RSS’s International Wing Exposed Throughout Northern CA County

Placer County, CA blanketed with warnings about Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh

Pieter Friedrich
6 min readMar 15, 2022

In November 2021, the city council of Roseville, CA presented a resolution to Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the international wing of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary.

In response, I spoke at Roseville City Council in December 2021 to rebuke them for platforming and praising such a group. They ignored me. So I returned to speak again in February 2022. Meanwhile, I visited neighboring governmental bodies to warn them against making a similar mistake.

Roseville is in Placer County. So I visited the City of Rocklin, the City of Auburn (which is the county seat), and the Placer County Board of Supervisors. This is what I said:

Rocklin, CA — In November 2021, when the City of Roseville platformed and praised the HSS in innocent ignorance that the group is the international wing of India’s radical Hindu nationalist RSS paramilitary, they didn’t anticipate how doing so would be a source of embarrassment to the city.

It’s easier to avoid a mistake than it is to apologize for one. Some very simple research could have helped Roseville avoid controversy. Considering that (and the strong possibility that the HSS may approach other cities in Placer County in their search for legitimization through recognition), I am here, out of courtesy, to offer the fine City of Rocklin some precautionary background.

If and when the HSS approaches you, will you bother to ask: what, exactly, is the HSS?

Let’s take a look at what mainstream Indian media says.

India’s Zee News — an outlet actually owned by a former RSS member — calls the HSS the “overseas unit” of the RSS. The Hindustan Times calls it “an organization with close links to the RSS” that “works in close coordination with RSS leaders.” The Deccan Herald calls it the “overseas offshoot” of the RSS. India’s News 18 describes it as the RSS’s “allied organization.” India’s ThePrint says it is an “international offshoot” of the RSS. The Hindu reports that “RSS units outside India are known as the” HSS. NDTV describes it as the RSS’s “foreign wing.”

How about Indian-American journalists?

Nitish Pahwa of Slate describes the HSS as the RSS’s “international affiliate” which was established by RSS members in order to work “towards the RSS’s goals.” Rashmee Kumar of The Intercept says it is “the international branch of the RSS” which operates “under the RSS umbrella.”

Shall we look to American academics?

American political scientist Dr. Walter K. Andersen — who is a pro-RSS researcher — calls the HSS “the overseas counterpart of the RSS” which, he says, sends many of its officers to attend RSS-run training camps at the RSS’s headquarters in India. Indian-American sociologist Dr. Prema Kurien calls the HSS-USA “an organization parallel to the RSS” which she further describes as “the American branch of the RSS.” Dr. Audrey Truschke, an historian of South Asia, says: “The RSS exists overseas as the HSS, including in America.”

In fact, even the HSS-USA’s own website admits that it is “inspired by” the RSS.

Now that we know what the HSS is, the next question becomes: what is the RSS?

If the HSS ever approaches you, would it be a red flag if you knew that not only is the HSS connected to the RSS, but that the RSS is a violent paramilitary that has perpetrated multiple pogroms against Indian Christians and Muslims and has been repeatedly banned in India? Knowing that, should this city welcome the HSS — or not?

Auburn, CA — Considering that the HSS actively seeks legitimization from governmental bodies throughout America, and has already recently been platformed and praised by the City of Roseville, it behooves the governments of Placer County — including the beautiful City of Auburn — to preemptively question: what is the HSS, what is the RSS, and are or are they not connected to each other?

As political scientist Dr. Christophe Jaffrelot explains, the HSS is “the RSS operated under… a different name” but it will “strive to mask the links they have with the RSS to avoid being overtly stigmatized.”

The HSS is the international wing of the RSS. There is no denying that the two groups are connected. So what is the RSS?

According to Dr. Eviane Leidig, an expert on extremism, the RSS is a “paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation… which advocates for an ethno-nationalist Hindu state.” Dr. Martha Nussbaum, a political philosopher, says that the RSS is “the militant social organization that is the heart of the Hindu right.” Historian Dr. Michele Louro explains that the RSS is not only “the largest all-volunteer paramilitary organization” but also that it was “modeled after fascist groups in Europe.”

This view is upheld by many Indian-origin scholars as well.

Historian AG Noorani describes the RSS as a “menace to India,” warning that it is an “undemocratic” organization which has a “fascist leadership principle” and embraces “hate ideology.” Civil rights activist Dr. Anand Teltumbde explains that the RSS believes in a “fascist paradigm” and “is clearly patterned on the fascist militia[s]” of 20th-century Europe. Sociologist Dr. Chetan Bhatt suggests that it is accurate to characterize the RSS as “fascist” in “ideological, aesthetic, social movement, and organizational terms” and describes it as India’s version of “authoritarian, xenophobic, and majoritarian religious nationalism.”

Amnesty International calls the RSS a “right-wing” group which incites people to violence. Human Rights Watch says that the RSS is a “militant” group which is “directly responsible” for violence against Indian minorities. The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom explains that not only does the RSS “aggressively” press its view that non-Hindus are “foreign to India,” but that it has also “perpetrated numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minority communities.”

Given that reality, the City of Auburn — if and when the HSS ever seeks to be platformed here — must not only consider the nature of the RSS but also ask: why does the HSS, the international wing of a violent, Hindu nationalist paramilitary, desire legitimization from local governments here in America?

Placer County — Why, the Placer County Board of Supervisors will hopefully and certainly should ask if and when the HSS comes calling to request that you platform and praise them — which recently happened in the City of Roseville — does this group desire legitimization from local governments?

As we’ve already established beyond a shadow of a doubt, the HSS is the international wing of India’s RSS paramilitary, and the RSS is a violent and fascist organization with a long and bloody track record of attacking the country’s religious minorities.

That’s a fundamental reason why the HSS here in America incessantly approaches city councils, county boards of supervisors, fire departments, police departments, and even congressional offices begging for a pat on the back, a round of applause, a picture, and a formal resolution celebrating them as an outstanding cultural organization. A role model for the community.

You see, the HSS serves, internationally, as the primary support base and propaganda mouthpiece for the RSS back in India.

While the RSS’s cadres are doing the dirty work in India, the HSS in our country is doing its damndest to ensure that no one in America pays any attention whatsoever to the monster behind the curtain.

Whether officially or unofficially, they’ll stage rallies in support of the current RSS-backed regime. They’ll stage protests against academics, journalists, or politicians who dare to call out the atrocities of the RSS. They’ll stage counter-protests against Indian minorities here in America who are protesting attacks on their communities back in India.

HSS leadership will, in apparent coordination, pour funds into the campaign coffers of politicians who they know will either whitewash the crimes of the RSS or derail attempts to call out those crimes. They’ll even pour funds into the coffers of candidates running to unseat politicians who refuse to bow and scrape.

But they don’t stop with interfering with American politics.

Despite many or most being US citizens, HSS members mobilize to interfere in Indian politics. Top leadership in the HSS were crucial to getting the RSS’s political wing elected to head India in 2014. From America, they ran massive political campaigns to support election of their RSS candidates in India. Going even further, perhaps thousands of them actually traveled to India to serve as campaign workers — yes, American citizens traveled to India to pressure Indian citizens to vote for RSS-backed candidates.

Meanwhile, getting legitimized by local governments in America helps whitewash the HSS so that they can more effectively deny the reality that the RSS’s hands are blood-stained.

So, if and when the HSS ever approaches you here, remember to ask the only questions which matter — questions which Roseville unfortunately failed to ask: what is the HSS, what is the RSS, and are or are they not connected?

Oh, and what does the HSS gain from you platforming and praising them?

I’ve just given you a hint of an answer to all those questions.



Pieter Friedrich

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