Retirement Unconnected to RSS Visit Controversy, Claims Former US Ambassador Atul Keshap

Ambassador, I have but claimed that your retirement came within months of a campaign demanding you be removed for meeting the RSS chief. I leave it to the thinker to draw from the timeline what they will. Either way, sad your last act was legitimizing a fascist paramilitary.

While we’re talking, Ambassador, please tell me why you met the RSS chief. Are you unaware of the allegations surrounding the RSS? Are you unaware of its Hindutva ideology? Are you unaware the very chief you met is accused of personally sanctioning anti-Muslim attacks?

And, moreover, Ambassador, why did you share a screed written by a right-wing pro-Iraq war cheerleader to attack me? Michael Rubin refuses to name the RSS-BJP’s US affiliates, like Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS; RSS’s international wing) and [Overseas Friends of the BJP; BJP’s international wing]. Do you think it’s okay for US politicians to associate with Hindu nationalist groups?

Like Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi keynoting an HSS event to celebrate the RSS’s founding while standing in front of a garlanded picture of [longest-serving and most influential RSS Chief MS] Golwalkar. Ambassador, what’s your impression of actions which endorse Golwalkar? Should we just shrug them off?

But, back to your own RSS meet, Ambassador. HRW’s John Sifton compared it to if a US ambassador to Germany in 1933 had attended a Nazi rally at Nuremberg. What’s Atul Keshap’s take? How is a Human Rights Watch leader off-base about this?

In conclusion, Ambassador, thanks for recognizing my US Constitutional right to question government officials. As you’re no doubt aware, my line of questioning here would probably get me arrested in BJP-ruled India today. Even Tweeting critically of RSS could lead to arrest.

In fact, even elected officials in India aren’t protected from retaliatory action for something as simple as Tweeting critically about the prime minister. Look at MLA Jignesh Mevani, arrested for Tweeting negatively about Modi. How do you feel about such incidents?

Final question, Ambassador: did the US State Department and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly sanction your RSS meeting? Did they suggest it or was it your own idea? Did you clear it with your superiors before meeting?

Ambassador Atul Keshap, who no longer works for the US government and departed his position within months of a campaign calling for his removal for his photo-op with the RSS, refuses to answer any of an extensive list of questions either about his meeting OR his personal views about RSS.

Certainly, as a private citizen no longer working for the US government, Ambassador Atul Keshap could freely discuss his views on RSS — if he wanted to. Many former US diplomats to India have discussed not only their personal views but even details of their official acts.

One is former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. He wrote, for instance: “The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers Association), or RSS, had been founded in 1925 on the principle that India could achieve national unity only on the basis of Hindu supremacy.” Strobe Talbott continued: “The position put the RSS in opposition to Gandhi, the founding father and guiding spirit of modern India…. When Gandhi died five months after independence at the hands of a militant affiliated with a Hindu extremist organization, officials of the Congress Party… accused the RSS of complicity in the assassination, and the Congress-led government banned the organization.”

Strobe Talbott added: “The RSS formed a political wing that subsequently became the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.” Talbott also added: “The BJP included — and not just on its fringes — sectarian zealots who were implicated in incidents of communal violence.”

Talbott further added: “The party [the BJP] had evolved from the political wing of the RSS, the organization that rejected root-and-branch Mohandas Gandhi’s concept of nationhood based on diversity as a virtue of Indian society and inclusiveness as a necessity of Indian politics.” Talbott also added that there is an “RSS-backed and often RSS-instigated practice of tearing down mosques and burning churches.”

If former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott (who, by the way, like Ambassador Atul Keshap, served under a Democratic administration) could be so transparently critical of the RSS paramilitary, why can’t Ambassador Keshap talk about it? In fact, why did he do a photo-op with them?

Perhaps Ambassador Keshap has not bothered to read what preceding diplomats have written about their experiences in India? Ambassador Atul Keshap, what’s your perspective on what Strobe Talbott had to say? It’s not disclosing a USG official act for you to offer your personal opinion.

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