The move by Jack Dorsey, CEO of social media giant Twitter, to donate $2.5 million out of a total of $15 million (around Rs 110 crore) to support relief efforts in India’s ongoing COVID-19 second wave to NGO Sewa International has sparked off a major controversy.

Sewa International is said to be the American arm of Sewa Bharti, a welfare organisation affiliated with the right wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Dorsey’s statement defines Sewa International as “a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, non-profit service organization.”

An article by Pieter Friedrich, who specializes in analysis of historical and current affairs in South Asia, has traced the history of Sewa International.

According to the article, Madhukar Deoras, third chief of the RSS, founded Sewa Bharati in 1989 as a service — or welfare — wing of the RSS. “Sewa International was subsequently launched to engage the Indian Diaspora (NRI) worldwide. The US branch — the recipient of Twitter’s largesse — was registered in 2003 to serve as part of the ‘larger movement that started in India in 1989’ under Deoras,” writes Friedrich.

According to Friedrich, UK human rights outfit Awaaz South Asia Watch, in a 2004 exposé claimed that Sewa International’s “main purpose is to raise funds for and support a distinct family of organizations associated with the extremist RSS”.

“As per Awaaz, both Sewa Bharti and Sewa International ‘are dedicated to building a Hindu nation based on Hindu extremist ideas, glorifying the RSS, recruiting for the RSS and expanding RSS physical and ideological training cells (shakhas) in India’,” writes Friedrich.

Dorsey’s grant of money to Sewa International attracted flak on the social media, with dozens of Twitter users taking to the microblogging platform to criticise the move.

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