Sewa International

Sewa International is the foreign service wing of RSS’s Sewa Bharati India. In 2006, during the Bhopal floods that killed 22 people and inundated the whole city, Sewa Bharti was accused of distributing relief material to Hindus only, while neglecting the Muslim localities. Two years earlier in January 2004, Sewa Bharti along with VHP and BJP members were accused of leading mob attacks on Christians, their churches, and homes in Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh.

Not only this. In 2003, then Chief Minister Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh was considering imposing a ban on the state wing of Sewa Bharti for its alleged role in making bombs.  “This has been admitted in the statement given to the police by an activist of the organization, who had been arrested in Mhow,” Singh told the reporters.

Sewa touts itself as a service organization and has a presence in many countries including its branch in the US. Texas-based RSS member, Ramesh Bhutada who is also the national Vice President of HSS is current Director and Chairman of Sewa International.  Bhutada has organized campaigns for Modi from abroad and pushed RSS-linked candidates for the U.S. Congress, hoping to spread the ideals of Hindutva philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic.

In fact, in the older RSS literature, Sewa International’s address was the same as the RSS headquarters in India’s capital city of New Delhi. Sewa International USA is the major donor for various RSS affiliates in India and runs projects in coordination with RSS affiliates like Sewa Bharati, Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Youth For Seva, Hyderabad, Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, among others, according to the annual reports published by Sewa over the last 10 years. Sewa has reportedly worked to spread Hindu nationalist ideology throughout the country and beyond. According to a detailed 2002 report from the Indian activist organizations Sabrang Communications and South Asia Citizens Web, Seva Bharti’s and Sewa International’s relief efforts in the aftermath of the 2001 earthquake in the state of Gujarat became a kind of domestic missionary initiative. In the devastated areas, they were sent to, Sewa volunteers made a concerted effort to convert Christians, Muslims, and other minorities to Hinduism; prioritized aid for higher-caste Hindus instead of equally attending to Indians of all religions and castes; blocked assistance from other humanitarian organizations; constructed new Hindu temples; and imposed lavish Hindu ceremonies upon the populace.

A 2002 investigation by the U.K.’s Channel 4 tracked money raised from British donors by Sewa International for earthquake relief and found that they went toward Hindu nationalist organizations and projects in India, without properly disclosing how the funds were being used. These findings were bolstered in a 2004 report by the U.K.-based, South Asia–focused human rights group Awaaz, which detailed how internationally raised relief funds went to groups including the RSS that directly incited communal violence in 2002 during the Gujarat riots, which saw months of attacks on Muslims by Hindu extremists.

“I very much regret ever having been part of this racist organization. … Sewa International is a front for militant Hindu organizations,” Lord Adam Patel, a labor party member in UK and once a Sewa patron wrote in 2002 after knowing about its links with RSS

This wasn’t the worst of it. In 2016, journalist Neha Dixit published a lengthy investigation in India’s Outlook magazine revealing that Seva Bharati and its subsidiaries trafficked dozens of young tribal girls from various states in order to “Hinduize” them throughout 2015. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sewa International’s India relief operations were led by many RSS members including Indresh Kumar. After a series of blasts targeting Indian Muslim locations in the mid-2000s, Kumar’s name was figured in the diary of a key accused. Another key accused claimed he had prior knowledge of a blast, and yet another accused — Swami Aseemanand, a full-time RSS worker confessed that Kumar gave their blessings to his plans for staging the blasts.

A 2011 Ohio State University report traced how several regions of India where Sewa offered service subsequently increased their overall support for India’s ruling Hindu rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party.