Hindutva Influence Peddling, Mobilizing and Fundraising Infrastructure in the U.S.

The fascist onslaught continues

By Aslam Abdullah

July/August 2022

During May, the South Asia Citizens Web (sacw.net) published its 93-page “A Report on the Infrastructure of Hindutva Influence Peddling, Mobilizing and Fund Raising in the US, 2014-2021.” It makes for rather interesting reading as regards BJP-ruled India’s plans against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits. 

This well-documented and well-researched report exposes the violent nature of Hindu fascist groups in the U.S. who have infiltrated various civil society sectors to promote the agenda of India-based Hindu terrorist groups.

This report continues an earlier account launched in 2014, exposing the Hindu fascists’ strong ties to White nationalists and Nazi bigots. 

The ongoing violence against minorities, termed by leading human rights organizations and experts as the final stage before committing a full-scale genocide, includes the following:

❖ Lynching and criminalizing minorities (especially Muslims, Dalits and Christians).

❖ Work, education and housing discrimination against religious and caste minorities.

❖ Police brutality against Muslims and caste-oppressed communities. 

❖ Religion and caste-based segregation and targeting of interfaith families.

❖ Attacking, destroying and shutting down non-Hindu places of worship.

❖ Targeting movement leaders, journalists and watchdog groups. 

❖ rUndermining the judiciary’s independence.

❖ Assassinating high-profile critics of Hindu nationalism. 

❖ Changing citizenship laws to target certain minorities, especially Muslims.

❖ Building “foreigner” [read minorities] detention camps.

❖ Chilling the freedoms of speech and press (India ranked 142 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index; https://rsf.org).

❖ Using forms of ethnic cleansing (Assam) and genocide (Muslim-majority Kashmir). 

Hindutva’s fascist infrastructure, the Sangh Parivar (Sangh family, or the Sangh), operates a vast social ecosystem throughout India. Fascists have become mainstreamed by winning elections and control of federal and state governments. 

They have consolidated power by waging hate campaigns against minorities and critics, cultivating their mythologized history-based information ecosystem.

Hindu fascists abroad fund and support such groups in India through family and youth programs, cultural events, temple-related conferences, charitable funders for education and health projects and political pressure groups that provide socio-political support to Hindutva. 

The report uses data mining of tax records and government filings, public statements, websites, news reporting and maps portions of this ecosystem in the U.S. It presents evidence of selected U.S. groups and individuals’ Sangh affiliation, funding flows among different groups and possible strategies and areas of influence in this country’s social, educational and political institutions from 2014 to 2021, including Hindu nationalist efforts to:

  1. Caste Sangh groups as cultural gatekeepers and representatives of Hindus, fund Sangh groups in India and insert support for Hindutva histories into American academic institutions and textbooks.
  2. Shift Washington’s domestic and foreign policy toward South Asia and finance Sangh-friendly politicians.
  3. Target their critics.

It also highlights some administrative and financial irregularities in certain Sangh-affiliated groups’ paperwork, which points toward enabling further investigations to reveal any misconduct and to better understand how such groups function. 

Findings of the Report

1. Reportedly 222 Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) chapters, the U.S. counterpart of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), exist across 32 states and 166 cities. Operating weekly, they have an estimated 8,880 participants in their youth and family programming, according to tax records and HSS’s 2019-20 annual report. Its work in 2019-20 involved 426 other organizations and impacted more than 45,000 families in 198 cities. 

2. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America reportedly operates 21 chapters in 14 states. Its cultural projects often use different names, such as the Swami Vivekananda Family Camp or te Hindu Mandir Executives Conference (HMEC). 

3. Between 2001-19, according to available tax returns, seven Sangh-affiliated charitable groups reportedly spent at least $158.9 million on their programming, sending much of it to groups in India. The groups studied in this report are the All India Movement (AIM) for Seva, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of America (EVFA), the India Development and Relief Fund, Param Shakti Peeth, the PYP Yog Foundation, VHPA and Sewa International. 

4. Local Indian journalism has connected EVFA’s program in India to BJP’s electoral victories. Its work appears to be linked to a larger pattern of the U.S.-based Hindutva’s leader Ramesh Shah’s pro-BJP electioneering activities. 

5. The Dharma Civilization Foundation website and news media reported the foundation had offered over $13 million between 2012-16 to establish academic programs or chairs at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), the University of California at Irvine and the University of Southern California — UC Irvine refused the offered funds. 

According to tax records and its annual reports, the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies spent at least $561,000 in the U.S. between 2010-16 to influence public school textbooks, establish university endowments, undertake teacher training programs, distribute research grants, develop educational materials and fund the VHPA’s Hindu University of America saffronizing (bringing institutions or social sector closer to Hindu nationalism) South Asian history. 

6. Tax records and annual reports indicate that the HSS-affiliated UFRS reportedly gave the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) at least $142,000 from 2012-16, partly to influence the content of California textbooks.

7. The U.S.-based Sangh appears to benefit from online abuse and hate campaigns; work-based harassment, where public smear campaigns and petitions target a faculty member’s institution; as well as civil lawsuits and subpoenas that pressure education officials and disincentivize scholars’ participation in public processes relevant to their areas of expertise, such as public-school textbook revisions. 

8. The groups’ websites and government filings indicate that the Sangh’s efforts to platform and amplify Hindutva priorities in American domestic and foreign policy appear to include briefings and meetings held by groups like HAF and the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS); campaign financing through the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC, headed by HAF leaders) and individual Sangh-affiliated donors; and through direct Indian government lobbying. 

9. Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, from 2012-20, show that HAPAC reportedly spent more than $172,000 toward influencing U.S. elections. 

10. FEC filings between 2015-20 show that Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) reportedly received $117,000+ from HAPAC and Sangh-affiliated individuals. Between 2014-19, (former) Representative and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) received at least $110,000 and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) received over $27,000. Between 2018-20, Congressional candidate Srinivas Rao Preston Kulkarni received over $95,000. 

11. News reports show that Sangh-affiliated groups and individuals’ efforts to impact American policies reportedly included protesting the State Department’s visa denial to Narendra Modi, insertion of Hindu nationalist histories into public school textbooks and the assertion that state violence against Kashmiris is an “internal matter.” 

12. Department of Justice filings between 2017-20 show that the BJP-led Indian government reportedly paid lobbying groups, on average, between approximately $15,000 to about $58,000 per month each to forward India’s interests on matters connected to American policy and academic institutions. 

13. Tax filings show that the Bhutada Family Foundation reportedly gave over $1.7 million to Sangh-affiliated charities during 2006-18. The Puran Devi Aggarwal Family Foundation allegedly gave $272,000+ to Sangh-affiliated charities from 2008-18. Also, the major donors connected to the Dharma Civilization Foundation reportedly include Mira and Ajay Shingal, Irma and Ushakant Thakkar, Drs. Harvinder and Asha Sahota and Drs. Meera and Jasvant Modi. 

14. In April 2021, Al Jazeera reported that five U.S.-based Hindu nationalist groups — Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, HAF, Infinity Foundation, Sewa International and VHPA — received approximately $833,000 from federal Covid-19-related funds. The HAF sued several civil society groups in connection with the article in May 2021. 

15. News reports indicate that individuals with Sangh affiliations or who have attended Sangh events and thereby conferred legitimacy on them were/are within or close to the Biden-Harris campaign/administration. Among them were/are Amit Jani, Sonal Shah, Kulkarni and Vivek Murthy. 

16. The evidence of possible financial irregularities was noted via government filings and websites, including possible electioneering work by Global Indians for Bharat Vikas, a series of land and money transfers between Vivek Welfare and Education Foundation and other groups, along with some multimillion dollar loans from nonprofits like the India Development and Relief Fund and Bhutada Family Foundation to other entities. HAF also seems to provide material aid to the Pakistan Hindu Refugee Relief Program (PHRRP), a VHP-affiliated channel of funds to India whose website states it is not a tax-exempt organization. The report is evidence for further investigation. 

17. In January 2022, The Wire (https://thewire.in/) began publishing findings from its two-year investigation into the app Tek Fog, which appears to have links to BJP and Persistent Systems, a company with U.S. offices. The app was reportedly used in support of BJP’s efforts to erode democratic participation in India by manipulating the available information ecosystem by injecting partisan posts into trending online topics; enabling the automated online abuse of BJP’s critics and invading private citizens’ WhatsApp accounts to influence their contacts. 

The report has identified Sangh Parivar’s institutions, leadership, strategies, funding flows, apparatuses and targets of influence, as well as their effects in the U.S. and India. However, it remains a preliminary report. More research is needed, and steps are needed to strengthen and build progressive groups that can challenge the Hindu fascists threatening world peace.

Condensed by Aslam Abdullah, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of Muslim Media Network Inc., publisher of the Muslim Observer, and a resident scholar at Islamicity.org.

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