Home Page

  Communalism Combat

  India Rights & Wrongs




Subscribe for daily media monitor:   




  Action Alerts




  Resources for



  About us


  Contact Us


  Sabrang Team




































































































































<<< index page

Deflections To The Right

A few fund-raising organisations come under the scanner for diverting overseas charity money into RSS propaganda activity

A.K. Sen

Kanwal Rekhi has been facing the ire of right-wing Hindus across America. This is because in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Rekhi, global chairman of The IndUS Entrepreneurs, an organisation of South Asian businesspeople, claimed that money collected by Indian

Hindus in America and sent to religious groups in India was being channelled to target minorities. "Many overseas Indian Hindus—including some in this country—finance religious groups in India in the belief that the funds will be used to build temples, and educate and feed the

poor of their faith. Many would be appalled to know that some recipients of their money are out to destroy minorities (Christians as well as Muslims) and their places of worship," wrote Rekhi in the article, co-authored with Henry S. Rowen, a professor emeritus at Stanford University and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution. They suggested that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee could deal a severe blow to such covert causes by simply labelling them terrorists.

Their claims—of right-wing Hindu groups diverting funds from the US to finance divisive activities in India—were articulated in respected academic Robert M. Hathaway's recent testimony (see interview) before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Hathaway asked the commission to recommend an inquiry into fund-raising activities in the

US by groups implicated in the recent violence in Gujarat. He told the commission that "some US residents make financial contributions to overseas religious groups in the belief that these funds are to be used for religious or humanitarian purposes, when in fact the monies so raised are used to promote religious bigotry".

The India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) is among the most prominent of charity groups involved in raising funds in the US, much of which ends up bankrolling outfits in India that are connected to Hindutva through the umbilical cord of the RSS. A Maryland couple, Vinod and

Sarla Prakash, established the IDRF in 1978, and speak of their role in the upliftment of adivasis in India. An ex-employee of the World Bank and a former RSS member, Vinod Prakash claims the RSS doesn't accept any foreign contributions. He declares emphatically, "The IDRF has given

absolutely no money to the RSS. We deal only with NGOs involved in relief and rehabilitation."

Outlook investigations, though, show irrefutable RSS links of some organisations that the IDRF funds. This is what makes a social activist from the San Francisco Bay Area, Raju Rajagopal, remark acerbically, "If you claim to have nothing to do with it when you actually do, it becomes

a matter of transparency. After working hand-in-glove for years, Sangh parivar outfits in the US can't suddenly try to distance themselves from the VHP-Bajrang Dal. They have left footprints all over the Internet."

Not only do footprints exist, so does incriminating evidence of the IDRF's duplicity. Precisely what has goaded Rekhi and Hathaway to demand investigations into the fund-raising activities of Hindutva groups in the US. The IDRF, for instance, has donated $2,50,000 in the last four years to Sewa Bharati  Madhyakshetra, an RSS affiliate, which claims to "protect the tribal people from subversion, and integrate them into the mainstream". Again, the Keshava Sewa Samithi in Hyderabad, to which the IDRF has sent $40,000 since 1998, has the same address as the RSS

headquarters in the city.

When confronted with the Sangh antecedents of Sewa Bharati, Prakash quickly retracted from his earlier position to say, "I am aware of the RSS-VHP affiliations of some organisations we fund." He then went on dismiss such links as a non-issue.

But Sewa Bharati isn't the only RSS-linked recipient of the IDRF's munificence.For instance, the IDRF lists a sister organisation called the Ekal Vidyalaya. Incidentally, the Ekal Vidyalaya was started by the VHP under the aegis of the Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan (BKP), and has now been taken over by the Sri Vivekananda Rural Development Society (SVRDS). The IDRF funds both the BKP and the SVRDS.

The BKP's history is in itself quite interesting. Since the VHP did not have the necessary clearance to accept funds from overseas, it set up the BKP for this purpose, receiving $81,750 from the IDRF since 1998. In a message dated February 14, 1999, now posted on the Internet, US-based S.P. Attri says he had written a letter to VHP leader Ashok Singhal enquiring about the method of sending donations from the US to the VHP. Attri reveals that in response he received a letter on March 23, 1998, from Sitaram Agarwal, all-India secretary, VHP, acknowledging that his organisation "needs money and lots of it to carry out shuddhi and seva and dharam prasar for the tribals, Harijans and the Dalits".


Agarwal's problem was that under existing rules, the VHP couldn't accept foreign donations without the government's permission. The VHP, however, had shrewdly found a way out,a fact Agarwal confessed in his March 23 letter. As Attri writes, "To get around the problem of GoI rules hurdle, VHP has floated a trust under the name of 'Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan' and VHP can now accept foreign money in the name of this trust, provided the donor accompanies his donation with a letter stipulating that 'this money is to be used for the Welfare of the Tribals and the Dalits'."

The address Agarwal recommended for NRI Hindus to send money to is revealing: Secretary, Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan, Sankat Mochan Ashram, Sector-VI, Rama Krishna Puram, New Delhi-110 022, India. This is precisely the address from where the VHP operates in Delhi. This isn't all. The IDRF lists the Bharat Vikas Parishad and Sanskrit Bharati as sister organisations; both are listed on the RSS website that describes the many outfits it has spawned. In addition, some of IDRF's recipient organisations are headed by RSS activists. For instance, the Jeevan Dhara Rakt Foundation, to which the IDRF has sent approximately $45,000 since 1998, is run by Shyam Behari Lal, a businessman and a social worker. The foundation website lists Lal as a "Sampark Pramukh, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Meerut Vibhag." Again, Dr Vishwamitra of the Kalyan Ashram, Shillong, belongs to the RSS while the Guwahati-based Shishu Shiksha Samiti is situated in Keshav Dham, which is the local RSS headquarters.

The IDRF also funds Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams (VKAS) and kendras to reconvert tribals to Hinduism. The IDRF's ' affiliate/sister' organisation in Sidumbar, Gujarat, the Hostel-Dispensary-Cultural Centre for Children and Nurseries, in its own literature, Amrut-Kumbha (Reservoir of Nectar), authored by one Dr Shantaram Hari Ketkar, says in a section on the Kalyan Ashram in Gujarat: "The Muslims are also trying to create chaos in these communities, either by enticing these tribals or by raping the tribal girls by force. The Kalyan Ashram at Sidumbar is trying to put a stop to these activities of Muslims as well as Christians.... The workers of Kalyan Ashrams are required to give a tough fight to the Christian missionaries because they keep on harassing the local residents." In its October 1999 report, Human Rights Watch linked the attack on Christians in tribal areas in India to the increased activity of the Kalyan Ashrams.

Prakash preens about his support to the VKAS in Ranchi and Bangalore. But the link between VKAS and reconversion raises serious questions here about why a "development" NGO should indulge in reconversion. Says Rajagopal, "It's one thing to feed tribals, but another to teach children that all Muslims are their enemies."


Adds Najid Hussain, a professor at the University of Delaware, whose father-in-law Ehsan Jaffri, a former Congress MP, was brutally murdered in the Gujarat violence, "Much of the money raised in the US is poured into so-called adivasi education programmes. Given that adivasis committed most of the post-Godhra violence in Gujarat, it's quite possible they are being brainwashed like the Al Qaeda members were at the madrassas." Hussain even told the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that nine out of every 10 dollars spent on fanning the communal frenzy in Gujarat came from the US and Europe. Opposition to organisations like the IDRF stems from the fact that they operate under the garb of secular and non-political organisations when they are fronts for radical Hindu organisations in India. Says San Jose-based Shalini Gera, author of an online petition to the National Human Rights Commission condemning the Gujarat riots,  "In such a scenario, several people who would otherwise not wish to fund RSS organisations unwittingly send money to the IDRF." Adds Rajagopal, "It is one thing if an NRI donor were to knowingly fund the RSS or the VHP. It would be his right. It is quite another if a donor is funding a 'front' organisation, without being aware that he may be bankrolling the RSS or VHP agenda."

Prakash, however, insists that every single person donating money to the IDRF knows where his/her contribution is going. "I am not a mediaperson, nor do we have a PR department. People should look at our published reports to know where their money is going." While many donors may be ignorant about the misuse of their donations, there are indeed a large number of people who consciously contribute to hardline Hindutva groups.

Rekhi says he was shocked to see many prominent Indian-American entrepreneurs on the list of donors to Hindu front organisations. As an affluent investor, Rekhi says he has always turned down repeated requests to contribute to such groups. Some Indians do, however, fall into the trap set by what Rekhi describes as slick talk and good packaging.

Admitting it is widely alleged that money collected by some Hindu organisations in the US go to extremist elements in India, Sumit Ganguly, a professor of Asian studies and government at the University of Texas, Austin, however, told the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that it would be unfair to tar and feather the entire community with the same brush. "Rumours are rife that money changes hands, but most people innocently send money to India. If indeed the money is going towards extremist propaganda, there is enough legal basis to put an end to the source," he says. 

Connecticut-based lawyer Sunil Deshmukh attests that extreme right-wing Indian Hindus in America tend to be more staunch than those in India. "Their silence on the violence in Gujarat was deafening. What is more alarming is the feeling among them that with their money power, they can do anything." For the moment, though, it seems their dollars could have fanned the communal conflagration in Gujarat.

Considering the horrific nature of the violence there, and the role the Sangh outfits played in the carnage, the depositions before the US Commission isn't the last we have heard about the routing of greenbacks to India for extreme right-wing groups.  

Article  On Funding of RSS Propaganda Activity from the USA
Source: www.outlookindia.com, July 02


Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.