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Published in the 16-31 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

British charity for RSS used to fuel religious extremism

New Delhi: In the name of fundraising for Gujarat earthquake victims, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) coffer finds itself overflowing even as funds are being channeled to several affiliates to propel and further strengthen the organisation’s professed agenda of spreading religious hatred and working towards the establishment of Akhand Bharat. "Sewa International U.K (SIUK) has tricked gullible Britons into donating large amounts of money for what they claimed would be exclusively used for humanitarian purposes particularly those affected during the Gujarat earthquake," alleged an 80-page report lately released by the London-based Awaaz-South Asia Watch Ltd.

The prominent Human Rights organisation while releasing its report "In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism" to mark the second anniversary of the Gujarat carnage, also exposed the dubious links between the SIUK and RSS. "Millions of pounds have been collected by SIUK, ostensibly for welfare, education and development projects in India, but has been used to promote the objectives of the RSS," the report claimed.

SIUK, which was established in 1991, is the fundraising arm of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the UK branch of the RSS. Its major project so far has been the fundraising campaign for the 2001 Gujarat earthquake victims. RSS—the radical Hindu organisation—has many frontal organisations working in different fields. Sewa International, Sewa Bharti, Vidya Bharti, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini are amongst its prominent arms.

The report stated: "Much of the money was spent on building RSS schools that indoctrinate children into Hindutva and promote anti-minority hatred. The money was also given to other Sangh Parivar outfits like Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. Sewa International sent 2 million pounds to its Indian counterpart Sewa Bharati as part of its quake relief fund to Gujarat. Nearly a quarter of those funds were spent on RSS schools that promote fanaticism and large sum went to RSS front organisations." According to the report, HSS and Sewa International are UK branches of the RSS and the main purpose of their fundraising is to channel money to RSS fronts in India "despite their claim to be non-sectarian, non-religious, non-political and purely humanitarian organisations."

"Most British donors would be horrified if they knew the nature, history and ideas of the RSS. British individuals raised funds and donated in good faith to Sewa International’s Gujarat Eartquake appeals, but would not have done so had they known that the organisations raising the money were closely linked to the fascist-inspired and extremist RSS," the Human Rights organisation said in its report.

Earlier, when a similar report was disclosed about Sewa International’s activities regarding misuse of charities, British peer Lord Adam Patel, a Muslim from Gujarat, resigned as a patron of Sewa International’s quake effort in 2002. "Sewa International has cheated me and cheated the residents of the UK. The organisation has been raising funds in the name of charity and giving them to extremist organisations that preach hatred against Muslims and Christians. The report demonstrates that Sewa International sent £2 million, raised in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, to its Indian counterpart Sewa Bharati. This organisation is a front to the RSS, which has been involved in large scale violence or hate politics in India. Thousands of Indians have died over the past fifteen years as a result of religiously-motivated violence. Much of the money sent by Sewa International was spent on schools that promote hatred and fanaticism," alleged Lord Patel, who is associated with the British Labour Party, while resigning. Suresh Grover, a spokesman for the Human Rights organisation which released the report, charged: "Sewa International has tried to dupe politicians, donors and the general public. Its main purpose is to fund, expand and glorify hate-driven RSS organisations, several of which have been at the forefront of largescale violence, pogroms or hate campaigns in India. Its claim to be a non-sectarian, non-political, non-religious humanitarian charity is a sham."

According to media reports, Sewa International has been accused of fudging facts and figures regarding funds that were used for reconstruction and rehabilitation. Only six villages in Gujarat benefited from the charity whereas Sewa International claimed to have funded the reconstruction of 10 to 25 villages. "A key pattern found was that Sewa International funded Sewa Bharati for rebuilding work but it was the RSS that conducted the foundation stone-laying or village handover ceremonies. One rebuilt village (Chapredi) included an important dedication plaque glorifying the RSS, its founder and a key RSS affiliate. The organisation’s supreme leader, K S Sudarshan, undertook the foundation stone-laying ceremony for Mithapasvaria," the Asian Age said in Feb 26 report quoting Awaaz-South Asia Watch Ltd.

Meanwhile, RSS spokesman Ram Madhav, termed the allegations as "wild and false". "The whole report smacks of a sinister conspiracy to defame Hindu organisations. We take strong objection to the propaganda unleashed by persons and organisations hither to unknown against the RSS and organisations connected with it like the Sewa Bharati [a fundraiser] with wild and false allegations of misuse of funds received from abroad."

Of late, as part of its effort to improve the electoral arithmetic of its political arm—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the radical Hindu organisation has started mending fences with the Muslim community in the country. Significantly, after decades of terming Muslims as "descendants" of Mughal invaders, the organisation has finally come to accept Muslims as "nationalists" as any other citizens. The major policy shift came recently after the organisation authorities held meeting with the prominent Muslim organisation Jamiat Ulama-e Hind and gave the "historic" decision. The organisation has also been trying to tone down its strident and aggressive attitude towards Muslims.

— Danish A Khan

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