Sunday, November 30, 2008

American Funding of Hindutva - 3

3. Placing the IDRF Inside Hindutva: An Institutional Analysis

The IDRF (India Development and Relief Fund) was set up as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization in 1989 under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. Its official, self-stated purpose is to raise money for organizations in India “assisting in rural development, tribal welfare, and urban poor.”[8] According to its tax filings, the IDRF raised $ 3.8 million in the year 2000, of which it disbursed $1.7 million in ‘relief and development work.’[9]

The IDRF has claimed time and again that it has no connections with the Sangh Parivar. In response to a recent magazine article highlighting some of the links[10], the IDRF issued a statement denying the connection[11], “It [the IDRF] is not affiliated to any group, 'ism', ideology political party.” During an exchange on the online portal, the Vice-President of the IDRF wrote, ”There is no relation between VHP/RSS and IDRF. Fullpoint."[12]

However, a closer scrutiny of the projects that the IDRF funds, of the IDRF itself, of the affiliations of its office-bearers, and of the organizations that support it and raise funds for it, reveals that the IDRF is fully linked with the Sangh Parivar and the Hindutva movement in India. This segment of the report will outline:

a) the institutional links between the IDRF and the RSS and its affiliates in India;

b) the links between the IDRF and RSS in terms of the overlaps in personnel, and

c) the links between the IDRF and the US affiliates of the RSS.

The next part will specifically look at the financial links between the IDRF and the RSS projects in India.

3.1 Institutional Links: the IDRF as a U.S. branch of the Sangh

The institutional links between the Sangh and the IDRF are extremely well documented. There are two levels at which these links can be examined:

a.) through documents submitted by IDRF to various US Federal and State Government agencies.

b.) through documents published by IDRF as part of its public relations and advertising machinery.

3.1.1 The IDRF in US Government Documents:

The most important of the documents submitted by the IDRF to the Internal Revenue Service of the United States is its application for a tax exempt certificate. Form 1023, duly filled by the IDRF executives when it was created in 1989, identifies nine organizations as a representative sample of the types of organizations the IDRF has been set up to support in India. These nine organizations are:

Vikas Bharati (Bihar)

Swami Vivekananda Rural Development Society (Tamil Nadu)

Sewa Bharati (Delhi)

Jana Seva Vidya Kendra (Karnataka)

Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram(Madhya Pradesh)

Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Gujarat)

Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Nagar Haveli)

Girivasi Vanvasi Sewa Prakalp (Uttar Pradesh)

G. Deshpande Vanvasi Vastigrah (Maharashtra)

All nine are clearly marked Sangh organizations. For instance,

In Sangh literature, the origins and growth of Vikas Bharati is described as follows:

The Vikas Bharati stream, which originated in the fountainhead called Sangh, has been quietly flowing towards the ocean called society, gathering many additional streams on the way.[13] (emphasis added)

Similarly, the Swami Vivekananda Rural Development Society (SVRDS) is a sister organization of the VHP in Tamil Nadu[14]. While the stated goal of SVRDS is rural development and education of tribals, considerable documentation exists to show its emphasis on tribals learning practices that surround Hindu religious festivals.[15]

Of these various service organizations, Sewa Bharati is, in India, the most commonly RSS identified service organization [16]. Sewa International’s website [17] has extensive documentation of Sewa Bharati, and its religious/theological actions rather than service/developmental work. The following report on the work of Sewa Bharati in Samatadham Basti extracted from this site is illuminating:

After Sewa-karya [service] started, a temple has come into being. Daily pooja [prayer service] takes place in the temple with Arati. Because of this, the feeling of Hindutwa in our households has been awakened. All this is the contribution of Sewa Bharati.

For a more extensive documentation of the above nine organizations, see Appendix B. Of these nine organizations, Sewa Bharati is a crucial organization in terms of direct funding from the US. Hence it is covered especially in Appendix D.

The above three examples should suffice for now to point us towards an important conclusion: the nine organizations that the IDRF identifies as sample organizations that it will support in Form 1023, are all clearly marked Sangh operations. This illustrates the point that from its very moment of inception, the IDRF’s goal was clearly to support the Sangh Parivar in India. That the IDRF supports Sangh organizations is thus not a matter of accident but is instead definitional of its very design.

3.1.2 IDRF In Its Own Words:

A far more extensive set of linkages between the Sangh and the IDRF than identified through the nine organizations in Form 1023, emerge when we examine the organizations that the IDRF identifies as its “sister organizations.” the IDRF lists nine subheadings under ‘Sister Organizations’[18] — the ninth of which is called ‘IDRF’s affiliates in India’— a collection of 67 other organizations. Combined with the first eight sister organizations listed, it brings the total number of “sister organizations” to 75.

Of these 75 organizations, 60 are clearly identifiable as Sangh affiliates in India. The remaining fifteen organizations are not classified in this report as RSS affiliates, not because we have evidence that show that they are independent organizations, but because there is very little information available on them per se. It is thus possible that most, if not all fifteen, are RSS affiliates.

If the nine organizations listed on Form 1023 point to the commitment of the IDRF to supporting RSS operations in India, this list of 60 (75) is sufficient evidence to indicate that since its inception in 1989, the IDRF has systematically grown and developed into a core participant in the foreign fund drives organized by the RSS. The list includes some of the organizations that are flagships for the RSS operations. Some of these are described below:

Ekal Vidyalays (One Teacher Schools) is a VHP project aimed at the indoctrination of students in remote, tribal villages.[19]

Vikasan Foundation started by the Hindu Seva Pratishthan and Jana Seva Vidya Kendra is also a Sangh organization [20] whose stated goal is to promote Indian culture in India and abroad. However, like all Sangh organizations, it conflates the ‘Indian’ culture with its version of ‘Hindu/Vedic’ culture and collects money for funding gurukuls (Hindu religious schools, equivalent of the Islamic madrassas) in India and abroad.

Bharat Vikas Parishad is identified by the RSS as its branch organization that aims ‘to involve entrepreneurs and well-off sections of the society in National service and for protecting Bhartiya values.’[21]

Sewa International is IDRF affiliate in India overseeing IDRF’s Indian operation. In terms of international funding, it may be amongst the most significant of IDRF’s “sister” organizations. It is a Sangh Parivar organization set up primarily for the purpose of coordinating foreign contributions for different Sangh projects in India. Sevadisha, the publication of the Seva Vibhag (Service Wing) of the RSS lists Sewa International as its arm established specifically to find international support for organizations working under the Sangh ideology:

“Yet another development is the establishment of an international organization titled Sewa International which now has branches in many countries. Sewa International will look after the interests of seva [service] related issues not only in the respective countries where they have chapters but also take up global level care of sewa [service] work carried out under the Sangh ideology. [22]

We document here, in brief, these four flagship organizations of the Sangh to point to the centrality of the IDRF in Sangh operations. From its inception in 1989, the IDRF has grown not only in terms of the extensive list of the RSS organizations it supports but also in terms of its affiliation and support for critical Sangh operations. The IDRF thus is not a marginal organization within the Sangh framework but clearly an important, if not a core constituent.

A complete list of all seventy five “sister organizations” are in Appendix B (along with the nine organizations listed on IDRF’s Form 1023) with evidence of their status as Sangh affiliate organizations. Of the seventy five, the detailed descriptions of Sewa International is included as a separate appendix, Appendix C, because of the critical role that Sewa International plays within the domain of international funding for the RSS.

3.2 The IDRF’s Leadership: The RSS Ideologue

The institutional analysis above is further strengthened through a brief look at some of the IDRF personnel. Many of the people associated with the IDRF, including its founders, affiliates in India, and its officials, have extensive links with other Hindutva organizations in this country or the Sangh Parivar in India.

IDRF's Founders:

Bhishma Agnihotri, a well-known RSS ideologue and a HSS Sanghchalak (Supremo), is one of the founders the IDRF[23]. HSS is RSS’s equivalent organization in the US and UK.

Two of the IDRF’s other founders, Jatinder Kumar and Ram Gehani, are office bearers of FISI. Mr. Gehani is also associated with the OFBJP. FISI is the public relations arm of the HSS. OFBPJ[24] is the overseas arm of the BJP.

Vinod Prakash is one of the founders of the IDRF and also its President since its inception. The HSS Newsletter, Sangh Sandesh, for January 2001 announces the opening of a tribal boys hostel by Sewa Bharati, MP named after ‘Sarla Vinod Prakash,’[25] the wife of Vinod Prakash. Both Sarla and Vinod Prakash are listed as founders of the IDRF. Members of the Prakash family were present at the inauguration and shared the stage with Mr. Ashok Singhal, the international President of VHP, who has currently been in the news for voicing his "appreciation" of the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat and the "cleansing" of several Gujarati villages of their Muslim residents.[26]

The IDRF's Other Office Bearers:

Of the 6 Zonal Vice Presidents listed on IDRF’s website, four are HSS volunteers, and one of them is on the National Governing Council of the VHP of America.[27] The General Secretary of the IDRF, Shyam Gokalgandhi, is also responsible for running the Balvihar of the HSS in the San Fransisco Bay Area.[28]

The IDRF's People in India:

Shyam Parande, the India Advisor of IDRF, is listed in an article from The Observer, as ‘the organizer of Sangh activities abroad.’ Vijay Mallampati, India Coordinator for IDRF, is also actively involved with the Sangh Parivar, and acted as the Mukhya Shikshak (Chief Instructor) at one of the HSS camps in the US.[29]

3.3 The IDRF and the Sangh in the United States

The preceding two sections establish the organizational and personnel based links between the IDRF and the Sangh in India. In this section, we turn the lens around and look at the IDRFs links to Hindutva’s US operations. Hindutva in the United States has grown systematically ever since the 1980s, experiencing exponential growth in the 90s corresponding with the boom in professional Hindu-Indian migration from India to the United States. This has meant that the growth has been in pockets with larger concentrations of the professional Hindu migrant – largely the West Coast, the North East and the Southern states of Florida and Texas.

Hindutva organizations in the US do extensive publicity and fundraising for the IDRF. Often the IDRF and the VHP-America are the only ‘service organizations’ recognized by these groups, completely neglecting respected non-sectarian development and relief organizations, such as Association for India’s Development (AID), Asha for Education, Pratham-USA, Child Relief and You (CRY), India Development Service (IDS)and Indians for Collective Action (ICA).

A multi media presentation commissioned by the HSS, commemorating 75 years of the Sangh identifies the IDRF as a Sangh organization in the US, and urges people wishing to support the Sangh in India to donate generously to IDRF.[30]

The FISI and the HSS hold fund-raising drives for IDRF[31], which are usually centered around topics such as ‘Islamic Terrorism.’ These events, centered on such themes, function both as fundraisers as well as ideological training sessions that justify their opposition to Indian Muslims by seeking to link all Muslims in India with the wrongdoings of any Muslim anywhere.

Hindu Unity, a militant Hindutva website and the voice of Bajrang Dal abroad —which openly advocates violence against minorities and maintains a ‘hit list’ of people opposed to its views—provides links to IDRF[32]. This is the only ‘development’ related organization listed on its page along with a number of Sangh Parivar organizations, or some even more militant Hindutva sites.

The IDRF also hosts web pages for the HSS [33], where the HSS is introduced as an organization “started in the USA and other parts of the world to continue what RSS is doing in India.

Several Hindu Student Council chapters (student wings of the VHP-America) raise money for the IDRF as part of their ‘seva’ activity. [34]

VHP-America, Hindu Universe, Nation of Hindutva, HinduWomen, Global Hindu Electronic Network, HSS-UK—all Hindutva sites—provide links to the IDRF and identify it as a ‘Hindu’ charity. [35]


8. From the exemption application of the IDRF filed with the IRS in 1989.

9. Form 990 filed by the IDRF for the 2000 tax year

10. Deflections to the Right by Ashish Sen, Outlook, Jul 22, 2002

11. Response to recent malicious media reports

12. 'A Left-Right Upper-Cut To The RSS' by Ramesh N Rao, Sulekha,Com, Jun 15, 2002
(see readers comments #82 and 88)


15. In a report to the IDRF, SVRDS states that it conducted competitions for Krishna Jayanthi (a Hindu Festival) in which the school children participated enthusiastically. It should be kept in mind that these tribals do not consider themselves Hindu, nor do they usually observe Krishna Jayanthi.

16. The RSS lists Sewa Bharti under the title of “Various Alike Organizations”

17. Social Harmony; Ennobling Social Conduct


20. The VHP lists Hindu Seva Pratishthana as its organization in the field of education, .
For Jana Seva Vidya Kendra, see Appendix B.


23. Agnihotri’s connections with the RSS are detailed in the newspaper article, Agnihotri's posting criticized, The Hindu, Aug 30th, 2001 Bhishma Agnihotri was appointed as the leader of HSS in the USA as reported in the HSS newsletter (National Adhikaris of the HSS (USA), Sangh Sandesh, January 2000, page 11 . Agnihotri’s connection to the IDRF is revealed in a program announcement for the Festival of India seminar held on August 16, 1997, where he is introduced as ‘a founding member of the India Development and Relief Fund.’

24. Jatinder Kumar and Ram Gehani are two of the four officers of IDRF listed on its exemption application, which it filed in 1989. Jatinder Kumar is listed as a vice-president of FISI in a newspaper article on the people who met with the then General Secretary of the BJP, Narendra Modi on his visit to the US (BJP leader meets with community groups, India Abroad, July 9, 1999). Ram Gehani is listed on FISI’s web page as the contact for Maryland , and was part of ‘a delegation of the Overseas Friends of the BJP which called on Robert Seiple, ambassador-at-large, who runs the International Religious Freedom office within the State Department to express their concern about sections of the controversial annual report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 in India that implicitly criticised the Indian government for the increase in attacks on the Christian community in India.’ (Seiple defends religious report, says it does not target BJP, by Ramesh Chandra, The Times of India, Sept 18th, 1999)

25. A Sewa Dham in Madhya Pradesh, Sangh Sandesh, January 2001, page 10.

26. ‘We’ll repeat our Gujarat experiment’, Indian Express, September 3, 2002

27. Abhay Belambe (IDRF VP, East Zone) is associated with the HSS as evident from this announcement for the Vijay Dashmi celebrations of the HSS -- . Vijay Shrivastava, (IDRF VP, East Zone) is the HSS contact person in Atlanta, GA ( ) Vijay Pallod (IDRF VP, Central Zone) is listed as the governing council member of the VHP in the article, Dharma Sansad Seeks To Involve 2nd Generation Indian Americans, Arthur J Pais,, Sept 9, 1999 , and is also the HSS contact for Houston, TX . Chetan Gandhi (IDRF VP, West Zone) is also listed as the contact for Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh in Cerritos, CA

29. Shyam Parande: RSS goes global, chalks out expansion plan, by Suresh Unnithan in The Observer, April 3, 1998 For Vijay Mallampati, see the report of the North American winter HSS camp in the HSS newsletter, Sangh Sandesh, Dec 99, page 9

32. The Hindu Unity website ( been yanked off the web once before by one of its website host for publishing hate-filled pages ( The hitlist—a collection of politicians, artists, writers and religious leaders whom the Hindu Unity considers opposed to its viewpoint of Hindu Supremacy—appears on IDRF appears on its links page under the title of ‘Other Hindu and India related Organizations’

34. The GMU HSC unit advocates raising money for the IDRF and also for publicizing its activities (see ). The HSC at the University of Illinois at Chicago is raising money for IDRFto fund Swami Vivkekananda Mission in Kashmir ( ) Also the Dharma project of the National HSC in its ‘seva’ edition, promotes dontations to the IDRF ( )

35. ,,,,

The Foreign Exchange of Hate IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva
© 2002, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai, India, and The South Asia Citizens Web, France


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