Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS)

Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the international wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is the leading organization that promotes Hindu nationalist ideas and goals amongst the Indian diaspora around the world. HSS has a presence in 156 countries, including the United States, where it is a registered  501c3 and has nearly 220 branches. 

HSS will vehemently reject and protest against being linked to India’s Nazi-inspired fascist paramilitary group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) when its ties are exposed (especially in front of local governments in the US). However, some basic research reveals a radically different story.

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

India’s Zee News — an outlet actually owned by a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member — calls the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (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.” Infact, World Hindu News, a prominent online news portal run by HSS affiliates in the US write that “HSS is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).”

How about 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.” Walter K Andersen and Shridhar D Damle of Quartz describe, “Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas counterpart of the RSS in the US.” Hannah Ellis-Petersen of The Guardian calls HSS “a sister group of the RSS.”

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.”

Rheaa Rao, a scholar at Cuny Graduate School of Journalism says, “ the RSS presents itself in the US, as a charitable organization ministering to the global Hindu diaspora, through multiple affiliate organizations, including its overseas proxy, known as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS).”

Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative calls, “Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, which represents the overseas interests of the RSS.”

As Rajiv Malhotra — yet another pro-RSS writer — states: “HSS is RSS’ foreign name. This is important for those unfamiliar with RSS.”

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

So why won’t the HSS admit this to you?

Well, 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 and why would the HSS be “stigmatized” if its links to that organization were known?

Established in 1925, the RSS (also known as the Sangh) has been banned three times in post-Independence India. The first ban came after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 – the organization was accused of plotting the murder of the national icon.

The RSS has been directly involved in orchestrating anti-Christian and anti-Muslim pogroms and instigating terror attacks as part of a relentless campaign to subvert India’s secular moorings and turn it into a Hindu authoritarian state where minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens.

Its members and affiliated organizations have been implicated in countless acts of massacres, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, forced conversions and other forms of violence against religious minorities in India. RSS leaders openly declare plans of “wiping off” Christianity and Islam from India and advocate for denying Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism a separate religious identity, and insist that these religions are simply branches of Hinduism.

In August 2022, a senior RSS member filed an affidavit in the Indian court accusing the RSS leadership of orchestrating bomb blasts across India to help the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) win elections.

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.

For instance, 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.”

In the US, HSS has been working extensively to mainstream the fascist ideology of Hindutva The Bay Area chapter of HSS organized fundraisers for Sadhvi Ritambhara, a key RSS leader that instigated the demolition of the historial Babri mosque in India.

HSS members organized a celebration event for Modi in Texas where Trump was endorsed for re-election by the Indian PM Modi. This year, sitting RSS linked BJP Members of Indian Parliament endorsed Sri Preston Kulkarni, nephew of prominent BJP/RSS leader Pramod Mahajan for a Texas House race. HSS members donated over $80,000 to the campaign. 

While HSS sits at the center of RSS infrastructure in the US, there are nearly a dozen other affiliates — direct and ideological — who on the surface look benign religious, cultural, advocacy and charity organizations but in reality, work — overtly and covertly — in synchronization with the HSS and RSS to promote the ideology of Hindu nationalism / Hindu Supremacism. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) is the ideological partner of HSS in the US. Organizations like Sewa International, Ekal Vidyalaya, and Hindu American Foundation were founded or run either by the current/former serving members of HSS/VHPA.