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Anti-Hindu Nationalist Campaign Targets Indian American Organization

By May Chow
AsianWeek Staff Writer
Cisco Systems, one of several IT companies in the United States that contributed funds to the Indian Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), announced last week that it will suspend donations to the organization following a report which alleged that IDRF had links to a Hindu nationalist group, and that more than 80 percent of the funds it raised went to non-government organizations affiliated with other hate groups responsible for violence in India.

Sun Microsystems has also said that it will curb its contributions pending a reply from the United States Internal Revenue Service regarding IDRF. Other companies listed as donors by the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (SFH) include AOL Time Warner and Hewlett Packard.

Started after the Gujarat riots last spring, SFH is a coalition of South Asians in India, the United States and Europe who are working toward peace in India.

A Resurrected Movement

A Nov. 20 report, titled A Foreign Exchange of Hate, co-published by the French-based South Asia Citizens Web (SACW) and the Indian-based Sabrang Communications, shows connections between IDRF and the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh is a term used for a network of Hindu nationalist groups, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the National Voluntary Service.

The Hindu Nationalist Movement, once banned and shunned for its connections to the man who killed Mahatma Ghandi, has been resurrected in present-day India. The National Voluntary Service, the movements parent organization, was founded in 1925 on the platform of opposing German and Italian fascists.

The report, which has taken years, presents a mass of incontrovertible evidence, said Biju Mathew, a representative of SFH and professor at Rider University in New Jersey. This is an expos of the false pretexts under which the Sangh Parivar front organizations often collect huge amounts of money from unsuspecting non-resident Indians and U.S. corporations.

He added that many corporations hand over large amounts of cash as matching funds to the IDRF, one of the more well-known Indian charities in the United States.

After the Gujarat riots which began in February of this year after 58 people were killed when a train car full of Hindus returning from the holy place Ayodhya was set on fire claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, most of whom were Muslims, many national and international human rights commissions pointed fingers at the Hindu supremacist movement, Hindutva. Hindutva has been accused of carrying out violent actions against minority and disenfranchised groups in India.

According to the A Foreign Exchange of Hate report, there is substantial evidence showing connections between Hindutva groups and charity organizations in the United States.

U.S. Connections Denied

What this untrustworthy report refers to as evidence is nothing but insinuations and repeat insinuations based on unsubstantiated news reports and selective contents taken from other websites, said Mukund Kute, IDRF East Coast media coordinator. It is a poor attempt to prove IDRFs guilt by association with so-called Sangh Parivar.

IDRF has been under fire from SFH and other groups for diverting funds aimed at providing relief for natural disaster victims and funneling them to finance RSS activity and propaganda. In June, Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia Progam for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., asked the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to look into an inquiry on fundraising activity in the United States by groups implicated in the riots of Gujarat.

IDRF was established in 1978 by a Maryland couple, Vinod and Sarla Prakash. Prakash is a former member of RSS, but said that RSS doesnt accept foreign contributions. He also told an Indian magazine, IDRF has given absolutely no money to the RSS [and IDRF] only deal[s] with NGOs involved in relief and rehabilitation.

The report states that of the 77 IDRF affiliate organizations, 52 can be clearly associated with the Sangh Parivar. IDRF does not orchestrate campaigns of violence, but its funding of these organizations enables the spread of the ideology and practice of Hindutva, according to the report. The report also documents that 82 percent of IDRFs funds go to Sangh organizations.

IDRF contends that it is a non-political and non-religious organization which does not subscribe to any religious, political or sectarian agenda. Vijay Pallod, regional vice president of IDRF in Maryland asserts that the NGOs which IDRF supports cater to people of all faiths.

Pallod said the allegations that IDRF deceived its donors are false. He claims SFH has a political agenda.

Leftist organizations and people such as Biju Mathew, who have not done anything constructive in the past are behind such controversies, Pallod said. Somehow, the good work IDRF and our NGOs do in India must be affecting them badly. That is why there are these allegations.

Kute believes the SFH has a potential agenda against the Sangh and the Hindu community of India. That is itself a sectarian behavior on their part. These figures are based on selective use of the IDRFs disbursement data and liberal application of the Sangh label on most NGOs. IDRF does not consider questioning other organizations funding as its mission, he said.

Pallod said IDRF focuses on five key areas: education, healthcare, women, children and tribal welfare. He added that IDRF supports India-based government approved NGOs with the donations.

I couldnt sleep at night after I read the report, it just broke my heart, Pallod said. How can somebody blame us like that?

Communal Indoctrination

But Angana Chatterji, a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and a member of SFH, said IDRF aids the Hindutva movement in its mission.

Its projects are a front for communal indoctrination and political mobilization, she contended. Such activity produces the very conditions for social violence that are detrimental to Indias national interest. Religious freedoms endorse the right to proselytize and convert, but do not permit the use of religions or culture to cultivate hate and violence. IDRF must be stopped from building momentum for future hate crimes.

Shalini Gera, another SFH member and author of an online petition to the National Human Rights Committee condemning the Gujarat Riots, said SFH is launching an educational campaign to try and reach out to the South Asian American community to educate them about IDRF and how they might be unknowingly funding the Hindutva movement in India.

It is our hope that people here who donate for causes in India take more responsibility for finding out how their money is used in India, Gera said. There are a number of very deserving NGOs doing much-needed developmental work in India. We believe that by diverting funds to itself at the pretext of doing development and relief work, IDRF is siphoning away funds that could have gone to other genuine developmental charities.

Gera said that SFH does not wish to shut down IDRF, but rather, is objecting to IDRFs support of the Sangh Parivar.

Should the IDRF decide tomorrow to sever its links with the Sangh Parivar in India and in the United States and support genuine NGOs, we would have no problem in supporting it, Gera said.

Media coordinator Kute said that IDRFs association with or funding of any NGO is limited to specifically supported projects that meet IDRFs mission of humanitarian service and are consistent with U.S. and Indian laws and regulations.

IDRF has never denied association with those NGOs, whether or not they are Sangh affiliated, that have received funding from IDRF, he said.

A list of all of the NGOs which IDRF has helped, along with information on the kind of work they do, is provided on their website, including those which SFH labeled as having Sangh ties.

None of the NGOs [weve] supported so far have been banned by any government or been found guilty of any crimes like spreading hate or inciting violence, Kute said.

Pallod insists that something good has come out of this controversy: IDRF is coming into light and more people can look into the organization and see that its a charitable one with no connections or endorsements to violent movements in India.

In regards to the IT companies rescinding their donations, Pallod said he hopes the corporations will see that the facts are on IDRFs side.

We are very confident that they will change their decision once they get the facts, he said. IDRFs credibility will remain high because of our choice of sincere and honest NGOs that do great humanitarian work among poor people of India. IDRF will continue to be the charity of choice for the [South Asian American] community.



Junior Desi
Member since: Nov 01
Posts: 14

Post ID: 557 10-12-02 15:11:19
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Junior Desi
Member since: Nov 01

Posts: 14


Any comments???

Post ID: 558 10-12-02 15:11:44
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