Our objective is to critically examine the
report titled, “The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the
American Funding of Hindutva,” jointly published by Mumbai based
Sabrang Communications Private Ltd., and France based South Asia
Citizens Web. The goal
is to look for the evidence, arguments and reasoning provided by the
authors as they make their case against the India Development and
Relief Fund (IDRF), a USA based charity that funds NGOs doing
relief, rehabilitation, and development work in India.
The authors and sponsors of “The Foreign
Exchange of Hate” describe themselves as being associated
primarily with the Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL) and Sabrang
Communications. Thus we
will interchangeably use the terms “Sabrang/FOIL report,”
“FOIL report,” or simply “Hate report” to describe “The
Foreign Exchange of Hate.” From
recent statements made by authors and their representatives, it
appears that they may be uncomfortable with this association being
spotlighted in public, in view of the interesting loyalties,
affiliations, and agendas of these organizations.
We hasten to point out that there is no intention to insult,
but only to clarify who these people are and where they come from.
Their history is certainly germane to the issue of their
The end product of our critical analysis is
this comprehensive rebuttal. Here
we present evidence to show that the Sabrang/FOIL report does not
put forward facts to make its case, instead the authors pick and
choose from publicly available data to fit their biased and
pre-determined conclusions about IDRF.
For example, the report accuses IDRF of being sectarian since
it raised funds for 9/11 victims ONLY because the perpetrators were
Muslims and the victims largely non-Muslim.
Could it be that by accusing IDRF for its responsible act of
helping 9/11 victims, the authors have exhibited their extreme bias
against IDRF, and anyone helping 9/11 victims?
The Sabrang/FOIL report also claims that IDRF
did not raise funds for Muslim victims in Gujarat, India, when it
raised funds for Bangladeshi-Hindu victims.
They ignore their basic responsibility to check their
“facts” with IDRF; otherwise they would have known that as a
matter of policy, IDRF does not raise funds for victims of communal
violence. They would
have also known that IDRF did not raise any funds for the victims of
the Godhra train carnage, in which 58 Hindus, including women and
children, were burned alive. Hence,
IDRF did not discriminate against Muslims by not raising funds for
post-Godhra violence. By
doing a little bit of objective research, the Sabrang authors would
have also known that the effort to raise funds for Bangladeshi Hindu
victims was a donor-designated project.
IDRF offers this unique service to any donor to fund his/her
project of choice, and it does not have any influence on how the
donor-designated project funds are spent.
In this rebuttal, we will present more
evidence of such baseless and unfounded claims made by the Sabrang/FOIL
report. We will show
that all IDRF supported NGOs that are accused of being “Hindu
Supremacist” organizations have been legitimate NGOs that are
registered with appropriate Central or State government authorities
in India. We will show
that all NGOs that the Sabrang/FOIL authors accuse of being engaged
are in fact involved in constructive education and social service
In order to fully understand the arguments
and gain a critical insight into the authors’ reasoning, we find
it necessary to situate our process of deconstructing the Sabrang
report in an appropriate theoretical and methodological framework.
As the members of our team engaged in a critical reading and
analysis of the Sabrang report, it became clear that this report is
guided by an ideology and not by an interest to discover reality or
to present a balanced account, and/or add to our attempts to build
bridges between communities. Though not stated explicitly in the ‘meticulously
researched report’, it became abundantly clear in our analysis
that the authors of this report are influenced by what can be termed
as a meta- or grand narrative.
The few examples mentioned in the previous
section indicate that one of the guiding grand narratives of the
Hate Report is Marxism — a totalizing ideology that endorses a
particular set of power relations (class-based, and also caste-based
in the Indian context), privileges certain groups in historical
struggles, and ignores the communal power relations and conflicts.
The authors’ ideological colors were clearly revealed when
they challenged and even accused IDRF for helping victims of 9/11
terrorist attacks. Readers
will find more evidence for our claim in the pages to follow,
including a peek into the ideological and political affiliations of
the Hate Report’s primary author and publisher.
By successfully challenging all accusations made against the
IDRF, we will show that since the Sabrang/FOIL authors really did
not have facts on their side, perhaps the impetus for their report
(which is touted as the product of more than five years of research)
was nothing but one last strike against what Helena Sheehan
describes as an “external attack” on the “formidable grand
narrative of the modern era: Marxism.”
In opposition to the totalizing and
universalizing modernist grand narrative of the Sabrang/FOIL
authors, we have situated our work within the postmodernist idea
that allows for ideological plurality and choice, and gives
individuals, groups and societies agency to construct their own
We believe that meta-narratives are fostered in order to
smother difference, opposition, and plurality.
In other words, we work with an assumption that in the
socially, culturally and politically complex world of today,
individuals and groups define their own narratives instead of living
with an externally imposed narrative constructed by ideologues,
academics, or politician wannabes—for example, people whose names
appear in the authors’ list of the Sabrang/FOIL report.
It is not only theoretically flawed but also irresponsible
and dangerous to define Hindutva or anyone connected with it from
the vantage point of its ideological or political opponents.
Let us present an example to make our point.
The authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report define Hindutva as
“the Hindu supremacist ideology” and refer to it as a violent,
fundamentalist, and sectarian movement. They argue that any organization that is even remotely
affiliated with the RSS or Hindutva is assumed to be promoting
fundamentalism, hatred, and even violence.
They further argue that any individual or a group that
donates money and time to any such organization is guilty by
association. Some basic
questions to ask here are these: Does this grand narrative of
anti-Hindu and anti-Hindutva take into account how Hindus,
supporters of Hindutva, or at least the Supreme Court of India
understand Hinduism and/or Hindutva?
Do these authors intend to take away the agency of
individuals, groups, organizations, and societies by defining for
them what is it that they believe in or work toward?
To a majority of Hindus, Hinduism is a way of
life. For a majority of
the supporters of Hindutva, that too is a way of life.
It is a proactive ideology based in the belief that Hindus
must build community solidarity, inculcate individual and collective
pride, and advance cultural and civilizational renaissance among
Hindus. For some other
supporters of Hindutva, it is a contemporary Hindu movement trying
to make a particular historical identity a central element of its
image. Hindutva is also
a framework for maintaining an identity within societies where
Hindus are small minorities, like in the U.S.
None of these narratives, however, make
Hindutva a fundamentalist or an extremist movement.
These narratives as constructed and understood by individuals
and groups themselves are completely ignored by the Sabrang/FOIL
ignored by them is the ruling made by the Indian Supreme Court.
The Court has concluded that Hindutva or Hinduism is not a
religion but a way of life that incorporates values of life such as
respect for all religions, and a moral code of conduct in all
spheres of human activity that inter alia include secularism.
It became obvious in our analysis that by
ignoring such localized narratives that allow people to make sense
of their individual and collective experiences and beliefs, the
Sabrang/FOIL authors aim to impose their own ideologically
constructed grand narrative of Hinduism, Hindutva and
“Hinduization”—a term perhaps coined by these authors
exclusively for the purpose of their report!
Our goal then becomes to uncover the ideology behind this
grand narrative, and to simultaneously defend the narratives of
peoples, groups, and organizations such as the IDRF and its
This is a collaborative work in the truest
sense of the word. The
nature of this work requires that we inform our readers not only
about our objectives and methods but also about who we are.
We are a group of concerned Indians working in a variety of
professional and academic fields including business management,
engineering, social sciences, liberal arts, information technology,
and journalism. Like
our professional and academic backgrounds, we are also diverse in
our ideological and political beliefs ranging from the center to all
peripheries. None of us
have ever collaborated in any project—academic, social, political
or ideological. In
fact, most of us have never even met each other, and as recently as
a week after the release of the Sabrang/FOIL report, many of us had
never communicated with each other.
The things that unite us are our sense of
fairness, belief in democracy and true secularism, and love for
India—a democratic and secular nation.
We are a virtual community of Indians and Indian-Americans
that came together as an ad-hoc group with one objective: to critically examine the Sabrang/FOIL
report to find out if there is any truth to its conclusions, and to
tell the world what we found.
Like most Indian-Americans, we envision India
as a developed nation and a world leader.
We live and work in the U.S. and we wish to see both India
and the U.S. prosper, and to have strong cultural, social, and
economic ties. As
Hindus, we also believe in the idea of “Vasudhaiva
Kutumbakam” (The whole world is my family).
We understand that this process of development must include
the uplifting of the most disadvantaged and impoverished sections of
Indian society. We also
know that the IDRF is a successful organization that supports
various development and social programs in India, especially in
areas and communities where such work is most needed.
Our individual readings of the Sabrang/FOIL
report led us to conclude that the report is part of a malicious
campaign to hurt this highly successful Indian-American charity.
We were disturbed by the fact that a group of educated and
presumably talented individuals (the authors of the “Hate
Report”), despite professing concern for India, would so
maliciously attack an organization that works for the welfare of
some of the most disadvantaged groups of people in India.
We realized that most of these authors had a history of
collaborating on a selected set of causes, and there was a pattern
to these causes (anti-Hindu, communist/anarchist, and even
anti-India). We came
together as a team driven by one common goal—to understand why
this group would engage in such a campaign against the IDRF
The team was also motivated by the vision to
present a more accurate image of Hindutva and its manifestations in
contemporary Indian society. We
reject the uninformed and misguided definition put forth by the
Sabrang/FOIL authors, and their attempt to malign organizations such
as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP). In the
planning stages of our project, we made sure that we had people on
board who could bring a range of skills and expertise.
We were led by someone who has a deep
understanding of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindutva in the
inclusive, syncretic sense, which is its true essence, and which is
also the way the Indian Supreme Court describes it.
One member of our team has spent a number of years
researching Hindu organizations like the RSS and its affiliates.
We also had people with a range of experiences in business
consulting, journalism, and research methodology to help us with our
analytical and narrative approach.
The only criteria behind putting this team together were the
love for India, an inclusive orientation towards and an
understanding of Hinduism, and a keen desire to promote balance,
objectivity, and fairness in the representation of all things Indian
Our primary approach in understanding and
deconstructing the Sabrang/FOIL report was what is termed as
Simply put, it is a method that breaks down a text or a
speech into its parts and helps explain how those parts fit together
to build a persuasive argument.
In rhetorical analysis, we examine how authors attempt to
persuade their audiences by looking at the various components that
make up the art of persuasion.
Following are some of the questions that
guided our analysis of Sabrang/FOIL report:
a. What is the rhetorical situation?
For example, we paid attention to all the
fanfare and media hype surrounding the release of the Sabrang/FOIL
report, timing of the report’s release, fore-warnings in terms of
other publications supportive of the Sabrang/FOIL ideology, etc.
b. Who are the authors of the report?
We spent time understanding the ideological
and political leanings of the authors by looking at some of their
previous works. This
helped us put their present faulty analysis in an appropriate
c. What is/are their intention(s) in
producing the report?
Answering question # b. above also helped us
understand the authors’ and publishers’ intentions.
In our rebuttal, we provide ample substantiation for our
claim that the intention of the report was to malign a non-sectarian
organization that supports major relief and development work in
d. Who makes up the audience?
We will show in the following pages that the
audience for this report was primarily the U.S. corporations that
provide matching contributions to IDRF.
By targeting them, the Sabrang/FOIL report’s intention was
to hurt the financial standing of IDRF, which is one of the most
popular charities among the majority of Indian-Americans who don’t
want to contribute to missionary, religious, or government-run
e. What is the content of the messages?
Through a ruthless application of the
technique of distorting the data to fit in with their pre-determined
conclusions the Sabrang/FOIL authors want their readers to believe
that the IDRF “funds hate.”
In the following pages, we will provide plenty of evidence
that not only challenges this faulty claim, but also reduces it to
nothing but a fantasy that anti-Hindu propagandists such as the
authors of the “Hate Report” like to engage in.
f. What is the form in which it is conveyed?
We debunk the authors’ claim that the
“Hate Report” is a meticulously researched report.
By constantly repeating that the research for this report
took more than five years and a careful analysis, the authors try to
con readers into ‘buying’ their conclusions as THE TRUTH that
has been uncovered after serious and objective investigation.
We will show otherwise.
For example, since most of the data used by the Sabrang/FOIL
authors is available for anyone to see at the IDRF’s website,
debunking their claim that the IDRF “duped” its donors is enough
to remove the mask of “research” that the authors use to sell a
completely biased and prejudiced work.
g. How do the form and content of the report
See points e. and f. above.
h. Does the text succeed in fulfilling the
The actions taken by some corporations such
as CISCO temporarily suspending its matching contributions to the
IDRF, and the action of several academic faculty members in
“endorsing its conclusions” indicate that the Sabrang/FOIL
report was partially successful in fulfilling its primary intention.
One purpose of this rebuttal then is to challenge such hasty
and uninformed decisions and present the corporations with facts
about the IDRF and its affiliated NGOs.
i. What does the nature of the text reveal
about the culture that produced it?
We will address this question by providing
enough information about the authors’ and publishers’
ideological and political leanings, by critically examining the
Sabrang/FOIL report’s findings in that ideological and political
context, and by situating this report in the larger context of
anti-Hindu and anti-Hindutva propaganda currently prevalent in India
and the U.S. We suggest
that the convergence of religious fundamentalists, Opposition
political agendas, Communist forces, and anti-India, foreign forces
is aimed against the present democratically elected government of
India – and in a larger context, given the advertised agendas of
these entities, against all democracies.
In a democractic set up, every citizen is free to criticize
the government; however, the present combination of forces, we
believe, have worked stealthily and deviously to create dissent and
to demonize certain groups, organizations, and individuals.
Our method consisted of four steps:
formulating our objective (as stated above) and selecting the
artifact for analysis (Sabrang/FOIL report); selecting the unit of
analysis (content, form, authors, motivation); analyzing the
artifact; and writing our critical narrative.
The key step, analysis of the artifact, began with a
comprehensive examination of the Sabrang/FOIL report.
As discussed in the previous section, this examination was
organized around specific questions.
Narrative theory assumes the primacy of
storytelling as a human activity for creating meaning.
In terms of constructing our narrative in this rebuttal, we
will tell IDRF’s story – its history, background, and
activities. We will
also tell the story of the RSS.
These stories will be situated in the multiple, localized and
non-essentialized narratives of cultural and civilizational ethos of
Hinduism and Hindutva. In
these narratives, we also locate the work of the IDRF in
facilitating and supporting relief, rehabilitation and development
work including work in the fields of education, healthcare, and
By following an appropriate and rigorous
theoretical and methodological framework, we made sure that we were
engaged in a serious and critical inquiry.
As shown in a later chapter in our report, this is in total
contrast to the Sabrang/FOIL authors’ cut-and-paste type of
ideological rant masquerading as research.
In short, what we present in the following pages is a
verifiable report on the true nature of the work supported by the
India Development and Relief Fund.