Independent group rebuts anti-IDRF campaign

(N C SriRekha, India Post, New York, March 7, 2003.)

A factual rebuttal to a series of slanderous reports against the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) — a 203- page report — has been released by Friends of India, a group of concerned highly qualified Indian American academicians and professionals.

The response, authored by the independent team that came together in early December 2002 to develop a thorough rebuttal to the hate campaign, primarily counters a report titled “Foreign Exchange of Hate” authored by Biju Mathew of the Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL), published by Sabrang Communications, accusing the IDRF of funneling funds for fomenting communal violence in India.

(The full report of the Friends of India can be accessed at www.idrf.org and www.letindiadevelop.org).

Authors of the Friends of India report include Chief Project Coordinator Nagendra Rao, a former IBM consultant, now a freelance management consultant; Ramesh Rao, Associate Professor at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, author of several books on the RSS and an authority on the Sangh Parivar; Narayan Kamerath, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Tech, advisor to the US Army, Airforce, NASA and several other related agencies; and Beloo Mehra, Assistant Professor of Education, Antioch University, McGregor, Ohio, an authority on methodology and qualitative research on ethnic minorities. Two others, Chitra Raman, a Detroitbased freelance writer associated with the State Special Education Department, and Sugrutha Ramaswami, a software expert who has worked for Wipro and TCS.

Interestingly, this random group came to team up having met virtually, through Internet email groups. “Basically two reasons prompted us to take on this immense task,” explained Nagendra Rao. “We were convinced that IDRF is a genuine and legitimate charitable funding organization and the kind of calumni leveled against it is totally uncalled for and incorrect.”

Rao said the anti-IDRF group clearly had a partisan agenda and ideology, which is anti-Hindu. Tremendous research and investigation has gone into preparing an objective response to the Biju Mathew report, Rao said. “I am a corporate guy and have a reputation to lose if I didn’t base my report on facts. I wouldn’t post a knee-jerk reaction piece.” “The Sabrang/FOIL report was deeply offensive to me as a practicing Hindu who believes in Sanatan Dharma,” Rao added.

The purpose of this rebuttal, Rao said, is manifold. “We not only challenge the false claims and distortions presented by the Sabrang/FOIL report, but also present facts about what the IDRF is, its history and organizational structure, the nature of its work, and some examples of the social and philanthropic projects funded by IDRF.”

Through the rebuttal, Friends of India attempts to show that:

  • The IDRF is not an official or legal affiliate of the RSS;
  • The IDRF supports and has supported has nothing to do with hate or sectarianism and much to do with supporting education, disaster relief, and development work;
  • The RSS and its affiliates are neither sectarian nor hate organizations but the victims of unrelenting propaganda by vested Indian and foreign interests;
  • The attempt at connecting the IDRF with RSS and in turn to hatemongering is the work of a group of Marxist ideologues, and loyalists of totalitarian regimes, masquerading as concerned and progressive people who believe in secular ideals.
  • The release of the Sabrang/FOIL report last year, with the accompanying media attention, petitions to the U.S. government, and pressure on U.S. corporations that match employee contributions to U.S. based non-profit organizations has led to the suspension of matching funds by a few U.S. corporations, and has garnered much publicity to the authors of the report. It has also brought a massive, but largely unnoticed and under-reported reaction from those in the community who have some knowledge of what the IDRF does, and how it does so.

    This report is presented to provide the U.S. corporate community, the Indian-American public, and others interested in the debate an independent group’s analysis of the IDRF’s work, associations, and contributions, according to the Friends of India.

    The Friends of India report concludes that IDRF funds socioeconomic development projects, and relief and rehabilitation work. These are specific projects with the scope and funding of each approved by the Government of India, and only after IDRF thoroughly evaluates each proposal.

    There is no evidence presented in the Sabrang/Foil report or elsewhere that the funding has been unaccounted for or misspent.

    The Sabrang/FOIL report, accompanied by an orchestrated media campaign and a petition, was a blatant political attack on a lowprofile organization with a history of helping those in desperate need. “We, the authors of this rebuttal, decided that we could not stand by and watch this mugging – and so we came together to develop this rebuttal,” said a Friends of India statement.

    The Friends of India report further says: We believe that a fair, impartial, and careful scrutiny of the IDRF and its loose collaboration with, and support of, work undertaken by both Hindu and “secular” organizations will show that the massive propaganda campaign undertaken by the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report with the collaboration of people in the media and academe will ultimately fail. It will fail for this one simple, basic reason: the Sabrang/FOIL report is a calculated and cussed effort at destroying the good work undertaken by dedicated, hardworking, selfless volunteers who wish to see India become a developed and vibrant nation. This rebuttal of the Sabrang/FOIL report is one endeavor to expose the violence perpetrated by extremist forces in the name of peace and secularism. The FOIL report and the subsequent media slander of IDRF have adversely affected the matching funds program initiated by some of the Indian American IT giants in Silicon valley. In fact, CISCO has since suspended its funding to the IDRF.

    Friends of India have demanded that US corporations that have withheld matching funds lift their ban on such contributions to the IDRF, and urged Indian-Americans to channel their charity contributions through the IDRF.