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
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."