India refuses visas
to charity investigators
The Guardian, Friday February 27, 2004 original
The Indian government has refused to grant travel visas to Charity
Commission investigators examining a UK-based Hindu charity, the
The commission began looking into complaints about Hindu Swayamsevak
(HSS) and its finances in November 2002.
HSS, a registered charity that operates from Leicester, aims to "organise
the entire Hindu society and to lead it to all round glory of Hindu
and Hindu culture".
The commission became interested after allegations surfaced that
raised was not being used for welfare work but to fuel communal
A report yesterday by Awaaz, a British-based group campaigning
religious fundamentalism, alleged that the HSS's fundraising arm,
International, has used money collected in the UK for Indian earthquake
victims to fund a Hindu extremist group. It claims Sewa International
?2m collected for victims of the earthquake in Gujarat state in
2001 to its
Indian counterpart, Sewa Bharati.
Awaaz says that Sewa Bharati is a front for the National Volunteer
(RSS) which supports India's ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata
Last July, the Charity Commission received a letter from the Indian
commission rejecting its request for visas. No reason was given. "We
been in touch with the Indian government to request that they reconsider,"
said Rebecca Drake of the commission.
Dhiraj Shah, a HSS spokesman, said the charity had no links with
the RSS and
had never given them "a single penny". All the two groups
had in common were
religious and philosophical beliefs.
He said Sewa International raised funds for humanitarian projects,
described the allegations as "false, malicious and politically