Far-right Hindu groups in US have received Covid-19 relief funds

Five groups linked to Hindu nationalist organizations in India, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad America (VHPA), received $ 833,000 in direct payments and loans.

Five organizations linked to the Hindu right and religious groups received $ 833,000 in direct payments and loans as part of the US federal government’s Covid-19 relief funding, according to at Al Jazeera.

The amount was calculated using data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal agency responsible for administering several types of small business support programs.

To combat the economic fallout from the pandemic, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) law passed by Congress in April 2020 created two new SBA programs – Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans and economic disaster loans (EIDL). advance subsidy program.

SBA records show that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) raised more than $ 150,000 under the PPP and $ 21,430 under the EIDL program.

The VHPA is linked to activist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a branch of a large family of Hindu nationalist organizations known as the “ Sangh Parivar ” – the umbrella term for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose India’s current ruling government the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an electoral offshoot.

Although it claims to be legally separate groups, the Massachusetts-based VHPA, which was established in 1970 and now has 23 chapters across the country, says it shares the “same values ​​and idealsLike the VHP.

The Texas-based Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, a non-profit organization involved in education and development in rural and tribal villages in India and Nepal, received $ 64,462 in PPP and $ 7,000 in payments direct.

Ekal schools have long been suspected of functioning as a indoctrination for tribal youth in the RSS fold thanks to a regime of Hindu supremacism and anti-minority prejudices.

The third group, the Infinity Foundation, received $ 51,872 in federal funds. Based in Princeton, New Jersey, the nonprofit focuses on research and higher education and has awarded more than 400 grants to promote Hindu nationalism in academic spaces.

Infinity founder Rajiv Malhotra is a well-known right-wing ideologue in diasporic Hindu nationalist circles and a figure that divides in academia.

RSS affiliate Sewa International has received a total of $ 150,621 in funds. The group is known to raise funds for social projects and disaster assistance, with a history of funds channeling to RSS groups and for building RSS schools.

Ramesh Bhutada, an Indo-American businessman who is the national vice president of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) – the American wing of RSS – is also the chairman of the board of Sewa International.

Washington DC-based advocacy group the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) received the largest amount of federal funds with $ 378,064 in PPP loans and $ 10,000 in EIDL.

HAF often functions as a spinning machine for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Capitol Hill, countering criticism of BJP government policies, more recently defending the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and repeal by New Delhi of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.

Of the five organizations, VHPA and Sewa International responded to allegations of their support for right-wing Hindu groups in India, stating that they would spend federal funds under the CARES Act to help their employees during the crisis and not on any activities in outside the United States.

Hindus for Human Rights co-founder Sunita Viswanath fears the funds will further amplify hate campaigns against Muslims and other minorities in India, which have suffered most of the BJP’s rule since 2014.

“All of these organizations are in favor of Hindu supremacist ideology. Their parent organizations continue to spread hatred in Hindu communities towards Muslims and Christians, ”she said. Al Jazeera.

“Any American nonprofit that perpetuates Islamophobia and other forms of hatred should not receive federal relief funds in any form.”

For decades, Sangh Parivar members have integrated into Indo-American communities, turning the American diaspora into a vocal base of support for the BJP.

In 2014, a report on Hindu Nationalism in the United States explored the financial links between the various affiliates of the RSS and their American counterparts who send them millions of dollars each year.

From 2001 to 2012, he found that Ekal Vidyalala donated $ 27 million to Hindu nationalist charities, VHPA sent $ 3.9 million and Sewa International $ 3.3 million over the same period, while the Infinity Foundation gave $ 1.9 million in academic grants.

Source: TRT World

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