Alms For The Killer
A damning report from London uncovers evidence on how charity
outfits in the UK fund the Sangh's communal hate campaigns
HARSH KABRA, Outlook India Magazine, March 8, 2004 original
Overseas funding for the RSS is yet again raising a storm. Hindutva
organisations in the UK and India have gone on the defensive
after Awaaz: South Asia Watch Limited (ASAW)—a London-based
watchgroup—presented evidence last week that millions of
pounds collected from the British public as charity for victims
of the Gujarat quake and the Orissa super-cyclone were used to
fund Sangh organisations in India.
In an 80-page report—In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu
Extremism—released in the House of Lords on February 26,
just before the second anniversary of the post-Godhra Gujarat carnage,
ASAW has urged the UK Charity Commission to revoke the charitable
status of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh-UK (HSS-UK), VHP-UK and Kalyan
Ashram Trust-UK (KAT-UK), all part of the Sangh parivar, and act
against their trustees for keeping unsuspecting British donors
in the dark about their affiliations and funding of extremist RSS
organisations on the sly. ASAW has also appealed to donors, politicians
and organisations to refuse funds to these outfits and publicly
dissociate from them.
The ASAW report, dedicated to those who died in the Gujarat riots,
begins with the story of a victim of the post-Godhra carnage and
goes on to say that those at the receiving end got no assistance
from either the Sewa International-UK (SIUK) or the HSS. The report
alleges this was because many of the Sangh organisations involved
in the rioting were being funded by their UK-based fraternal organisations.
The report reads: "Most striking of all was the behaviour
of these organisations in the wake of the Gujarat carnage in 2002,
which left 2,000 dead and over 2,00,000 displaced and languishing
in refugee camps. The response of the SIUK, the HSS, the VHP, the
National Hindu Students Forum and every other UK Hindutva group
to appeals for humanitarian relief was silence. This was despite
considerable coverage of the carnage in the UK media and desperate
appeals by secular Gujarati NGOs. This is not surprising: the majority
of the victims were Indian citizens who were Muslims.They were
victims of the VHP, the RSS and the Vanvasi Kalyan Samiti, organisations
which are promoted and glorified by the HSS-UK, the VHP-UK and
the SIUK." The report goes on to say the money collected after
the Gujarat quake and Orissa cyclone had all gone into funding
groups that promoted communal hatred.
ASAW's charges are serious:
* About a third of the money collected for earthquake rehabilitation
was spent in setting up RSS schools.
* The charity money went to Sangh outfits like the Vanvasi Kalyan
Ashram (allegedly involved in the Gujarat riots), Lok Kalyan Samiti,
Border Jankalyan Samiti, Sewa Bharati and Orissa's Utkal Bipanna
Sahayata Samiti (UBSS).
* Sewa Bharati, on the vanguard of several anti-minority crusades,
received over £2 million from SIUK, the fund-raising arm
* The money was collected in Britain but the RSS leaders in India
jumpstarted projects and handed the money over to the concerned
people only after the projects were completed. This was meant to
bring these territories into the parivar's grip.
* The money was also used to glorify the RSS, which used it to
provide relief to upper-caste Hindus, run shakhas in camps, spread
anti-minority messages, rebuild temples, villages and community
centres, which it named after its leaders.
* ASAW alleges accounts have been doctored—while SIUK claims it funded
between 10 and 25 Gujarat villages after the quake, ASAW says it funded only
* HSS-UK and SIUK have intentionally refrained from providing
any comprehensive data on the disbursement of funds.
We don't think it's a coincidence that the Gujarat and Orissa,
where Hindutva networks, violence and hatred have grown phenomenally
in recent years, had natural and human tragedies followed by massive
amounts of funding to Hindutva organisations from overseas in the
guise of humanitarian charity," says the report. "It's
ironic that Sangh organisations have attacked foreign funding of
minority groups when they themselves use such funding to expand
their own influence."
The HSS, for instance, runs around 70 physical and ideological
training cells in the UK. SIUK, now a private limited company sharing
its address with the HSS-UK's Leicester office, is not a registered
charity and has been using HSS' registration number to raise money,
often without mentioning the parent organisation. These connections
were unknown even to SIUK patrons like Adam Patel, a British Muslim
and a member of the House of Lords, who eventually resigned on
learning about it. Incidentally, even before the report, the UK
Charity Commission had started probing the HSS and SIUK.
The ASAW report states that "the main purpose of SIUK is
to raise funds in the UK for RSS projects in India in order to
directly help the expansion of the extremist RSS's networks across
Indian society in line with the long-term political and sectarian
aims of the RSS".
ASAW says it now has evidence that almost all the £ 2.3
million raised by SIUK during its India quake appeal were meant
exclusively for Sewa Bharati, its Indian counterpart, whose licence
in MP had been cancelled for its anti-Christian violence. HSS-UK
has declined comments, so has the RSS spokesperson in New Delhi.
But VHP's Ashok Chowgule said in an interview: "We deny all
the allegations. We do genuine social work for the downtrodden
and it is not the Hindu way to discriminate against people."
According to the report, RSS affiliates, keen to make their presence
felt, hijacked relief supplies donated by other agencies, prevented
international NGOs from undertaking relief operations, accused
even the likes of Janpath, which ran a helpline for children, of "receiving
foreign funds for proselytising people" and "prowling
for Christians". Further, the report says the RSS ransacked
relief camps set up by the likes of ActionAid India and even abducted
and tortured a student working for an NGO simply because his name "sounded" Christian.
Money has also been raised by SIUK for other Sangh organisations
such as the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, implicated in anti-minority
violence in Gujarat, Orissa and elsewhere. Without mentioning the
growing participation of adivasi groups in anti-minority violence,
the highly controversial Ekal Vidyalayas have been presented in
the UK simply as literacy projects aimed at neglected 'tribal'
In Orissa, says ASAW, the main beneficiary of the Orissa Appeal
was the UBSS, which enjoys the same address in Cuttack as that
of the RSS and received at least £2 million after the 1999
super-cyclone. HSS-UK stated that the funds were channeled through
volunteers to organisations which got their workforce from the
RSS. Other SIUK beneficiaries of the Orissa appeal were Vidya Bharati
and the abvp.
According to South Asia Solidarity, which had demanded the annulment
of the charity status of HSS-UK and SIUK last year, the latter
is the biggest Indian charity in the UK and has increased its gross
income from £7,48,355 in 2000 to almost £2.2 million
in early '03. HSS' total assets have also gone up from £6,66,384
in '95 to around £1.64 million in '02. But Fair Credit Reporting
Act (FCRA) regulations prohibit foreign funding for RSS organisations
sans prior government permission to discourage interference in
India's political affairs. Therefore, notes ASAW, any foreign funding
amounts to FCRA violation.
Chetan Bhatt, a reader in sociology at London's Goldsmiths College
and ASAW spokesperson, told Outlook: "This report details
the depth of the connection between SIUK and the RSS, and the extent
to which RSS fronts in India are dependent on overseas funding.
One key finding is of SIUK making smaller donations to legitimate
British causes to gain respectability here, while sending the bulk
of its funds to RSS fronts in India." Of the non-earthquake
donations made over March '99-June '02, only around £6,000
had been made for British and non-Indian causes.
The London-based Charity Commission has already been at work on
the funding case. "There are some serious allegations. We're
looking into potential links between the charity and India's extremist
organisations and alleged payments to these groups by the charity," says
a commission spokesperson "We're looking at the kinship between
the HSS and SIUK, and also the administration of the funds collected
for the Gujarat quake," she added.
Rebecca Draka, another spokesperson for the Charity Commission,
reveals the commission is "waiting for the trustees of the
charity to provide more information, which is taking a long time".
After officials of the Charity Commission were denied entry visas
last year to carry out research in India, Draka informs the commission
has requested the Indian government to reconsider that decision.
Funding has always been a sore point as far as the parivar is
concerned. There has been no probe in India into this ever since
the NDA came to power. Perhaps, an independent international investigation
could throw light on the monies that pour in from abroad to keep
the Sangh parivar machinery rolling.