A Factual Response to the Hate Attack on the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF)
 © Friends of India and Authors of the Report
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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[8] (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[9].  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 supremacists”?

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[10].  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[11].  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 such. 

That 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 manipulate truth. 

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 web site[12]). 

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[13]. 

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. 

[9] The submission of the appellants before the Supreme Court of India was that Hindutva or Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life that incorporates values of life such as respect for all religions, moral code of conduct in all spheres of human activity that inter alia include secularism.  In support of this, they relied on two Constitution Bench judgments of the Supreme Court in the cases of Yajnapurushdasji (1966 (3) SCR 242) in which the Court held that Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life, which view was reiterated in the case of Sridharan (1976 (4) SCC 489).  The Court on consideration of the rival contentions accepted the contention of the appellants.  In the light of those decisions, the Court concluded that Hindutva or Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life and therefore any appeal to vote for Hinduism would not by itself constitute an appeal in the name of religion that is a corrupt practice under the S.  123 of the R.  P.  Act.  (Quoted in “Supreme Court Judgment on Hindutva: An Important Landmark” by M.  Rama Jois.  See also, “Basis of secularism is Hindutva”, Poonam Singh Chauhan, The Indian Express, March 30, 2002)

 [10] There are literally scores of books written about that event, and there are hundreds of scholarly papers written about the “Ayodhya incident.” We will not rehash it here except to say that the leader of the movement to reconstruct the Hindu temple, Mr. L. K.Advani, is now the Deputy Prime Minister of India, and he and other members of the Bharatiya Janata Party have publicly rued the destruction of the mosque on the disputed site. 

[11] Koenraad Elst (1993) in Ayodhya and After: Issues before Hindu Society points out how local events and contexts are to blame for communal riots, and argues that “there are strong indications that riots are in a majority of cases started by Muslims, often after Friday prayers; that Hindus commit large-scale reactive violence, mostly against weaker and less organized Muslim communities; and that the high incidence of confrontations between police and Muslims is also often started by Muslims, so that the police perceives its own actions as self-defence” (p. 176).  Ashutosh Varshney (2002) in Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India argues that communal conflict occurs when there are no widespread networks of communication between the communities.  He also warns that ignoring minority communalism perpetuates the danger of majority communalism.  It is accepted wisdom in India, and elsewhere, that majority communalism is more pernicious because it can degenerate into fascism.  In his discourse on Nehruvian history Rafiq Zakaria states that the communalism of the majority is more dangerous than the commuanlism of the minority, because majority communalism may command the resources of the state.  See Vijay Rana’s essay, Clean Slate Kalam and the Communalists, The Asian Age, July 26, 2002.  But to draw an analogy from the experiences of European fascism or majority communalism elsewhere in the world to the dynamics of Indian communalism would be a false analogy.  Moreover, to discount the aggressive nature and acts of the two major monotheistic religions of the world and their attempts to undermine Hinduism in our hurry to blame Hindu majority communalism would lead to the practice of “pseudo-secularism” in India, which has in turn exacerbated the conflict between the “majority” and the “minorities.”

 [12] http://www.geocities.com/charcha_2000/essays/sabrang_faq_meets_reality.html

[13] For additional examples of how the Sabrang report’s claims fall apart on a closer scrutiny, see Chapter V, Section C.


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