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Kashmir separatism, anti-Hindu tropes, obsession with Kerala Model: How CCP supporter Neville Roy Singham financed ‘The People’s Forum’ is peddling anti-India propaganda

Since early 2020, The People's Forum began targeting Indian businesses and fostering ant-capitalistic sentiments in the country.

‘The People’s Forum’, which has been at the helm of anti-Israeli protests in the United States, has now come under the scanner over its financing by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supporter Neville Roy Singham.

As per a report by The Free Press, Singham and his wife Jodie Evans have donated over $20.4 million to the organisation between 2017 and 2022. The American tech entrepreneur and his Chinese connections were exposed in a report published by The New York Times on August 5 this year.

Neville Roy Singham had financed the likes of NewsClick and disseminated pro-Chinese propaganda through the Indian leftist news outlet. OpIndia has found that ‘The People’s Forum’, funded almost wholly by the American entrepreneur, has been peddling anti-India narratives since 2019.

The People’s Forum and its role in fuelling ‘Kahsmiri seperatism’

‘The People’s Forum’ has been organising teach-in sessions, seminars and movie screenings to disseminate a distorted idea of Jammu and Kashmir to its global audience.

It has openly called for the secession of the integral part of the Indian territory and extended support to extremist elements, calling for ‘Azadi.‘ On March 18, 2019, the organisation conducted a 1 hour 50 minute 50-minute-long session, presenting India as an ‘occupying’ force in Jammu and Kashmir.

‘The People’s Forum’ reiterated pro-Pakistani talking points about Kashmir, referring to the region as ‘Indian Occupied.’ The event synopsis made its nefarious agenda crystal clear –

Indian Occupied Kashmir is the world’s most militarized zone. Since 2008, a generation of Kashmiri youth has protested against Indian rule, demanding azadi, or freedom. Nonetheless, despite a mass movement for self-determination, the international community has largely remained silent on Kashmir and India is able to leverage its soft power to silence Kashmiris. During this teach-in, the instructors will present a brief historical overview of the Kashmir issue, and discuss the contemporary context of state violence and repression and youth resistance.

Screengrab of ‘The People’s Forum’ event

One of the instructors of the pro-Pakistani indoctrination programme was Hafsa Kanjwal, who had earlier downplayed the Pulwama terror attack in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

As per a report by OSINT handle ‘DisinfoLab’, Hafsa Kanjwal has maintained close ties with convicted ISI agent Ghulam Nabi Fai through her organisation ‘Stand With Kashmir (SWK)’. She is an Assistant Professor at Lafayette College and featured prominently in several events of ‘The People’s Forum.’

On September 14, 2019, the Neville Roy Singham-funded organisation conducted another ‘teach-in session’ dubbed ‘Self-Determination and Solidarity in Kashmir.’ The anti-India event was sponsored by the likes of ‘Codepink’, founded by Neville Roy Singham’s wife Jodie Evans.

The synopsis of the programme read, “This teach-in is geared towards building solidarity between the Kashmiri and Palestinian anti-occupation movements. The instructors will give a history of the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination, provide an analysis of the Indian occupation of Kashmir, and reflect on the ties between India and Israel, as well as the need for greater mobilization between the Palestinian and Kashmiri solidarity movements.

Screengrab of the tweet by Suchitra Vijayan of The Polis Project

Besides Hafsa Kanjwal, ‘journalist’ Azad Essa was also included as the instructor for the pro-Pakistani indoctrination.  Essa is the same scribe who passed off the Islamic terrorist organisation, ‘Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT),’ as a ‘Pakistan-based group’ in December 2022.

While trying to cast aspersions on the role of LeT in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, he had claimed, “Saturday marked the first day of the (Mumbai) attack, 14 years ago, which India blamed on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba.” 

In March this year, the same dubious ‘journalist’ was invited by ‘The People’s Forum’ to promote his book ‘Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance between India and Israel.’ The People’s Forum also promoted his propaganda film on the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, titled ‘Out of Sight.’

Screengrab of the banner of the event hosted by The People’s Forum

Hafsa Kanjwal too was invited by ‘The People’s Forum’ to the screening of a propaganda film titled ‘Khoon Diy Baarav’ on March 29, 2019. The unknown movie was directed by one Iffat Fatima about the supposedly ‘abject plight’ of Kashmiris in the Valley.

Despite all-out efforts by the Neville Roy Singham-financed organisation to spread the word about the film, it failed to make an impact. As such, another screening of the same propaganda movie was held by ‘The People’s Forum’ on March 20, 2020.

As recently as August this year, the organisation was seen endorsing a book written by ‘ISI operative’ Hafsa Kanjwal titled ‘Colonising Kashmir: State Building under Indian Occupation.’

“August 5 marks 4 years since India’s complete annexation of Kashmir—Author Hafsa Kanjwal & Mohamad Junaid will also discuss recent developments in the region,”The People’s Forum lamented the abrogation of Article 370.

The People’s Forum, anti-India events and targeting of Hinduism

In October 2019, the Neville Roy Singham-financed organisation held a seminar on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and seized the opportunity to attack Hinduism under the pretext of condemning ‘Hindutva’.

The event synopsis read –

Gandhi, a practicing Hindu, also believed in love as a fundamental human emotion and practice and he was able to weave this love of everyone and all creation into all his beliefs, principles and practices. Gandhi’s Hinduism was not exclusive and excluding and did not identify an ‘other’. It is important to differentiate Gandhi’s Hinduism from today’s Hindutva.

It is a classical trope used by Hinduphobes who claim ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hindutva’ are different. In reality, they do not make any such distinction. Interestingly, the event was co-sponsored by ‘Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR).

HfHR was also seen endorsing the Hinduphobic event titled, ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference. As per OSINT handle ‘Disinfo Lab’, HfHR was formed in the year 2019 by Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and the Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).

Interestingly, the three organisations had formed another outfit called the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA). As per an article in The Hindu, the Alliance for Justice and Accountability had been at the forefront of leading demonstrations against the visit of PM Modi to Houston on September 22, 2019.

Sunita Vishwanath, the co-founder of ‘Hindus for Human Rights’ had also tried to create hysteria and panic among Indian Muslims about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2019.

“We are especially appalled by the most recent nightmare of the Kashmiri people, and the situation of 1.9 million people in India who are rendered stateless due to the imposition of the travesty called the National Register of Citizens,” she claimed.

Sunita Vishwanath is also the co-founder of an organisation named ‘Women for Afghan Women’, which is funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF)/ Open Society Institute (OSI). In October 2023, the X (formerly Twitter) account of HfHr was withheld in India.

The People’s Forum had been trying to exploit fault lines between the incumbent Indian government and the farming community in the country. Amid the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it conducted a seminar by a Communist party-affiliated Student Federation of India (SFI) leader V Srinivasa Rao.

The event titled ‘Make the land proud: India’s Peasant Struggles and the 2019 Election’ hoped to capitalise on the growing resentment of farmers towards the Modi government and impact the outcome of the polls.

The description of the seminar made its nefarious intention clear –

Earlier this year (2019) more than 160 million peasants and workers went on strike in India.  In the last few years, India has seen an upsurge of peasant struggles across the country as the Indian politics have moved to the far right under Modi’s rule. This has been one of the largest general strikes in the world. The workers, exhausted by almost three decades of neoliberal policies and by the attack on their rights, came onto the streets to make their case for better livelihoods and workplace democracy.Because of India’s government policies, agrarian distress is acute: An average of 12,000 farmers committed suicide every year of this government’s rule.

When the Modi government introduced three historic farm laws to alleviate concerns among the farming community, The People’s Forum came out with all guns blazing and lent credence to the politically motivated farmer’s protest and the eventual repeal of the landmark legislation.

This became evident when it promoted the propaganda-laden book ‘When Farmers Stood Up’, celebrating the repeal of a law due to the ‘street veto’. One of the speakers invited to the panel discussion was Aishe Ghosh, who was involved in the infamous JNU riots of 2020.

Screengrab of the event

Since early 2020, The People’s Forum began targeting Indian businesses and fostering ant-capitalistic sentiments in the country. A 4-day seminar was organised to this effect in January of that year.

On October 26, 2022, the Neville Roy Singham-led organisation partnered with ‘The Polis Project’ for an anti-India event dubbed ‘Plunder as Politics: Economic Inequality and Political Power in Modi’s India.’ As expected, it targeted Indian businessman Gautam Adani and accused the ruling BJP of ‘crony capitalism.’

“The rise of Adani and his peers are symptomatic of a deep polarization of wealth and income in Indian society, where the poorest 50% of the population earns a mere 13% of all national income and owns as little as 6% of all wealth in the country. Despite these perverse inequalities, Modi and the BJP appear to have a firm hold on political power and even enjoy support among poor and marginalized groups. How do we explain this conundrum? In this talk, Alf Nilsen will discuss the relationship between economic inequality and political power in Modi’s India, focusing on how the politics of Hindu nationalism deflects popular discontent and nurtures both the hegemony of the ruling party and the wealth of the country’s corporate tycoons,” read the event description.

The Polis Project has extensively published content claiming Muslims are single-handedly facing atrocities in India. The organisation’s reports described the anti-Hindu riots in Delhi in 2020 as a “pogrom against the Muslim community”.

The organisation also propagated separatist views on Kashmir and shared content favouring terrorists such as Burhan Wani, Yasin Malik and others. It has also been at the helm of fear-mongering its audience about an ‘impending genocide’ in Kashmir and the rest of India.

The Polis Project gave a clean chit to Pakistan in the Pulwama attack and called Indian media “BJP’s propaganda machine”. The Banned organisation Jamaat-e-Islami has their content in their course material on “Stand With Kashmir (SWK)”.

Uncanny obsession with Kerala and Communists

The Neville Roy Singham-funded organisation was also seen disseminating the myth of the ‘Kerala Model’ in one of its events, organised on April 11, 2020.

The People’s Forum claimed, “While Indian PM Modi follows the example of fellow neoliberal strongmen around the world, and fails to protect lives from this pandemic while downplaying the crisis,  Kerala offers a different example. The state of Kerala, led by a coalition of leftist and communist parties, has set the standard in successful testing, containment, and socialized care for the well-being of its people. How has this been achieved in Kerala, and what can we learn from this experience? Join researcher Subin Dennis and journalist Prasanth R for the discussion.

Screengrab of the event

A year later on August 7, 2021, ‘The People’s Forum’ held another event, promoting a book titled ‘Local Democracy and Development: The Kerala People’s Campaign for Decentralized Planning’. Interestingly, the book is written by a Communist Party of India (Marxist) politician Thomas Isaac.

A panel discussion was organised by the Singham-financed outfit, claiming that Kerala “mobilised over 3 million of Kerala’s 30 million people and resulted in bottom-up development planning in all of its 1,052 villages and urban neighbourhoods.”

Screengrab of the event

The uncanny obsession with Kerala did not end with praising the Communist Party of India’s make-believe governance model. Along with the Tricontental Institute, ‘The People’s Froum’ appeared fascinated with Communist hardliners such as EMS Namboodiripad.

Namboodiripad, who was the first Chief Minister of the State of Kerala, had infamously called Mahatma Gandhi a ‘Hindu fundamentalist.’

‘The People’s Forum’ chose to organise a presentation on his life to further disseminate his “insights on Marxist theory, the international communist movement, caste, women’s struggle, and national liberation.”

Screengrab of the event

‘The People’s Forum’ also endorsed a book on rabid Communist leader Ramchandra Babaji More, who organised the public burning of the Hindu religious text ‘Manusmriti’ on December 25, 2027 at Mahad city in Raigad district of Maharashtra.

Interestingly, Chinese-funded NewsClick also published eulogies about RB More in May 2020.

Legitimisation of pro-China Vijay Prashad

In August this year, OpIndia reported in detail about Vijay Prashad, the Executive Director of a leftist think tank named ‘Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.’ His organisation has been one of the beneficiaries of the riches of Neville Roy Singham.

The pro-China Vijay Prashad has been invited as a speaker on multiple occasions by ‘The People’s Forum’, funded wholly by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supporter Neville Roy Singham. He is an ‘expert’ on every geopolitical issue, involving the US’

Be it the intervention of the United States in Haiti (archive) or America’s supposed ‘anti-communist crusade’ (archive), Vijay Prashad finds himself in events hosted by ‘The People’s Forum’ to hail Chinese socialism and oppose Western imperialism.

Screengrab of the event
Screengrab of the event

Occasionally, Prashad is invited to events hosted by the organisation, funded by Neville Roy Singham, to discuss his books.

Screengrab of the event
Screengrab of the event

The pro-China Executive Director of Tricontinental has recently been on a panel discussion about a book titled ‘The anti-Capitalist Chronicles,’ written by one David Harvey.

Screengrab of the event

Neville Roy Singham, NewsClick funding and the aftermath

On August 5 this year, The New York Times published a detailed article, revealing the ties of Neville Roy Singham with the Chinese government and his financial support to an Indian leftist propaganda outlet NewsClick.

“What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Mr. Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide,” the article stated.

The New York Times pointed out that Singham has been successful in disseminating Chinese government talking points under the pretext of ‘progressive advocacy’ in countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa and the United States.

Screengrab of the news report by The New York Times

Neville Roy Singham, who holds strong ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is at the forefront of China’s smokeless war. In its article, The New York Times stated, “Under the rule of Xi Jinping, China has expanded state media operations, teamed up with overseas outlets and cultivated foreign influencers. The goal is to disguise propaganda as independent content.”

It further added, “The result is a seemingly organic bloom of far-left groups that echo Chinese government talking points, echo one another, and are echoed in turn by the Chinese state media.” During its investigation, the American newspaper found that Neville Roy Singham had financed an India-based leftist propaganda outlet named NewsClick. 

It noted that the news outlet had repeated the talking points of the CCP in the past. “In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Mr. Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points. “China’s history continues to inspire the working classes,” one video said,” noted The New York Times.

After the funding details of NewsClick and its Chinese connection came to light, it was revealed that Neville Roy Singham had close ties with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat.

We have mail transcripts, which clearly suggest that NewsClick owner Prabir Purkayastha was instructed to praise China’s handling of COVID-19 by Neville Roy Singham. Emails exchanged between Prabir Purkayastha and Neville Roy Singham also revealed discussions on how to report the India-China border dispute.

On November 16, the Enforcement Directorate issued summons to Neville Roy Singham in China in the NewsClick-Chinese funding case.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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