Authors: Dr. Narayanan Komerath and Dr. Ramesh N. Rao
Friends of India
report below was prepared in response to a set of “answers” to
“Frequently Asked Questions” of the Sabrang/FOIL authors and their
report, “The Foreign Exchange of Hate”.
Those “answers” have undergone changes and mutations as people
have unearthed information both about the IDRF and about the antecedents
of the Sabrang/FOIL authors. The
Sabrang/FOIL “FAQ” responses use the same disingenuous and clever
strategies that we see in “The Foreign Exchange of Hate” report, and
so a detailed and continuing rebuttal of the report and the antics of the
Sabrang/FOIL group has been undertaken by Prof. Narayanan Komerath.
The authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report claim to be a diverse group of people of Indian origin living and working in India, United States, and Europe. However, it would be much more correct to say they include members of Sabrang Communications, Bombay ; South Asia Citizens (Communist?) Web, France ; Forum of Indian Leftists, worldwide, but mostly U.S. ; Communist Party (Marxist) of India ; Progressive South Asians (PROXSA), worldwide, but mostly US-based – an anti-Hindu front organization for Indian Communists and Pan Islamic Ummah sympathizers ; Friends of South Asia, Palo Alto, CA (FOSA) , ; and Indians for Collective Action, California .
The authors’ claim that they are of Indian origin does not stand up to close scrutiny. At least 10, and probably more, of the 20 Muslim-named “Faculty” appearing on their Faculty Petition are of Pakistani/Iraqi/Indonesian/Egyptian origin, and probably of the same loyalty . Applying the same ratio to the Muslim-named signatories of their petition it can be seen that about 40% of those signing their petition are in fact of Pakistani or other Middle-Eastern origins, whose only interest in “secular democratic India” is to seriously unravel the fabric of multicultural India.
The authors claim, “We found each other via the Internet and through personal contacts in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots earlier this year”. But consider the honesty of that statement. They have been members of the Forum of Indian Leftists for decades. They have been working on their “Report” for at least 5 years, by their own claim! See the crosslinks between the websites of FOIL, SABRANG, PROXSA, FOSA and ICAOnline.
The Sabrang/FOIL report authors further claim that they “are bound by one common goal: an India without hatred.” Unfortunately, the truncated map of India they displayed on their website could mean that they “imagine” India without Jammu & Kashmir, parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat  – which they dream of giving to Pakistan, and an India without the North-Eastern states, which presumably belongs to some free “Tribal Nation” or is donated to the People’s Republic of China.
The authors also claim that they like to see a country “where people are not persecuted because of their faith or political beliefs.” Unfortunately, the FOIL/PROXSA web page lists speeches by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro , and Biju Mathew’s web page at Rider University features a link to the UnaBomber Manifesto [ ] – another anarchist pamphlet.
Answering their own question about their views on religion, especially Hinduism, they claim that they are not opposed to religion. But check Page 1, line 1 of the Sabrang/FOIL/FOSA report, and you will find the following definitions: “Hindutva, the Hindu supremacist ideology”, and on page 4: “Hindutva – which translates literally to Hinduness or Hinduhood”. And when you read Biju Mathew’s and his close collaborator Vijay Prashad’s articles in the Weekly Organs of the Communist Party (Marxist)  you will be left seriously wondering if their stated stance on religion and Hinduism stands to scrutiny.
“Yes, we are opposed to Hindutva and Sangh Parivar. Hindutva is different from Hinduism. Most followers of Hinduism, like the followers of any other religion are peaceful, non-violent and tolerant”, say the Sabrang/FOIL authors. We would like to direct readers to page 4 for their definition of “Hindutva”. Contrast their definition with that of the Supreme Court of India’s definition of “Hindutva” . The Sabrang/FOIL authors claim:
is a political ideology. It
advocates use of violence, confuses nationality with culture and religion,
is supremacist and exclusionary. It
believes that only people who support it should have first class
citizenship in India. All
others should be second class citizens.”
is a blatant falsehood and misrepresentation.
The Supreme Court of India unanimously defines “Hindutva” thus:
Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and it is not
to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism.
A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a
Hindu, and since the Hindu is disposed to think synthetically and to
regard other forms of worship, strange gods and divergent doctrines as
inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, he tends to believe that
the highest divine powers complement each other for the well-being of the
world and mankind. Few
religious ideas are considered to be finally irreconcilable.”
The authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report continue the canard that the founders of the RSS were admirers of Adolf Hitler, and that Nazism in Germany under Hitler was similar to what RSS is advocating. By and through this assertion and association, Sabrang/FOIL equates all Hindus to Nazis. They ominously say, “We all know what happened when Nazism was allowed to grow”. The demonization of the RSS and the false accusations against its founder Hedgewar, who was mentored by Moonje of the Congress Party, has been well documented by Elst .
The authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report rely on a tacky thesis by an unknown Italian scholar, Marzia Casolari, for their RSS-Hitler/Mussolini connection. Elst has definitively argued that Casolari’s attempts to show the existence of direct contacts between representatives of fascist regimes and Hindu nationalists leave numerous and important facts which contradict her case (p. 483-484). Casolari  quotes an unreliable Congress Party source to show that the RSS was “already” classified as “fascist” (p. 485-486), but then she also quotes a letter which proves that the RSS, for all its wonted show of bamboo sticks, was a soft vigilante group (p. 487). She quotes no new facts that she promises her readers in a first draft of her essays, reproduces in full Moonje’s diary entry for his meeting with Mussolini but cannot point out anything compromising (pp. 490-491). Elst contends that Casolari “adopts slick generalizations which are the stock-in-trade of hate-monger” (p. 500).
Elst is the
foremost authority on the Sangh Parivar, but his books and arguments are
deliberately ignored by the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report because the
enormous evidence he brings to bear on his theses contradict the facile
evaluations by the Indian “secular” hate mongers.
In this regard, it is pertinent to quote Ashis Nandy, the
well-known Indian social scientist who argues that those Indians who claim
to be secularists are in fact authoritarian academics and pontificators.
this about Indian secularism: “Official secularism tries to limit the
democratic process by truncating the political personality of the
citizen” because it “sees the believer as a person with an inferior
political consciousness”. He
says that Indian secularists are an emblem “of a person or group willing
to accept two corollaries of the ideology of the Indian state: the
assumption that those who do not speak the language of secularism are
unfit for full citizenship, and the belief that those who speak it have
the sole right to determine what true democratic principles, governance
and religious tolerance are” .
India Today editorial (December
30, 2002) opines thus about the recent Gujarat elections: “Truly, this
election was held in the backdrop of two riots, one bloody, the other pure
sophistry. In the latter,
professional secularists and the conscience-keeping industry sought out
the darkest entries from the glossary of hate to describe the crime of the
Hindu – Holocaust, fascism, Hitler….
They rhapsodized the ghettos of victimhood, and, forever scavenging
for a cause, they found a self-serving monster in Modi.
The election exposed their pretence”.
Let us not forget that the RSS founders lived in the days of the British Empire – and like most others enslaved by the British, had excellent reason to look with admiration on anyone who could stand up to the British. This does not mean that they endorsed any of the Nazis’ or Fascists’ actions. Let us note what Sabrang’s own spokesman Vinay Lal, living comfortably in California today, has to say on the subject : “Under British rule in India, peasants lived in “abject misery”, the “forces of law and order were almost invariably deployed in favour of their oppressors”, agricultural productivity in most of the country was “dismal”, famine was recurrent, industries declined… Few “serious thinkers and historians” will be found in India “who see anything good in the imperial record” (p. 358). He notes that even the indefatigable Anglophile, Nirad Chaudhuri, much admired in the West like Naipaul, “described the British in India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as ‘the Nazis of their times’”… No doubt the British were gentler Nazis, but that is why their empire has a rather more ominous quality to it. The ‘responsibilities’ once exercised by the British have now devolved upon the Americans. In that most clichéd formulation, the sun never set on the British empire, and now the Americans are asking us to behold the thousand points of light. They live in darkness and call it light”.
Following up with more “soul-baring” the authors claim that they “abide by the vision of the authors of Indian Constitution, who envisaged an India where all religions will be treated equally and all citizens are free to practice any religion of their choice without fear of persecution”. The emblem of India says “Satyam eva Jayate” (Truth alone shall prevail) – something the Sabrang/FOIL authors should ponder. If they did, they would recognize that the Indian Constitution also protects the right of every citizen to be considered innocent unless proven guilty of some crime. But these authors have not hewed to that principle when they decided to smear IDRF with supporting hate and terrorism.
Moreover, Dr. Jameel Badawi, one of Sabrang/FOIL’s South Asia Faculty, is on record as condoning physical assault against wives by their husbands for perceived disobedience and refusal to have sex on demand. Dr. Badawi cites the Koranic injunctions in support of his assertions . Dr. Vinay Lal, Sabrang/FOIL spokesman, explains Sabrang’s concept of treating all religions equally – when he writes that the Taliban was justified in destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas . So, one wonders what the Sabrang/FOIL authors mean when they say that they envisage an India where all religions will be treated equally.
Similarly, the Sabrang/FOIL authors claim that their own funding and support are self-generated. They assert that they “contribute personal time and money to this work and do not accept any institutional funding from anywhere”. But this is an outright lie. Sabrang/FOIL collects funds through the SINGH Foundation ”. SINGH”, stands for “ Secular India’s National Growth and Harmony.” It is .a convoluted acronym apparently set up to unethically convey an impression of Sikh identity, or pose a challenge to “Sangh” (as in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) The records show that of $125,000 collected by SINGH in five years, the program expenses were less than 50% of total expenses! This level of administrative expenses would be rated as an F by non-profit organization rating agencies. OVER $39,000 was used to fund “travel”. Where the rest went is anyone’s guess, but the “Communalism Combat” page of Sabrang  indicates that much of it went to pay Sabrang’s Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, and perhaps the Stop Funding Hate authors also got recompense from SINGH Foundation. We note from : “To put it on a personal note, when we both left our jobs over two years ago, we were jointly earning around Rs. 25,000 p.m. Our labour apart, we have since managed with just Rs. 10,000 p.m. and have both declined job offers which would have meant well over Rs. 25,000 per month for either one of us. This is not to tell you about the great ‘spirit of sacrifice’. … While we are on the subject, may we make a suggestion to individuals and groups from the U.S. (and possibly Canada, too) who would like to respond to this SOS. As many of you are already aware the New York-based “SINGH Foundation” is registered as a charity under U.S. law and donations to it are entitled to tax benefits. You might wish to consider the option of multiplying your contribution to us—at no extra cost to yourself—by directing your subscriptions to us through “SINGH Foundation or some other such trust. Waiting anxiously for a reply and with warm regards. - Javed Anand, Teesta Setalvad”.
They have also been funded by the Congress Party, Communist Party, several ‘NGOs’ and from foreign sources for election propaganda – enough to pay for full-page ads in the Times of India . See below for the details of how the SINGH FOUNDATION spent over $125,000 in 5 years – with an overhead rate of more than 50%! Where the South Asia Citizens’ Web receives funding is anyone’s guess. They are not telling.
Another question they pose for themselves (“Why don’t you criticize other religious groups who send money to India?”) they don’t answer at all! Then they turn around and claim that they “are not opposed to religious groups sending money to India, per se”. Could it be that Sabrang/FOIL depends on funding from Christian groups that have been at the forefront of opposing the RSS , as well as those who have rationalized the Taliban’s actions?, and those who call President Bush a more dangerous terrorist than Osama bin Laden ?
The authors claim that the money that IDRF sends encourages divisiveness and violence, and that they do condemn all acts of hate and violence - regardless of religion or ideology. In fact they don’t do anything other than “condemn” or “agitate”. Even their “lesson plans” which they foist upon innocent children at the Bombay International School are subversive [, ]. Moreover, it is shown elsewhere how selective the Sabrang/FOIL supporters and authors are in their condemnation of non-Hindu groups .
If missionaries can raise money for Christianity, Muslims can raise money for Islam, why can Hindu organizations not do the same? IDRF doesn’t waste time asking such questions, since they spend their time working to help the poor, and welcome the efforts of other helpful people – example: Miraj Medical Center, an affiliate of the Church of North India and the Presbyterian Church of the USA, which Sabrang/FOIL spokesman Vinay Lal specifically condemned as a camouflaged RSS-affiliated hate-mongering organization , in trying to cover up the falsehoods in FOIL’s claims of “meticulous research”, and ending up compounding his folly with a demonstration of his intellectual standards.
It is claimed that the IDRF is misrepresenting itself as a non-sectarian, non-political organization. IDRF is a registered charitable organization in the U.S. and it is indeed non-sectarian, and non-political. But the Sabrang/FOIL report claims that 80 per cent of the money raised by IDRF goes to organizations belonging to the Sangh Parivar, a loose network of Hindutva organizations. Sabrang/FOIL’s numbers are manufactured to come up with a variety of numbers: 80 percent once, 83 percent elsewhere, and others numbers in yet other places. Since 80 percent of Indians are Hindus, why should it be surprising if 80 percent of funding to India went to organizations run by Hindus? Individual donors are told that the charity will go towards socio-economic development in India, and nowhere have the Sabrang/FOIL authors given evidence that it is otherwise.
The Sabrang/FOIL authors demand that IDRF should openly declare that it is a part of Hindutva ideology. This smearing by association plus the fact that “Hindutva” itself is defined in different ways should be enough to condemn the Sabrang/FOIL report as a hate report. If the IDRF volunteers could turn around and accuse the Sabrang/FOIL authors of being Communists and Pan-Islamists there would be more truth.
IDRF supports developmental projects in India. Their records show that they support education, tribal welfare, healthcare and women and children. All these are lies according to the willful and fanciful “definitions” concocted by the Sabrang/FOIL authors, who assert without evidence that the support that IDRF offers to educational institutions and tribal welfare programs is very selective and geared towards promoting a specific ideology.
The Sabrang/FOIL authors also claim that almost all of the large scale money transfers relating to the Orissa cyclone (1999) and the Bhuj earthquake (2001) have been to Sangh Parivar organizations in India. But it has been shown that many of the RSS affiliates in fact were some of the first on the scenes of the disasters, who remained in the devastated areas and worked consistently, and helped people regardless of religion, tribe, or caste .
The authors of the report then go on to complain about a number of aspects of the RSS: that it has no legal status, it maintains no membership rolls, and that it has no internal democracy. The RSS “operates” in the world’s largest democracy, India. Not all groups and organizations have to be structured to have a particular “democratic” set up. The Catholic Church is not “democratic”, which the Sabrang/FOIL people choose to studiously ignore. The wish to influence and shape the RSS by outside forces who have always chafed at the organizational strength and the discipline of the RSS should be seen for what it really is: envy mixed with a deep disregard for Hindus organizing themselves to strengthen their culture and ward off threats by outside religious and political forces.
Similarly the accusation that the RSS’ accounts are never audited publicly does not have any meaning because audits are conducted of individual organizations that handle money. A group of people sharing common ideals has no need of any “audit” except in communist or Islamic dictatorships.
Rationalizing the ideology adumbrated in Muslim madrasas, the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report equivocate whether hatred for other religions is taught in those madrasas. They ignore the numerous reports both in the Indian and in the international media of the nature of many of these madrasas that are schools for training Islam-inspired terrorism .
As to the proselytizing activities carried out by Christian organizations, once again the authors equivocate claiming that, “Christian missions in India have also done a lot of educational and medical service”. In other words, Sabrang/FOIL claims that if any organization does “a lot of educational and medical service”, there is a “difference”, even if some of those organizations “teach hatred” and “convert”.
They then go on to assert the truism that there are many Hindu religious missions that do not preach communalism (for instance, the Ramakrishna Missions). Sabrang’s Report explicitly categorizes organizations of the Ramakrishna Mission as “RSS-affiliated” and “hate-spreading”. Again, they want to keep people from actually READING their report, and the “basis” for their conclusions and for their crying “wolf”.
The Sabrang/FOIL report claims that “an overwhelming number of organizations receiving IDRF funding are Sangh fronts” and that “most ordinary donors take IDRF’s contention at face value and give their money thinking that they are funding welfare projects for the poor”. Are the IDRF volunteers misleading donors by claiming a status that is not true? From Sabrang/FOIL’s own petition site, where people have spewed venom against the IDRF and the RSS, we can see that not ONE out of the 2766 signatories until January 1, 2003 on the Sabrang/FOIL Petition says anything close to “I am an IDRF donor, and I am not happy with what IDRF did with my money”.
The Sabrang/FOIL report next claims”, IDRF knows that if it were upfront about its connection to the Sangh, many decent and fair-minded contributors would refuse to give it any money”. Strangely enough, or not so strangely enough, many people have sent in contributions to IDRF citing the need to counter Sabrang/FOIL’s lies.
They say that, “IDRF does operate in a sectarian fashion and does send money almost exclusively to organizations that are not only explicitly religious, but also subscribe to a divisive ideology that seeks to construct India as a monotheistic and intolerant state”. To this we can only say that fair-minded readers should see the list of organizations that IDRF supports, and decide for themselves whether orphanages, schools, hospitals, leprosy-patient care centers, yoga centers, agricultural Extension Centers, are all “explicitly religious and subscribe to divisive ideology” – or whether the divisive ideology is in the Sabrang/FOIL authors’ minds.
It is claimed that, “IDRF has gone to great lengths to conceal its sectarian and discriminatory agenda and has posed as a development and relief organization in order to qualify for such grants. This is deceptive”. If indeed IDRF wanted to be deceptive would it put up all the details of funds received and distributed for everyone to see on the Internet? See . In fact, the secretive nature is more characteristic of Communist/Islamist/terrorist groups, and it seems that Sabrang/FOIL’s websites are increasingly disappearing behind “members-only” walls .
In a final, tired Freudian slip, the Sabrang/FOIL authors claim, “It should be also noted here that despite repeated requests, the IDRF has refused to set up funds for sectarian violence in India when Muslims or Christians are the primary victims." What ought to be noted, rather, is an astonishing ignorance of IDRF's operational charter by those claiming to have investigated it for five years! The IDRF does not raise funds for victims of communal violence as a matter of policy -- irrespective of whether the victims are Hindus, Muslims or Christians. No charity has the unlimited resources to fund causes outside its defined boundaries of engagement. This simple, entirely reasonable limitation was evidently overlooked by those making "repeated requests" for aid to victims of sectarian violence.
IDRF does help people affected by natural disasters – without regard for religion, caste etc. IDRF does help war victims. IDRF conveys money to approved organizations based on donor requests. Elsewhere in their Hate Report, Sabrang/FOIL claims that IDRF’s collection of money for the families of New York firefighters and other casualties of the 9/11 terrorist strike was also “anti-Muslim” because “the attackers were Muslim”. This is indicative of the cussedness and willfulness of the authors of the Sabrang report who in the garb of “moralists” and “watch dogs” have performed an extremely vile act of divisiveness.