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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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UK charities scam linked to Sangh Parivar

Ashish Kumar Sen
The Tribune, February 25, 2004 original

A report to be released in the House of Lords in London today provides alarming evidence linking UK-based charities to Sangh Parivar groups in India.

The report, “In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism,” produced by Awaaz, a London-based secular network, states that these charities collected donations running into millions of pounds from the British public under the guise of humanitarian causes. Most prominent among these were relief efforts to aid victims of the Orissa cyclone and the Gujarat earthquake.

“We do not think it is a coincidence that the two Indian states where Hindutva networks, violence and hatred have grown phenomenally in recent years both had natural and human tragedies, followed by massive funding to Hindutva organisations from overseas,” the report says.

The document explains in detail how the UK based Sewa International sent £2 million raised for Gujarat earthquake relief to its Indian counterpart, Sewa Bharati. Part of the Sangh Parivar, Sewa Bharati has a well-documented agenda of expanding Hindutva networks in India.

Much of the funds collected in the name of humanitarian causes were spent on schools run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that “indoctrinate children into Hindutva and promote anti-minority hatred,” the report says.

“Most donors would be horrified if they knew the nature, history and ideas of the RSS,” Mr Suresh Grover, one of the directors of Awaaz, said in a telephonic interview from London.

Awaaz’s report exposes links of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Sewa International and the Kalyan Ashram Trust to Sangh Parivar sponsored violence in India. “We cannot say that pounds collected here were used to buy guns in India, but we can say with confidence that the money was used to build hatred against a minority,” said Mr Grover. There are close a million people of Indian origin living in the UK.

“Many in the Indo-British community donated funds in good faith on Sewa International’s Gujarat earthquake appeals, but would not have done so had they known that the organisation was linked to the RSS,” Mr Grover said.

The association of prominent British personalities with these organisations was one of the factors that contributed to a sense of complacency amongst donors. Lord Adam Patel, a member of the House of Lords and a patron of Sewa International, resigned from his latter affiliation last year after learning of the group’s links to the Sangh Parivar.

Though not registered as a charity in the UK, Sewa International is the fund-raising arm of the registered charity HSS, the UK branch of the RSS. “It uses the charity registration number of the HSS to raise funds from British people,” the report says. Funds raised by Sewa International run into millions of pounds. The bulk of this money has allegedly been channelled to RSS front organisations in India.

The authors of the report have asked the Charity Commissioner to withdraw charity status of the HSS (UK), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, UK, and the Kalyan Ashram Trust.

The London-based Charity Commission is already investigating the HSS and Sewa International. “There are some very serious allegations... We are looking into potential links between the charity and extremist organisations in India and alleged payments to these groups by the charity,” a spokesperson for the commission said. “We are looking at the relationship between the HSS and Sewa International, and also the administration of the funds that were collected for the Gujarat Earthquake Appeal,” she added.

The commission’s inquiry has been spurred by allegations that funds collected by Sewa International were sent to Sewa Bharti, a group linked to communal violence in India. The Madhya Pradesh government revoked Sewa Bharti’s licence because of its alleged involvement in violence against christians.

In the case of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the commission is in the process of “gathering and evaluating information.”

Rebecca Draka, another spokesperson for the Charity Commission, said it was “waiting for the trustees of the charity to supply us with more information, which is taking a long time because they are obtaining this information from India.” She said the Government of India had “refused” the commission’s visa application, but added: “We have contacted them to ask them to reconsider their decision and are awaiting a response.”

Sewa International (UK) became a high profile fund-raising organisation after the Gujarat earthquake. It raised around £2.3 million for its India “quake appeal from the British public.

Mr Grover cited the funding of RSS schools by Sewa International (UK) as a key example of the financing of hatred in India. Some funds for earthquake reconstruction were also channeled to the RSS’s Lok Kalyan Samiti in Chanasma village, which has been implicated in the violent “cleansing” of all Muslims from the village.

Another RSS project, Jankalyan Samiti, was a recipient of Sewa International (UK) earthquake funds. The Jankalyan Samiti’s Maharashtra branch has been involved in violence against Christians and Christian organizations.

The report makes a pointed reference of the fact that despite these charities repeated claims to be non-sectarian and non-discriminatory, Sewa International, the HSS and the VHP did not launch any humanitarian appeal following the Gujarat violence in 2002.