By Hindutva Watch, Staff Writer
As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains in international headlines for gross mismanagement of the second COVID wave, many governments and non-profit organisations across the world have extended their help and support as coronavirus continues to devastate families in India.
One such non-profit group is Sewa International, the international wing of Sewa Bharti, a sister organisation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). RSS is a right-wing paramilitary organisation in India that is responsible for numerous anti-minority riots across the country.
In the older RSS literature, Sewa International and RSS headquarters in New Delhi shared the same office and address.
Sewa International, whose global network spread across 25 countries including the United Kingdom and the United States of America, is fundraising ostensibly supposedly for sending COVID aid to India.
The UK and the US chapters of the organisation have collectively raised more than $ 15 million from the Covid-19 fundraisers to provide Covid-19 ‘relief’ in India. The US Sewa chapter aims to raise $10 million on Facebook alone and as of May 5, it has raised more than $ 7 million and its UK partner has raised $347,443. Sewa UK aims to generate an additional $694,887.
The sudden spurt in donations to the RSS-affiliated groups has raised concerns among journalists, activists, and various human rights groups in India and abroad.
Neha Dixit, an award-winning journalist in India took to Twitter and flagged dubious welfare work of the organization. She wrote, “Dear NRIs, Please don’t donate to Sewa International for Covid relief. They work as the welfare wing of RSS. Apart from supporting BJP govt’s massive crimes including abandoning Indian citizens in this pandemic, they also traffic children from tribal areas to indoctrinate them.”
Please don't donate to Sewa International for Covid relief. They work as the welfare wing of RSS. Apart from supporting BJP govt's massive crimes including abandoning Indian citizens in this pandemic, they also traffic children from tribal areas to indoctrinate them.
— Neha Dixit (@nehadixit123) May 4, 2021
According to South Asia Citizen Web (SACW), a US-based online platform that promotes dialogue on South Asia, Sewa International comes under the Seva or service section of the RSS. In a 2002 report, SACW categorised Sewa International as seva vibhag (social service wing) of RSS and noted, “Sewa International is the Seva Vibhag’s coordination body for all international funds and service programmes.”
In fact, OpIndia, a rightwing news organisation and mouthpiece of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)— the political wing of RSS— said “Rashtriya Sewa Bharti and Sewa International both are part of the same non-profit organisation affiliated to RSS. While Rashtriya Sewa Bharti operates nationally, Sewa International has volunteers working both in the US and India, coordinating the work of raising funds, procuring medical equipment supplies, and getting these to hospitals and institutions.”
Sewa International has been accused of funding violence against Muslims in India as early as 2002. According to Awaaz South Asia Watch (ASAW), a UK based independent collective focusing on the politics in South Asia, Sewa International UK had raised funds for the Gujarat earthquake which were later diverted to Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, a tribal organisation affiliated to RSS.
Dear NRIs and non-Indians, DO NOT donate to Sewa International.
If you wanna donate for COVID aid then donate to genuine organizations.
— Md Asif Khan (@imMAK02) May 5, 2021
In its report— In Bad Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism— ASAW reported that Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram was directly involved in the anti-Muslim pogrom of Gujarat in 2002.
The report revealed that while collecting funds in the UK Sewa International did not disclose its ties with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the international wing of RSS and Sewa Bharti.
Sewa International’s US wing has Ramesh Bhutada as the chairperson of the Board. Bhutada is one of the prominent RSS figures in the US. He is also the Vice President of HSS.
Lord Adam Patel, who was a patron of Sewa International UK resigned from his post in 2002 over misuse of money collected by Sewa.
“I very much regret ever having been part of this racist organisation. … Sewa International is a front for militant Hindu organisations. … I am sure a lot of the donors don’t realise the money is being sent to help terror groups like the RSS,” Patel said in an interview with the U.K. newspaper Sunday Mercury.
On April 13, 2002, he further wrote: “Sewa International is linked with Hindu organisations such as RSS and BJP in India. They are collecting large sums of money from the UK and USA in the name of charity and spending it in India for political purposes particularly against minorities such as Sikhs, Muslims and Christians,” he wrote.
In 2002, Sewa Bharti was banned in Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for orchestrating violence against the Christians.
In 2014, South Asian Citizen Web (SACW) in its scathing report revealed that Sewa International US sent $3.3m to various RSS-affiliated charity groups in India between 2001-2012.
On the other hand, Dixit in her stellar work, provided a detailed account of how Sewa International’s India wing— Sewa Bharti, another RSS affiliated organisation— was behind human trafficking. 31 children from Assam as young as three years were trafficked to Gujarat and Punjab by Sewa Bharti, Vidya Bharati and Rashtriya Sevika Samiti flouting India’s Juvenile Justice Act as well as a Supreme Court order which prohibited sending out children below the age of 12 years from Assam and Manipur.
Sewa International has also raised funds for Ekal Vidyalayas one-teacher schools that involve Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an RSS affiliate designated as a militant organisation by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The RSS-affiliated schools are accused of indoctrinating young students with anti-Muslim and anti-Christian hate.
National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) reports have criticised Sewafunded RSS school for distributing the teaching material which is “blatantly communal”.
In a recent exposé, Al Jazeera uncovered that Sewa International received a whopping $150,621 from the US Covid-19 relief fund. The expose had prompted many human rights organisations to issue calls for a federal probe into the finances of all the RSS-affiliated nonprofits in the US.