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Hindu nationalist organisations take root in the United States

Monday, 7 July 2014 - 8:26pm IST | Agency: DNA

Hindu nationalist organisations have established a strong network in the United States, with around 140 Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh shakhas across the country and over $55 million dollars in aid, largely sent to groups in India in the last 10 years.

Major US-based tax-exempt non-profit Hindu nationalist organisations include the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is quite active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.

The report was published on the South Asia Citizens Wire (SACW), a website mostly run by Indian diaspora based in the US and Europe. However, according to Harsh Kapoor of SACW, authors of the report have "categorically opposed to doing any interviews now or in the near future" and just used the initials ‘JM’ in the report.

The data in the report has been extensively referenced and compiled from publicly available tax records, newspaper articles, and other materials on non-profit groups in the United States affiliated with the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu nationalist groups) from 2001-2014.

According to the report, as of May 2014, there were 140 HSS shakhas (chapters) in the United States listed on the HSS website. Between 2002 and 2012, the HSS and VHP have collectively spent more than $2.5 million on youth and family programs.

“Literature used by such programs often prioritise a version of history and culture that highlights the Sangh Parivar leadership of India and Brahminical (upper-caste) narratives and practices, while diminishing the struggles and contributions of lower caste and non-Hindu communities,” says the report.

From 2001 and 2012, five Sangh-affiliated charitable groups, including the Param Shakti Peeth, allocated over $55 million dollars to their program services-- funds which are largely sent to groups in India. Several of the recipient groups have affiliations with the India-based Sangh Parivar.

“Many organisations receive money for health, education or welfare from abroad through organisations registered under FCRA by the Home Ministry. However, the VHP in America is an independent organisation, which may be sending money to help people during natural calamities in India,” a member of VHP in Delhi told dna, requesting anonymity.

In 2009, Sangh-affiliated Hindu Students Council (HSC) student groups were present on 78 US and Canadian university and college campuses, including those of Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), McGill University, New York University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, Irvine, University of Ottawa, and the University of Texas at Austin and Houston.

The report mentions that Hindu nationalist groups have increasingly inserted themselves into curricular, administrative and financing arenas in academic and educational institutions, specifically in the disciplines of history, religious studies, Indology and other fields.

“The findings of the report should be taken seriously as it has raised some critical questions. It needs to be investigated,” said US-based Dr Raja Swamy of the Coalition Against Genocide, who is also associated with SACW.


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