(Devasish Ray, India Post, Dec 20, 2002.)
To equate transfer of funds by the India Development and Relief Fund for
social development in India, to money laundering by Islamic charities for the
sole purpose for terrorism is preposterous and displays the ludicrously negative
attitude of a section of the media, both Indian and Western.
The premise of the accusation is that Shri Vinod Prakash, Founder and President of IDRF has been secretly channeling funds to Hindu Fundamentalists in India and the monies transferred were being used by the RSS to promote communal violence in sensitive regions in India...Gujarat being the most recent. An extremely pained Prakash vented frustration to India Post saying, "I will allow my body to be cut to a million pieces, if anyone can prove that even a dollar of IDRF has been used for perpetration of violence in Gujarat. This is absolutely nonsense". Prakash wife Sarla is flabbergasted, "This has been manufactured in such a way….. it is unbelievable."
Prakash went to say that the section of the media determined the accusation by researching the issue. "They claim research… They should be ashamed calling the report as competent research. They never contacted us or asked us to verify anything. They picked up information from the web site and misinterpreted it out context," said Prakash.
So why has he and his organization been singled out for this "slander campaign." Prakash is quick to point out that he has been inspired by the RSS and its organizational cababilites and discipline. "I am also inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Shri Aurobindo." This doesn't mean that I wear the RSS jacket nor do I endorse everything of the RSS," said Prakash. Prakash categorically stated that his identity was not synonymous with the RSS. The journalist in question who is now accusing the IDRF of duping NRIs into transferring funds to Hindu Fundamentalists had paid glowing tributes in an earlier article…."it (IDRF) has launched a fund raising drive in an attempt to continue its service to the community. A tax-exempt organization in the United States, the IDRF has been actively involved in serving the most disadvantaged, impoverished, illiterate, disabled, orphan, poor and needy people. Over the past decade, it has handed out grants worth $6,418,000. But the organization, run by volunteers, is not one to rest on its achievements."
Prakash explained the genesis of the idea of IDRF was to engage in grass root work in social, educational and infrastructural development of India. "It is true that we came in contact with RSS Pracharaks and the report in that sense is correct and we were inspired by them. We are associated with the Sewa aspect of their agenda," said Prakash. "There is nothing wrong with that… they are not a criminal organization." Prakash further added that the dedication and commitment of the volunteers of the RSS is unparallel. Prakash who is 70 is quick to add that although he was a volunteer of the RSS, his only official standing was that as President of IDRF. "IDRF neither solicits nor receives directives from the RSS."
On the rumor that the present Ambassador at large Bhism Agnihotri being associated with IDRF, Prakash said, "I categorically deny this rumor."
Prakash who categorized his involvement with India as Emotional, Rational and Spiritual said "that if his organization was only a pro Hindu body the hundreds of students studying in the Sewa Bharati schools would be handpicked on the sole basis of their religion. "There are students of all faiths in these schools". Incidentally, the latest CBSE results achieved by the school is impressive. According to documents investigated by India Post 48 passed with first division, 15 passed with second divisions, only 2 in third division and none failed. The students who come from the poorest section of society have achieved an impossible dream, thanks to the sustained efforts of IDRF.
Prakash said the accounts of the NGOs were audited by the agencies as per Indian law. "The moment we get information that a particular organization has lost its tax exemption status we will stop funding them."
Prakash points out that there is a difference between Patriotism and Fundamentalism. "The IDRF had come out in full flow when there was an earthquake in Latur. We donated thousands of dollars. Did we see that the affected people were Hindus, Muslims or Christians? The Orissa Cyclone tragedy is another example of IDRF's tireless efforts to swing into action whenever the need arises. "This comes from Patriotism towards one's country."
On the occasion of the marriage of Prakash's two sons, no personal gifts were received. Instead, checks were collected in the name of IDRF and the money collected was sent to benefit numerous charities in India. Many India-American families in the US have followed suit since then.
Prakash says that he is "proud to be an Indian, proud to be a Hindu." The Hindu religion is not just a religion, it is a way of life," concluded Prakash.