Category Archives: IDRF

Heed the New Hindu Mood

Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: March 11, 2003
URL: http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/mar/11franc.htm

It is not easy to be an Indian living abroad: Not only one has to retain one’s Indian-ness while coping with the West’s positive and less positive aspects which creep into one’s life, but one is also subjected to the humiliation of seeing one’s own countrymen spit on India in mainstream foreign newspapers and television. Recently, the Gujarat riots and the IDRF episode have been used by a few Indian academics/scholars/ writers, particularly in the United States, to demean India and Hindus.

Many of us are appalled by the comments people like Pankaj Mishra or Angana Chatterji, both Indians — and Hindus at that — make about their country in mainstream American newspapers such as The New York Times. Americans are generally very ignorant about India and ready to gobble up any rubbish they are fed. Hindus are portrayed as Nazis killing innocent Muslims in Gujarat. But this is historical nonsense.

My experience as a Westerner living in India for more than 30 years and married to an Indian is that not only does this country owe a lot to Hinduism, but Hinduism must be the most tolerant spirituality in the world, recognizing the fact that God is One, but that he manifests in many ways, under different forms, at different times. To take the Gujarat episode and make it an absolute theorem of Hindu fundamentalism is not only bad academism, but unfair and highly biased. Do they mean to say that the 30 millions Gujaratis who voted for Narendra Modi in the last election are all Nazis and Hindu fanatics?

It is true that during the Gujarat riots horrible things, which no human being should condone, happened. But Chatterji and Mishra forget to mention that that 25% of the people killed during the riots were Hindus or that, according to police records, the 157 subsequent riots which happened in Gujarat were started by Muslims.

They are unable to explain how 125,000 Hindus, many of them Dalits, tribals, or even upper middle class, came out on the streets of Ahmedabad with such anger after Godhra. While condemning their terrible acts one has to at least understand the cause of their deep-rooted rage, as Hindus throughout the ages have shown that they are patient and tolerant of others. There is also not a single mention of Hindus reaching out to Muslims after the riots such as the Hindu businessman who built 90 houses in Ahmedabad for Muslims whose homes had been destroyed.

America is fighting a war against terrorism today. India has suffered most from Muslim fundamentalism. In 1399, Taimur killed 100,000 Hindus in a single day. Professor K S Lal, in his Growth of Muslim Population in India, writes that according to his calculations, the Hindu population decreased by 80 million between the years 1000 and 1525, probably the biggest holocaust in world history. Today, Mishra and Chatterji are not without knowing that 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits are refugees in their own country, an ethnic cleansing without parallel. They must be also aware of what is happening to Hindus in Bangladesh today. I wonder why they do not mention all this in their articles.

Why is it that when for decades Saudi Arabia has funded madrassas in India some of which preach sedition, Mishra and Chatterji find nothing to say about it? Why is it that when foreign Christian organizations pour billions of dollars in India to convert innocent Harijans and tribals, teaching them to hate their culture and country, they also keep quiet? And why is it that when a few Hindu organizations, such as the IDRF, collect funds for harmless programmes like the Ekal Vidyalaya schools, which are doing a wonderful job for tribal children, they are attacked as fundamentalists?

The India Development and Relief Fund, a Maryland-based charity, has been targeted not only by Chatterji and Mishra, but also by the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America, Teesta and Javed Anand’s Sabrang Communications for ‘funding hate.’ The irony is Indians have demanded a probe by the US Congress into IDRF and asked the IRS to blacklist it and withdraw its tax exemption status.

Last August in Washington I met IRDF’s chief executives, Vinod and Sarala Prakash, two old, harmless, friendly people who would not hurt a fly. Their biggest achievement was to gather funds during the 1999 Orissa cyclone. It is true they are RSS affiliated and that they give first priority to Hindus afflicted by riots/cyclone/poverty. So what? We find nothing to say that Saudi Arabia only funds Muslims refugees in Bosnia, Palestine or Chechnya. Is it not time to call a spade a spade?

The specter of a ‘dangerous’ RSS, for example, is a creation of the British who understood, as the Muslims invaders did before them, that Hindus were the greatest hurdle to their grip on India. So their press started attacking anything Hindu or any group trying to protect Hindu culture or leaders such as the brilliant Hindu Mahasabha of Veer Savarkar who today is maligned by ‘secular’ Indians.

It is also time for Hindus of the world to face the truth: We are looking at the Gujarat riots only through the prism of what the Western press and the English-speaking Indian media have said — mad ‘fundamentalist’ Hindus going after peace-loving Muslims. But the reality might be totally different: Are not tolerant, God fearing, peace-loving Hindus fed up of being constantly maligned, attacked, killed, their women raped, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades?

The Western press and governments should take notice of this new popular mood of Hindus, who after all represent 1 billion people in the world, one of the most peace-loving, law-abiding, tolerant and prosperous communities of this planet — one sixth of humanity — and try to understand their feelings, instead of accusing them of being ‘fanatics.’

Marxism and the Saffron wave

Marxism and the Saffron wave

The other day I visited a tribal village, which was only 20 kms away from Bhubaneswar. The poverty I witnessed there was appalling: no drinking water, no proper housing, the children to whom we distributed food packets were sickly looking, undernourished, dirty and badly clothed.

The whole village was in a kind of wasteland, where one could not see a single tree, or any newly planted sapling. Paresh Nayak of Odisha International told me that thousands of crores had been sanctioned by the government in this area, for housing, development, or afforestation, but every single paisa goes in the pockets of corrupt officials, from top to bottom.

In fact the only organisation which is trying to do something — and which was responsible for the food distribution as well as the sole tribal school in the whole area — is the much maligned Washington-based IDRF, which is supposed, according to the Western and Indian press, to only ‘fund Hindu fundamentalism.’

Nevertheless, when one witnesses such awful and unfair poverty just a few minutes away from the nouveau riche glitter of Indian arrogant cities, one cannot but think that all the Arundhati Roys, Praful Bidwais, N Rams, Shabana Azmis, Prannoy Roys and other die hard Marxists are right: only a revolution will bring fairness and justice to the poor and downtrodden of India.

In fact, one can even go further: when people like myself, who keep defending a certain spiritual idea of India, the greatness of Hindu culture and ethos, are suddenly confronted by that ‘other’ reality of this country, our lofty drawing-room idealism is blown away by what we see, whether in Bhubaneswar, in Uttar Pradesh, or Tamil Nadu. If I were born an untouchable or a downtrodden, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have become a Naxalite — given my militant propensities!

And if tomorrow missionaries descend upon the village I just visited in Orissa and open a dispensary, a school, then a church, why shouldn’t these poor tribals convert to Christianity, when their own more fortunate Hindu brothers and sisters not only never cared after them for centuries, but stole the money which was meant for them?

Yet, all my years in India have taught me that there is a third way, which is neither of capitalism nor of communism. One could call it ‘spiritualised socialism,’ as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and today practiced by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living. A Hindu temple or a Hindu organisation has no meaning unless it also acts as a social centre, helps the poor, gives away money, houses, imparts education and hygiene.

Indeed the Art of Living foundation does just that with its volunteers going in thousands of villages all over India and selflessly bringing hygiene, housing, harmony and human values. It is true that there are countless NGOs all over India doing the same job, but unless they pass on along with their material help some spiritual values pertaining to India’s ancient culture, they are failing in their task.

Finally, I would like to tell my Marxist friends that instead of crying themselves hoarse over the BJP’s victory in Gujarat, of screaming about the ‘saffronisation of India,’ or the ‘fascist trend set by these results,’ they should look at it in a different manner. If this is a Nazi trend, then the millions of Gujarati Hindus: upper and middle class, low castes and tribals, who voted for Narendra Modi, are all Nazis.

Yet the Indian voter has always shown that he is smart and that he usually casts his ballot in a certain way because he wants to put across a message. What if Gujarat was the first sign that tolerant, peace-loving Hindus who for centuries have accepted other religions and ethnicities and allowed them to practice and prosper in peace (UNESCO recently released a report saying that out of 128 countries where the Jews lived up to 1948, in only one — India — were they not persecuted), are fed-up of being made fun off, sullied, harassed, killed, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades, their train burnt, their Parliament attacked, their markets blown up, their women raped?

What if it was a warning to the Muslims of India that the majority community of this country will no more allow the burning of innocent children and women, for the only crime that they are Hindus? What, however reprehensible their acts was, if peace-loving Hindus have shown, for the first time, that they can retaliate in kind and that Islam doesn’t have a copyright on hatred, bloodshed and mad violence? At a time when India’s government is the laughing stock of the world — as shown by the contempt that much smaller countries such as Malaysia, Portugal or Saudi Arabia have shown to India by refusing to extradite criminals — the common Hindu is telling his government, his countrymen, whether they are Hindus, Christians or Muslims, and the world, that he has had it…

Reporting bias

Source: http://www.letindiadevelop.org/

Why is it that in this country, when for decades Saudi Arabia has been funding madarsas which are openly preaching sedition and are often dens of terrorism, the Indian Press finds nothing to say? Why is it that when foreign Christian organisations are pouring billions of dollars to deviously convert innocent Harijans and tribals, teaching them to hate their own culture and country, the media here keep quiet? And why is it that when a few Hindu organisations collect funds for a harmless programme like Ekal Vidyalaya – which are doing a wonderful job for tribal children – they are attacked as fundamentalist by most Indian publications?

Particularly targeted nowadays by some US-based Christian and Muslim organisations, such as “The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate”, is the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), a Maryland-based charity which has denied allegations that it is raising millions of dollars from non-resident Indians and American corporations and using the money to fund a “hate campaign” in India.

Yet, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand’s Sabrang Communications, have demanded a probe by the US Congress into IDRF and also asked the IRS to blacklist it and withdraw its tax exemption status. Biju Mathews, the president of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America, a very little known group, has accused IDRF of:

1) Funnelling millions of dollars every year to be used by “violent, sectarian Hindu supremacist orgs.”

2) That “the IDRF has funded numerous relief efforts in response to natural disasters, communal violence, and other social crises. However, the distributive mechanisms utilised by the IDRF have consistently discriminated against Muslims and other minorities in India.”

3) That “The IDRF’s relief efforts are frequently divisive and have supported the further communalisation of Indian society.”

4) That “In recent times, the organisation has raised funds for Bangladeshi Hindu victims of communal violence, Kashmiri Hindu victims of terrorism, and relief efforts following the September 11 attacks in the US.” But that “In contrast, to date, IDRF has not announced any relief for the victims of communal riots in Gujarat in February and March 2002.” The report goes on to say that the IDRF uses a network of professional Indian migrants who work among the large US corporations in the Silicon Valley, such as Cisco, Sun, Oracle or Hewlett-Packard. “The swayamsevaks (volunteers) within US corporations, says the 91-page report, push IDRF as the best and the only way to provide funding for development and relief work in India, thus causing not only other unsuspecting employees, but also the corporation itself to fund the Sangh in India”.

“IDRF dismissed the allegations made by the groups as pure concoction, untruthful and self contradicting,” the charity said in a statement last Friday. The report by Biju Mathew “is merely a string of allegations, manipulated skillfully by piecing together information available on the IDRF web site”. The statement by IDRF continues: “The allegations do not stand up to any rational scrutiny. Donors to IDRF are among most well-informed of the donors to any South Asian nonprofit charitable organisations operating in the US. IDRF questions the credibility, motives and the political agenda of these splintered and virtually unknown groups that have launched the Hate Campaign against IDRF. IDRF does not subscribe to any religious, political or sectarian agendas. Further, IDRF does not discriminate against any religion, sect or race in either the collection or distribution of funds.”

But the damage has been done: Sun Microsystems stated that all current donations to the IDRF have been placed on hold pending a directive from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It, however, added: “Any non-profit and non-proprietary organisation that has been granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt and public charity status is eligible to receive matching gifts from Sun Microsystems.” The IDRF, it observed, does not appear on the IRS list of agencies known to support terrorist activities. Similarly, a Cisco spokesperson said the company had terminated all matching donations to the IDRF.

This has infuriated many Cisco employees, such as Shyam Palleti, who wrote that “there is a malicious campaign against work done by some Indians for the benefit of Indian causes. All the money collected in Cisco went to right causes, like the Orissa cyclone of 1999, and was accounted and reported to IRS”. Another NRI, Mr Ranganathan, says “that IDRF seems to be gathering more money than others, because people are aware of the good work done by IDRF and so money is sure to go into right causes and not because people are duped”. Adds Palleti: “The word ‘duped’ is insulting to employees who build innovative networking products and because of whom we can communicate with ease. I don’t think the articles published in the Indian Press cause anybody to reduce their help to IDRF, but only incense them to think that their own media is not India-friendly”.

I personally met last August in Washington, the chief executives of IDRF, Vinod and Sarala Prakash, two old, harmless, friendly persons, who would not harm a fly. How is it possible that when Muslim terrorists wreak havoc all the over India, kill innocent people, as they just did in the Jammu temples, the Press only mentions these as news items, without condemning them, but that it targets harmless people such as the Prakash, who have never hurt anybody in their lives?

Is it not time we called a spade a spade? The spectre of a “dangerous” RSS, for example, is a creation of the British who had understood, as the Muslims invaders did before them, that the Hindus were the greatest hurdle to their grip on India. So their own Press started attacking anything Hindu, or any group which was trying to protect Hindu culture or leader, such as the Hindu Mahasabha. It is also time for Hindus of this country to face the truth: We are looking at the Gujarat riots only through the prism of what the Western press and the English-speaking Indian media have said – mad “fundamentalist” Hindus, going after peace-loving Muslims.

However, reality might be different: Are not tolerant, God fearing, peace-loving Hindus fed up of being maligned, made fun of, slandered, attacked, killed, their women raped, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades, by a religion which for centuries has made violence and hatred a way of life? Could it be that Gujarat is giving a warning to the Muslims of India that Hindus have “had enough”, and that they are not ready to put up any more with their own women and children being burnt like animals? The Indian media would do well to take notice of this new popular mood of the majority community and try to understand their feelings, instead of accusing them of being “fanatics”. They should also be careful not to give so much space to small hate groups such as The Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America.