Following an investigation by Al Jazeera, a broad coalition of Indo-American activists and US-based civil rights organizations called on the US Small Business Administration (SBA) to investigate how whose Hindu right-wing groups have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
A statement released by the Coalition to Stop the Genocide in India this week said the Hindu groups that received the funds have “existential ties” to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the “fountain of Hindu supremacist ideology” and “ideological parent” of Prime Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Minister Narendra Modi.
Al Jazeera last week reported how five right-wing Hindu groups with links to Hindu nationalist organizations in India received more than $ 833,000 in direct payments and loans, according to data released by the Small Business Administration (SBA) , a US federal agency that helps small business owners and entrepreneurs.
The SBA disbursed the funds under the Economic Disaster Loan Advance (EIDLA) of the Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Assistance Loan in Disaster Event (DAL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – programs aimed at providing economic assistance to struggling businesses and retaining their employees during the COVID-19 crisis in the worst-affected country in the world.
The coalition statement says the five groups – Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, Infinity Foundation, Sewa International and Hindu American Foundation (HAF) – are “US-based front organizations for Hindutva. , the supremacist ideology which is the driving force behind much of the persecution of Christians, Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in India ”.
“The US taxpayer money used to keep hate groups in business is absolutely unacceptable and should concern all who believe in fairness, justice and government accountability,” said Rasheed Ahmed, executive director of the Indian American Muslims Council (IAMC).
“There are families across America still reeling from the human and economic toll of COVID-19, while groups that appear to essentially serve as front organizations for a violent, supremacist ideology reap windfall in federal funding COVID. “
The coalition statement said the RSS has been “directly involved in orchestrating anti-Christian and anti-Muslim pogroms and inciting terrorist attacks, as part of a relentless campaign to overthrow them. secular moorings of India and to make it an authoritarian Hindu state where minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens ”.
“Its members and affiliated organizations have been implicated in countless acts of massacres, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, forced conversions and other forms of violence against religious minorities in India,” the statement said.
Raju Rajagopal is a member of Hindus for Human Rights, which describes itself as “a Hindu organization which illustrates the distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva”, as the Hindu nationalist movement in India is known.
“The rise of the HAF and other organizations linked to Hindutva has emboldened Hindu supremacist organizations in India, while suppressing moderate Hindu voices here in the United States,” Rajagopal said.
The coalition of US-based advocacy groups and activists called on the Office of the Inspector General, which investigates fraud, waste and abuse of SBA programs, to “take notice of the exhibition published by Al Jazeera and to initiate a formal investigation into the case ”.
“Government watch groups as well as human rights organizations must seriously consider the embezzlement of COVID funding by Hindu supremacist groups in the United States,” said John Prabhudoss, president of the Federation of Indian Christian Organizations of America (FIACONA).
“Thorough investigation and corrective action is needed to ensure that hard-working American taxpayer dollars are not funneled into the sponsorship of hatred, persecution and the slow genocide of minorities and marginalized communities in India. “