//Army uses NGO with RSS link to rehabilitate kids

Army uses NGO with RSS link to rehabilitate kids

New Delhi, July 2: The Indian Army has entered into an alliance with a non-governmental organisation which has links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as part of its Operation Sadbhavna project, which helps rehabilitate children from trouble-torn Kashmir.

The Army has sent a batch of 57 orphaned or militancy-affected children from Jammu and Kashmir to Seva Bharati, an RSS-affiliated outfit, for education and upbringing at the latter’s residential schools in New Delhi.

The Army has been adopting militancy-hit children from Kashmir and had so far accommodated them at its own schools in the Valley. This is the first time that the Army has taken the help of an NGO in this project. Operation Sadbhavna was conceived as part of an overall plan to counter allegations of human rights abuses in the state and to win some goodwill from local inhabitants.

The children, aged between six and 16, include nine girls and were accompanied from Udhampur to Delhi by Maj. D.R. Sharma and welcomed at a ceremony here last Sunday by a senior functionary of the RSS. Thirty-six of the children in this group are Muslims.

An RSS member acknowledged that some of the children might well find the puritanical ways of the NGO looking after their welfare difficult to handle. Most of the children have lost one or more of their relatives to terrorism and some of them have ambitions of joining the Army to fight terrorism.

The Union tribal welfare ministry had commended Seva Bharati and three other RSS-affiliated NGOs for "selfless service and remarkable programmes" on an all-India basis. The ministry, in its latest annual report, named Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Vidya Bharati, Deen Dayal Shodh Sansthan and Seva Bharati, all affiliated to the RSS, as "established voluntary agencies."

This recognition by the Union government has come as a surprise to some people in the Congress Party. The Army has declined to comment on this matter, but sources have claimed that it was unaware of the NGO’s links to the RSS when it took the decision.

The secretary of the Delhi unit of Seva Bharati, Mr Rishipal Dadwal, confirmed the arrangement with the Army as part of Operation Sadbhavna, and said: "Social responsibility is not the lookout of the Army, and hence we have taken on the task of educating these children at the Army’s request."

Mr Dadwal added that the arrangement had been finalised at a meeting at Reasi in January this year at which Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and senior Army officers were present.