IN BAD FAITH? BRITISH CHARITY & HINDU EXTREMISM
Awaaz — South Asia Watch Ltd, 2004
SECTION 2: THE GUJARAT EARTHQUAKE 2001
1 - In the aftermath of the devastating Gujarat earthquake in 2001, the RSS attempted to control relief work and attempted to prevent other NGOs from providing relief. RSS cells (shakhas) were initiated in relief camps. Serious allegations of discrimination in earthquake relief to Muslims and dalits were made. Serious allegations of violence and intimidation by the RSS of other NGOs undertaking relief work were made. Earthquake relief work was accompanied by Hindutva hatred and violence against Christians.
2 - SIUK became a high profile fundraising organization after the Gujarat earthquake. SIUK raised around £2.3 million for its India Quake Appeal from the UK public, though it also claimed to have raised £4.3 million.
3 - In key Gujarat earthquake fundraising appeals, SIUK did not disclose its associations with the HSS UK and the RSS, it did not state that it was fundraising exclusively for RSS affiliates, and it did not state the sectarian or political agenda of the RSS or its affiliates
4 - SIUK misled donors and the general public who wanted simply to contribute to humanitarian causes in India. It even mislead its own patrons of the earthquake appeal who were kept unaware of the link between SIUK and the RSS.
5 - Funds raised in the UK by SIUK for earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation were for a major RSS affiliate, Sewa Bharati Gujarat. Like all RSS affiliates, Sewa Bharati is explicitly committed to building a Hindu nation based on Hindutva extremist ideology, recruiting for the RSS and using service work to expand the network of RSS physical and ideological training cells.
6 - About a third of funds sent for earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation were for building sectarian, highly controversial RSS schools. These are primarily run by Vidya Bharati, the RSS educational affiliate. RSS schools are intended to inculcate RSS ideology among schoolchildren and recruit them to the RSS. Vidya Bharati’s teaching material was condemned by India’s statutory National Council for Educational Research and Training as blatantly promoting bigotry, fanaticism and hatred. The funding of RSS schools by SIUK is a key example of the financing of hatred in India.
7 - Some funds for earthquake reconstruction were for the RSS’s Lok Kalyan Samiti in Chanasma village, which has been directly implicated in the violent ‘cleansing’ of all Muslims from the village and the illegal occupation of premises and land belonging to the statutory Muslim waqf board.
8 - Another RSS project, Jankalyan Samiti, was a recipient of SIUK earthquake funds. The Jankalyan Samiti’s Maharashtra branch has been involved in violence against Christians and Christian organizations.
9 - A medical project funded by SIUK is named after the RSS founder and run by the RSS medical affiliate.
10 - SIUK claimed to fund the rebuilding of anywhere from 10 to 25 villages. It also claimed to have ‘totally funded’ the rebuilding of 10 villages. However, records show six villages in which SIUK funds were used for reconstruction and rehabilitation. In these villages, there was also at least one other agency sharing the financial burden.
11 - British donors unwittingly gave funds that were channelled by SIUK to the RSS’s Sewa Bharati and used to build RSS schools, fund RSS organizations implicated in violence, and promote the RSS’s political and ideological agenda.
The state of Gujarat in western India experienced a devastating earthquake on 26 January 2001. The Gujarat earthquake was one of the two most violent earthquakes to have affected India in recorded history. A month after the earthquake, the official death toll was put at almost 20,000, with almost 170,000 injured, 600,000 people displaced, about 350,000 homes destroyed and over 840,000 homes damaged. These figures increased considerably as the actual scale of the disaster became known. The earthquake resulted in a massive national and international disaster relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation effort involving numerous Indian and international NGOs, governments, groups and individuals. The main phases of activities were immediate rescue and relief, temporary rehabilitation of victims, a massive process of reconstruction of destroyed homes, businesses and villages, and finally, the permanent rehabilitation of victims. The focus of these operations was mainly Kutch district, particularly around the town of Bhuj, near the earthquake epicentre.
The RSS in India was very keen to promote itself as the key organization that provided relief and assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake. Similarly, both SIUK (tacitly) and Sewa International India (explicitly) promoted the role of the RSS and its members during the relief operations, but failed to mention the work of organizations that are unrelated to the RSS family. Moreover,
…a greater aim and effect of these rescue and relief operations…is to create the impression among the people that [the RSS] are practically the only ones who are active on this front and implicitly as well as explicitly discredit the work of other organizations, local and national. Another aim is to actually penetrate the government rescue efforts in a manner in which the activity becomes part of an RSS patronage machine.
The RSS’s Sewa Bharati was the main recipient of SIUK’s earthquake-related funds. We do not wish to minimize any of the sincere relief efforts by non-sectarian volunteers and donors who raised funds entirely in good faith for SIUK. However, since it often appeared to many people in Britain that SIUK, and thus Sewa Bharati, were the main organizations doing anything regarding the relief operations, we want to briefly highlight the larger context of relief operations. The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) was the main body for coordinating and overseeing and managing relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts following the earthquake. As at 3 September 2001, it showed the involvement of 77 secular and religious NGOs in planning to construct some 46,000 permanent shelters. Sewa Bharati is listed as planning about 620 permanent shelters. A further survey in Kutch district showed 76 NGOs, including several UK-based NGOs, working in Bhuj (the earthquake epicenter); of all these we were able to identify four that were directly RSS-affiliated. The pattern that emerges from these surveys is mainly of the involvement of RSS organizations in education work, some shelter reconstruction and some health projects.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DALITS AND MUSLIMS
How did the RSS-affiliates operate on the ground during the relief operations and later reconstruction? Reports claimed that the RSS was distributing relief selectively to higher caste victims and neglecting dalits and Muslims. The RSS was also organizing training cells (shakhas) in relief camps. A team of human rights organizations found that:
The role of the RSS in getting relief to the upper castes among the Hindus in particular has been blatant. In Anjar, for example, the well-tended RSS camp which houses only Hindus and barring a handful of exceptions, only caste Hindus, sits cheek by jowl with another in which the far poorer population of the homeless Anjarites – Muslims mostly and a substantial number of lower caste Hindus – live. All of this is being accepted without question and rationalized on the basis that we cannot expect anything other than that people will ‘naturally’ help ‘their own’. 
INTIMIDATION OF OTHER NGOS
Further reports alleged that RSS organizations were hijacking relief supplies donated by other agencies. Reports also claimed the RSS was violently preventing other international NGOs from undertaking relief operations in Kutch. Ironically, the RSS accuses these organizations of receiving foreign funds.
RSS does not want any organization from outside to come and carry out any relief work in Kutch. It does not want any NGO that received foreign funds to work in Kutch. It has decided to send all the NGOs out of Kutch within 15 days resorting to physical violence if they do not leave the place voluntarily. RSS has already begun using violence. In Adhoi, Kotada and Ratnal villages where Gantar [an NGO] is doing relief work, RSS workers (a large crowd of 2000 or more) went and threatened the volunteers…RSS accuses NGOs of receiving foreign funds [for] converting people to Christian religion.
In our interviews, village representatives in Gujarat were surprised that anyone would be interested in distinguishing between Sewa Bharati and the RSS, the VHP, Bajrang Dal and other sangh parivar organizations, since locally the same people were often involved in each. The relief and rehabilitation work of Sewa Bharati was intimately associated with promotion of the RSS’s sectarian agenda. In relief work at Adhoi village, VHP priests were giving nightly lectures to villagers on the need to be vigilant against Christians and Muslims.
We were told about the following incidents of intimidation by the RSS and its allied organizations against other NGOs:
BSC [a voluntary organization] decided to carry the work forward through the rehabilitation phase and hence set up its rehabilitation base camp at a village named Rajansar in Bhachau taluka. In the course of our visits to various villages we did find voluntary organizations of various kinds, some of them secular and many of them overtly religious. We did observe to some extent the communalization and casteization of relief. But what was more intriguing was the presence of some ‘preachers’ from the Sangh Parivar who were spreading communal poison in the villages. They were providing relief to those who needed it but were also holding ‘religious discourses’ in the evenings, in which they were using extremely provocative and derogatory language against the Muslims and warning the people to beware of Christian missionaries in the guise of relief workers. Rumours of conversions, distribution of bibles and crosses had started doing the rounds; and people were getting restive. Some of the BSC staff members in fact listened to one such speech in a village named Adhoi in the month of April, and were worried about the provocative language used and the exhortation to oppose the ‘evil designs’ of the minorities. The local RSS and VHP activists spread the rumour that the volunteers who came under this programme had been trying to convert people into Christianity. They collected a sizeable mob and went looking for Christians among the relief workers camping in Adhoi. Soon afterwards an unruly mob of almost 2000 people ransacked the relief tent set up by ActionAid India in Adhoi under its Sneh Samudaya (a programme to provide relief and trauma counseling to the victims from the most vulnerable groups like widows, orphans and the handicapped). Unfortunately they identified the sole Christian youth named Denis in this group of student volunteers and abducted him. Denis…came through a network of NGOs in Gujarat called...and was not even remotely connected with any Christian agencies. Just because he had a Christian name, [he] was accused of trying to proselytize and was threatened with lethal weapons, locked up in a room, assaulted and terrorized by the leaders of the mob…Denis was released after sometime by the mob, but only after ransacking the Sneh Samudaya tent and warning the volunteers to leave the village immediately.
On 27 January 2001, the day following the earthquake that struck Gujarat…the first task [Citizen’s Initiative] undertook was to fan out all over Ahmedabad to assess the rescue operations and see to it that technical and expert help was made available as fast as possible. I was with the team that visited a number of collapsed buildings in Maninagar area of Ahmedabad City. To our surprise we found all the collapsed buildings cordoned off by the RSS volunteers. They were ostensibly trying to control the inquisitive crowd; but in spite of informing the RSS leaders present there that we could coordinate the availability of sophisticated equipment, we were very curtly told to leave the place and that everything was being taken care of. This happened in three housing complexes that had collapsed. We learnt that the actual rescue operations were being done by the army personnel still struggling in their operations with limited equipment, but we were prevented from meeting the army officers to get a first hand understanding of the needs. The irony of the situation was that finally the rescue in some of the most difficult cases was possible only after the Citizen’s Initiative managed to get the Swiss Rescue team into the area with the help of senior Government officials.
On 30 January 2001, a team of volunteers from Citizens’ Initiative … reached Bhachau town in Kutch District to offer relief assistance wherever required. The Government machinery was functioning from the traffic island at the main junction and the team was headed by…a senior IAS officer. The leaders of the CI team approached him for assistance and information and to their shock they were told that the RSS was in complete control of the rescue and relief operations in Bhachau town, and there was no more assistance needed. They objected to this observation of the officials and demanded precise information; this seemed to have brought them back to their senses and subsequently they provided information as to the relief and rescue needs in the rural areas. A perfunctory round of the ill-fated Bhachau town (where almost 8000 people died) was enough to establish the same pattern we saw in Ahmedabad; the army at work and the RSS volunteers cordoning off the areas where such operations were going on.
Volunteers from Janpath [a voluntary organization] were running a helpline service for children in distress called ‘Child Line’ from a tent in the traffic island in Bhachau. Activists of the VHP abused them and shouted that they were Christian missionaries trying to proselytize. They threatened the volunteers and asked them to vacate the place within 24 hours. The volunteers in Child Line happened to be quite tough; they refused to be cowed down by the threats and dared them to carry out their threat.
SIUK’S INDIA QUAKE APPEAL
Many British NGOs and individuals were involved in fundraising efforts around the earthquake. However, one UK organization achieved a particularly high profile: Sewa International UK. It dominated much of the publicly visible fundraising work for the earthquake in the UK. It launched a national appeal for funds, the Gujarat Earthquake / India Quake Appeal, and a website through which online donations could be made. It coordinated, through the HSS UK network, numerous community-based fundraising activities, ranging from street collections to independent events organized by other groups and institutions in order to raise money. SIUK’s India Quake Appeal received the patronage of four members of the House of Lords (Dholakia, Parekh, Patel, Bagri), two Members of the House of Commons (Barry Gardiner, Gerry Sutcliffe) and several prominent Asian business people, including Nat Puri, Laxmi Mittal, Manubhai Madhvani and G. K. Noon. Numerous large corporations donated money to the appeal. We are not implying that patrons, non-sectarian supporters and any individual or corporate donors were aware of the RSS connections of Sewa International UK or the HSS UK, nor are we implying that patrons, non-sectarian supporters or donors acted out of any considerations other than humanitarian concern following the earthquake. We have seen statements from local councillors, business people and students which show that during fundraising events SIUK was presented to community groups, companies and student bodies simply as a Hindu or Indian charity and the nature of its links with the HSS UK or RSS were not disclosed. These donors would not have given funds if they knew the links and associations with extremist hate politics. Our focus is not therefore on donors but on the use of SIUK funds to promote the hate-driven political agenda of the RSS.
The message given by SIUK through its website (www.sewainternational.com) and its publicity material was that fundraising was for humanitarian aid. This included pictures of injured children and adults, village devastation, and slogans such as ‘rebuilding lives and homes’. Few well-meaning people could object to giving funds for what appeared to be a neutral humanitarian cause. What few donors and even patrons of the India earthquake appeal were aware of was that:
1 - SIUK was not a registered charity but used the charity registration number of the HSS UK to raise funds.
2 - The association between SIUK and the HSS UK was often not stated. While SIUK did state it was a ‘service project of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK’, this was often in non-prominent places and sometimes absent entirely. The SIUK homepage in December 2002 stated ‘registered charity’ without mentioning the HSS UK. Similarly, the HSS was not mentioned at all in SIUK’s fundraising video for the earthquake, which simply gave the charity registration number of HSS UK, implying that SIUK was itself a registered charity.
3 - The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK is a Hindu supremacist organization having a close, long-standing association with the RSS.
4 - The RSS and its affiliated organizations are implicated or have been involved in some of the worst anti-minority violence India has seen over the last fifteen years. They have a hate-driven agenda and their aim is to turn India into an exclusive Hindu nation.
Figure 5: SIUK homepage from December 2003 which now states that it is a ‘service project’ of the HSS UK, after increased media attention and the investigation by the Charity Commission.
SIUK’s Gujarat earthquake fundraising video also claims that what it calls ‘dedicated Sewa International volunteers’ were the ‘first on the scene to coordinate the relief operation’ after the earthquake – but fails to mention that any such volunteers would have been RSS members and not members of SIUK. Neither of the two fundraising videos on SIUK’s website mention the HSS at all. Individuals raised funds and donated in good faith to the Gujarat Earthquake / India Quake appeals of SIUK, but many would not have done so had they known that SIUK was an HSS project or that it was associated with the Indian RSS. Lord Adam Patel, former patron of SIUK’s earthquake appeal resigned in shock after the connections between SIUK and the RSS were made public. That a patron of the SIUK’s largest ever appeal did not know the nature of SIUK’s links and agendas says a great deal about the way SIUK conducted itself.
SEWA BHARATI’S USE OF VILLAGE RECONSTRUCTION FUNDS
SIUK’s first anniversary report on the Gujarat rehabilitation was produced to show SIUK’s achievements one year after the earthquake. The report states that SIUK worked in action with Sewa Bharati, but does not mention that Sewa Bharati is an RSS organization, in fact one of the most important RSS affiliates in India. Of the four messages of support in the report, one is from the RSS supreme leader in India, K. S. Sudarshan and another is from SIUK’s chairperson, who is also the service head of the HSS UK. Included in the list of SIUK contacts across the UK are HSS trustees, HSS activists and VHP UK activists.
SIUK states a figure of over £4 million raised in the earthquake appeal, and said elsewhere that it raised £4.3 million. The report shows that £1 million was a single donation by the Puri Foundation, and another £1 million was collected by the Shri Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK), a Kutchi patidar organization in the UK also said to be working closely with Sewa Bharati in India. SIUK directly raised around £2.3 million for Gujarat earthquake relief; the other £2 million related to two single donations from separate organizations.
SIUK’s fundraising video stated that ‘Sewa International are adopting and reconstructing twenty five villages, providing each village with houses, schools, community halls, shops, water tanks, hospitals, road and other facilities’. In its anniversary report, under the title ‘Progress so far’, the report provides a detailed list of the villages reconstructed or planned to be rebuilt. The report states that ‘house construction in 8 villages has already started, with 2 more villages on the cards’. A list of ten villages is given, detailing the number of houses created and the value of the project in Indian rupees and US dollars. It also provides further details of village halls, community centres, health centres and schools, including the state of construction of schools in six Gujarat districts. This information from its anniversary report is given in Appendix 2. Exactly the same data are presented in Sewa Bharati Gujarat’s progress report for the period ending 30 September 2001. However, Sewa Bharati Gujarat received funds not only from SIUK but other international RSS-related bodies, including the US-based India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF). Indeed, another report from September 2002 by Sewa International India lists the funding agency for two villages (Jivapar and Visnagar) as only ‘IDRF’, though these are in SIUK’s progress report. In fact, in this Sewa International India report, only two villages, Mithapasvaria and Chapredi, are listed with SIUK as the funding agency. However, nothing in the anniversary brochure tells us that funds used or earmarked for village reconstruction by Sewa Bharati may have been raised by organizations other than SIUK, or that government contributions were a significant part of the costs. Most important is SIUK’s claim made on its website in May 2001 which states that:
Sewa Bharati in partnership with Sewa International are rebuilding twenty-five villages along with fifty primary schools and one hundred community centres. Ten of the villages are totally funded by Sewa International (UK).
A document we obtained from sources in Gujarat shows how approximately £1.9 million raised by SIUK was to be used by Sewa Bharati in Gujarat. We also have grounds for believing that all of the approximately £2.3 million raised by SIUK during its India Quake Appeal was for Sewa Bharati, an RSS organization.
This Sewa Bharati document shows six villages funded by SIUK, not the ten claimed in its anniversary report or the ten it claimed to be ‘totally funding’ on its website or the twenty five it said it was adopting and reconstructing in its fundraising video. The six villages are Chapredi, Mithapasvaria, Sayan, Badanpur, Rapar and Rampura and five of these are discussed in detail later. Two ‘schools projects’, a Bhunga project (bhunga is a house structure used in some regions of Kutchi Gujarat), an emergency relief medical centre, a mobile hospital in Kutch, a mobile dispensary and a proposal for a ‘disaster management institute’ are also listed.
One of the recipients of SIUK funding is the Dr Hedgewar Rugnalay. Given SIUK’s denials that it is backed by the RSS and its claim that it is not sectarian, it seems strange that one of the key projects it has funded under earthquake relief is named after Keshav Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS and promoter of a hate politics of Hindu supremacy. The Rugnalay is a project of the National Medicos Organization, the RSS medical affiliate founded in 1977 and having a strongly ideological purpose. The National Medicos Organization is described by Sewa International India as:
Working with close relation and ideology of RSS having nodal point medical/dental students and doctors. The students and doctors work in co-operation of sewa vibhag [RSS service wing] and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram [a violent RSS affiliate working among ‘tribal’ groups].
A report by Sewa International India states that Jivapar village, listed in SIUK’s anniversary report, was renamed ‘Keshav Nagar’, ‘Keshav’ being the first name of the RSS cult founder. The renaming of villages after the extremist RSS cult founder is part of a larger political agenda that seeks to normalize and habilitate a dangerous organization. We are aware that SIUK also funded homes for some Muslim families. SIUK makes much of this, celebrating the eight homes given to Muslims in its rebuilt Chapredi village. However, this does not alter the primary aim of SIUK fundraising: to fund RSS affiliates and promote the RSS’s dangerous and divisive Hindutva activities.
THE FUNDING OF RSS SCHOOLS
Set in a quiet forest, the private institution [in Waghai, Gujarat] appears to be an ideal place to study – except that its 28 pupils don’t seem to be getting a very fair education. Many of the boys are too young to realize it, but near Shivaji’s image are paintings of several leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu chauvinist organization that runs the school. A short Hindi poem inscribed under Shivaji’s portrait affords a glimpse of what the students learn. ‘If it weren’t for Shivaji,’ the ballad goes, ‘we would all be circumcised.’ The message: Shivaji saved Hindus from being forcibly converted to Islam.
The Sewa Bharati document shows that two schools projects make up about 31 percent of SIUK funds (approximately half a million pounds) and village reconstruction makes up about 56 percent of SIUK funds (approximately a million pounds). The medical projects make up about 4 percent, and the disaster management institute about 9 percent of all allocated funds.
The proportion allocated to schools appears to be high, making up almost a third of all funds by SIUK for Gujarat earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation, though it would seem that permanent shelters and capital infrastructure should have been key priorities. SIUK school funding is listed in the Sewa Bharati document under ‘Schools Project 1’ and ‘Schools Project 2’. 'Schools Project 1' included government contributions and made up about 7 percent of SIUK’s funding. The information we have so far on 'Project 1' shows three Jodiya schools having large RSS boards and plaques that confirm SIUK involvement. However, revealing information from Sewa Bharati Gujarat on the much larger ‘Schools – Project 2’, amounting to almost a quarter of SIUK funds, is given in Table 3. Unlike Project 1 schools, these are said by Sewa Bharati Gujarat to be independent of any government funding.
Table 3: Sewa Bharati Gujarat Schools - Project 2.
Source: ‘Details of New Projects to be taken up by Sewa Bharati Gujarat. Schools – Project 2’, Sewa Bharati Gujarat, Ahmedabad, not dated.
Name of School Village Taluka District Sewa Int's Contribution (Rs. 100,000)
1 Shri Sarasvati Vidya Mandir Mandvi Mandvi Kutch 11.85
2 Shri Sarasvati Vidya Mandir Bhachu Bhachu Kutch 15.00
3 Shri Sarasvati Primary School Kalavad Kalavad Jamnagar 5.00
4 Lok Kalyan Trust Chanasma Chanasma Patan 10.00
5 Shri Sarasvati Shishumandir Chakarkotda Anjar Kutch 23.86
6 Shri Sarasvati Shishumandir Ratnal Anjar Kutch 21.65
7 Shri Sarasvati Vidya Mandir Adipur Anjar Kutch 11.30
8 Shri Sarasvati Shishumandir Antarjal Anjar Kutch 12.00
9 Shri Sarasvati Shishumandir Gadpadar Anjar Kutch 19.30
10 Shri Sarasvati Vidya Mandir Radhanpur Radhanpur Patan 15.00
11 Shri Sarasvati Vidya Mandir Thara Kankrej Banaskantha 5.00
12 Shri Sarasvati Vidya Mandir Surajkardi Dwarka Jamnagar 15.00
13 Maharashtra Shikshan Mandal Saijpur Ahmedabad Ahmedabad 21.30
14 Shri Sarasvati Shishumandir Middle Section Bhuj Bhuj Kutch 28.00
15 Shri Sarasvati Educational Complex up to High school For land 5000 Sq.Mt. For Building Bhachu Bhachu Kutch 70.00
16 Border Jankalyan Samiti Madhapar 'Bani’ West Bhuj Kutch 20.95
Every single school under its Schools Project 2 was an RSS school, financed by funds raised in the UK in the name of earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction. Sarasvati Shishu Mandirs and Sarasvati Vidya Mandirs are names for RSS schools, usually run by Vidya Bharati, the RSS’s educational affiliate. Vidya Bharati describes its purpose as:
To develop a national system of education which may mould the posterity into such a youthful generation as fully saturated with the feelings of Hindutva and patriotism.
A common curriculum and literature is used throughout Vidya Bharati schools which systematically promotes RSS ideology among schoolchildren. Vidya Bharati’s website states:
The message of Hindutva has worked wonders. During the birth centenary year of Dr. Hedgewar [RSS founder], the students prepared his biography in 18 tribal languages and these were published in book form by Vidya Bharati. In due course of time, this project will bring many people of that area into the main stream of Hindutva and prepare them to stand once again as sentinels of Bharatiya Sanskriti [the RSS view of Indian culture].
Vidya Bharati is similarly open about the need to ideologically indoctrinate children from as young an age as possible.
In India formal education of the child starts at 5+…Seeds of English way of life and conversation are sown at this very tender age. Vidya Bharati has started ‘Shishu Vatikas’ in large number to protect the initial stage of children from getting vitiated with the virus of western culture. There is a psychological endeavour to reduce the weight of the bag and encourage play-way methods of inculcating Hindu ideology in the tiny-tots.
In 1993, India’s National Council for Educational Research and Training, a statutory body charged with producing, supplying and evaluating textbooks and teaching materials, issued a report on Vidya Bharati materials used in Saraswati Shishu Mandirs. The report said that much of the material in the so–called Sanskrit Jnan (‘cultural education’) series was ‘designed to promote bigotry and religious fanaticism in the name of inculcating knowledge of culture in the young generation’ and that Vidya Bharati schools are being ‘clearly used for the dissemination of blatantly communal ideas’. The report went on to state that:
The Committee recommends that the educational authorities of Madhya Pradesh and other states should disallow the use of this series in the schools. The state governments may also consider appropriate steps to stop the publication of these materials which foment communal hatred and disallow the examinations which are held by the Vidya Bharati Sansthan on the basis of these materials.
The report also noted that Vidya Bharati textbooks: promoted Aryan supremacy; claimed that ancient Greek, Chinese and other major civilizations were all Hindu-Aryan; celebrated the destruction of the Babri mosque; claimed that the stone in the Kaaba at Mecca was originally a Hindu object of worship (Shivalingam); claimed that Islam was spread by means of ‘rivers of blood’; and claimed that Christian conspiracies existed that aimed to divide India.
The link between RSS schools and RSS recruitment was highlighted in an investigation by the UK Financial Times which reported a commissioner for Dhar (a town in Madhya Pradesh) as saying:
…dozens of Sangh Parivar schools funded by foreign donations have been opened up in his district over the past 12 months. Volunteers who teach at such schools frequently organize Shakhas, or RSS paramilitary training sessions, he says. The drills, modelled on those devised by Benito Mussolini, Italy’s dictator in the 1920s, often take place on school premises. ‘The schools are part of an integrated RSS attempt to split the community along communal lines so that Madhya Pradesh will go the same way as Gujarat,’ Mr Dubey says.
Similarly, the national Indian daily, The Hindu reported:
Vidya Bharati is, says its head Dinanath Batra, one of the ‘organizations through which the Sangh’s vichardhara [RSS ideology] is propagated’. Its aim is to provide an education which will turn out ‘self-less citizens... suffused with the spirit of Hindutva’…The walls of Vidya Bharati’s schools do speak, to those willing to listen. They are lined with calendar art images of ‘mahapurush’ [great men] – RSS gurus, M.S. Golwalkar and Baliram Hedgewar, Shankaracharya, Dayananda Saraswati, Vivekananda, Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandrashekhar Azad, sometimes Sardar Patel, but not Mahatma Gandhi…’
British donors were unwittingly providing funds for Gujarat earthquake relief that went to the RSS’s key affiliate Sewa Bharati, and of which a large proportion went to fund the expansion of the RSS’s hate-driven schools in Gujarat. About half a million pounds went towards the two schools projects, of which the vast proportion (around £450,000) went to RSS schools. This is a key example of way that overseas funds are used for furthering hatred in India.
OTHER RSS PROJECTS
Two other earthquake projects shown by Sewa Bharati as funded by SIUK need noting. The Lok Kalyan Trust in Chanasma village is an RSS affiliate. Chanasma, formerly a peaceful village in Patan district, witnessed a period of considerable violence by Hindutva mobs against Muslims from 1999. By 2002 this violence had escalated and become a ‘cleansing’ by Hindutva and Bajrang Dal mobs of all Muslims in the village. The Lok Kalyan Trust allegedly illegally obtained land in the village that was previously used as burial grounds by Muslims. Muslim graves were dug up, bodies removed and saffron flags planted. The takeover of Muslim land was done by intimidation and subterfuge, illegal entry, constructing a ‘temple’ on the land, and getting a resolution passed in the local municipality in December 1999 to transfer land and premises belonging to the Muslim waqf board (a statutory agency) to the Lok Kalyan Trust. SIUK funded an RSS organization directly implicated in the forcible religious 'cleansing' of a Gujarati village and responsible for the illegal occupation of statutory premises formerly under the charge of Muslims.
The Border Jankalyan Samiti is also listed as an organization funded by SIUK. Jankalyan Samiti is the name for an RSS network of health and service organizations that emerged after 1989. In Maharashtra, the Jankalyan Samiti has been responsible for violent attacks on Christians – Jankalyan activists attacked Shruti, a voluntary group in Nandugarh, Latur district which is run by the Catholic Health Association of India. Gujarat state shares a border with Pakistan, and the border areas have become a focus of considerable RSS-and especially VHP activity in recent years.
ANTI-MINORITY VIOLENCE IN CHANASMA
The following are extracts of a fact-finding team’s report on the events at Chanasma village (our translation, original in Gujarati).
In the wake of the Bajrang Dal [VHP youth wing] onslaught, around 550 Muslim men, women, children and old people have been forced to flee the town of Chanasma in Patan District and the town’s Navgaja Pir burial ground has been occupied and saffronized. Muslim graves in the burial grounds have been dug out and the earth leveled. Green sheets covering the pir’s [revered Muslim preacher] grave (Dargah) have been replaced by white sheets. The square structure for lighting lamps on the Dargah has been converted into a temple by building a typical temple dome over it, painting it saffron colour and adorning it with a trident and a white flag. An iron birdhouse for pigeons has been erected in the middle of the vast waqf-owned burial site…Numerous saffron flags are fluttering over the Dargah, the ramparts and the birdhouse. The slogan ‘Victory to the Holy Motherland!’ is scribbled all over the Dargah. A new four-foot wall construction without plaster, built to annex the waqf land, is in full view. It is obvious that high caste Hindus conspired to seize the land because situated in their midst the waqf land was both an irritant and a precious resource in the growing town. Intent on gang rape and with swords drawn, the Bajrang Dal mob surrounded Indiranagar, the Muslim quarters of the village. If the Dalits of Chanasma had not given refuge to Muslim women in the Dalit quarters for the whole night, Chanasma would have seen a repetition of gang rapes on the scale of Surat (1993). ‘We are not prepared to go back to the town. Our mothers, sisters or daughters are not safe there’, say the frightened migrant Muslims of Chanasma. Only a few days prior to our team’s visit Muslims from the nearby village of Vadavali were attacked at the bus stand in Chanasma town, a town where more than eighty percent of the population is Patel by caste. Chanasma municipality passed a resolution on 12.2.1999 to donate the Muslim waqf-owned land to the high caste Hindus’ Lok Kalyan Trust, Chanasma. How can Chanasma Municipality resolve to pass the waqf’s land to others? You can imagine the situation of the minority community in a town where the municipality can pass with impunity such resolutions outside its jurisdiction…Right now some 550 powerless and frightened Muslims from 130 families are living under the open skies in scorching heat. Neither social workers nor friendly organizations have so far come to their aid.
 Radhika Desai, Gujarat Earthquake of January 26, 2001: relief, rehabilitation and discrimination, Indian Social Action Forum, 4 June 2001, p.10.
 Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, Coming Together, September 2001. This issue of Coming Together, compiled by the Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan and the United Nations Development Programme, contains extensive information and data on the work carried out by NGOs across a very wide range of fields in Gujarat. Sewa Bharati primarily emerges through the education projects.
 Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, Coming Together, August 2001.
 Earthquake Affected Relief and Rehabilitation Services, ‘Earthquake Relief: Issues Of Concern’, EARSS Documentation Centre, Ahmedabad. http://www.onlinevolunteers.org/relief/earss0213-concerns.html. For further details, see EARSS documentation at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GUJARATDEVELOPMENT. See also: Indian Centre for Human Rights and Law, Gujarat Earthquake, January 26, 2001 - Background for the Indian People’s Tribunal, August 17-20, 2001, pp. 26-27.
 Radhika Desai et al, ‘Human rights investigation team finds rampant discrimination against dalits and Muslims in quake-hit Kutch and Saurashtra’, Press Release, 2 April 2001.
 Amit Sengupta, ‘Dalits, minorities cry discrimination’, Hindustan Times, 7 February 2001; Sheela Bhatt, ‘Tents now decide the social hierarchy in Bhuj’, Rediff.com, 5 February 2001.
 EARRS Documentation Centre / Fr. William Macwan, ‘RSS creating havoc in the name of conversion with Quake relief – Abhiyan NGOs in Kutch’ 10 April 2001. http://www.ambedkar.org/News/RSSCreating.htm.
 Sewa International UK, Gujarat Earthquake – 26 January 2001 Anniversary Issue. One Year After, undated.
 One item on its website from 21 July 2001 (six months after the earthquake and associated fundraising) states that ‘Sewa International UK will fund 5 villages and that it will be supporting the reconstruction of Mitha Pasvaria (Anjar), Chapredi (Bhuj), Rapar (Morbi), Bhadra (Bhuj), and Chawbari (Bhachau)’ – though some of these villages are different from the ones finally chosen. However, the same item also mentioned construction activity having been launched or was starting in the following other four villages: Devgarh, Mayapur, Jakhotra and Jivapar. http://www.sewainternational.com/archive9.htm. Another item from May 2001 refers to adopted villages being conditional on agreements reached with the state government and mentions government contributions – http://www.sewainternational.com/gujarat_quake_rehab.htm. Nevertheless, the argument stands, since the anniversary report detailing ten villages was produced after these statements.
 Sewa Bharati Gujarat (Poornavasan), ‘Progress report for period ending 30.09.2001’
 Rajesh Sinha, ‘Rehabilitation work near completion: ,a visit report by Rajesh Sinha’, 10 September 2002, http://www.sewainternational.org/rajrepo.htm. The same two are also listed by the Gujarat RSS media outfit, Vishwa Samvad Kendra, with Sewa Coventry UK, and Sewa Nottingham UK named as the donor agencies, http://www.vskgujarat.com/like_minded_organization/seva_bharti.htm
 Sewa Bharati Gujarat, ‘Costing Summary for Projects Financed by Sewa International UK’, Sewa Bharati Gujarat, Ahmedabad, not dated.
 Buried in SIUK’s website is a report that states that ‘the hospital is run by the National Medicos Organization, which is another one of the many arms of the RSS organization, along with SEWA Bharati’, http://www.sewainternational.com/archive8.htm
 Rajesh Sinha, ‘Rehabilitation work near completion: a visit report by Rajesh Sinha’, 10 September 2002, http://www.sewainternational.org/rajrepo.htm
 Mithapasvaria, adopted by SIUK, was renamed after reconstruction to ‘Ramnagar’ (loosely translated as ‘the god Ram’s town’). Another village, Badanpur, was renamed as Siddhnath (a reference to the Hindu deity Ganesh). Another village, Chapredi, was renamed ‘Atalnagar’ after the BJP prime minister of India.
 Sangh Sandesh September – October 2003, p.11.
 Ajay Singh, ‘A real textbook case’, Asiaweek, 26 March 1999.
 Extracts of NCERT’s report are reproduced in Communalism Combat, October 1999.
 Edward Luce and Demetri Sevastopulo, ‘Blood and money’, Financial Times, 20 February 2003.
 Anjali Mody, ‘Manufacturing Believers’, The Hindu, 10 February 2002.
 Asian Age, 11 July 1998.
 Chanasma na Musalimo ni Hijrat, Council for Social Justice, Ahmedabad, 2001.