Raqib Hameed Naik, a journalist working freelance with Al Jazeera has received death threats for his explosive investigative report on the Covid-19 relief funds being received by “Hindu organisations based out of the United States”. This report was published on aljazeera.com on April 2, 2021 from the US. This seems to have put Raqib Ahmed in the crosshairs of the right-wing ecosystem which is extremely ‘sensitive’ to any criticism or questioning of their funds, organisations, and actions.
On May 13, alleged Raquib Naik, he “received a long message on Facebook with death threats from Hindu nationalist Rajesh Jhaveri”.
The Al Jazeera Media Network has now issued a statement strongly condemning the online harassment and death threats to Naik, who hails from Kashmir, and reports from both India and America, contributing regularly to Al Jazeera English online. Raqib’s recent reports, filed from the US, where he is currently based according to AJ, focuses on the alleged “misuse of US federal Covid-19 relief funds given to Hindu groups in the US”. He reported in detail on how five Hindutva organisations which received Federal Covid-19 relief funding, are linked to “Hindu supremacist and religious groups back in India.” According to AJ, the well known Hindu American Foundation (HAF), which was named in the report, has also filed a lawsuit in a Washington, DC, court. Naik has not been named as a direct defendant, but was added as a non-party, added AJ. According to the report, the “Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a Washington-based advocacy group co-founded by former VHPA activist Mihir Meghani, received the lion’s share of federal funds with $378,064 in PPP loans and another $10,000 in EIDLA.”
Naik allegedly also got death threats which he has reported to US law enforcement agencies, stated AJ, adding that the journalist continues to face online harassment from individuals and groups. The AJMN stated that it “stands by Naik’s impeccable journalism and supports his professional contribution.”
The threats Raquib now reportedly faced comes after his report, that named “Five organisations with ties to Hindu supremacist and religious groups have received Covid-19 relief funding amounting to $833,000.” It was based on “data released by the United States’ Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal agency that helps small business owners and entrepreneurs” that gave the funds as part of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDLA), Disaster Assistance Loan (DAL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), he reported. The Massachusetts-based Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) reportedly “received more than $150,000 under PPP and a further $21,430 under EIDLA and DAL programmes.”
The other organisations are: Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, which is affiliated with the RSS, and got a direct payment of $7,000 and a loan of $64,462 under PPP according to the AJ report; the Infinity Foundation, “another Hindu nationalist organisation with ties to the RSS, received $51,872 in US federal funds” this is founded by Rajiv Malhotra, a right-wing NRI author and commentator who was appointed as an “honorary visiting professor at the Centre for Media Studies” at JNU in October 2018.
Then there is Sewa International, which “received $150,621 in Covid-19 relief,” reported AJ. Sewa International funds several RSS-run projects across India. The Sewa International had also got a donation of 2.5 million dollars from Twitter, recently. Sewa International on its own website states that it “aspires to be the pre-eminent, Hindu faith based, humanitarian organization that serves selflessly, and with compassion to create a positive impact,” adding that they “strive for a world in which all people live in harmony, free from suffering.” Sewa International, is the American version of Sewa Bharti, which is an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Basically it is a part of what is known as the right-wing collective Sangh Parivar. Twitter donated a total of $15 million (Rs 110.22 crore) to three organisations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic’s devastating impact in India. Jack Dorsey shared that the money was given to: CARE, Aid India and Sewa International USA. CARE got USD 10 million, Aid India and Sewa International USA each got USD 2.5 million.