think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects.
The truth is they also surround words, ideas, deeds,
impulses, and memories.”
Survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, The Fifth Son Summit,
to me, is the epitome of evil.”
Wiesel, U.S. News and World Report, 27 October 1986
In the lexicon of astronomy, a “conjunction” occurs when
two or more celestial objects appear very close in the night sky.
On May 13, 2002, observers of the western night sky observed
a particularly rare conjunction when five planets – Mercury,
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – lined up spectacularly close to
each other along the invisible necklace of the ecliptic.
In the down-to-earth realm of
political beliefs, a conjunction of individuals with divergent
ideologies is rarer than the phenomenon described above.
It is even more unusual for persons with disparate
professional, personal, and academic backgrounds to coalesce into a
team working for a common cause.
the Friends of India, are privileged to call ourselves members of
such a team. Travelers
of different orbits, we were drawn together purely to investigate
the truth behind the choreographed hysteria unleashed by Sabrang
Communications and the Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL) last year
against the charity India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF).
In this, our patiently crafted rebuttal to
Sabrang/FOIL’s melodramatically titled report
“The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and American Funding of
Hindutva,” we offer verifiable facts.
We examine the truth behind the veils of innuendo, specious
logic, and extrapolation presented by the Sabrang report as
“meticulous research.” We
unequivocally establish IDRF’s record of accomplishment as a
transparent aid agency providing critical succor.
are sure that this report will provide a better lens through which
to gauge the motives and methods of Sabrang Communications and the
Forum of Indian Leftists. This
combine has relentlessly pursued every avenue to choke off funds to
IDRF based purely on the presumption of guilt.
In that arbitrary stampede to judgment, there was no thought
spared for the innocent beneficiaries of IDRF, a strange
inconsistency from a group that claims to be against “hate.”
If someone in the
middle of a crowded ballroom on the 75th floor yelled “Fire!” one might expect the genteel assembly to turn into a
writhing, clawing mass fighting to get to the nearest exit.
It is a little harder to understand the pious
outrage of over 300 academicians who signed the petition endorsing
the Sabrang /FOIL report without thoughtful examination and
verification of its contents.
In Chapter III of our rebuttal, we invite the
reader to take a close look at the beneficiaries and developmental
partners of IDRF. We
offer an in-depth portrait of their activities stripped of the
For instance, Sabrang/FOIL’s report
portrays single-teacher schools or
“Ekal Vidyalayas” in tribal areas as virtual petri dishes of
Our rebuttal shows that this educational approach appeals precisely because it is not didactic but assimilative and respectful
of local cultural norms and belief systems.
The teacher typically chosen is a local, who teaches through
story-telling sessions and folk drama in an informal, supportive
This nurturing educational model is based on
the inclusive precepts of eastern philosophy. It is diametrically
opposite to the tribal education initiatives pursued by evangelical
religions that proceed from the belief that the social and moral
advancement of a student can proceed only
if the student is taught to despise and reject his or her native
culture and way of life. Ironically, what the Sabrang/FOIL report criticizes as
“Hinduization” – is the same approach semantically
reincarnated in the West as “holistic/integral education” by
In their singularly shallow characterization
of the Vikasan Foundation’s activities, Sabrang/FOIL equates the “gurukul” system of
learning with Islamic madrassas.
One can only guess at the reaction this might provoke in a
reader who has neither set foot in a gurukul nor a madrassa, a
reader who entertains only the stereotype of the madrassa as a
center of rote learning and breeder of terrorism.
In Chapter III of our rebuttal, we present excerpts from a
first-hand look at the gurukul system of education.
The complete article by Professor Ramesh Rao appears as
A typical gurukul is an environment free of
caste restrictions, conventional examinations and textbooks,
fostering discipline and self-reliance.
It offers an atmosphere of serenity and intellectual growth
in which a student’s questioning nature is never stifled.
A respect for nature and the environment, patriotism, and the
value of simple living are just some of the values instilled. After
their course at the gurukul, students are free to pursue higher
education of their choice at the university level.
Yet another IDRF-funded
service organization indicted by Sabrang/FOIL is Sewa
presents this organization as a
front to “convert” people who are “insufficiently
Hindu.” They claim this is done by means of “sectarian
ideological training” masquerading as “developmental
activity.” This charge could be more appropriately laid at the
feet of the better-organized and munificently funded Christian
missionary activities in the country.
It is ludicrous to point to the celebration of Hindu
festivals by Hindus as indicative of some sinister purpose.
In response, our report writers make the following eloquent
is what a rational individual should ask: Is being for something
always being against something else?
Does loving your wife lead to hating other women?
Is loving your nation an indication of hating other
countries? Is helping those closest to you an attempt at undermining
others? This logical
fallacy perpetrated consciously, willfully, and vulgarly by sophists
and political grandstanders should be condemned unequivocally by any
sane reader of the Sabrang report.”
Appendix G of our rebuttal details numerous
national and international awards won by IDRF–supported Non
Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Appendix H demonstrates that IDRF-funded NGOs also receive
funding from other US-based Indo-American charities such as ASHA and
AID, leading to the easy dismissal of the allegation that these
NGO’s engage in “Hinduization.” Besides, the term
“Hinduization” is an absurdity, since indigenous tribal
religions are part and parcel of the
SABRANG/FOIL REPORT: A HOUSE OF STRAW BUILT ON SAND
The first chapter of our rebuttal establishes
the fundamental premises that underlie the claims made by the anti-IDRF
report of Sabrang/FOIL. These premises are based on two major
The first presumption involves caricaturing
organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as
exclusive promoters of sectarian violence.
stereotype is false and fails to acknowledge the RSS’s peerless
record over the decades in providing timely, selfless and courageous
disaster relief work. The
RSS, as the world’s largest NGO, is often first on the scene of a
crisis and the last to leave. RSS workers are a class apart in their
tenacious commitment to public service and getting the job done, and
in their non-partisan approach to providing help.
Chapter VI of our rebuttal examines the
history and evolution of the RSS.
It demolishes Sabrang/ FOIL’s characterization of RSS as
“Shadowy and Elusive,” and tackles head-on the charge of
“Hinduization” as an agenda pursued by IDRF-funded
The second presumption describes
“Hindutva” as Hindu supremacist ideology.
“It advocates use of violence, confuses nationality
with culture and religion, is supremacist and exclusionary,” claim
the Sabrang/FOIL authors, who go on to say
“It believes only people who support it should have
first-class citizenship in India.
All others should be second-class citizens.”
/FOIL appear to base their definition of Hindutva on proclamations
by a handful of zealots.
Residents of democratic nations ought to recognize that the
granting of free speech does not automatically translate into
thought control by the speaker.
India remains a nation governed by laws. The reader is
invited to consider the following definition of Hindutva by the
Supreme Court of India.
Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and 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.”
For a point-by-point rebuttal of the
misrepresentations by Sabrang/FOIL of IDRF-funded work please visit
Chapter V, Section C, of our report.
Our team came together with the sole
objective of replacing conjecture with facts.
We are not in the business of initiating witch-hunts.
However, in the course of our work, we could not avoid
certain facts that hit us in the face.
These include: The visceral antipathy of the
Sabrang/FOIL report and subsequent
anti-IDRF media blizzard; Sabrang/FOIL's single-minded focus on making
a tourniquet to stem the flow of corporate matching funds; the authors' narrow application of moral
standards; and their selective data gathering methods. All of which beg the question: Who are these people,
and what do they really want?
An essay by Drs. Narayanan Komerath and
Ramesh Rao included as Appendix M to the report, answers these and
other questions about the authors.
Appendix B provides detailed analysis of the
authors’ methodology (or lack thereof) by Dr. Beloo Mehra.
Considering the five-year gestation of the Sabrang/FOIL report, Dr.
Mehra's analysis shows that the end product betrays a profound lack
of attention to standard social sciences methodology.
EVIDENCE: SEEING IS BELIEVING
Chapters IV and V of our report take an inventory of the
scope of work funded by the IDRF, its administration and
disbursement of funds, and its unique commitment to near - zero
overhead costs to maximize donor impact.
IDRF serves economically and socially
disadvantaged people irrespective of caste or religion; it does so
in a manner that promotes self-reliance over welfare dependence; it
manages and monitors project activities entirely through its
dedicated volunteers. IDRF volunteers meet their own out-of-pocket expenses and
spend their own money to visit the Non-Governmental Organizations
(NGOs) administering aid. This
ensures that almost every cent of donor-designated money (99.1%) is
routed to the beneficiary.
donors, any doubts that they are a gullible lot susceptible to being
“duped” into funding IDRF is laid to rest by Appendix N.
This is a column by Harsh Verma published earlier this
year in the Indian Internet magazine Sulekha.
The article reflects the vibrant debate sparked by the anti-IDRF
report over the online community IndDiaspora, of which Verma is the
Rosser, a research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, is
among a small minority attempting to sound the steady metronome of
reason to fellow academicians.
Through numerous emails, she appealed to members of
H-Asia, an e-group for Asia scholars, for objectivity and
dispassionate consideration of all the facts.
An analysis of those emails appears in Appendix K.
Readers will find Yvette’s firsthand
perspective particularly noteworthy.
As a scholar of education, she attests to the efficacy of
Ekal Vidyalaya programs. She
also describes her recent visit to India, when she visited a program
in Assam run by the Sabrang-vilified Vivekananda Kendra.
Here is an excerpt:
ladies who ran the after school program told me that eight years
ago, when their children were small, they got together and formed an
after school program like the one that was offered at the church.
The reason they formed the program was because they did not like the
fact that at the after school program at the church their children
were told repeatedly that their traditions were superstitious and
their deities were devils…If IDRF funds find their way to this
precious little self-help group, is that communalism?
How does that promote fascism?
children at the after school program sang me a song when I visited. I understood parts of it and asked for a translation.
It sounded a whole lot like ‘America the Beautiful’ in an
Indian context. If this is patriotic or nationalistic does that make
it evil? It certainly is the opposite of what Sabrang called
divisive politics –‘We are all brothers and sisters from sea to
shining sea.’ Cute song.”
We the Friends of India, offer this report as
a measured and fearless response to the campaign of calumny
undertaken by Sabrang/FOIL. A
careful reading of this report will establish not only the excellent
credentials of IDRF, but also the following central truth:
does not take money to promote hatred.
Simple ignorance will do.