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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Founder of NGO that violates FCRA rules awarded by the Council of Europe

Recently the media was abuzz with the news of a Tamil “activist” getting international recognition. Politicians including Rahul Gandhi and Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin had congratulated the activist through social media. Kathir aka Vincent Raj Arokyasamy is that activist and he was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Prize by the European Council.

It would be a matter of pride for a Bharatiya to receive international recognition such as this. But even the Nobel is awarded to those with an anti-Bharat agenda and the Raoul Wallenberg Prize appears to be no different. The Raoul Wallenberg Prize is given in the memory of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who purportedly used his status to save tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. It was established in 2012 by the collective efforts of the Swedish and Hungarian governments and the Council of Europe.

It entails a prize amount of €10,000 euros and is awarded to those who have made “extraordinary humanitarian achievements”. Vincent Raj has been awarded this prize for “risking his life to help the untouchables”. He has supposedly “rescued” 25,000 victims from 3000 various incidents and as a result living apart from his family as it “threatens their safety”.

Vincent Raj is always addressed as Evidence Kathir in the media, by the name of the NGO he runs. Even while reporting about him receiving the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Prize he was addressed as Kathir the founder of Evidence, except for a few which used his real name. Curiously for a name having so much recognition, Evidence isn’t a registered organisation or trust. The website of Evidence says that it is a program unit of the Media Institute for National Development (MIND) Trust.

MIND is a trust registered under the Indian Trusts Act in Tamil Nadu in 2006. It is also an FCRA registered entity that receives funds from organisations like Action Aid, Norwegian Human Rights Fund, Swallows (Sweden) and some Catholic organisations. NGO Darpan portal gives Vincent Raj’s name as one of the trustees. It also says that the trust was formally registered on 25-10-2006 and obtained FCRA license in 2011.

While MIND is the organisation that receives funds from foreign donors for Vincent Raj’s “humanitarian achievements”, it’s name never figures anywhere except while describing Evidence as a program unit of the trust. Even the Council of Europe mentioned Evidence alone in its press release about the reward. Evidence is not even a registered entity. Apart from the curious hiding of the NGO’s original name, this amounts to violation of FCRA rules.

Recently, another Madurai based NGO, Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC) was booked by CBI for violating the rules of FCRA Act. CPSC’s founder Henry Tiphagne, another human rights activist and the mentor of Evidence Vincent Raj, also runs a parallel NGO People’s Watch. While CPSC obtained FCRA license and received foreign funds, it was People’s Watch that utilised it. Moreover it was People’s Watch that communicated with the donors about requirements for funds and how they were spent.

While People’s Watch claims to be only a program unit of CPSC, much similar to how Evidence claims to be a program unit of MIND, it is People’s Watch which really “works”. Except for its name on the FCRA license and Trust registry, CPSC’s name isn’t found anywhere else. People’s Watch came under the radar of the Ministry of Home Affairs when it was involved in the anti-Kudankulam protests. MHA had initiated an investigation into the operations of CPSC and People’s Watch and found anomalies.

The inspections done by MHA officials found that, contrary to the reasons mentioned in FCRA returns for which foreign funds were received, it was used for political events. MHA officials also found out that the funds were spent on things totally irrelevant to “human rights” such as buying wedding gifts. People’s Watch and Henry Tiphagne were also involved in whipping up sentiments against the Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi which led to violence and the death of 8 innocent people.

MHA found that People’s Watch functioned like a separate entity and all the bills were in the name of People’s Watch instead of the registered FCRA entity CPSC. Owing to these violations of multiple sections of the FCRA Act and the Indian Trusts Act, MHA’s FCRA wing filed a complaint with the CBI. Similar violations could be found if the accounts and premises of Evidence and MIND are inspected. while the Evidence website claims that it was formed in

The fact that even the Council of Europe uses the name Evidence instead of MIND shows that like People’s Watch, Evidence, the “program unit” also directly deals with foreign communication and is functioning like a FCRA registered entity. MHA had recently rejected the FCRA license renewal application of around 6000 NGOs for violation of FCRA rules. In its 2020-21 annual report, MIND has replied “No” to the question “any foreign contribution was transferred to any Non FCRA registered association?”. If Evidence utilises the foreign contributions of MIND that also would be a violation.

Foreign donors of MIND, sorry CPSC, should be made aware of these facts. The Raoul Wallenberg Prize is given in the memory of a person who saved Jews from Holocaust. But Vincent Raj who received it follows an ideology that seeks to drive out and cull a specific section of the society. It comes as a surprise that a follower of Periyar aka EV Ramasamy who said “if you see a snake and a Brahmin, kill the Brahmin first” has been rewarded in the name of someone who saved Jews from Nazis. The Dravidian ideology espoused by Periyar not only abuses Brahmins, but draws parallel between them and Jews and actively promotes anti-semitism till today.

Periyarists often use the illustrations used by Nazis to demonise Jews and the above are a few examples. Vincent Raj’s genuineness as a human rights activist came to be questioned when he stood in support of an “untouchability wall”. Parayar, one of the SC communities in Santhaiyur village in Madurai had constructed a wall around the temple built on government land. It denied access to the other side of the village which was used by Arunthathiyar, the other SC community in the village. They were also allegedly denied entry inside the temple.

When VCK, an ally of DMK, and Evidence which claim to work for Dalit upliftment went to resolve the issue, they are said to have acted unfairly. Vincent Raj dismissed it as a political issue. The Arunthathiyar community leaders lamented that they were called “low caste beef eaters” and Parayars threatened to kidnap their womenfolk if they dared to cross the “untouchability wall”. In a VCK meeting Vincent Raj was heard mocking the Arunthathiyar community and their leaders.

VCK chief Thirumavalavan and Vincent Raj belong to the Parayar community which built the “untouchability wall”. Arunthathiyars accused both of acting in support of their own community despite claiming to work for “changing the lives of untouchables”. It should be noted that Vincent Raj was rewarded with the Raoul Wallenberg Prize for “his courageous actions for the so-called untouchables”. But the above mentioned details make one wonder whether he is working for the upliftment of his own caste and religion.

While he accuses “Hindu Brahminical order” of treating people as “untouchables”, he himself suppresses a community he claims to work for. It is to be noted that he asks for money from his foreign donors in the name of working for “Dalits”. But Dalits themselves accuse him of being a casteist. Similar to how the role of People’s Watch was investigated by the MHA and resulted in revealing the truth about CPSC, the functioning of Evidence and MIND should also be investigated by the FCRA wing.

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