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Poll panel's probe sought into Hindu groups' 'foreign' funding

New Kerala,

Chennai, Mar 25 (IANS) original

A rights group has urged the Election Commission to probe a report that Hindu rightwing groups are receiving foreign funds that may find their way into the upcoming poll campaign.

K.G. Kannabiran, national president of the Peoples' Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), in a statement here, drew attention to a report that was presented to Britain's House of Lords in February.

Titled, "In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism", and prepared by the NGO Awaaz, the report alleged that groups like the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh - the British branch of the Rahstriya Swamyamsevak Sangh (RSS) of India - and its fundraising arm Sewa International were raising finances in Britain and using it to support organisations like the RSS.

The PUCL has demanded a probe by the Election Commission, alleging that funds raised in the name of charity provide funds for the political activities of the Hindu nationalist fraternity (Sangh Parivar) that supports the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"In the light of recent announcements that the Sangh Parivar will be explicitly supporting the BJP election campaign, such funding may also be distorting the democratic process," it said.

The PUCL also noted that more than two million pounds raised by Sewa International for disaster relief work after the Gujarat earthquake in 2001 were sent to Hindu rightwing outfits in India.

It said Section 10 of the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) allows the central government wide powers to prohibit acceptance of foreign contributions from any association or person even though unconnected with the election, if such funds are likely to impair the "freedom or fairness of elections or disrupt harmony between religious, racial, linguistic groups, castes or communities".

"It becomes necessary for the Election Commission to consider whether the money spent by the Sangh Parivar on the BJP's election campaign is permissible and if not, consider suitable action to interdict receipt of funds by these organisations from foreign sources."