Reporting bias

Source: http://www.letindiadevelop.org/

Why is it that in this country, when for decades Saudi Arabia has been funding madarsas which are openly preaching sedition and are often dens of terrorism, the Indian Press finds nothing to say? Why is it that when foreign Christian organisations are pouring billions of dollars to deviously convert innocent Harijans and tribals, teaching them to hate their own culture and country, the media here keep quiet? And why is it that when a few Hindu organisations collect funds for a harmless programme like Ekal Vidyalaya - which are doing a wonderful job for tribal children - they are attacked as fundamentalist by most Indian publications?

Particularly targeted nowadays by some US-based Christian and Muslim organisations, such as "The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate", is the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), a Maryland-based charity which has denied allegations that it is raising millions of dollars from non-resident Indians and American corporations and using the money to fund a "hate campaign" in India.

Yet, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand's Sabrang Communications, have demanded a probe by the US Congress into IDRF and also asked the IRS to blacklist it and withdraw its tax exemption status. Biju Mathews, the president of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America, a very little known group, has accused IDRF of:

1) Funnelling millions of dollars every year to be used by "violent, sectarian Hindu supremacist orgs."

2) That "the IDRF has funded numerous relief efforts in response to natural disasters, communal violence, and other social crises. However, the distributive mechanisms utilised by the IDRF have consistently discriminated against Muslims and other minorities in India."

3) That "The IDRF's relief efforts are frequently divisive and have supported the further communalisation of Indian society."

4) That "In recent times, the organisation has raised funds for Bangladeshi Hindu victims of communal violence, Kashmiri Hindu victims of terrorism, and relief efforts following the September 11 attacks in the US." But that "In contrast, to date, IDRF has not announced any relief for the victims of communal riots in Gujarat in February and March 2002." The report goes on to say that the IDRF uses a network of professional Indian migrants who work among the large US corporations in the Silicon Valley, such as Cisco, Sun, Oracle or Hewlett-Packard. "The swayamsevaks (volunteers) within US corporations, says the 91-page report, push IDRF as the best and the only way to provide funding for development and relief work in India, thus causing not only other unsuspecting employees, but also the corporation itself to fund the Sangh in India".

"IDRF dismissed the allegations made by the groups as pure concoction, untruthful and self contradicting," the charity said in a statement last Friday. The report by Biju Mathew "is merely a string of allegations, manipulated skillfully by piecing together information available on the IDRF web site". The statement by IDRF continues: "The allegations do not stand up to any rational scrutiny. Donors to IDRF are among most well-informed of the donors to any South Asian nonprofit charitable organisations operating in the US. IDRF questions the credibility, motives and the political agenda of these splintered and virtually unknown groups that have launched the Hate Campaign against IDRF. IDRF does not subscribe to any religious, political or sectarian agendas. Further, IDRF does not discriminate against any religion, sect or race in either the collection or distribution of funds."

But the damage has been done: Sun Microsystems stated that all current donations to the IDRF have been placed on hold pending a directive from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It, however, added: "Any non-profit and non-proprietary organisation that has been granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt and public charity status is eligible to receive matching gifts from Sun Microsystems." The IDRF, it observed, does not appear on the IRS list of agencies known to support terrorist activities. Similarly, a Cisco spokesperson said the company had terminated all matching donations to the IDRF.

This has infuriated many Cisco employees, such as Shyam Palleti, who wrote that "there is a malicious campaign against work done by some Indians for the benefit of Indian causes. All the money collected in Cisco went to right causes, like the Orissa cyclone of 1999, and was accounted and reported to IRS". Another NRI, Mr Ranganathan, says "that IDRF seems to be gathering more money than others, because people are aware of the good work done by IDRF and so money is sure to go into right causes and not because people are duped". Adds Palleti: "The word 'duped' is insulting to employees who build innovative networking products and because of whom we can communicate with ease. I don't think the articles published in the Indian Press cause anybody to reduce their help to IDRF, but only incense them to think that their own media is not India-friendly".

I personally met last August in Washington, the chief executives of IDRF, Vinod and Sarala Prakash, two old, harmless, friendly persons, who would not harm a fly. How is it possible that when Muslim terrorists wreak havoc all the over India, kill innocent people, as they just did in the Jammu temples, the Press only mentions these as news items, without condemning them, but that it targets harmless people such as the Prakash, who have never hurt anybody in their lives?

Is it not time we called a spade a spade? The spectre of a "dangerous" RSS, for example, is a creation of the British who had understood, as the Muslims invaders did before them, that the Hindus were the greatest hurdle to their grip on India. So their own Press started attacking anything Hindu, or any group which was trying to protect Hindu culture or leader, such as the Hindu Mahasabha. It is also time for Hindus of this country to face the truth: We are looking at the Gujarat riots only through the prism of what the Western press and the English-speaking Indian media have said - mad "fundamentalist" Hindus, going after peace-loving Muslims.

However, reality might be different: Are not tolerant, God fearing, peace-loving Hindus fed up of being maligned, made fun of, slandered, attacked, killed, their women raped, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades, by a religion which for centuries has made violence and hatred a way of life? Could it be that Gujarat is giving a warning to the Muslims of India that Hindus have "had enough", and that they are not ready to put up any more with their own women and children being burnt like animals? The Indian media would do well to take notice of this new popular mood of the majority community and try to understand their feelings, instead of accusing them of being "fanatics". They should also be careful not to give so much space to small hate groups such as The Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of Northern America.

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