Roseville, CA: Admit Mistake For Platforming RSS’s International Wing

In November 2021, the City of Roseville, CA honored the local branch of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) — the international wing of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary — with a resolution. So I attended a December 2021 city council meeting to register protest. As the city remained silent, I followed up in February 2022 to educate them further. They continued their silence, so I returned once more on 16 March 2022. This is what I said:

It has now been four months since the City of Roseville platformed and praised the HSS, and yet the city, despite repeatedly being presented with incontrovertible evidence that the HSS is the international wing of India’s violent, Hindu nationalist RSS paramilitary, has steadfastly and stubbornly refused to admit that it made a mistake.

One of the worst acts of violence committed by the RSS in the 21st century was a 2002 pogrom in the Indian state of Gujarat in which (20 years ago last month) that Hindu extremist group massacred around 2,000 Muslims. Men, women, and children were burned alive. The state’s chief executive at the time, Narendra Modi (who is himself an RSS member), was subsequently banned from the US due to his role in overseeing — or, many say, orchestrating — that pogrom.

Enter the HSS here in America.

Modi’s role in the slaughter of Indian Muslims in 2002 earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Gujarat,” but it also helped his political star to rise high amongst India’s Hindu nationalist movement. Simultaneously, his popularity among the RSS’s affiliates in America shot through the roof. When he announced his candidacy for Prime Minister of India, top HSS leadership in our country stepped forward to organize massive campaigns to ensure his election.

Long-time HSS vice-president, Ramesh Bhutada, was a key figure behind the mobilization. From America, he organized phonebanks of hundreds of volunteers — many drawn from the ranks of the HSS — to call back to India to urge Indian voters to support Modi. Taking things a step further, he and his HSS associates joined up with the Overseas Friends of the BJP — the international wing of Modi’s political party, which was recently forced to register as a Foreign Agent in America — to send thousands of people, many if not most of them American citizens, back to India to campaign for Modi.

In other words, the HSS here in America was crucial to getting Modi — a politician nicknamed “the Butcher of Gujarat” — elected in India.

After Modi was elected, top HSS leaders in the US helped organize victory parties for him. They even helped organize a giant reception for Modi in New York City to welcome to America a man who was previously banned from our country for overseeing the murder of thousands of Muslims and was only now allowed to enter by virtue of his diplomatic immunity as India’s prime minister.

The City of Roseville can no longer plead innocent ignorance about the true nature of the HSS. Yes, it is the international wing of a violent paramilitary; and yes, it is also an outfit whose leadership engage in Indian political activities to back a politician whose hands are soaked with innocent blood.

Roseville’s platforming and praising of the HSS has done nothing but indirectly enable and empower the RSS’s ongoing and expanding agenda of bloodshed in India. It’s time the city admits that it made a mistake.

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Pieter Friedrich

Pieter Friedrich

Friedrich is a freelance journalist and analyst of South Asian affairs. Learn more about him at www.PieterFriedrich.com.