fooled into funding RSS’
By Aditi Khanna in London and Venkat Parsa in New Delhi
Asian Age, February 25, 2004 original
Feb. 25: The birth of the saffron pound in Britain has been highlighted
as the indirect funding source of religious extremism in India.
A report released on the second anniversary of the post-Godhra
riots in Gujarat reveals the unsavoury links between prominent
fundraising organisations in the UK and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh. The report “In Bad Faith: British Charity and Hindu
Extremism," to be released at the House of Lords here on
Thursday, uses site visits to Gujarat, interviews and documentary
and photographic evidence to prove that under the cloak of humanitarian
charity following the Gujarat earthquake, massive donations from
the British public were sent to Hindu extremist groups directly
implicated in a large-scale campaign of violence and hatred in
The report claims that much of the money was spent on building
RSS schools that indoctrinate children into Hindutva and promote
anti-minority hatred. It claims that the money from the UK was
also given to other Sangh Parivar outfits, like Vanvasi Kalyan.
Sewa International, the fundraising arm of the Hindu Swayamsevak
Sangh UK, sent £2 million to its Indian counterpart Sewa
Bharati, a front for the RSS, as part of its quake relief fund
to Gujarat. Nearly a quarter of those funds were spent on RSS schools
that promote fanaticism and large sums went to RSS front organisations,
says Chetan Bhatt of Awaaz, the UK-based organisation behind this
The activities of the HSS and Sewa International have been under
investigation since 2000 when the UK’s Charity Commission
launched an inquiry into the charity’s alleged links with
proscribed organisations. The commission staff sought Indian visas
last year to ascertain how the charitable funds collected for quake
relief in Gujarat had been applied, but the officials were denied
entry by the Indian government.
“The main aim of our inquiry has been to confirm that the
charitable funds raised by HSS have been applied properly. In the
course of the investigation, we have looked at the charity’s
connection with the international organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh, which was previously proscribed by the Indian government.
We have received some documentary evidence. However, we are now
waiting for further information from the trustees,” a spokesperson
for the Charity Commission told The Asian Age.
The report claims that the funds were collected by the Leicester-based
registered charity HSS, and its fund-raising arm Sewa International.
The report states that the HSS and Sewa International are UK branches
of the RSS and the main purpose of their fundraising is to channel
money to RSS fronts in India “despite their claim to be non-sectarian,
non-religious, non-political and purely humanitarian organisations.”
Awaaz hopes this new report will further the commission’s
inquiry and eventually lead to revoking HSS’ charity status
and put an end to corporate funding and political patronage for
the group. The HSS, a registered charity, is a branch of the Indian
RSS and is modelled on the RSS, actively promotes RSS ideology
and shares the RSS’ aim of turning India into an exclusive
Hindu nation. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK and the Kalyan Ashram
Trust UK, also registered charities, are other branches of the
RSS family operating in the UK, the report claims.
The chain links unsuspecting British donors to the active political
promotion and glorification of the RSS. It is claimed that in most
cases these links are not made known to the donors in Britain and
British peer Lord Adam Patel, a Muslim from Gujarat, resigned as
a patron of Sewa International’s quake effort when these
links were exposed.
“Most British donors would be horrified if they knew the
nature, history and ideas of the RSS. British individuals raised
funds and donated in good faith to Sewa International’s Gujarat
Earthquake appeals, but would not have done so had they known that
the organisations raising the money were closely linked to the
Fascist-inspired and extremist RSS,” claims Awaaz.
The charity, however, denies any attempt at a cover-up or funding
violence. “All our leaflets clearly state our links with
Sangh Parivar and there has never been any attempt to fool the
public. The entire sum collected for earthquake relief went towards
charitable purposes and not a penny was spent on funding any hate
campaign,” Mr Shantilal Mistry, president of Sewa International
UK, told The Asian Age.
There are also accusations of fudging facts and figures where
Sewa International claimed to fund the reconstruction of 10 to
25 villages, but only six villages were found in which Sewa International
funds were used for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
A key pattern found was that Sewa International funded Sewa Bharati
for rebuilding work but it was the RSS that conducted the foundation
stone-laying or village handover ceremonies. One rebuilt village
(Chapredi) included an important dedication plaque glorifying the
RSS, its founder and a key RSS affiliate. The organisation’s
supreme leader, K.S. Sudarshan, undertook the foundation stone-laying
ceremony for Mithapasvaria, the report claims as evidence of the
link between these organisations.
Awaaz claims that it is no coincidence that the Orissa cyclone
and Gujarat earthquake, which saw a dramatic increase in overseas
funds, was also the phase of dramatic expansion for extremist groups. “Our
report vindicates the findings that the US-based India Development
and Relief Fund was a front for pumping millions of dollars to
the Hindu hate outfits in India. The funds involved in Britain
are at a much higher scale and these are all being ploughed into
garnering votes for the BJP, expanding the RSS network and grooming
the next generation of Hindutva activists,” claims Mr Bhatt.
“Sewa International has tried to dupe politicians, donors
and the general public. Its main purpose is to fund, expand and
glorify hate-driven RSS organisations, several of which have been
at the forefront of largescale violence, pogroms or hate campaigns
in India. It’s claim to be a non-sectarian, non-political,
non-religious humanitarian charity is a sham,” said Awaaz
spokesman Suresh Grover.