Challenging the Foreign Exchange of Hate

Aghast at the brutalization of minorities in the March 2002 riots, a group of citizens responded by founding The Campaign To Stop Funding Hate. The members of the campaign are an independent and diverse group of Indian and Indo-American professionals in the United States who seek to educate Indian-American communities about the potential appropriation of their money by fundamentalist groups who use it to fund hate campaigns against minorities.

The Campaign was initiated in part by the citizens who wrote "The Foreign Exchange of Hate." This report highlights connections between the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) in the United States and Hindu fundamentalist groups in India. The report dispels the illusion that IDRF sponsors developments efforts, and reveals the truth about IDRF--that it funds groups who encourage and incite communal violence. It specifically documents the way IDRF has channeled funds, intended by donors to contribute to development and relief efforts in India, towards Hindu extremist groups

On its website, IDRF claims that it raises money to "serve economically and socially disadvantaged people irrespective of caste, sect, region or religion," and utilizes such funds in a sectarian manner. The Report notes, however, that IDRF allocates over eighty percent of its funds to Sangh Parivar affiliates. Of the 67 IDRF affiliate organizations, 52 are associated with the Sangh.

The Report also notes that of the 5.5 million dollars IDRF raised during the past decade, nearly 69 percent go to fundamentalist organizations working in adivasi (tribal) and rural areas. A large segment is allocated for educational projects of Hinduization, which encourage the disintegration of adivasi (and non-Hindu) cultures through their incorporation into Hindutva. Sewa Bharti, an associate of the Sangh, funded by IDRF, organized a Hindu Sangam in Madhya Pradesh in January 2002. The Citizens Tribunal has charged that such efforts facilitated the mobilization of adivasis against other minorities in Gujarat. Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and Vivekananda Kendra, also funded by IDRF, were both complicit in the communalization of adivasis.

As IDRF funnels funds to groups like the Sangh Parivar and these groups begin to wield greater power, they undermine the secular roots of the Indian state. These extremists contend that national commitments to secular tolerance of the religious and irreligious have been a tactic for undermining India's "true culture"--a glorious and exclusively Hindu culture. The Sangh Parivar offers genocide as a "rational" response to betrayal of the "true" culture by non-Hindu Indians and seeks to create political, social and economic conditions in which it is no longer tenable to be non-Hindu in India.

The report shocked even those already involved in excavating Hindu right wing activities in India and abroad. It also made us critically aware of the importance of building and sustaining a campaign to disseminate information about the politics, and transnational mobilization, of hate money. The Campaign has used this report to lobby major corporations and portals that enable IDRF to collect and transmit funds to the Sangh Parivar. The Campaign also made sustained efforts to educate the broader American public and the Indian diaspora about hate funds raised in the United States that promote riot after riot, and sanction cycles of communal violence that hold India captive.

The Campaign's focus on educating American communities, both mainstream and immigrant, about IDRF is especially important given that much of the violence against Muslims in India has been funded by the diaspora. While some of these funds come from fundamentalists living abroad, much has come from innocent donors who have been deceived by the seemingly innocuous IDRF, which claims to fundraise for organizations in India that assist in development and tribal well being. For example, the Cisco corporation and its employees gave $133,000 to IDRF, most of which went to the Sangh Parivar's network of organizations in India.

IDRF has responded to the Campaign and its report, emphatically maintaining that it has no connections with the Sangh Parivar. Its response is extremely tame and does not even attempt to engage with the meticulously researched facts in the Report. The sporadic participation of Hinduized adivasi and Dalit communities in the brutalization of Muslims was a sad and unexpected dimension of the recent violence in Gujarat. IDRF did not raise any funds in support of Gujarat's victims. Was it because the organizations it upholds were incriminated? Or is it that IDRF has historically intervened to help predominantly Hindu victims?

Other rightist groups have responded to the Report as well. It has earned a counter campaign of hate from Hindutva organizations in the United States. Supporters of Hindutva allege that the Campaign's position of 'No funding for Hindutva' is synonymous with 'No funding for Development.' Unsubstantiated counter reports have challenged the 'Foreign Exchange of Hate' and attacked the credibility of the Campaign. Women members and those belonging to minority communities have been targeted and threatened in e-mail and other campaigns by the right wing press and Hindutva websites.

Other groups have responded more favorably. It has been received well by the media and the public. Corporations such as Cisco have suspended matching contributions to IDRF pending further investigations while Sun Microsystems is reviewing the information presented by the Campaign. South Asian academics have resoundingly endorsed the report and the Campaign.

The controversy over IDRF has facilitated a more hopeful debate, particularly within diaspora development organizations regarding the necessity of secularizing development. It has energized aid organizations to undertake extensive outreach so they might speak with the moderate diaspora. It has prompted leadership and myriad ideas about networks, coalitions and frameworks through which Indians abroad may contribute to India's secular development. It has made progressive Indians in America working for India's development critically aware that they cannot support the frameworks of cultural annihilation through which development is imagined and modernization attempted by the Sangh.

Comments It accurately abstracts the way IDRF has channeled funds, advised by donors to accord to development and abatement efforts in India, appear Hindu agitator groups.

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