Exposed: The Asymmetrical War On Tamil Nadu Since 2017

Part 3 of our series India’s ‘Soft’ Enemies

By Sandhya Ravishankar

An asymmetrical war is being waged on the Tamil Nadu populace since 2017 with large-scale protests being funded by international vested interests as organised and executed by local activist groups and NGOs. 

This sounds like the usual conspiracy theory that is bandied about in the aftermath of such protests and violence. But there is a method to the madness and we, at The Lede, have pored over countless documents publicly available online, read through financial documents of various organisations and have cracked the funding of each activist group or NGO that has spearheaded these protests. 

For those of you who prefer video, there are explanations in English and Tamil below. 

Those of you who prefer text, well, read on. 

What is Asymmetrical or Psychological Warfare?

A Short Backgrounder of FCRA 

From the financial year 1994-95 upto 2018-19, the Indian government had made available FCRA donor details on its site However, since 2018-19, the details have been made private. The data available shows that upto 2018-19, Rs 20,000 crore worth of foreign funding has flown into India via the FCRA route. That’s more than what many government departments in India call budgets. 

In 2016, the Indian government cracked down heavily on NGOs and foreign entities like Open Society Foundations (owned by billionaire hedge fund investor George Soros), the Ford Foundation and Omidyar were put onto a prior permission list – which meant that if they wanted to donate to any Indian organisation, they had to first get the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. 19,000 NGOs were denied FCRA licences by the end of this exercise for various reasons ranging from not submitting their annual returns to misappropriation of funds.

Asymmetrical Warfare On Tamil Nadu

From the anti-nuclear protests in Kudankulam circa 2012 to the pro-Jallikattu protests, the anti-Sterlite protests, the anti-Neutrino protests and the protests against the 8-lane expressway from Chennai to Salem – a series of large-scale violent clashes have thrown life and law and order out of gear in the past 5-6 years. 

We will look at the Jallikattu protests separately since that has a different playbook. The other protests are all similar. They have the same key actors, the same modus operandi and the same funding route. 

2017: Pro-Jallikattu Protests 

Barely a few months after then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa passed away, the pro-Jallikattu protests brought the state to a standstill and was covered even by the international media. 

It had all the makings of a spontaneous protest but it was cleverly instigated and guided by a group of people. 

The protests began over the ban on Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport practiced in some parts of Tamil Nadu. The Animal Welfare Board of India had moved the Supreme Court and got a ban on the sport, citing animal cruelty. 

What started out as a few voices of dissent soon turned into close to one lakh people visiting the Marina Beach in Chennai and occupying it in the name of protests. 

The first external force which entered the fray and began to canvass people to join the protests was S Vaikundarajan, owner of VV Mineral. He has been exposed by this reporter of large-scale illegal beach sand mining and exports and the case is currently being heard in the Madras High Court. 

Vasanta Bhavan, a popular restaurant chain, was the first to begin distributing food to protesters in the Marina. Whether the owners did this as a humanitarian gesture or whether someone placed large orders is unclear. 

Vaikundarajan’s son Subramanian’s News7 Tamil channel took a firm stance in support of the protesters and set up a large LED TV on the beach, airing the protests continuously. Closer to the end of the protests, a hostile crowd forced all other television channels out. Only News7 was allowed to remain inside the protest zone. 

Soon after, the SDPI, a Muslim political outfit, joined the fray. They brought in men and food and water and joined the frenzy. 

May 17 Movement’s Thirumurugan Gandhi, Naam Tamilar Katchi cadre and a bunch of other rabble rousers arrived a few days later. The protest was changing shape. 

Police officers who handled the protests say that towards the end, violence was pre-planned by the SDPI, the May 17 Movement, NTK as well as by the late DMK MLA J Anbazhagan. “Anbazhagan’s people went to the nearby slum areas and instigated everyone to violence,” said the office on condition of anonymity. The officer also stated that the church had mobilised protesters and sent people in droves, along with funding for them, to join the mayhem. 

In Madurai, reporters found out that Vaikundarajan had sent his men to all the villages surrounding Alanganallur and other areas, to offer black t-shirts to young men and promise cooked food and water for the women and children in the area to join the protests.

The Other Protests

All of the other large-scale protests in Tamil Nadu have only about 3-4 people at the forefront. The Lede analysed the companies or NGOs they are affiliated with and also their local annual returns. 

We also looked into who the funders of the donors were – some of them yielded crucial material but some of them led nowhere. 

We now look into the funding behind the following Usual Suspects, as we will call them. 

  1. Nithyanand Jayaraman, The Other Media
  2. G Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal
  3. Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch 
  4. Mohan Lazarus
  5. Peoples’ Action for Education NGO 

The Other Media 

Nithyanand Jayaraman is a member of The Other Media, a Delhi-based non-profit that has FCRA clearance. A look at the details of donors to The Other Media is illuminating. 30% of its funding comes from organisations affiliated to various churches internationally. 

We also looked into the donors who fund the donors of The Other Media. An astonishing milieu appears – Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest church-funded organisations in the world, with 160 similar member organisations in its network, has funded The Other Media.

Caritas also funds Trocaire, founded by the Irish Bishops of the Catholic Church as well as Cordaid, founded and funded by the Netherlands Catholic Church. 
Caritas has been criticised in the Western world for funding radical groups that aim to topple regimes. The work of Caritas-funded activists and NGOs has raised red flags in countries like Israel.

Trocaire and Cordaid directly fund The Other Media as well. Another controversial NGO, Misereor, founded by the Catholic Bishops of Germany, has indirectly funded The Other Media – through an organisation called Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation.

Apart from these, other church affiliated organisations have funded The Other Media – United Church of Christ, World Association for Christian Communication and Christian Conference of Asia. 

In 2006, The Other Media received Rs 4.6 crore from an unknown donor in the USA! 
Radical Green Groups from abroad also appear to have funded The Other Media. For instance the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Germany is one such. There are also organisations like the Global Greengrants Fund, Pesticide Action Network and Environmental Defender Law Centre which do not disclose their sources of funding but appear to be radical green groups.

The Other Media also has an interesting set of donors from the USA – the New World Foundation, which is headed by Colin Greer, an aide of former American Vice President Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton herself was on the board of New World Foundation a few years ago. 

The Foundation for Ecological Security is also a donor – this organisation is funded by the Ford Foundation, Omidyar network as well as the Lucille Foundation. 

And finally the most delightful donor of the lot – The Asia Foundation. Declassified CIA documents show that the Asia Foundation was set up by the spooks to carry out covert operations in India. However, in 1966, the CIA decided to cut funding for and ties with The Asia Foundation. However it is not clear as to how the Foundation continues to have a large corpus of USD 100 million at its disposal. 

There are other strange opaque donors who have covered their tracks well. For instance, AID or Association for India’s Development, has a branch in the USA which has lost its non-profit status twice and got it restored last year. They are one of the largest donors to The Other Media. But their source of funding is not declared and is dubious. 

Similarly the Global Community Monitor and the Woka Foundation show no affiliation with any other group but they are funding many NGOs in India. Are they conduits set up to funnel in money discreetly? An investigation into these firms should reveal who they are backed by.

Poovulagin Nanbargal

The next usual suspect on the list is G Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal. Those in Tamil Nadu would have watched him on television or social media at least once. He is a self professed environmental activist, political analyst and was even briefly a Covid specialist. 

Sundarrajan is attached only to one firm – an IT firm called Hard N Soft Technologies Pvt Ltd. He and R Sivaraman are partners in what seems to be a very successful venture. The Lede went over his financials in the past year. For the financial year ending March 2022, the company’s gross income was Rs 13 crore and expenses were Rs 12 crore. An Innova Crysta and a BMW have been purchased on the company account. 

Having gone through some of the petitions filed by Sundarrajan in court, it is evident that he has filed them in his individual name but by referring to himself as a Trustee of a public trust called Poovulagin Nanbargal. 

However upon searching for the registration details of the trust, it can be seen that there are no records of any such trust being registered either in Chennai or elsewhere. It is unclear as to whether it has been registered in some other name. 
It is also alleged that Sundarrajan avails of money from the local churches for his protests and movements. The Lede is investigating this and will update our readers once we get documented confirmation of the same.

People’s Watch 

Henri Tiphagne of The People’s Watch is the third person to watch out for. The People’s Watch is not actually an NGO. It is a project by the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC), Madurai, and has received close to Rs 70 lakh from Bread for the World between 2009-2015.

Bread for the World “is the globally active development and relief agency of the Protestant Churches in Germany”. In its website, it says “Key issues of our work are food security, the promotion of health and education, the access to water, the strengthening of democracy, respecting human rights, keeping peace and the integrity of creation.” It adds “Bread for the World considers itself part of the global Christian Community.“

CPSC received Rs 1.65 crore from Misereor in 2009 which was about 30% of its total foreign fund receipts in that year. In 2015-16, CPSC received Rs 2.9 Crore from Misereor. As we saw earlier, Misereor is an organisation run by the Catholic Bishops of Germany which pursues secular work.

Jesus Redeems Ministries 

Mohan Lazarus, preacher, had endorsed many such protests vehemently and he had exhorted his followers to join the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi.

CPSC received Rs 1.65 crore from Misereor in 2009 which was about 30% of its total foreign fund receipts in that year. In 2015-16, CPSC received Rs 2.9 Crore from Misereor. As we saw earlier, Misereor is an organisation run by the Catholic Bishops of Germany which pursues secular work.

Jesus Redeems Ministries 

Mohan Lazarus, preacher, had endorsed many such protests vehemently and he had exhorted his followers to join the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi.

Upon researching Lazarus’ funding, The Lede found that he has a similar non-profit registered in the USA under the same name – Jesus Redeems Ministries. This organisation has about USD 190,000 in its account.

Again, it is not clear who the donors are. 

Peoples’ Action For Education

This is yet another NGO whose name crops up in relation to various protests. This organisation received initial seed funding from Siemenpuu Foundation based in Finland, which appears to be funded by the government of Finland. 


Ritwick Dutta, a well known lawyer who represented anti-Sterlite protester Fatima Babu in court, is the founder of an NGO called LIFE or Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment. 

Among other donors, LIFE has been funded by The Asia Foundation, Global Greengrants Fund, World Resources Institute which is in turn funded by the Ford Foundation as well as Oak Foundation. 

The Oak Foundation is currently headed by Douglas Griffiths who was a Foreign Service Officer and served as the US representative to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by former President Barack Obama. The Oak Foundation was founded by industrialists Alan and Jette Parker.

Tamil Nadu, and indeed India, needs to be aware that there are many forces within and without which are attempting to destabilise the nation. And to prevent that from happening, a questioning and open minded, well informed public is the need of the hour.