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UK-based charity attacked for RSS links

Shyam Bhatia in London | March 08, 2004 18:34 IST

A British charity has come under fresh attack for fuelling hate in India.

A report launched at the House of Lords has accused Sewa International, based in Leicester, of sending 2 million raised for Gujarat earthquake victims to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The report, prepared by Awaaz - South Asia Watch Ltd, a London-based network, and entitled 'In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism', says the cash was filtered through Sewa International's Indian counterpart Sewa Bharati.

Awaaz, made up of South Asian academics, lawyers and human rights campaigners, has claimed that Sewa Bharati is a front for the RSS.

"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 large-scale violence, pogroms or hate campaigns in India. Its claim to be a non-sectarian, non-political, non-religious humanitarian charity is a sham," says Awaaz spokesperson Suresh Grover.

The Charity Commission is now investigating Sewa International, which is registered under the name Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

Former Sewa patron Labour Lord Adam Patel said in a statement, "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 Gujaratin 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."

The British parliament is set to discuss the report.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP, and vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, said, "I am sure we will all be asking questions about this in the Lords and Commons.

"No British organisation should be allowed in the name of charity to support extremists who have perpetrated this terrible violence."

In response to the allegations a spokesman for Sewa said, "Sewa believes in multiculturalism and harmonious community relations.

"Its members play an important part in the community. It promotes Hindu values, ideals and way of life.

"Sewa utilised the funds in building villages, schools and mobile clinics through the NGO Sewa Bharati, Gujarat, which was one of the selected NGOs allowed to work for rehabilitation of the victims.

"Sewa has helped people from all faith traditions and have sent aid to Kosovo, Turkey and Somalia."

The Awaaz spokesman responded, "Sewa International does not represent Hindu communities or Hinduism. They represent a political cult whose founders and early leaders were admirers of Mussolini and Hitler."

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