New Delhi: Accusing foreign businesses such as Amazon of funding religious conversions in India, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has sought an investigation by the central government into companies that could be “financing” such activities.
The demand follows a cover story in the latest edition of Organiser, an RSS-affiliated publication, which accused e-commerce giant Amazon of financing a “conversion module” run by the American Baptist Mission (ABM) under an Indian “front” called the All India Mission.
“This is their frontal organisation which has openly claimed on their website that they have converted 25,000 people to Christianity in the North East,” said the article, titled ‘Amazing Cross Connection’.
Speaking to ThePrint, a top RSS functionary said that Amazon had been “systematically trying to damage Bharat’s economy and the social fabric”.
“These are not allegations, but truth… There are government reports supporting the claims of Organiser. There should be a proper investigation into the funding and the direct or indirect involvement of such foreign commercial entities,” he added.
The RSS functionary also pointed to the Supreme Court’s observation Monday that conversion is a “very serious issue” with implications for national security. The court also directed the central government to file an affidavit on a plea seeking stringent steps to control “fraudulent” religious conversion.
“With the Supreme Court’s order, this (Amazon) issue becomes even more crucial and relevant than before,” he said.
Calling for a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an RSS affiliate, further alleged that not only were foreign companies trying to facilitate conversions in Northeast India, but that “similar things have been happening in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Punjab”.
Amazon India, meanwhile, has denied all claims made by Organiser. “Amazon India does not have any relationship with All India Mission or its affiliates,” the company said in an official statement.
Amazon also addressed Organiser’s allegation that it was collecting funds for conversion activities via its AmazonSmile programme — which allows users to “generate donations” for charitable organisations of their choice while shopping.
The company’s statement said that AmazonSmile does not operate in the Indian marketplace and where it does, customers can “choose to donate to a charity they prefer from multiple non-profits that register themselves under the program”.
Also read: Probe ‘love jihad’ angle, VHP on Shraddha murder, wants laws to address ‘illegal’ conversions
‘Opaque and suspicious’
According to functionaries of the RSS and its affiliates, Amazon has a dark agenda in India and should be probed by the NIA.
“They (Amazon) run an absolutely opaque and suspicious system. We have been getting such feedback from our ground organisations for long that these foreign companies invest a lot of money into conversion,” SJM’s Mahajan said.
“Forced conversion to Christianity is a national security threat. This is an organised effort and a huge amount of foreign money is involved. It is high time that the government starts investigating these companies and the money trail,” he added.
Not the first tussle
This is not the first time that the RSS has tried to take on Amazon. Last year, another RSS-linked weekly, Panchjanya, described the e-commerce company as “East India Company 2.0″ and alleged that it was not only trying to monopolise the market but also releasing TV shows and movies that went against Indian culture.
In December that year, the SJM, too, alleged that Amazon gave preferential treatment to certain sellers like Cloudtail and Appario and bribed Indian officials to bypass laws. Notably, after an antitrust investigation, Cloudtail has since shut operations on the site and Amazon is set to delist Appario too within a year.
Then, earlier this month, RSS central committee member J. Nandkumar alleged that Amazon had blocked pre-orders for his yet-to-be-launched book Swa: Struggle for National Selfhood.
The book’s publisher, Indus Scrolls Press, has claimed the platform wanted to “hurt the interest of the author”.
“The purpose of pre-launch booking is to generate reader interest and enable the reader to purchase the copies before they are sold out. By putting unilateral restrictions, Amazon has restricted the business opportunity of the publisher and hurt the interests of the author,” G. Sreedathan, MD, Indus Scrolls Press said in a statement.
Amazon has not commented on the matter but the book was available on the site at the time of writing this report.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
Also read: In UP’s Fatehpur, 14 from church arrested in latest ‘conversion’ crackdown after VHP raises alarm