watch, an umbrella
coalition "against fascism", issued a call for the
government, local authorities, British MPs and political parties,
including people like Prince Charles, to "refuse to accommodate
sectarian Hindu organisations".
In the past, the Prince has publicly praised Sewa International's
On the lines of a British government on-campus ban on the
radical Islamist youth group, the Hizbut Tahrir, it called
for a ban on the National Hindu Students Forum
The NHSF, which regularly meets visiting Indian ministers,
including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime
Minister L K Advani, is the largest Hindu youth group in the
VHP spokesman Hasmukh Shah denounced the allegations as
"lies" and recalled how Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra
Modi himself had received £1 million from Sewa International
on behalf of Sewa Bharti earlier this year. "They then
went and said he used the money to kill Muslims. It's absurd".