US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi Challenged for RSS Association

Since 19 May 2022, US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi has faced several challenges over his association with India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary, culminating in a 21 May protest outside of his Schaumburg, IL office.

Krishnamoorthi, who first won office in 2016, is up for re-election to a fourth term, but his RSS interactions are now coming under the radar. Most notably, in 2018, the congressman spoke at an event organized by a subsidiary of the RSS at which the paramilitary’s chief was the keynote speaker; the following year, he himself keynoted an event organized by the RSS’s international wing to celebrate the paramilitary’s founding. Also of particular note is that some of his major donors, who first aligned with Krishnamoorthi while he was still a candidate struggling to win his party’s nomination in 2016, are long-time leaders in American affiliates of the RSS.

In the early afternoon of 19 May, I began by making an unannounced visit to Krishnamoorthi’s Schaumburg office. Explaining to a staffer that I wanted to leave some information for the congressman, I first presented him with a copy of my latest booklet, India at a Crossroads: Hindu Nationalist Efforts to Eradicate Christianity.

“It details persecution of Christians in India that’s happening presently,” I said. “The primary group that’s perpetrating the persecution is this outfit called the RSS. The RSS is a fascist paramilitary that’s literally inspired by the Nazis.”

Next I presented a copy of my book, Saffron Fascists: India’s Hindu Nationalist Rulers. I further explained, “This book details the nature of the RSS, what its agenda is, and the violence that it has perpetrated. And the RSS is not just committing violence against Christians, but also against Muslims, and it’s doing it to such an extent, presently, that we have experts here in America that are warning that there is an impending genocide of Indian Muslims.”

Finally, explaining that this was the specific reason why I was visiting Krishnamoorthi’s office in particular, I presented my article documenting his ties to the RSS. “Because of all of this information, and because of this association, and because of the nature of the RSS, which is a fascist paramilitary that, as I said, is literally Nazi-inspired, I believe that RSS Raja Must Go,” I concluded as I unfurled a banner declaring the same.

After the staffer listened politely and professionally, I left the office to make for my next destination: the Glendale Heights Village Board Meeting. “I believe the voters in his district deserve to know about this,” I’d told Krishnamoorthi’s staffer about his RSS ties. So I set out to inform them.

Some members of the Village Board, however, were intent on shutting me down as I attempted to expose political corruption on an international scale.

When it was my turn to speak during the public comments section, I stepped up to the podium. “In 2014, as India was holding national elections, Narendra Modi threw his hat into the ring to try to become the nation’s next prime minister,” I began. “Here, in the Chicago region….”

Then the village attorney interrupted me, demanding to know how this affects public business. I explained that it relates to the interests of the citizens of the village (who are represented in US Congress by Krishnamoorthi), and the attorney asked, “From a foreign election?” I responded that yes, I was getting to the connection, and he told me alright, but “hurry up.”

“Here, in the Chicago region, one old friend of Modi’s was so ecstatic that he apparently put everything else on hold so he could devote his time and resources to make sure that the Indian prime ministerial candidate got elected,” I continued. “Bharat Barai had already spent the better part of a decade popularizing Modi among certain segments of the Indian-American population. Now he mobilized hundreds of volunteers and personally led them to travel from America to India to campaign for Modi.”

The attorney then again interrupted me, insisting that this issue doesn’t affect the village. Standing my ground, I pointed out that, legally, I’m allowed to discuss non-agenda items during the public comments segment. After some back and forth discussion, and the chair of the meeting suggested silencing me, Trustee Mohammad Siddiqui said, “I would say, let him speak, because, since it’s a public, there’s no harm in listening. As he said, it’s going to be for the people, and we do live here, so I wouldn’t mind listening for five minutes.”

Following Siddiqui’s lead, several other trustees spoke up and agreed to allow me a hearing.

Finally able to speak uninterrupted, I detailed how Bharat Barai — despite being a US citizen — dedicated himself to getting Modi elected in India. This despite Modi being an RSS member who was, at the time, actually banned from America due to his role in the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom. Then, after successfully helping to elect Modi in India, “Barai turned his attention to getting Raja Krishnamoorthi elected to US Congress in Illinois.”

Within his first six months in office, I pointed out, Krishnamoorthi then traveled to India to personally meet Modi. “Modi’s RSS past, his implication in a massive anti-Muslim pogrom, and his decade-long ban from our own country didn’t seem to bother Krishnamoorthi,” I said. “Posing for pictures with the pogrom-tainted prime minister, Krishnamoorthi grinned like a schoolboy meeting Santa Claus.”

I pointed out that Barai, as one of the newly-minted congressman’s earliest financiers, must have been thrilled.

Noting that the RSS is currently “laying the groundwork and setting the stage for a genocide of Indian Muslims,” I added, “Yet, oddly enough, the liberal Raja Krishnamoorthi, for all of his supposed concern about human rights, appears entirely disinterested in speaking out against the genocidal fascism that is taking root in India right now.” Dwelling on the reason for his silence, I asked, “Is it possible that’s because the impending genocide in India will be perpetrated by a fascist regime that was put in place, in part….”

At that point, the chair interrupted me and told me my time was up. I asked, “May I finish my sentence?” He responded, “No.”

My sentence would have concluded with “…. in part, thanks to the tireless efforts of some of Krishnamoorthi’s oldest, largest, and most faithful donors?”

Finally shut down by the Village of Glendale Heights, I turned my attention to taking the issue to the streets.

On 21 May, I was invited by Our Revolution (a political activism group spun off from Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign) to keynote a protest against Krishnamoorthi outside of his Schaumburg office. After several other speakers detailed their complaints about the congressman’s stance on healthcare, military spending, and other issues, a Muslim woman constituent stepped up to explain her personal experiences with the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom and how Krishnamoorthi’s association with the RSS, which conducted that pogrom, made him unfit for office. As the protesters erupted in chants of “RSS Raja Must Go,” I stood forth to explain his association with the world’s oldest, largest, and fastest growing fascist movement: the RSS.

Here is what I had to say —

The last time that I was here at Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s office was in 2018.

I sat down inside his conference room with his staff to express concern about the congressman’s plans to attend a local event organized by the VHP. The VHP is an Indian organization which, also in 2018, the CIA had labeled as a “religious militant” outfit. Of course, Raja being a member of the House Intelligence Committee, perhaps he already knew that.

What’s more, this VHP event in 2018 featured the chief of the RSS as its keynote speaker.

The VHP is actually a subsidiary organization of the RSS. The RSS is a nearly one hundred year old paramilitary which, from its origins, drew structural inspiration from Mussolini’s fascists and ideological inspiration from the Nazis. Today, the RSS and its subsidiaries boast upwards of 15 million militant members.

The RSS is devoted to eradicating all religious minorities from India and turning the country into a theocratic State. Hell-bent on smothering India with its religious nationalist ideology, the RSS has a LONG track-record of EXTREME anti-minority violence.

We’re talking lynchings. We’re talking targeted assassinations — for instance, the RSS assassinated Gandhi. We’re talking terrorist bombings — in fact, the chief of the RSS who spoke here in Chicago in 2018 is implicated in personally sanctioning an anti-Muslim bombing that killed dozens. We’re also talking pogroms, massacres, sustained multi-day systematic slaughter in the streets of thousands of Christians, Muslims, and even Sikhs.

Sitting in Raja’s office in 2018, I explained that, if he shared the stage with the chief of the RSS, it placed him in the position of standing shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with the world’s oldest, largest, and fastest growing fascist movement. His staff listened patiently. And then Raja went ahead and attended the event anyways.

Now, most would argue that once is already far, far too many times when it comes to speaking alongside fascists, but Raja did not stop at once.

A year later, in 2019, he himself was the keynote speaker, this time at an event organized by the international wing of the RSS to celebrate the founding of that fascist paramilitary. He was pictured on stage in front of a photo of the RSS’s longest-serving chief, a man who, as its ideological father, is a primary reason that the paramilitary is accurately described as Nazi-inspired.

I won’t detail everything about that ideology right now, but one thing I’ll tell you is that this former RSS chief in front of whose photo Raja spoke had, in 1939, right before the outbreak of the Second World War, praised Nazi Germany for “purging” the country of Jews, applauded that as “race pride manifested at its highest,” and called it a good model for India to follow.

Well, today, India actually is beginning to follow that model.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is a lifelong RSS member who, before he took office, was actually banned from America because of his involvement in an anti-Muslim massacre that left thousands of men, women, and children dead in the streets. Since 2014, Modi has ruled India and, progressively but with escalating speed, worked to transform the world’s second-largest democracy into a fascist dictatorship.

Under the Modi regime, the existential threat to religious minorities has grown so great that the US Holocaust Memorial Museum currently ranks India the second-most likely country in the world to see a genocide break out.

Just last month, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar pressed the State Department, demanding to know why the Biden administration remains silent on the human rights crisis in India. Well, that’s a great question, but there’s no quick and easy answer. However, if one were to ask why Raja Krishnamoorthi remains silent, here’s an answer.

It’s his donors.

When Raja first ran for Congress in 2016, before he made a bit of a name for himself and got what he thinks is an iron grip on his seat, some of his earliest, most enthusiastic, and most generous donors were leaders in American affiliates of the RSS who had just returned from working in India to get Modi elected.

Yes. The RSS has affiliated organizations here in America. And yes, many members of those organizations, despite most being US citizens, traveled from America to India to campaign to get Modi elected. After they succeeded, they worked here in Chicago to get Raja Krishnamoorthi elected.

Let me say it again. Some of Raja’s oldest, largest, and most faithful donors are people who serve as leaders in US affiliates of a fascist paramilitary organization in India. These people first worked to get Modi elected, and then worked to get Raja elected.

Well, now, Modi’s regime is on the verge of perpetrating a genocide. And yet, there’s not a peep from Raja. Why?

Raja’s very vocal, thankfully, about the US Capitol siege of January 2021. But after Modi’s regime staged a pogrom in Delhi, the capital of India, in February 2020, Raja spoke not a word. That’s surprising considering that he’s personally met Modi at least three times, including traveling to India for an audience with the prime minister within just his first six months in office.

Raja’s very vocal, thankfully, about Russian foreign interference in our elections. But when Trump joined Modi on stage at a 2019 reception in Houston, and Modi turned to Trump and publicly endorsed him for re-election, Raja spoke not a word. That’s surprising considering Raja was actually there on stage at the time — along with Modi and Trump.

Raja’s very vocal, thankfully, about domestic extremism in America. White supremacy, of course, is the top domestic terror threat here. And yet, the RSS has actually been an inspiration for white supremacist terrorism. Perhaps the most lethal white supremacist terrorist, Anders Breivik of Norway, who massacred 77 people and has himself inspired countless copycats around the world, specifically praised the RSS for its violent xenophobia and insisted that white supremacists should learn from and collaborate with the RSS as much as possible.

But Raja has not spoken a word against the RSS.

Instead, he has shared the stage with the chief of the RSS, keynoted an event celebrating the RSS’s founding, and lined his campaign coffers with tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars from leaders and members of American affiliates of the RSS. And much more.

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Pieter Friedrich

Pieter Friedrich

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