THE OXYMORON CALLED AID

Arvind Kumar
Among the Indian organizations in the US that further their political agenda despite calling themselves charity groups, the biggest, the richest, the most widespread, and the most dangerous is an organization that calls itself Association for India’s Development (AID). It is this group that has spread its tentacles far and wide, and has entangled itself with many anti-Indian forces, some of which are connected to Pakistan and to terrorist groups like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). AID’s façade started crumbling after the website http://www.aidindia.info made its appearance and started exposing it on the internet, a website that is startling for its content as well as the meticulous manner in which it has documented AID’s shenanigans.

1. Mode of operation
AID began in 1991 and has infested several American campuses since then. It recruits its members from the crop of new students who arrive from India every year. The modus operandi, according to those who initially fell for its claims, is to pick up newly-arrived students from the airport and help them settle down during the first week in the new country. Then, the AID volunteers talk of poverty in India and induce guilt in the minds of the students as though they are somehow responsible for eradicating poverty in India. Faced with the pressure to join AID, along with such guilt trips induced by AID volunteers (who helped them out in their first week in the country), the students end up volunteering for AID and contributing large sums of money.

AID does not inform these students about its political activities, or its connections to violent Communist and nefarious groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that has been linked to the jihadi outfit Hezbollah. By the time they discover this angle and, shell-shocked, leave AID, it is too late for them to get back their donations. That its members desert AID in large numbers on discovering the truth never matters much to AID because there are hundreds of new students arriving every year on whom the cycle can be repeated. AID brazenly continues to work with dubious groups.

2. AID: Allah for India’s Destruction. Is it connected to ISI?
Apart from CAIR, a few of the groups that AID associates itself with are Asha for Education (ASHA), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI, the youth wing of the Communist Party of India - Marxist), and Friends of South Asia (FOSA). Each of these organizations has dubious credentials and many of the volunteers of organizations like ASHA and FOSA are also volunteers for AID. In many cases, the same group of people is behind multiple organizations with pompous-sounding names, and uses them as money-generating schemes. Thus it comes as no surprise to know that Anu Mandavilli, a spokesperson for FOSA, is also an editor of AID’s monthly newsletter.

FOSA, an organization that AID closely works with, was started by a fanatic Muslim Pakistani named Ali Hasan Cemendtaur. The website of the organization is still owned and controlled by Cemendtaur. In May 2005, FOSA organized a so-called ‘peace march’ in San Francisco. It was attended by the same handful of volunteers who work for many of the organizations listed above, and one of the banners at the event read, ‘ALLAH WILL DESTROY THE TERRORIST STATE OF INDIA’. A photograph from the website of Pakistan American Alliance, reputedly run by rabid Muslim fundamentalists, shows that every banner at the event is an anti- India statement. Thus, FOSA fits in with the classic mould of the organizations created by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)

Recently, FOSA also roped in a group called the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA) to act against Indians in the California Textbook Controversy. In July 2003, The Times of India reported that FeTNA was a front organization for the terrorist group LTTE.1 In August 2006, Nachimuthu Socrates, a former director of FeTNA, was arrested by the American authorities for supporting LTTE. He was charged with plotting to buy surfaceto- air missiles and bribe US officials to get LTTE removed from the list of terrorist groups. According to CNN:

Eight men have been charged with plotting to buy surfaceto- air missiles for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, U.S. federal prosecutors have announced. The men also are accused of plotting to bribe U.S. State Department officials into removing the Tamil Tiger group from a list of terrorist organizations and of trying to obtain classified information.2

Another link that AID maintains is with Islamic fundamentalists in USA. It has co-sponsored events with CAIR, and works very closely with an Indian Muslim fundamentalist in USA named Kaleem Kawaja, who is the author of an article titled ‘Brother, can you spare a tear for Taliban’.

3. Project Red Terror – The AID Money Trail
It is not merely the list of allies of AID, but also the manner in which AID uses the money it collects that is a cause for concern. A careful look at the money trail of AID illustrates the functioning of the organization, and throws light on other organizations that are used to funnel money collected by AID. These organizations coordinate their fundraising activities and shadow their proceeds by passing money through multiple accounts all controlled by likeminded groups. One such organization that has been funded by AID is called Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF). TNSF—which actively works with DYFI—listed Balaji Sampath, who is also a founder of AID, as its primary contact.3 Thus, while Balaji Sampath’s AID collects money in America, Balaji Sampath receives money in India, ostensibly on behalf of TNSF!

One project that TNSF worked on involved libraries in Tamil Nadu. A document from TNSF revealed that it would ‘as a policy’ impose a pre-condition on the libraries that they support DYFI before receiving any funds. While this document disappeared from AID’s website, it surfaced on http://www.aidindia.info, a website that closely monitors AID and exposes its activities.

AID has also directly worked with DYFI. In early 2005, a document on AID’s website pointed out that they were working with DYFI and had sent funds to them. After this document resulted in a furor, AID surreptitiously removed the references to DYFI. However, http://www.aidindia.info has archived the original webpage.4

AID is very secretive about its accounts and, despite tall claims of being open about its funds, many pages that contain descriptions of its projects are off-limits to its donors and the general public. Attempts to look at the details of funds on the organization’s website lead to a message that says, ‘You are not authorized to read this page !’ However, from what is still available to the public on AID’s website, it is clear that the largest sums of money are for Communist organizations. A single ‘project’ sanctioned $33,000 to Balaji Sampath’s TNSF!5

AID has also contributed money for a political trip of Naxalite sympathizer and ASHA founder Sandeep Pandey. Sandeep Pandey, who openly supports Naxalites, went on a trip to Pakistan. To understand how groups like AID use the money collected from sincere donors, one just has to look at the budget for that trip.6

Budget for the India leg of the Peace March
Poster and Publicity Material (in 4 languages - Hindi, Punjabi,
Urdu and English) Rs.2,00,000
Fuel for 2 vehicles Rs.1,00,000
Travel (Indian leg of the march) Rs.2,50,000
T l phone/Fax/E-mail Rs.50,000
Inaugural Programme Rs.1,00,000
Material with yatra (microphone,solar light) Rs.30,000
Miscellaneous Rs.1,00,000
TOTAL Rs.8,30,000

In addition, two multi-utility vehicles and one laptop+printer, value not stated and asked for in kind.

4. The Self-Welfare Organization

Donating money to themselves in the guise of donating to charity groups is not the only way that donors’ money is misused by AID. AID’s honchos have appointed themselves Saathis and Jeevan Saathis, posts in AID that make them eligible to receive thousands of dollars every year for their personal expenses. Thus, sincere donors who believe that they are helping poor people in India make a terrible mistake, as money that is raised is used for the welfare of AID’s leaders.

AID’s leaders have not missed any opportunity to avail themselves of material gains. Aravinda Pillalamarri, wife of AID’s founder Ravi Kuchimanchi, has been declared an AID Jeevan Saathi making her eligible to receive hefty amounts of money from AID. Aravinda also flew at AID’s expense to the US and had her baby there. The baby is eligible for American citizenship and will get a lot of American taxpayer-funded benefits from the government. Recently, Ravi Kuchimanchi was involved in protesting the setting up of a Japanese car company in West Bengal. That AID’s position benefits China while harming common Indians has not gone unnoticed.

AID’s ability to use tragedies to collect money was illustrated during the tsunami of Dec. 2004 that devastated a number of families living on the coastline of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Many volunteers openly salivated at using the disaster to collect funds in the name of relief for those affected by the tsunami. Later that year, Biswanath Gouda, an important AID leader, echoed this greed when he wrote in an email:

Seems a wonderful year to be busy with community service and lot of opportunities to help people in need. We had an early start with Tsunami, then the rains in Mumbai and floods in AP, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which kept everyone in US busy and now the present earthquakes in Northern parts of India. How blessed are we to have hands filled with such great opportunities.

5. Lobbying for International Awards
Those who work with AID and its sister organizations also seem to be experts in getting prizes from international groups. One such group that has awarded its prize to several anti-Indian Communists in the recent past is the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation. It is well-known that many of those running various NGOs lobby for such prizes and it is impossible to be awarded such prizes without applying or lobbying for them.

A case that illustrates this point is a prize that was awarded by the Aga Khan Foundation to one Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, who claimed to have built rainwater harvesting structures with the help of nonliterates. However, after investigations by The Week revealed that he had hired a professional architect named Neehar Raina to do the job, the Aga Khan Foundation changed its citation and a shamefaced Roy ended up returning his prize. ‘Bunker’ Roy’s wife, Aruna Roy, is a Maoist and has worked with AID. Like many of those closely connected with AID, she too has been awarded a prize by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation.

6. Conclusion
Indulging in political activism in the garb of charity violates the laws in both USA and India. American laws explicitly forbid tax-exemptions on donations to Communist organizations.7 AID can be booked by the American authorities for siphoning money to Communist groups like TNSF while claiming tax-exempt status. Indian laws clearly forbid foreign funding of political activities. Thus, AID can be booked by Indian authorities for violating this law. Hobnobbing with fronts of terrorist groups also makes it dangerous for donors of AID. Those who are approached by AID for donations should be careful about getting into trouble with the law by donating to a group that misuses its funds.

Notes

  1. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
  2. http://www.cnn.com/
  3. http://www.aidprojects.org/
  4. http://www.geocities.com/
  5. http://www.aidprojects.org/
  6. http://www.geocities.com/
  7. Publication 526, Internal Revenue Service, http://www.irs.gov/