Keep Away from the RSS: UK Charity Watchdog Warns HSS

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: September 3, 2016

RSS must have no influence or control over the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS)




Britain's Charity Commission yesterday asked a UK-based Hindu charity, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh(HSS)  to maintain its distance from the RSS as it was found in a sting operation that a speaker having formal links with the right-wing group (RSS) had made remarks against Muslims and Christians at a camp where young people attended. The report of the UK Charity Commissioner may be read here. The report was released yesterday.



The Charity Commission issued the warning as part of its inquiry report into the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS-UK) after an undercover television investigation showed a speaker making anti-Muslim and Christian remarks to some students during one of its camps.

The Charity Commission concluded there was "mismanagement" in the administration of the charity by failing to effectively monitor the speaker seen in the TV programme but said there was "insufficient evidence to show that the views of concern expressed by the speaker were endemic or systematic in the charity". However links to the RSS need to be eschewed.

"The inquiry found no evidence other than the comments made by the speaker of formal links with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). However, the inquiry has advised the trustees that they need to take proactive steps to ensure RSS has no control or influence over the charity and its affairs and that if links arise due to any personal links individuals may have, that these are separated from the charity and do not damage it or its reputation," said the report titled 'Inquiry Report: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK)'.

"The commission questioned the trustees on a number of matters on the relationship between the charity and RSS," the report said. "The trustees' response was that 'HSS neither funds nor is funded by RSS The two entities are completely separate and independent from one another and are accordingly not inter-dependent'," it said.

In a documentary by Hardcash Productions entitled 'Charities Behaving Badly' broadcast on Britain's ITV Network on February 18, a speaker at an HSS youth camp in Herefordshire is seen making controversial remarks against other religions when responding to questions.

It led to the Charity Commission opening a statutory inquiry to investigate comments made by the individual invited to speak at the charity event.

The inquiry, which concluded today, said there was mismanagement in the charity evidenced by "failures to follow the charity's own policy and guidelines, lack of adequate procedures on speakers participating at events, not ensuring that the appropriate number of adults were present in the classroom with the speaker during his presentations and lack of appropriate oversight and monitoring". 

"Charities that regularly host speakers must have proper safeguards in place to manage the associated risks of hosting events and/or guest speakers - even more so where those in attendance are particularly impressionable or vulnerable," said Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at Charity Commission to the media.
.

"This case is also a reminder about not only of how important it is that charities not only have adequate policies and procedures to safeguard young people but they are followed in practice," she added.

"Charity trustees are responsible for ensuring that those benefiting from, or working with, their charity are not harmed in any way through contact with it. They have a legal duty to act prudently and must take all reasonable steps within their power to ensure that this does not happen".

HSS said the report confirms that the charity was "not behaving badly" as alleged in the documentary.

"HSS UK takes the findings of the Charity Commission seriously and agrees that in relation to one incident we were found to be wanting in the implementation of some of our own policies. HSS UK sets itself the highest standards that we endeavour at all times to strive for but on this occasion our efforts fell short," it said in a statement.

"Most importantly the commission concluded after substantial investigation that there was no systemic or endemic views in the organisation as Hardcash Productions had attempted to portray by broadcasting only a few isolated statements of the speaker," it said.

The inquiry found no other evidence (other than one comment elicited by the undercover reporter from the speaker who is not a Trustee or formal representative of HSS UK) of any formal links and no financial, governance or influence with RSS.

HSS was founded in 1966 and became a registered charity in the UK in 1974. It claims to have a reach to over 10,000 Hindus in UK and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Background

The activities of the HSS and Sewa International had been earlier under investigation since 2000 when the UK’s Charity Commission launched an inquiry into the charity’s alleged links with proscribed organisations. The commission staff sought Indian visas last year to ascertain how the charitable funds collected for quake relief in Gujarat had been applied, but the officials were denied entry by the Indian government.

“The main aim of our inquiry has been to confirm that the charitable funds raised by HSS have been applied properly. In the course of the investigation, we have looked at the charity’s connection with the international organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was previously proscribed by the Indian government. We have received some documentary evidence. However, we are now waiting for further information from the trustees,” a spokesperson for the Charity Commission ha told the media.

The report claims that the funds were collected by the Leicester-based registered charity HSS, and its fund-raising arm Sewa International. The report states that the HSS and Sewa International are UK branches of the RSS and the main purpose of their fundraising is to channel money to RSS fronts in India “despite their claim to be non-sectarian, non-religious, non-political and purely humanitarian organisations.”