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5 Hindutva groups in US got 833,000 dollars of federal COVID fund

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Photograph Source: “The Idea of India Newsletter: How Biology Is Driving Hindu Nationalism” (Betwa Sharma, The Huffington Post India, 1/9/2019) / Nurphoto via Getty Images

“Ab ki baar, Trump sarkar!”

Five organisations in US which has ties to Hindutva supremacist and religious groups have received COVID-19 relief funding amounting to $833,000, according to data released by the United States' Small Business Administration (SBA), reports Al Jazeera.

SBA is a federal agency that helps small business owners and entrepreneurs. SBA gave the funds as part of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act's Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDLA), Disaster Assistance Loan (DAL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

All three programmes aimed to provide economic relief to distressed businesses and keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis in the worst-hit nation in the world.

According to the report, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, Infinity Foundation, Hindu American Foundation,Sewa International are the five organisations in question which received COVID-19 relief fund.

Massachusetts-based Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) received more than $150,000 under PPP and a further $21,430 under EIDLA and DAL programmes while Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, an organisation affiliated with the RSS, obtained direct payment of $7,000 and a loan of $64,462 under PPP.

Infinity Foundation, another Hindutva organisation with ties to the RSS, received $51,872 in US federal funds in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic according to SBA data. Infinity Foundation's founder Rajiv Malhotra, a right-wing author, is often referred to as the "Ayn Rand of Internet Hindutva"

Malhotra, 70, has been accused of targeting academics and scholars critical of right-wing Hindutva groups and issuing divisive statements. The foundation gives grants to researchers and universities to promote the Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by the RSS in academic spaces.

Another organisation, Sewa International, which is an old RSS affiliate, received $150,621 in COVID-19 relief, says the report.

Of the five organisations, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a Washington-based advocacy group co-founded by former VHPA activist Mihir Meghani, received the lion's share of federal funds with $378,064 in PPP loans and another $10,000 in EIDLA.

When Al Jazeera reached out to the five organisations for their comments on receiving the US federal fund for COVID relief, the HAF and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation declined to comment, says the report.

While Infinity Foundation did not respond to repeated calls, emails and text messages, only VHPA and Sewa International responded to the allegations of supporting right-wing groups in India and how they plan to spend the pandemic funds they received from the US government.

VHPA president Ajay Shah reacted to Al Jazeera that they will spend them as mandated by the CARES Act and won't allocate money from the government funds to any activity outside the US.

When asked if his organisation financially supports groups affiliated to RSS, Shah said, "We comply with the government regulations and send money to several approved charitable organisations in India", says the report

Meanwhile, Sewa International's communication director, Vidyasagar Tontalapur, said the organisation plans to use the federal funds to keep its "workers employed during the COVID-19 crisis".

When asked about its RSS links, Tontalapur reacted to Al Jazeera they collaborate with all "registered non-profit organisations across the world".

The report says that the SBA declined to comment on individual borrowers. It, however, said the PPP is a delegated lending process where participating lenders act as an agent of the government to approve and disburse loans.

"The SBA does not have detail on PPP loan disbursements. That is a third-party transaction between lender and borrower," Shannon Giles, public affairs officer at SBA reacted to Al Jazeera in an emailed statement, concludes the report.

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TAGS:HindutvaCovid19 FundCOVID USA
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