Five American organizations with ties to Hindutva and Hindu supremacist groups have received COVID-19 relief funding amounting to $833,000, revealed a report by Al-Jazeera.
Al-Jazeera cited data released by the United States’ Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal agency that helps small business owners and entrepreneurs.
SBA gave the funds as part of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDLA), Disaster Assistance Loan (DAL), and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
All these programs are aimed at providing financial assistance for businesses to keep their workforce employed during the pandemic.
The five groups in question are Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, Infinity Foundation, Sewa International, and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). All these organizations have ties with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
VHPA received more than $150,000 under PPP and $21,430 under EIDLA and DAL programs. Its Indian counterpart, VHP was categorized as a religious militant organization by the CIA in 2018.
Although the VHPA claims to be a separate legal entity from the VHP, its website mentions that the organizations share the “same values and ideals”.
Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation obtained a direct pay of $7,000 and a loan of $64,462 under PPP.
The Foundation runs a network of schools for children from Adivasi and rural communities across India, and has been accused of promoting hatred for minorities among children.
Infinity Foundation received $51,872 in US federal funds in the wake of the pandemic, according to SBA data.
This foundation provides grants to universities and researchers to allow the spread of Hindu nationalism in academic spaces.
Sewa International received a sum of $150,621 in COVID relief.
Sewa International organization funds a lot of RSS projects across India. In fact, some old literature suggests that Sewa International’s address was the same as RSS’s headquarters in Delhi.
The Hindu American Foundation received what can be said as the lion’s share of federal funds among the five organizations- a whopping amount of $378,064 in PPP loans and another $10,000 in EIDLA.
HAF lobbies to deflect any criticism of Modi government’s policies on Capitol Hill, most recently its vehement defense of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and India’s scrapping of the special constitutional status of Indian-administered Kashmir.
HAF has open links to the RSS, despite claiming to be “non-partisan”.
New York-based Sunita Viswanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights, told Al-jazeera, “All these organizations are sympathetic to the Hindu supremacist ideology. Their parent organizations continue to spread hatred in Hindu communities towards Muslims and Christians.” She worries that the COVID relief funds will be used for the same.
RSS receiving funds and support from foreign organizations and lobbying groups is a common phenomenon. A South Asian Citizen Web (SACW) report from 2014 found that charity groups based in the US sent millions of dollars to RSS-affiliated organizations.
Ironically enough, RSS and its affiliates in India, popularly called the Sangh Parivar, often accuse its critics and detractors of being “foreign-funded agents attempting to defame Hinduism and destroy India.”