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(DV) Ravishankar: RSS and the Politics of Disaster Relief







Oh, the Craving for Filthy Lucre
RSS and the Politics of Disaster Relief
by Ra Ravishankar
October 13, 2005

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“[I]n order to weed out the evil of Pakistan, it is inevitable that we erase the existence of Pakistan itself from the face of the earth. Pakistan was born in hatred and violence. How can such a seed of poison give rise to fruits of love and amity? The more we feed it with the milk of love and generosity the more venomous it grows ... As long as Pakistan exists, it is bound to be a constant source of irritation to us.”

Golwalkar, the second dictator of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was not one to mince words. His above comments aptly describe the modus operandi of the RSS -- stigmatization of and a longing for the extermination of the Other (Muslims and Christians). Not surprisingly, if there is one set of people that's smugly delighted with the earthquake that has devastated Pakistan, it has got to be the Hindu fascists owing allegiance to the RSS ideology. RSS apologists routinely point to its alleged relief work during disasters (as if this could recompense for its numerous crimes), but a peek into the Hindutva list-serves offers a different reality.

Here, one finds warnings about the danger of helping the "snakes" (a reference to Pakistanis and Kashmiri Muslims, as was made clear in the post) that are likely to bite "us" and letting the "islamic disease grow." A smartass opined, "As it is there is no [check] on the growth of this virus, when [nature] is helping in this regard, why not go with her this once?" A proposition that help in times of need could convert the "islamists to the path of dharma [justice]" was deemed too optimistic for the latter allegedly "reproduce too fast to be neutralized by [conversion]." Noting that the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) has been cut off from Pakistan, another super patriot suggested annexing POK to India and sealing off the border! I could go on, but I guess you get the point. Besides, this and much more has been said by RSS ideologues in public fora, so there's hardly anything new here.

What, however, is new is that the RSS's fundraising fronts in the US.

India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) and Sewa International USA (SewaUSA) -- now seek to raise funds for the very people that the RSS has all along despised, Muslims! Even by its long history of deception, this is a new high for the RSS. And IDRF and SewaUSA might very well get away with this, given the mainstream media's short-term memory and uncritical reporting. For instance, even when clear evidence of IDRF's links with the RSS were presented (in the report "The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva"), most of the media coverage stuck to the "he-said she-said routine." Come the next disaster, these RSS fronts engage in "relief" work, get praised for their service and morph, in the public imagination, into harmless religious/immigrant groups. Disasters help such groups in more ways than one -- they are also apt occasions for making a quick buck, a technique they have perfected.

Despite suffering a major setback earlier this year, when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was denied a US visa for his role in the March 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, the RSS enjoys significant clout in the US. In the recent past, it has made significant forays into universities (see "US Universities cozy up to the Sangh"), lobbying (see "Zionism and Hindutva in the US") and the media.

The South Asian diasporic media's collusion with the RSS deserves special mention, for this is a miniature version of what has plagued coverage of the Iraqi invasion: embedded-in-the-power-structure journalism. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the South Asian Journalists Association advertised a bunch of RSS fronts as engaged in relief work along with this warning in small print: "SAJA does not endorse the fund-raising efforts of any of these groups and encourages donors to conduct their own research into the missions of the groups and their track record with disaster relief."  E-mail alerts (to those maintaining this page -- Sreenath Sreenivasan and S. Mitra Kalita) as to the real nature of these organizations were to no avail, except that now more organizations were added to this list. Forget about being the  "eyes and ears of the people," these media folks want to simply ignore unpleasant news! This being largely the case, be forewarned and please help spread the message: Stay clear of IDRF, SewaUSA, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Hindu Students Council (HSC) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), all of which are fronts for the RSS. For more, see:

Ra Ravishankar is a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He can be reached at:

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