On November 20, 2002 a report was released in
New Delhi accusing the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) of
funding sectarian hate in India.
It was simultaneously published by a number of Left/Marxist,
Pan-Islamic, and Christian-Fundamentalist websites around the world.
The IDRF is a volunteer charitable organization that raises
money in the United States for development and relief projects as
well as educational and social work in India.
The attack against the IDRF (“The Foreign Exchange of Hate:
IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva”) was compiled in a
91-page report, and published by Sabrang Communications &
Publishing Pvt. Ltd., India, and The South Asia Citizens Web,
France. Much of the
report is simply a rehash of what the Forum of Indian Leftists
(FOIL) has publicized over the past five years.
FOIL has been targeting the IDRF
primarily for what they claim are the following reasons:
“The IDRF has supported a variety of philanthropic
and social work including many undertaken by the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates.”
“The IDRF has volunteers and office-bearers
affiliated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, the Hindu
Swayamsevak Sangh and other overseas affiliates of the RSS.”
“The RSS and its affiliates are sectarian and hate
organizations, and the IDRF, as an ‘affiliate’ of the RSS, is
also involved in funding and spreading hate.”
That the IDRF violates the matching fund criteria of
U.S. corporations that have provided matching grants to the IDRF
(See Appendix A
for CISCO’s matching fund criteria).
The Sabrang/FOIL report is very explicit in
its “single, simple conclusion”: the IDRF funds hate.
The report’s author is Biju Mathew, founding member of
FOIL, and an Associate Professor of Business at Rider University,
New Jersey, and those who have collaborated with him on the project
include Girish Agrawal, Angana Chatterji, Shalini Gera, Ali Mir, and S. Ravi Rajan.
In this rebuttal to the Sabrang/FOIL report,
we will show that the arguments and evidence presented by the
Sabrang/FOIL authors do not pass the test of either reliability or
validity. We will
provide arguments and supporting evidence that debunk the
interpretations and conclusions of the Sabrang/FOIL report.
Throughout this rebuttal report we will provide several
examples of false claims made by the Sabrang/FOIL writers and
counteract them with evidence that shows what the IDRF has actually
supported, and how the IDRF’s work reflects the true spirit of
volunteerism and social outreach.
While readers may find detailed examples and
analysis in various appendices to this report, we will present here
some examples of false claims made in the Sabrang/FOIL report.
The very first sentence of the report begins as follows: “Hindutva,
the Hindu supremacist ideology…”
This assertion that Hindutva is a supremacist ideology is
false. To the contrary
the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that “Hindutva” refers to a
way of life.
An analogy is the phrase “Judeo-Christian ethos.”
Many politicians, academics, and community leaders in the
U.S. routinely use the phrase “Judeo-Christian heritage,” just
as their Indian counterparts refer to Hindu or Hindutva.
Does that mean that those who use
the phrase “Judeo-Christian heritage” are “Judeo-Christian
The first sentence also says, “Hindutva…
has undergirded much of the communal violence in India over the last
several decades.” This
is a bigoted opinion with no empirical support.
The authors pick and choose biased and incomplete reports,
which were themselves debunked later, to support their claim that it
is the RSS organizations that have been primarily responsible for
communal riots in India. There
is no evidence provided where courts have even prosecuted, let alone
found guilty, any of the RSS organizations or individuals on these
grounds. They refer to
“official” commission reports, but do not mention that those
reports have collected dust without any government using the
findings to lodge cases against the RSS in any court of law.
The RSS has indeed been banned thrice in
India. In 1948 it was
banned because the Indian government of the time believed that
Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, was an RSS member.
The courts found that the government allegation was false,
and the government had to lift the ban in 1949.
The second time the RSS was banned was during
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s infamous two-year imposition of an
internal Emergency in India in 1975 to save herself and her
government from a negative verdict by the Courts that had ruled
against her in an election dispute.
The RSS was among hundreds of political parties, groups,
newspapers and magazines that were banned, shut down, and hounded by
the Congress Party of Indira Gandhi.
The largest number of individuals imprisoned by Indira Gandhi
were RSS volunteers because she feared that the only well-organized
opposition to her dictatorial ways would come from them.
The ban on the RSS as well as newspapers, political parties,
etc., was lifted as soon as the Emergency was lifted in 1977.
The third time the RSS was banned was after
the 1992 destruction of a fifteenth century mosque built over a site
on which stood one of the holiest Hindu temples.
That ban too was lifted on the instructions of Indian courts
when they found no evidence to support such a ban.
For almost 50 years India was ruled by
Congress Party governments both at the Center and in many of the
Indian states. If
indeed there was a case that could be made against the RSS, the
Congress Party – hostile to the RSS -
could and would have easily pursued them in the courts.
Moreover, there have been hundreds of Hindu-Muslim clashes
all over India, and to scavenge for the rare report that admonishes
the RSS for “perceived” involvement shows the mindset of the
Leftist authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report who try to misrepresent
that violence is only generated and perpetrated by Hindus inspired
by “Hindutva” organizations.
The Sabrang/FOIL authors conveniently ignore
the massive attempts at destabilizing Indian society and undermining
governments by a combination of aggressive proselytizing religions,
Marxist and Communist groups and parties, and India’s Muslim
neighbors who have chafed at the success of a multireligious,
multiethnic, and democratic India.
The death, trauma, and damage from these attempts surpass
those from any communal riots after the Partition events of 1947, by
orders of magnitude.
One can easily make the counter-claim that
communal violence in India largely occurs in those places where
Muslims are in a majority or a significant minority and that such
communal riots are in general preceded by some provocation by
Muslims. We could also
argue with more credibility than the Sabrang/FOIL authors that
communal violence is a “God-send” for proselytizers who need to
rack up their score-card of “heathen souls saved,” in order to
get more funding from foreign entities, at whatever cost.
Or that communal violence occurs when the Marxist Party and
other opposition parties have no means of destabilizing the elected
and otherwise popular government except to create communal
polarization, and that it thus precedes (as it did in Gujarat in
2002) election campaigns in states where the Marxists and their
cohorts face massive defeat at the polls.
Other reasons for riots and violence in India
include poverty, economic disparities, caste, and language and
regional divisions. But
mere fingerpointing is not going to suffice in order to define the
motives of the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report.
Only a careful unpacking of the claims and assertions of
those authors will enable us to understand how the report was put
together and for what ends.
From a close reading of the Sabrang/FOIL
report we can surmise that the report is in the classic mold of
political pamphleteering and propaganda, and should be treated as
the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report don’t shy from stooping to
devious, unethical, and almost criminal tactics can be seen from
what they did when the IDRF supporters started a petition drive at
the web site called LetIndiaDevelop.org.
The web site address ended in the suffix “org.”
To confuse petition signers, the Sabrang/FOIL group started
another petition drive at the web site called LetIndiaDevelop.com
– the suffix here being “com.”
Because their original petition drive lost out in the popular
vote, Sabrang/FOIL/FOSA attempted a cyber-flimflam.
They thus plagiarized the Let
India Develop campaign’s web address with a “com”
extension instead of “org” to mislead people by redirecting them
to their website. Public
outrage convinced the Internet service provider to remove their
“anonymous” registration and expose their identity to the world.
This shows the extent to which these groups are willing to
Shortly after their Report, “The Foreign
Exchange of Hate” and their Stop-Funding Hate Petition came out,
realization apparently started to set in that they could not afford
to have people actually reading their report.
So Sabrang /FOIL started the process of backpedaling and
covering up. They
published a “Frequently Asked Questions” page linked to the
“Campaign To Stop Funding Hate.”
When we compare the statements made by Sabrang/FOIL/SACW/FOSA
in answer to their own “Frequently Asked Questions,” with what
the same entities wrote and published in the “The Foreign Exchange
of Hate”, we find that there are differences, backpedaling, and
ignoring of facts (See Appendix
M for a thorough analysis of the same as well as the following
Throughout this report, we will point to
instances of misrepresentation, obfuscation, and selective use of
secondary data in the Sabrang/FOIL report.
We will draw your attention to what the authors claim is, “the
methodological emphasis on primary sources internal to the Sangh
Parivar,” and show that their claim of ensuring “that
the evidentiary basis of the conclusions drawn is of the highest
standards,” is laughable.
The purpose of this rebuttal 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.
We will show that: a)
The IDRF is not an official or legal affiliate of the RSS; b) the
work that 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; c) the RSS and its affiliates
are neither sectarian nor hate organizations but the victims of
unrelenting propaganda by vested Indian and foreign interests; and
d) the attempt at connecting the IDRF with RSS and in turn to
hate-mongering 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, 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.