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UK charities 'misled donors into funding Indian extremism' Financial Times, February 26 2004
‘British public fooled into funding RSS’ Asian Age, February 25, 2004
Funds collected for quake relief benefited RSS affiliate: report The Hindu, February 25, 2004

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Funds collected for quake relief benefited RSS affiliate: report

By Kalpana Sharma
The Hindu, February 25, 2004 original

MUMBAI, FEB. 25. Thousands of pounds raised by a charity based in the United Kingdom have been used to further the aims of the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh in India, says an 80-page report prepared by the London-based Awaaz-South Asia Watch Ltd.

The report will be released tomorrow at the House of Lords in London, on the eve of the second anniversary of the Gujarat carnage that began with the Godhra train fire on February 27, 2002.

"In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism" tracks how millions of pounds collected by Sewa International U.K. (SIUK), ostensibly for welfare, education and development projects in India, have been used to promote the objectives of the RSS. SIUK is the fund-raising arm of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the U.K. branch of the RSS. It was established in 1991 and one of its largest fund raising projects was after the Gujarat earthquake in 2001. According to the report, 4.3 million pounds were raised from the British public. The main recipient of the funds in India was Sewa Bharati, an RSS affiliate established in 1979. It runs a network of RSS service project in India, states the report, and some of these overlap with Vidya Bharati, the RSS education and schools network and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram that works in tribal areas and is accused of involvement in sectarian violence.

While raising funds for the Gujarat earthquake, SIUK claimed that the money would be used for a humanitarian cause. The Awaaz report states that most donors would not have known that SIUK was not a registered charity but was using the charity registration number of the HSS.

Analysing the use of the funds raised in the U.K., the report points out that even though SIUK gave the funds to Sewa Bharati, it did not reveal that the latter was an RSS affiliate. Although SIUK claimed that it had totally funded the reconstruction of ten villages in the earthquake-affected areas of Gujarat, Awaaz found that Sewa Bharati only acknowledged using the funds for six villages. It also found that 31 per cent of the funds "raised in the U.K. in the name of earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction," roughly half a million pounds, were used by Sewa Bharati for two school projects.

Awaaz has called on the Charity Commissioner in the U.K. to withdraw charity status to the HSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad U.K. and Kalyan Ashram Trust because of their link to the Sangh Parivar in India. It argues that it is not looking at the financial reporting procedures of these organisations, or whether their activities in India have benefited individuals. The report, Awaaz states, shows that "the main purpose of the SIUK is to raise funds in the U.K. for RSS projects in India" and that the "bulk of SIUK efforts are directed to the principal aim of furthering the extremist RSS's goals." Awaaz adds, "It is ironic that the sangh parivar have attacked foreign funding of minority groups when they themselves use such funding to expand their own influence."