A study released in New Delhi on Wednesday says many American corporations and non-resident Indians are duped into funding rightwing fundamentalist groups that are spreading communal violence and hatred in India, a charge that the Sangh Parivar denies.
The report accuses the India Development and Relief Fund, a Maryland-based charity, of being a frontal organisation for the Sangh Parivar and its numerous outfits for funnelling millions of dollars every year to be used by "violent, sectarian Hindu supremacist organisations".
Eleven NRIs in the United States, must of them academics and first-generation professionals concerned about the rise of fundamentalism in India, have conducted the study, which is based on American government documents, IDRF annual reports and other inputs.
They passed on the documents to Mumbai-based Sabrang Communications and The South Asian Citizens Watch based in France, which published them.
Biju Mathew, a New York-based professor who released the report in New Delhi, says they will also kick off a signature campaign on a petition to be submitted to leading US corporate houses such as CISCO, asking them to stop "funding hate".
The first phase of the campaign, he says, will be undertaken during Thanksgiving season when donations peak in the US.
The report says that over the past seven years, the IDRF has disbursed more than $5 million for 'development and relief work' in India.
"Many large US corporations such as CISCO, Sun, Oracle, and H-P [Hewlett-Packard] 'match' employee contributions to US-based non-profit organisations. Unsuspecting corporations end up giving large amounts of money as matching funds to IDRF as employees of these firms direct funds to IDRF," he says.
In 1999 the CISCO Foundation gave "about $70,000 to IDRF", placing it among the top five organisations to get CISCO grants. If CISCO's grant is added to the amount given by its employees, a total of at least $133,000 went to IDRF in 1999-2000, he adds.
The report says IDRF works through its network among professional Indian migrants who work with leading corporations. "The swayamsevaks [volunteers] within US corporations push IDRF as the best and the only way to provide funding for development and relief work in India, thus causing not only other unsuspecting employees but also the corporation itself to fund the Sangh in India," a statement issued during the release of the report says.
Mathew says he and his NRI friends have launched "Project Saffron Dollar", which aims at putting an end to the collection of funds by the IDRF. Copies of the report and petitions demanding an end to the funding have been dispatched to various US corporations, Internet portals, and money exchange facilities.
"The IDRF has funded numerous relief efforts in response to natural disasters, communal violence, and other social crises," the report says. "However, the distributive mechanisms utilised by the IDRF have consistently discriminated against Muslims and other minorities in India. The IDRF's relief efforts are frequently divisive and have supported the further communalisation of Indian society."
Mathew says IDRF did not raise any funds for the victims of the recent Gujarat riots, where most of those affected were Muslims. In recent times, the organisation has raised funds for Bangladeshi Hindu victims of communal violence, Kashmiri Hindu victims of terrorism, and relief efforts following the September 11 attacks in the US.
"In all three cases, the people responsible for perpetrating the disaster were Muslims, and the victims largely non-Muslim. In contrast, to date, IDRF has not announced any relief for the victims of communal riots in Gujarat in February and March 2002," the report points out.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, however, has its defence ready.
"The IDRF is a non-profit organisation in the US. It is guided by US
laws. They are free to decide whom to give money. They have been visiting India often and giving donations to several organisations," says Seshadri Chari, Editor of Organiser daily, an RSS mouthpiece.
Some of the RSS-run outfits get funds from the IDRF. The Indian government audits the accounts of these outfits, he says.
Only people who spread canards spread hatred, he adds.
The India Development & Relief Fund
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
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