fundamentalist group to increase its 14,000 schools to 100,000 by 2012 in areas dominated by 'tribals', the country's original inhabitants. The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF), which was registered as a charitable trust in 1999, made the announcement on its website ( http://www.www.ekal.org ). Religious right groups say the EVF's Ekal Vidyalaya's ('One-Teacher-Schools') spread hatred towards the Christian minority in the guise of "providing education", to prevent conversions of tribals to Christianity by missionaries.
As part of the school program, children are exposed to lessons about Hindu symbols and deities as well as "saints" and "patriots," the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau established. Indian government adviser John Dayal told BosNewsLife he is also worried about connections of the organization and its schools with Hindu extremist groups.
"The website of the EVF freely admits its links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Seva Bharati, a group associated with the RSS," said Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India and president of the All India Catholic Union, a key advocacy group.
The EVF also confirmed on its website that its activists belong to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council. Photographs of VHP President Ashok Singhal inaugurating a Hindu school have also been put on the website.
The RSS, a parent organization of several Hindu extremist groups, and the VHP have been implicated in numerous anti-Christian campaigns and anti-Muslim violence in India, human rights watchers say.
They were reportedly involved in an anti-Christian campaign in Jhabua district in the central state of Madhya Pradesh to expose "the real nature of Christian missionaries", during December 2001 and January 2002. The Chief Minister had to travel to Jhabua on December 30 to calm down the situation.
Dayal cited "reliable sources", that the EVF "is using the Internet and the electronic media to raise funds [for the schools]. To help it sell its appeal for funds, the Ekal school group has now roped in the Zee Television media group," he added.
In March this year the EVF organized a performance by a renowned dancer in Bangalore, the capital of the southern state of Karnataka, to make corporations finance its schools, BosNewsLife reported at the time.
The controversial Hindu schools have so far mainly received funds from Indians living abroad, especially in the United States, where VHP of America has appealed for money on its website. "For a dollar-a-day, or $365 per year, one Ekal Vidyalaya can be sponsored," it said.
With permission from US authorities, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of America sponsored 1,250 schools in the year 2001 alone, claimed the VHP on its website. It also received "wide support from [Indian] state and central governments during the regime of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance [coalition], which lost power last year," explained official Dayal.
Currently, the EVF runs 14,108 schools with 437,806 students in various tribal areas in the country, according to official figures obtained by BosNewsLife. It has 2,293 Ekal Vidyalayas in Madhya Pradesh and 950 in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. In the east, it runs 1,407 schools in Jharkhand, and 932 in Orissa.
In various north and northeastern states, the EVF has 1,673 schools of which 903 in Uttar Pradesh. It also has 840 schools in the western state of Maharashtra, and 829 in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, BosNewsLife learned.