Sunday, March 20, 2011

Organized Religion and Organized Crime

Organized Religion is like Organized Crime; it preys on peoples’ weakness, generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate — Mike Hermann
Earlier this month, CNN-IBN came out with spectacular exposes on money laundering by Hindu godmen. The culprits included Ram Vilas Vedanti (or more respectfully, Vedanti Maharaj), Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri and Kapil Advait (alias Pilot Baba)
  • Vedanti is a former chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, a former BJP MP, and a star campaigner for the BJP in the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh (where it suffered a humiliating defeat).
  • Surya Nambudiri (also spelled Namboodiri) is apparently famous for making prophecies — what’s a godman without the power to prophecy — and after a tough bargain, agrees to turn 100 million of black money into white money for a 15% commission. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t foretell his own future.
  • Kapil Advait is a former wing commander-turned-godman, engaged in money laundering for commissions ranging from 20% to 50%.
As expected, the Sangh Parivar jumped to the godmen’s defense. The BJP spokesperson said:
The names that your channel has discussed are all respectable people. I am not sure how authentic this sting operation is.
And the VHP Vice-President Giriraj Kishore said:
What is the purpose behind a sting operation? And why are Hindus always maligned?
Confused? Here’s the train of thought: VHP (and the Sangh Parivar) represents all Hindus, the exposed godmen are sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar, so an expose of their fraudulent activities is equivalent to maligning all Hindus. Besides, as Swami Nirliptananda, Secretary of the London Sevashram Sangha and a member of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Spiritual Body Commission, recently observed:
Even among human beings, saintly people occupy a different status from others.
According to former income tax commissioner Vishwabandhu Gupta:
[This is] a fit case for criminal proceedings. Two of the biggest religion mafias are the Ram Janmanbhoomi Nyas and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad amongst the Hindus. They have 10 bogus trusts floated from the same address. The names are there (in our record) and so are the addresses. They are getting money from 50 countries abroad and are also getting tax exemptions. There are no accounts as well. You see, this is a big menace. We have calculated and found that religious leaders annually earn $3 billion which is about Rs 10,000 crore -Rs 15,000 crore worth of money. What they do is they get land at throwaway prices. During the last government, 11 including that Sadhvi Ritambhara – whatever her qualifications are – got a fantastic (sic) piece of land at a throwaway price for the services that she heads today. There have fraudulent names, addresses, existences and expenditures. They use it for spreading communal hatred. Money has been used by Bajrang Dal cadres in Gujarat to purchase Motorola, we have got receipts for that.
For instance, the RSS does not have FCRA clearance and cannot directly accept foreign donations, so has created service wings like the Sewa International and Sewa Bharati which have FCRA clearance. The RSS’s fundraising fronts abroad — IDRF, SewaUSA, VHP of America, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Sewa International UK, Hindu Forum of Britain etc. — divert funds to the RSS through Sewa Bharati and Sewa International. Given the Sangh Parivar’s access to state power and propensity to violence, its brand of fundamentalism poses the biggest danger to a pluralistic India, but the role of Christian fundamentalist groups like World Vision (which apparently disbursed 95 crores in India last year) cannot be glossed over either.

Searching for a South African connection

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Dewani defence rolls out artillery...


ABOVE: Shrien Dewani is being investigated over links to a second killing
12th December 2010

By Jonathan Corke

HONEYMOON murder suspect Shrien Dewani is being investigated over links to a second killing.

Police in South Africa probing wife Anni’s death are looking at a possible connection between Dewani and the murder of a doctor in the country.

It follows claims from the taxi driver in Anni’s case that Dewani had confessed to arranging another murder in a fake hijacking in South Africa.

Dr Pox Raghavjee, 60, was shot dead in the Eastern Cape in November 2007 on his way to work.

Reports in South Africa claimed the doctor’s widow Heather drove to Cape Town to comfort Dewani after Anni was killed last month.

National Commissioner General Bheki Cele said yesterday that a link was being investigated.

Dewani’s spokesman Max Clifford, 67, said the link was “ridiculous”.

He added: “Heather Raghavjee flew from King William’s Town in South Africa to Cape Town to try to comfort the family at the request of her daughter-in-law Alvita, who lives in the Bristol area and knew the Dewani family.

“She had never met Shrien before in her life. But she experienced what he experienced when her husband, Dr Pox Raghavjee, was shot dead in a car-jacking three years earlier.”
Meanwhile, we can reveal that funds being raised in Anni’s name by Dewani’s family are going to a group linked with extremist violence.

Following a plea by his relatives, well-wishers have donated more than £9,000 in memory of Anni through a JustGiving fund-raising page.

On the face of it, the cash is going to a Hindu welfare centre called the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) in Maharashta, west India.

But we can reveal the organisation behind the centre has been mired in claims of paramilitary violence against other religions in India.

One report into extremism in the country said: “Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram…has been responsible for considerable violence and hatred against Christian and Muslim groups, including during the Gujarat carnage in 2002.”

A website for the centre has links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) group, which has been accused of organising anti-Christian riots and branded a terror outfit. Last night no one from VKA or RSS was available to comment.

Care homes boss Dewani, 30, who is suspected by police of conspiring to have wife Anni, 28, murdered during a fake hijacking of their taxi, was once general secretary of the National Hindu Students Forum UK.
In 2004 he denied claims the organisation was radical.

He said: “We are not extreme and refute any allegations – direct or indirect – that infer that we are.”

Yesterday the police said they were continuing the process of trying to get Dewani extradited to South Africa.

On Friday he was granted bail, having spent two nights in a London jail. But he must wear a tag and live at his parents’ house after paying a £250,000 surety.