//Fundraising in UK and HSS

Fundraising in UK and HSS

The report by the Charity Commission into the fundraising activities of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS, charity number 267309) still leaves many questions hanging about the charity’s connections with extremist and violent groups in India.

The inquiry acknowledged a number of points first made by Awaaz – South Asia Watch’s report last year [1]. The most disturbing fact is that the charity and its two other operating arms in the UK (Sewa International) and India (Sewa Bharati), have failed to provide audited accounts of how the money raised for the Gujarat earthquake appeal was spent in India.

The Charity Commission also admits that it was unable to establish for itself how the funds were used in India, as they were not granted visas by the then BJP-headed Indian government.

Awaaz believes the British public will be alarmed that HSS has been unable to provide audited accounts for how money donated in good faith to victims of the earthquake was actually spent abroad.

The money that was raised by Sewa International, the UK ‘service’ arm of the HSS, was given to Sewa Bharati in India, the report confirms. Sewa Bharati is known to be a key front organization for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS has long been involved and implicated in anti-minority violence and hatred. Similarly, Sewa Bharati has been involved in violent and hate-driven activities in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere in India.

The Charity Commission’s inquiry corroborates Awaaz’s claim that Sewa International failed to consistently and clearly identify its link with the HSS. The Commission says that on some appeal literature, the HSS registered number was quoted, but the name of the charity was not.

Awaaz also welcomes the advice by the Charity Commission that:

· Sewa International must fully declare its association with HSS in all its promotional, campaign and fundraising material. Awaaz believes that in its recent Asian tsunami appeals, Sewa International UK continues to fall well short of this key threshold of public transparency and accountability.

· Charities operating internationally have a range of duties and obligations regarding good accounting practice, accounting transparency and accounting records, including good practice in producing audited accounts relating to expenditure abroad.

While welcoming the report, Awaaz feels that it does not go far enough. Awaaz believes it represents a wasted opportunity to bring to light the ways and means used by violent fundamentalist organizations abroad to raise funds from the UK public without the public being made aware of the nature of the organizations hiding behind charitable fundraising.

· By limiting its inquiry, without legitimate reason, solely to the Gujarat Earthquake Appeal, the Charity Commission failed to address the nature of the RSS / HSS, and the consistent support and fundraising undertaken by HSS / Sewa International UK over several decades for violent, extremist and hate-promoting organizations in India. Sewa International UK is a fundraising front for RSS organizations in India; the HSS is a branch of the RSS in the UK. The allegiance of both organizations is to the secretive paramilitary cult of the RSS and its family of organizations. Sewa International / HSS has raised funds for organizations such as the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram that have been involved in large-scale anti-minority violence in Gujarat (during the carnage there in 2002) and elsewhere.

· Even within this limited remit (the Gujarat earthquake funds), the Charity Commission failed to investigate and report on several serious allegations that it was fully aware of: that all the Gujarat earthquake money was given to Sewa Bharati, a key RSS front organization; that Sewa Bharati branches in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere have an extensive, publicly documented track record of anti-minority violence and hatred, including allegations of bomb making in Madhya Pradesh; that all the money raised from the British public for ‘Schools Project 2’ (some £1.3 million) was for building sectarian, highly controversial RSS schools and not directly for earthquake relief; that money from ‘Schools Project 2’ was sent to organizations that are known in Gujarat (Lok Kalyan Trust) or elsewhere (Jankalyan Samiti) to be involved or implicated in serious violence and hatred.

· The Charity Commission claims that HSS / Sewa International UK had taken steps to ensure funds were applied in accordance with the earthquake appeal. This claim is based on a document presented by supporters of Sewa International UK (none of whom provided evidence of Sewa Bharati’s accounts.) Yet the Charity Commission report also states that it has been unable to establish how the funds were utilised in India. It further states that no audited accounts from Sewa Bharati Gujarat were received. These findings are inconsistent and are a cause for considerable concern.

· Another investigation [1] into the use of Gujarat earthquake funds by Sewa International UK was produced by Awaaz, a small unfunded organization with comparatively few resources. This showed that Sewa International UK misled the British public about the number of villages it claimed it was rebuilding, and that it did not disclose to the British public information about the extensive funds that it received for the six villages from state governments in India. This report also showed the extensive promotion of the RSS, its ideology and its leaders that went along with Sewa International UK’s earthquake-related efforts.

· The Charity Commission report accepts that there is only an ideological commonality between the HSS UK and the RSS. We are concerned that this claim does not affect the credibility of the Charity Commission, since the Commission might be widely seen as one of few organizations in existence that does not seem to know that the HSS UK and Sewa International UK are RSS outfits. The RSS openly states that HSS UK is its branch and Sewa International is its project. The extensive evidence of the RSS’s direction, guidance, involvement in and support of its UK organizations, and the extensive and active working links between the RSS and the HSS UK are amply documented [1]. These associations have also been widely publicised in the Indian and UK press / media.

Sewa International / HSS UK’s intimate and extensive links with the RSS are more important than ever to expose given the devastating Asian tsunami and the remarkable groundswell of British public sympathy for and generosity towards the victims. For its tsunami-related fundraising in the UK the RSS has relied virtually exclusively on Sewa International UK. And yet again, HSS / Sewa International UK are up to their tricks in their tsunami fundraising campaigns. This has included failing to disclose that they are fundraising virtually entirely for RSS organizations in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India, including organizations linked to violence and hate.

Awaaz calls on the Charity Commission to open fresh, thorough and competent investigations into the ideological and political links between the HSS / Sewa International UK, the VHP UK, the Kalyan Ashram Trust UK (all registered charities) and the RSS and its family of organizations.

NOTES

[1]. The Awaaz report is available from www.awaazsaw.org/ibf. The report is titled: In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism, published by Awaaz – South Asia Watch Ltd, London, 2004, ISBN 0 9547174 0 6.

[2] The Charity Commission’s report can be accessed here:
http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/investigations/inquiryreports/hss.asp

[3]. The RSS, the ‘National Volunteers
’ Corps’, was formed in 1926 and is dedicated to turning India from a secular, democratic, multi-religious nation into an authoritarian anti-minority ‘Hindu nation’. It has a large family of closely allied organisations operating in India and abroad. The founders and key leaders of the RSS were strongly inspired by Fascist Italy and vocally supported Nazi Germany, including Nazi policies towards German-Jews. The ideology of the RSS is ‘Hindutva’, a belief that India only belongs to Hindus who ‘share the blood’ of ‘Vedic-Aryans’ and who consider India as their ‘holyland’. M. K. Gandhi was murdered by an RSS supporter.

[4]. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK is the British branch of the RSS. Sewa International UK is its ‘service project’ and is the British fundraising arm for RSS front organisations in India.

http://www.awaazsaw.org/weblog/awaaz_wlog.html