Political Influence by Hindu Rightwing in United States

There has been a steady creep of right-wing Hindu nationalism into American politics with aggressive outreach, warning and threatening Members of Congress against criticizing India or Hindu nationalism or speaking in favor of Muslims.

The Hindu Nationalists’ dream and strategy are to get a member of congress who is beholden to them elevated to the status of the chair of South Asia subcommittee (and eventually the foreign affairs committee) so they can effectively subordinate all US Foreign policy toward South Asia to the Hindu Nationalist agenda. As Islamophobia is central to their agenda, it means the US will not only not be able to raise a voice against the persecution of Muslims in India but will actively support the persecutors of Muslims in that region.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is an open supporter of BJP. Other candidates such as Raja Krishnamurthy, Ami Bera, Padma Kuppa, Sri Kulkarni have received financial backing by Hindu Nationalists. Hindutva-aligned candidates support policies that target Indian religious minorities and caste-oppressed people both in America and abroad while projecting themselves as champions of progressive values in the U.S.

Hindutva groups in the U.S. have funded opposing candidates in an attempt to defeat Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Keith Ellison. They’ve opposed City Council resolutions against India’s discriminatory citizenship laws in Seattle, Albany, Cambridge, San Francisco, St. Paul, and Chicago.

An article in Al Jazeera, published in April, revealed that at least five U.S.-based Hindu groups received $833,000 in loans and grants from the federal COVID relief funds distributed by the United States Small Business Administration. The five organizations—Sewa International (the foreign service wing of the RSS’ Sewa Bharati), the VHPA, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (a VHP-run project), the Infinity Foundation, headed by the Hindu nationalist author Rajiv Malhotra, and the HAF were reported to have links with the Sangh Parivar.

Hindu American Foundation’s (HAF) co-founder Rishi Bhutada was the main organizer and spokesperson of the Howdy Modi event in Houston where far-right Indian PM Modi was welcomed and Trump was the chief guest. At least 50,000 of them traveled to Houston to cheer the Indian Prime Minister.

Rishi Bhutada along with his large extended family (all staunch adherents of Hindu nationalism) and other HAF members contributed close to $50,000 to Sri Preston Kulkarni’s campaign in Houston, TX. Kulkarni has come out and stated that his campaign would not have happened had it not been for them. He further went on to say that Rishi Bhutada’s father Ramesh Bhutada (who is considered one of the founders of Hindu nationalist movements in the United States) was like a father to him after Kulkarni lost his own father in his early years. Analysis of Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports reveals that Bhutada — as well as his wife and son — were among the first 40 donors to Kulkarni’s campaign.

According to Form 990, the tax document that tax-exempt organizations in the U.S. file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Bhutada Family Foundation donated $362,242 to the HAF between 2005 and 2018. During the same period, the Bhutadas gave more than $1 million to five Sangh-affiliated organizations in the U.S.— Param Shakti Peeth of America (PSPA), Sewa, Ekal, the HSS, and the VHPA.

Another congressman who is beholden to Hindutva is Raja Krishnamoorthy from IL-8.  When Raja Krishnamoorthi first launched his campaign, he said everything Muslims wanted to hear, but soon after he consolidated his position, he enabled and facilitated the World Hindu Conference where Mohan Bhagwat, head of RSS was the chief guest and every noted Islamophobe from India was invited.

When fellow Indian-Americans like Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna are so outspoken in opposition to the agenda of India’s ruling Hindu nationalists and yet congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi remains silent on the issue of foreign policy while, at the same time, taking in large donations from representatives of the Sangh in America.

To understand what Raja does behind the scenes to undermine human rights and enable Islamophobia, read this report.