Over 2100 Sign Petition to Remove Sri Preston Kulkarni From Biden Administration
Over 2,100 have now signed a petition to remove failed US congressional candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni from his recent appointment to President Joe Biden’s administration.
“We urge that you thoroughly screen all individuals offering advice to, lobbying, vying for a position within, or in any way engaging with your administration,” wrote 19 Indian-American organizations to then President-Elect Biden in December 2020. “Specifically, there should be no tolerance for any individuals who uphold any form of supremacist belief, including in Hindu supremacy, both in India and the US.”
The letter specifically referenced Biden’s presidential campaign members Sonal Shah and Amit Jani.
Shah was a long-time executive in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), the US wing of India’s VHP, which is a subsidiary of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary. Jani is the son of the co-founder of the US chapter of Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP), the international wing of India’s ruling BJP, which springs from the RSS. Neither has been appointed to the new administration.
On 8 February 2021, however, Kulkarni was announced as the new Chief of External Affairs of AmeriCorps, a federal agency responsible for coordinating volunteer and service work. His appointment follows his defeat in a congressional race in Texas which was prompted by outrage over his ties to US affiliates of the RSS, OFBJP, and VHPA. Days later, people are calling Biden to rescind his appointment by signing a petition that notes that, “to date, he refuses to disavow the RSS.”
Founded in 1925, the RSS is infamous for its members dressing in uniforms which strongly resemble those worn by members of the Hitler Youth. It is armed, all-male, and accused of pogroms against Christians and Muslims as well as participating in violence against Sikhs. It was founded the same year that the Nazi party was reformulated with Adolf Hitler as its leader. Its earliest leaders specifically pointed to Hitler’s “purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews” as a “good lesson for us… to learn and profit by.” In addition to drawing inspiration from the Nazis, the RSS modeled itself after Benito Mussolini’s fascist movement in Italy.
The petition for Kulkarni’s removal notes, “As the RSS today — through the BJP — essentially rules India, is ideologically committed to an ethno-nationalist vision of the country where all religious minorities are subjugated or eliminated, and has a history of anti-minority pogroms (including as recently as February 2020), ties to the group or its US-based members are a serious matter.” Remarking that the Biden administration “has positioned itself as dedicated to opposing fascism” and “no one with such ties has any place in the Biden administration, it calls on the president to “rescind Sri Preston Kulkarni’s appointment considering both how it will harm Americorps’ image (especially in the eyes of many South Asian Americans) as well as the message it sends of tolerance for the RSS and its fascist agenda.”