For nearly two decades, seven US-based groups, affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, have spent over $158 million (Rs 1,227 crore) on various projects, including sending money to India, said a report.
The report by the South Asia Citizen Web maintained that Sangh Parivar-affiliated groups in the US play a critical role in funding its cultural-nationalism war, political strategies, hate campaigns against minorities and critics, mythologised history-based information ecosystem.
The 93-page report has compiled the financial spending of Hindutva civil society groups, tracking their expenditure not only on sending money to affiliates in India but also to influence legislation in the context of textbooks and academic output related to religion and history, and amplify foreign policy priorities of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government led by Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Using tax records, government filings, public statements, websites and news reporting, the report shows the Hindu nationalist ecosystem in the US, and evidence of the Sangh’s affiliation with selected groups and individuals, funding flows between different groups, and possible strategies and areas of influence in American social, educational, and political institutions from 2014 to 2021.
In total, the report names and traces the activities of 24 US Hindu nationalist organisations that have assets totalling nearly $100 million, as per the latest public records.
“Between 2001-2019, 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,” said the report in one of its key findings.
The calculations were based on the tax returns of the seven groups identified as All India Movement (AIM) for Seva, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of America, India Development and Relief Fund, Param Shakti Peeth, PYP Yog Foundation, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and Sewa International.
Out of the expenditure of $158.9 million recorded since 2001, around 53% – $85.4 million – was spent in five years between 2014 and 2019, the report stated.
For example, three of the Dharma Civilization Foundation (DCF)’s trustees had been top office-bearers of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), which is considered as the US counterpart of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Between 2012 and 2016, DCF offered at least $13 million to three different educational institutions. According to the report, one of the signatories of the 2015 letter to California’s department of education protesting the inclusion of the word ‘Dalit’ in the curriculum was hired twice by two institutions, USC’s School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union, after they received grants from DCF in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
However, a third grant, worth around $6 million, offered by DCF to the University of California at Irvine in 2016 was refused approximately “after faculty and students raised questions about the group’s suspected ties to Hindu nationalists in India”.
Besides, the report also analyses the political campaign financing of the lobby groups. The Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC) had spent more than $172,000 in various US elections between 2012 and 2020, based on government filings.
US congress member Raja Krishnamoorthi received more than$117,000 from HAPAC and Sangh affiliated individuals, as per the SACW report, between 2015 and 2020.
The report said that Krishnamoorthi has an “apparent pattern of contributing to the mainstreaming and legitimization of Hindu nationalist interests in the US includes”, listing his 2017 letter to the California state education board to include “Hindu nationalist content” in the curriculum, among others. At the 2019 Howdy Modi event in Houston attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then US President Donald Trump, he was the only Indian-American lawmaker to turn up for the rally.
Further, former congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard received $110,000 in five years between 2014 and 2019. During the same period, Democrat congress member from California Brad Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, got $27,000.
According to tax records and its annual reports, “the Uberoi Foundation spent, at least, $561,000 in the US between 2010-2016 toward influencing public school textbooks, establishing university endowments, undertaking teacher training programmes, distributing research grants, developing educational materials and funding the VHPA’s Hindu University of America toward saffronising South Asian history”.
The HSS-affiliated Uberoi Foundation reportedly gave the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), at least, $142,000, partly to influence the content of California textbooks from 2012-2016, per tax records and annual reports, the report shows.
The SACW report also claimed that there was “evidence of possible financial irregularities”, as scrutinising government filings and websites had shown a chain of land and money transfers between various Trusts and non-profit groups. It added that these instances require further investigation.
According to Department of Justice filings, the report states that between 2017 and 2020, the Modi government reportedly paid lobbying groups, on average, between approximately $15,000 per month to about $58,000 per month each to forward India’s interests on matters connected to US policy and academic institutions.
The hope that the Joe Biden administration will be able to join other democratic countries and coalitions to “urge India to change its trajectory away from authoritarianism and normalised atrocities appears to be fading”, the report said.
The report asks whether US government bodies will monitor relevant Sangh groups on US soil, will they vet their political appointees with connections to the Sangh, and how will US universities and state boards of education equip themselves to protect faculty and educators and stand up to Hindu nationalist funding and pressures in the areas of Indian and South Asian history and “Dharmic” or “Vedic” studies?
“Challenging the Sangh Parivar’s influence work requires identifying its institutions, leadership, strategies, funding flows, apparatuses and targets of influence and their effects,” the report states.