RSS: Single Greatest Enemy to Religious Freedom Faced by Indians Today

Last week, on 8 September, Atul Keshap, America’s acting ambassador to India, in literally his final act before returning home, met and staged a photo-op with the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the world’s largest paramilitary.

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It was, said Keshap, a “good discussion” about diversity, inclusivity, and pluralism — all values to which the Hindu nationalist RSS stands diametrically opposed. Keshap ought to know this considering that US government reports from the CIA, the State Department, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom have, for decades, highlighted the extremism, xenophobia, and militancy of the RSS while documenting its alleged involvement in countless acts of horrific violence against India’s minorities.

This week, I spoke with Indian-American leaders in multiple national organizations representing Christians, Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs, all of whom excoriated Keshap — most demanding his resignation or removal as they compared the RSS to the KKK, the Taliban, and even the Nazis.

The meeting was, they said, “a disgrace” and “an abomination.” To say that they are hopping mad would be an understatement. They are seething at what they consider to be an official normalization or legitimization by the US of a “fascist” (their words) and “terrorist (their words) outfit which represents the single greatest enemy of religious freedom faced by Indian citizens today.

The RSS — and its affiliates — has been constantly implicated by major international human rights groups, as well as by elected officials around the world, in assassinations, lynchings, terrorist bombings, and over a dozen large-scale pogroms. In just the past year, a group of German MPs warned that the RSS “was inspired by the fascist movements in Europe led by Mussolini and Hitler,” an Australian Senator warned that they “demonize and encourage persecution” of minorities, and a French MP warned that they have “been repeatedly accused of stoking inter-religious hatred and committing acts of violence.”

The Biden administration, and particularly Secretary of State Antony Blinken, must answer for Keshap’s meeting, explain its purpose, and transparently disclose its views about the RSS and its Hindu nationalist agenda.

It is incumbent upon ALL civil society groups, if they have the slightest sincere interest in upholding and advancing religious freedom internationally, to urge just such a response from the US government.

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

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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.

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