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British funds for quake victims diverted to Hindu hardliners: rights group

Terra Daily, LONDON (AFP) Feb 26, 2004 original

Money raised in Britain to help earthquake victims in India is going instead into the coffers of a right-wing Hindu group, a British-based South Asian human rights group alleged Thursday.

Awaaz-South Asia Watch said in a report that Sewa International had raised two million pounds (2.9 million euros, 3.7 million dollars) after the Gujarat earthquake two years ago.

But it said Sewa International had not disclosed the fact that it was the fundraising arm of a Leicester-based conservative Hindu group, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS).

Nor was it made clear that HSS was the British offshoot of India's right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), it said.

"All two million pounds raised from the British public by Sewa International for Gujarat earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation from 2001 was for a major RSS affilate, Sewa Bharati," the report said.

"Sewa Bharati is dedicated to creating an exclusive Hindu nation," it added.

"Sewa Bharati's reconstruction work was directly related to furthering the RSS's political agenda, including through the organization of RSS cells."

It cited the case of one earthquake-stricken Gujarati village, Chapredi, where a Hindu temple was reconstructed with a plaque "glorifying the RSS" while mosques and churches that had been destroyed were apparently not rebuilt.

Awaaz-South Asia Watch urged the British authorities to withdraw charity status from HSS and associated charities.

"Public sector funding and political patronage of these organizations should end," it insisted.

Some 25,000 people were killed when Gujarat was hit by a massive earthquake in January 2001. The following year, some 2,000 died when the state was plunged into by India's worst communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in a decade.

A spokesman for Awaaz-South Asia Watch told AFP that the two million pounds had been raised "across the board, from large corporations to schools, from shopkeepers to South Asian organization and so forth".

Awaaz-South Asia Watch describes itself as "a secular coalition based in the United Kingdom which monitors and combats the promotion of religious hatred and fascism in the UK and South Asia".

Its report -- which it said was based on research inside Gujarat -- was posted on its Internet site ( as it was made public at the House of Lords in London.