(Prashath Lakhihal, India Tribune, Nov 30, 2002.)
New York: Hindutva forces in the United States are outraged over a biting report, which alleged that IDRF - a major social and economic volunteer organization committed to India's development - is allegedly funneling money to fan communal hatred. But they are undecided over what course of action they should take against the authors of the report.
Besides being contemptuous about the report released in Mumbai last week, friends and well wishers of the 25-year old India Development and Relief Fund have not yet made any firm plans about whether they intend to take legal action.
Responding to queries from this correspondent, Vinod Prakash, founder-president of IDRF, flatly denied all the allegations made by the report prepared by 11 NRIs led by New York-based Prof. Biju Mathews of Ryders University.
"IDRF dismisses the allegations made by the groups as pure concoction, untruthful and self-contradicting," said Prakash, defending the IDRF activities.
Offering a point-by-point rebuttal, Prakash questioned the motives, ideological predilictions and credibility of the authors and the organization that they represent.
The report released under wide media glare had alleged that IDRF's funds for charity in India are being diverted to 'Sangh Parivar' affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for carrying out their 'hate campaign' against minorities.
"We (Indian American Hindus) are not yet ready intellectually to take on these Islamic forces or those sympathetic to Islam," admitted Hindutva activist Narayan Kataria, founder-president of India America Intellectual Forum.
The IDRF calls the allegations leveled in the 91-page report as pure humbug. The report is "merely a string of allegations, manipulated skillfully by piecing together information available on the IDRF Web site," the IDRF statement said.
Further, it questioned the credibility, motives and the political agenda of these "splintered and virtually unknown groups" that have launched the "hate campaign" against IDRF.
Kataria who has mobilized funds for IDRF on many occasions says the report is false. It is merely to "denigrate, defame and demonize Hindu society."
If the report is false and defamatory, what is IDRF and its friends plan to do? IDRF president Prakash is not sure if legal course will be taken as "courts of law are always expensive to bear" nor a lawyer has been consulted.
A veteran observer of Indian American community noted that left liberals have launched a conspiracy against the Hindutva forces in America. The earliest allegations were made by Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist Kanwal Rekhi in his Wall Street Journal article against the donations of wealthy Indian Americans to Hindutva forces. He mentioned IDRF as one of the organizations funding communal violence. The Outlook magazine picked it up in its July 22 issue.
The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of Northern America (FIACONA) used these media articles and invigorated their anti-Hindu campaign. Later, Bob Hathaway, a former CIA agent who works for Woodrow Wilson Center, submitted these allegations to the Religious Freedom Committee hearings in Washington DC. Mira Kamdar expressed similar views in her World Policy Review report.
"This looks like a typical KGB kind of operation launched to defame IDRF," said the veteran observer.
Narayan D. Keshavan, an award winning former Washington Times journalist, says, "I have been waiting for a long time for a report detailing who and how much money is flowing into India from various Christian organization and churches. I am also waiting for a report on how much money has flown from Middle Eastern organizations and governments for proselytising purposes. Those are the only reports that count because it is the money from these organizations that is doing real, deadly harm to India and its unity. The Mathew report is utter gibberish and is of no importance."
For the last 25 years nobody had raised a brow against IDRF which has received matching donations from major American corporations like Cisco and Sun Microsystems and global institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, sources said.
However in the last couple of months especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Islamic fundamentalists and their sympathizers have been raising fingers against IDRF.
Dr. Mukund Mody, founder and former president of the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party, said the IDRF has come under scrutiny after the terrorist attacks as the Islamic fundamentalists plan to divert the attention from Muslim charities funding international Islamic terrorism. "IDRF is a very legitimate organization and has donated its collections without deducting any overhead costs," he added.
IDRF's top official Prakash who is a retired World Bank economist explains that IDRF donations to India-based organizations are governed by the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act in India. It had to maintain separate bank accounts and the money cannot be diverted from earmarked projects.
"We haven't violated any US or Indian laws. We are open to IRS scrutiny," he declared.
The FIACONA has demanded that the US Congress should probe into this matter and also asked the Internal Revenue Service to blacklist the IDRF and withdraw its tax exempt status.
Prakash maintained that the IDRF contributes to only tax-exempt registered organization in India on a need only policy. "We set the condition - no sectarianism, no discrimination. We follow need-blind policy," he asserted.
Nor does the IDRF seek contributions from top US businesses as alleged in the report but collections are made only from individuals, primarily from NRIs, who may be working anywhere, Prakash said.