“Lots of Propaganda”: Busting the “Vast Hinduphobia” Conspiracy Theory

 Is it true that “every” American Hindu politician faces “bigoted attacks”?

“Outside forces have done things,” complained (now former) Michigan State Representative Padma Kuppa in a July 2022 interview with the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) about her experience running for office. “A man by the name of Pieter Friedrich published an advertisement with lots of propaganda about where my money is coming from and what I’ve done. You know, we were able to refute it.”

Kuppa, a Democrat, has not only shared certain past platforms with Republican Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani but also shares similar complaints about me.

“Pieter Friedrich has a website about me,” said Antani in an August 2022 interview with HAF. “Me, [US Congressman] Raja [Krishnamoorthi], and Padma Kuppa, you know, are the three he has websites about.” In June 2022, he was even more explicit, declaring that my “bigoted attacks against Hindus must be condemned by all” and promising to “work to strongly oppose his attacks on Hindu Americans.”

Antani’s and Kuppa’s response to their shared experience of criticism is not original. I’ve criticized a number of other politicians for the same reasons, and most typically resort to the same defense. But what’s the reason for my criticism?

The reason, namely, is association with organizations in America which are affiliated with India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary and its various offshoots. What does that association look like? Participating in events hosted by those groups, propagating and defending the policy positions of those groups, receiving heavy — apparently targeted — campaign financing from leaders in those groups or, usually, a combination of all of the above.

Yet, like actors all reading the same script, these politicians — once the criticism garners too much attention to ignore — all invariably denounce me and similar critics as “bigots” and “Hinduphobes.”

US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, for instance, resorted to this at a re-election debate in June 2022. My detailed reporting on his long-time ties to US affiliates of the RSS ultimately culminated in catching him, on camera, running away from a question about his views on the paramilitary. The video gained so much attention that he was compelled to respond, which he did by accusing me of bigotry. His outrage was amplified by former US Congressman Tulsi Gabbard, who labeled criticism of Krishnamoorthi “Hinduphobia” and urged political leaders to have “the courage to reject such bigotry.”

Aside from the criticized politicians, however, the loudest voices pushing this “Hinduphobia” narrative are executives in the RSS-linked organizations with which these politicians are associated.

Recently, for instance, this narrative was spun by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) as well as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS-USA). VHPA is the US affiliate of India’s VHP (which is itself the religious wing of the RSS) while HSS-USA is the US affiliate of the RSS itself.

In an August 2022 podcast, for example, VHPA’s president and media coordinator both insisted that American politicians of Hindu faith are being widely and systematically “attacked” for no other reason than their religion. Conveniently, they neglected to mention that criticism of Kuppa, Antani, Krishnamoorthi, Gabbard, and others is partly premised on their involvement with the VHPA.

“We’ve seen this before,” said VHPA Media Coordinator Utsav Chakrabarti (in reference to criticism of Aruna Miller, then a candidate for lieutenant governor in Maryland). “Hindu candidates, it doesn’t matter which political party they are from, Hindu candidates are attacked all the time. You know, just a few months ago, Raja Krishnamoorthi’s candidature was attacked in the primaries…. We have seen this play out in Houston against Sri Preston Kulkarni. We have seen this play out year after year against many other Hindu candidates, including Tulsi Gabbard…. Every time theres a Hindu whos standing for elections [emphasis added].”

In her HAF interview, Kuppa hinted at what she believes is the source of these “attacks,” claiming, “There are outside political interests that do not want to see people of Indian origin who are Hindu to succeed.” Antani went a step further, claiming that criticism of him has “all come from, you know, frankly, the Islamic community.” He argued, “The radical Islamic community and their sympathizers are doing everything possible to tear down Hindus and Hinduism in America and across the world. As we have risen in America and across the world, they see us as a threat and so, you know, they are trying to tear us down.”

VHPA President Ajay Shah, however, was even more specific.

Describing an “ecosystem that is now in place that tries to bring down the Hindu candidates” (and naming me as a part of it), Shah blamed these “attacks” on an international conspiracy. “Pakistan is directly involved in bringing down the Hindu candidates in America in order to limit the influence that India has in statehouses as well as the Congress,” he said. “And they’re working through some of the organizations that are Indian Muslim organizations.”

The VHPA is not alone in spinning a narrative of a “vast Hinduphobia” conspiracy.

According to HSS-USA, a primary instigator behind this supposed explosion of “Hinduphobia” appears to be, well, me. In August 2022 (two months after I first worked on the ground in Illinois’s 8th congressional district to expose Krishnamoorthi’s RSS ties), a media coordinator for HSS-USA declared:

Pieter Friedrich, a self-proclaimed freelance journalist-activist who is an outsider for IL-08, effectively initiated mud-throwing against Rep. Krishnamoorthi. These attacks were not on any politics or the policies that the Congressman stood for, but appears to be purely an attempt to spread hate about one community, its faith, values, and philosophy. His acts were not only against the Congressman himself but against American Hindus whom he perpetually appears to despise. This self-declared activist also attacked, in the past, Hindu politicians including Tulsi Gabbard and Sri Preston Kulkarni.

The claim, in short, is that “every time there’s a Hindu who’s standing for elections” in America they are “attacked” and “torn down” because they are — and for no other reason than that they are — a Hindu.

It is, one is intended to believe, a systematic conspiracy. If the claims are to be believed, it’s horrifying. Such a bigoted campaign — were it occurring — certainly would run contrary to the core values of secularism, pluralism, and religious freedom and, as such, ought to be unconditionally condemned by all.

Yet, is there any truth to the claim of a “vast Hinduphobia” conspiracy to “attack” American Hindu politicians? Or is it rather, in the words of Kuppa, “lots of propaganda” which is actually intended to gaslight critics and squelch legitimate criticism of a handful of people in politically influential positions who are unapologetically maintaining unsavory associations with extremist organizations?

What is the RSS?

The backdrop for this whole drama is, of course, the RSS.

Understanding the existence and nature of the RSS is foundational to understanding why its so concerning when politicians associate with it or its offshoots. It’s also crucial to understanding why those accused of associating with it invariably resort to counter-allegations of “Hinduphobia.”

The RSS, founded in 1925, is a Hindu nationalist (also known as Hindutva) paramilitary with fascist underpinnings.

Initially, one need look no further for confirmation of this than the words of one of its co-founders: BS Moonje. In 1933, after he traveled to Fascist Italy to tour the paramilitary organizations created by Benito Mussolini, Moonje concluded that fascism provided great potential for national unity and that India needed similar institutions for “the military regeneration of the Hindus.” Applauding how “the idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people,” he pointed to the RSS as an organization exactly “of this kind” of fascist group.

Over the decades, Western as well as Indian scholars have widely shared the conclusion that the RSS is militant, militaristic and, in essence, a paramilitary.

Extremism expert Dr. Eviane Leidig calls it a “paramilitary Hindu nationalist organization… which advocates for an ethno-nationalist Hindu state.” Political philosopher Dr. Martha Nussbaum describes it as a “militant social organization that is the heart of the Hindu right.” Historian Dr. Michele Louro says it is “the largest all-volunteer paramilitary organization” which was “modeled after fascist groups in Europe.” Political scientist Dr. Christophe Jaffrelot calls it a “martial body” with a “fascistic dimension” and “paramilitary style.”

Indian author Arundhati Roy calls it “a fascist organization” and an “armed militia.” Indian civil rights activist Dr. Anand Teltumbde says it is “clearly patterned on the fascist militia.” Indian sociologist Dr. Chetan Bhatt describes it as “in essence a cultish organization” which is probably “the largest voluntary, private paramilitary body existing in any nation.” Indian historian AG Noorani calls it a “fascist,” “militant Hindu group” which is guilty of “bigoted communalism, addiction to violence, and practice of deceit to capture political power.”

Groups ranging from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom to international human rights outfits like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all frequently implicated the RSS (and its various affiliates) in gross anti-minority atrocities.

The RSS’s most common victims are Christians and Muslims. Whistleblowers in India and even participants in the violence have all similarly fingered the paramilitary’s role in various pogroms and even terrorist bombings. In September 2022, for instance, a former RSS pracharak (full-time worker) — who admits to personally attacking a top Muslim politician in the past — filed a legal affidavit accusing the RSS of training him and others at bomb-making camps and then conducting multiple anti-Muslim bombings across India in the mid-2000s.

Between the RSS and just two of its largest affiliates (the VHP and that group’s youth wing, the Bajrang Dal), the collective known as the “Sangh Parivar” (Family of Organizations) boasts anywhere from 15 to 20 million militant members. The RSS’s political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), boasts another 180 million members (though it’s important to remember that not only does that number likely include most, if not all, members of the RSS and its affiliates but also that many BJP members who are not also members of the Sangh Parivar may not necessarily entirely, or even at all, endorse the Sangh’s ideology).

Notably, considering that there are approximately 1.2 billion Hindus in India, the size of the Sangh’s membership — although certainly numbering in the tens if not hundreds of millions — clearly indicates that the family of organizations is not representative of Hinduism as a whole. Yet, despite being less than 100 years old, that is exactly how the RSS seeks to portray itself: as the sole, legitimate gatekeeper of the entire 5,000-year-old Hindu religion.

Such was obvious from the outset.

Both the paramilitary’s first Supreme Leader, KB Hedgewar, and second, MS Golwalkar, are credited with saying the outfit’s goal was to “organize the entire Hindu society.” That vision persists. The RSS today (as detailed on its website) is explicitly committed to “engulfing” absolutely every aspect of not just Hinduism but also the entirety of Indian society:

The aim of the Sangh is to organize the entire Hindu society, and not just to have a Hindu organization within the ambit of this society…. The aim of the Sangh is to expand so extensively that each and every individual and traditional social institution like family, caste, profession, educational and religious institutions etc., are all to be ultimately engulfed into its system. [emphasis added] The goal before the Sangh is to have an organized Hindu society in which all its constituents and institutions function in harmony and co-ordination, just as in the body organs.

Beyond the borders of India, the Sangh has many different affiliated organizations, chief of which is the HSS.

What is the RSSs International Wing?

The HSS’s status as the direct international corollary — or wing — of the RSS is widely affirmed. One need not necessarily look for confirmation of that fact any further than the writings of Dr. Walter K. Andersen and Shridhar Damle.

The pair have co-authored some of the most detailed, academic studies of the organization ever published, including their most recent book, a nearly 500-page tome entitled, The RSS: A View to the Inside. The American magazine, Foreign Affairscalled the book “an exceptionally well-informed look at the RSS.”

Indian media describes Andersen as “perhaps, the only scholar to have observed, or studied, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for nearly five decades.” Andersen himself reports his unprecedented direct access to four of the five RSS Supreme Leaders who’ve controlled the organization since the 1970s. Damle, curiously enough, is not only (or at least was at the time of writing) the head of HSS-USA’s Chicago chapter but claims that he was personally asked to write the book by India’s current BJP Prime Minister (and RSS member) Narendra Modi.

The book, according to one Indian journalist, lacks neutrality and serves as “a scholarly exercise in publicity for the RSS in establishing its agenda.” In other words, it’s an RSS-approved history intended to paint the paramilitary in the most flattering light possible.

Within that context, even these authors admit that the HSS is “the overseas counterpart of the RSS.” Moreover, they report that HSS workers often attend advanced RSS-run training camps back in India — with one goal being to “create an international pool of potential RSS workers to be assigned anywhere in the world.” They further report that HSS leaders in America include former RSS members, that HSS sessions are sometimes conducted by full-time RSS workers visiting from India, and so on.

In short, the most favorable documentarians of the RSS — one of whom admits their book was suggested by Modi himself — openly state that the HSS is the RSS’s international wing.

Many other Indian-origin writers, although more critical of the RSS, share the same conclusion. For instance, in September 2022, Pranay Somayajula reported:

The HSS, which operates in nearly 40 countries around the world, is the overseas wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an explicitly fascist-inspired Hindu supremacist paramilitary that was founded in the 1920s and has been linked to deadly anti-Muslim violence — including, as one of its functionaries revealed last week, a conspiracy to carry out bombings across India. Similarly, the VHPA was founded in 1970 by a longtime RSS activist to be the American wing of another extremist organization: the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which in 2018 was classified in the CIA World Factbook as a ‘militant religious organization’ and which has also been linked to deadly hate violence.”

Indian-American journalists like Nitish Pahwa describe the HSS as the “international affiliate” of the RSS which was established to work “towards the RSS’s goals” while Rashmee Kumar says it operates “under the RSS umbrella” as the RSS’s “international branch.” Their descriptions are echoed by countless reports in mainstream Indian media outlets which variously report that the HSS is the “overseas unit,” “overseas offshoot,” “international offshoot,” “allied organization,” and “foreign wing” of the RSS.

There is not a shadow of a doubt that the HSS and the RSS are connected — even to the extent that the HSS can accurately be called the international wing of the RSS. The nature of the RSS is that of a paramilitary organization which was founded with inspiration from European fascist movements and is implicated in anti-minority violence in India. Therefore, by extension, any connection to or interaction with the HSS would be highly problematic.

The American Sanghs Role in RSS-BJPs Rise in India

Meanwhile, the HSS (and various other American Sangh outfits) played a crucial and undeniable role — one about which they themselves often bragged at the time — in helping to elect the RSS’s political wing, the BJP, in India. Leaders and members of the group and its affiliates were, by all accounts, instrumental in placing lifelong RSS member Modi at the new government’s head.

The Overseas Friends of the BJP USA (OFBJP-USA) was the most prominent organization leading this charge.

Some of the key organizing figures in the project included Ramesh Bhutada, Bharat Barai, and Ramesh Shah. All three are linked to OFBJP. All three are also longtime national leaders in various other American Sangh outfits.

Shah, for instance, is a former VHPA Governing Councillor, apparently an HSS member (if not leader), as well as a former OFBJP president. Barai is also a former VHPA Governing Councillor. Bhutada is the HSS-USA Vice-President.

In 2014, as the BJP floated Modi for prime minister in India’s General Election, Shah personally traveled to India to campaign on the ground — something he had reportedly been doing every election cycle for decades. Barai also personally traveled to India, reportedly leading a contingent of 600 Indian-American campaign volunteers for the BJP. Bhutada remained in the US, where he organized “around the clock” phone banks of, reportedly, 700 volunteers to call from America to urge Indian voters to back the BJP.

All three — all of whom are US citizens — devoted untold energies to interfering in India’s sovereign elections to ensure a BJP victory. All three are affiliated with the various interlinked American Sangh outfits which spring, originally, from the RSS paramilitary. All three are routine donors to the campaigns of almost all the US politicians whom I’ve labeled as associated with the Sangh.

Beyond the specific efforts of these three individuals, in total, the OFBJP-USA reportedly mobilized anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 volunteers from America to travel to India to serve as BJP campaign workers. Some reports indicate they even staffed polling booths. The exact impact of their efforts is speculative, but conclusions can be drawn from how Modi’s newly-elected regime rewarded both Shah and Barai within its first three years.

While the RSS has existed since 1925, the BJP is a relatively new party in the Indian political sphere, emerging only in 1980. It has held power once before, from 1998 to 2002, but only as part of a coalition government (meaning it did not win enough seats to control a majority of the government).

That all changed in 2014, when the BJP won nearly 52 percent of all parliamentarian seats versus only 33 percent in 1998 — a percentage that increased with Modi’s reelection in 2019 to 55 percent.

The participation of American Sangh leaders like Barai and Shah in Modi’s initial rise to power was apparently acknowledged by his government in January 2017 when they were awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman — the highest award issued to Non-Resident Indians. There was no more obvious reason for them to receive the award other than their hard work to help elect Modi.

Yet, at the exact same time that Bhutada, Shah, and Barai all simultaneously worked to elect Modi in India, they began doing the same for the first of several congressional candidates in the US: Tulsi Gabbard.

Tulsi Gabbard Exemplifies How American Politicians Are Tied to RSS-BJP

Former congressional representative — and failed presidential candidate — Tulsi Gabbard is the premier example of how the American Sangh ties itself to particular politicians. One could call Gabbard the prototype.

Gabbard exemplifies all three of the major characteristics of an American politician with RSS-BJP ties.

First, since before she was first elected, she received massive funding from top leaders of the American Sangh (such as Barai, Shah, and Bhutada) — funding which continued for years and constituted a massive percentage (up to 25 percent, in some years) of her total campaign financing.

Second, since before she was first elected, she used her office to propagate and defend the policy positions of the American Sangh.

Third, since before she was first elected as well as during her time in office, she regularly participated in events hosted by the American Sangh — that is, by the HSS, VHPA, and OFBJP.

There is no need to regurgitate the entire narrative, as I’ve already covered the full extent of Gabbard’s RSS-BJP ties — in excruciating detail — in an August 2019 cover article for India’s Caravan magazine. Yet, to highlight her as an example, let us review a few bullet points.

Gabbard first ran for US Congress in the 2012 election. Within America’s typical primary/general system, she first had to win the primary for the right to represent her party before going on to the general to actually win election to office.

She launched her primary campaign in May 2011, first began receiving funding from American Sangh donors in October 2011, and won the primary in May 2012. She finally won the general in November 2012. During that time, approximately ten percent of her total itemized individual donations came from people with long histories of either serving as members or leaders of American Sangh groups or, simply, as advocates for Modi. Simultaneously, many of her largest donors were hosting RSS and BJP officials for tours in America. Shortly before winning the general, she also issued her sole pre-election foreign policy statement (one solely focused on US-India policy), suggesting that a good relationship with a secular, democratic India was impossible without understanding the majority religion of the region and indicating her support for an unconditional friendship with the country.

She also spoke at a VHPA event in California where VHP’s Ashok Singhal — known for calling an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 an “experiment” that should be replicated across all of India — was the guest of honor.

Gabbard’s association with the American Sangh only deepened after she took office in January 2013. From 2013 to 2015 (during her first two terms in office), as her campaign coffers overflowed with donations from American Sangh figures, she used her position on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs to publicly stake pro-Modi policy positions which she herself described as having notable “impact.” Along the way, she keynoted at least ten different Sangh events: for the HSS (both in the US and Australia), for the VHPA, for the OFBJP-USA, and, eventually, even for actual RSS affiliates in India itself.

Meanwhile, her Sangh donors were not only working from America to get Modi elected in India in May 2014 but, afterwards, also working to rehabilitate the new prime minister’s image in the US.

Since 2005, Modi had been banned from entry to the US due to his involvement in that anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. Upon his election as India’s head of state, the ban no longer applied because Modi now had diplomatic immunity. Yet, with the shadow of the past still lingering, Modi needed whitewashing. Gabbard jumped to the task by publicly embracing and fawning over the man on his first visit to the US since being banned for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

In 2019, New York based media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting summarized the situation:

The RSS draws much of its power from its followers in the Diaspora, and Gabbard has been crucial to revamping the image of the Hindu nationalist in the United States, and has in turn received crucial financial support from the Indian-American far right. (Gabbard, who is of Samoan and European descent, is a practicing Hindu.) Much of that RSS support has come from donations from Indian-Americans who are part of the movement’s US efforts — think of them as like US Zionists who aren’t just pro-Israel, but pro-Likud…. Gabbard was pivotal in a global public relations effort on the part of the Hindutva movement to remake Modi from an outcast for his complicity in the Gujarat violence of 2002 to the legitimate statesman the West considers him today.”

All throughout, Gabbard served — from within three weeks of taking office in January 2013 until February 2016 — as Vice Chair of the Democratic Party. In other words, almost from the day she first took office and mostly during a Democratic administration, she was the second most powerful person in one of America’s two major political parties. She was highly influential from the get go.

Considering her intense association with the American Sangh, Gabbard’s level of influence made her, to say the least, a troubling politician. To date, no other Sangh-associated politician in the US has achieved her level of power. Yet others are certainly attempting, especially at the state and federal level.

Just as in the days of Gabbard, however, the issue is not the number of such candidates. In fact, despite attempts to denounce criticism of Sangh-associated candidates as indicative of attacks on “every” Hindu who stands for elections, there are actually only a mere handful of them. Rather, the issue is the level of influence such politicians could — or, in some cases, actually do — achieve.

The Influence of Sangh-Associated Politicians in America

In the wake of Gabbard, Sangh-linked American politicians (and appointees) have made inroads at every level — from city councils to state legislatures, from US Congress and (since 2022) all the way to not only statewide office but even the White House. Yet the real issue, as mentioned, is not one of quantity but rather of “quality.” Quality, that is, in terms of the influence and level of political power these figures hold or may soon be able to access.

I’ve written in-depth about most of the figures whom I’ll briefly highlight here. All of them share some combination of the three factors I use to categorize a politician as “Sangh-associated”: taking major campaign funding from American Sangh leaders and members, offering apologetics for pro-Sangh policies, and participating in Sangh events. I have only ever accused politicians of association with the Sangh if more than one of these factors is present on a routine, repeated basis.

We’ve already examined Gabbard, so let’s take a look at the other major figures I’ve covered since 2019. We’ll begin with the lowest-level office holder.

A major consideration even with “low-level” politicians at, for instance, the city level is that — just like politicians everywhere, whether for good or bad — they will use these lower-level offices as stepping stones to achieve ever higher offices.

Rishi Kumar, a (now former) city councillor in Saratoga, CA, illustrates that concern. Serving on the city council from 2014 to 2022, Kumar ran for US Congress twice, beginning in 2020 during his second term on the council. He again ran in 2022. He lost both times, but substantially increased his vote yield (and name recognition) during his second campaign. Should he run for Congress again, he will likey once more face off against Anna Eshoo — an aging incumbent who is rumored to be considering retirement — and may stand a real chance of winning.

In state legislatures, there is Niraj Antani in Ohio and Padma Kuppa in Michigan.

Kuppa, now a former member of of the Michigan House of Representatives, was first elected in 2018. During her second term, she attempted to level up, running for State Senate. She very narrowly lost with a razor thin margin of just 0.6 percent. Though now out of office, chances — especially considering her close loss — are that she will once again make a bid for the same office or, perhaps, even attempt a run for US Congress.

Antani was first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2014. After serving three terms, he leveled up to the State Senate in 2020. His party has named him a “rising star” and featured him as a speaker during their 2020 national convention. Combining ambition and a history of electoral success, it’s likely he’ll try for even higher office, perhaps statewide or even federal.

At the statewide level is Aruna Miller, who was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in 2022.

First elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, during her second term, in 2018, Miller launched a campaign for US Congress. She lost the race in her party’s primary election, but came in second with a showing three times stronger than the third-place candidate. Then she was picked up by now Governor Wes Moore as his running mate. Now she is not only the second most powerful politician in Maryland, but Moore — described as a “rising party star” — is widely anticipated to run for the presidency in coming years. Should he win, Miller would likely have access to the White House. Whether that happens or not, she has also been rumored as a strong candidate for the US Senate.

Within the US Congress, there is Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois.

First elected in 2016, Krishnamoorthi is a member of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, meaning he is one of a very few members of Congress privy to top secret information and oversight of the country’s intelligence services. In February 2013, he became the Ranking Member of the newly-established US House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party — an interesting position for him to hold, in light of his Hindu nationalist backers, considering the geopolitical enmity between China and India. Meanwhile, Krishnamoorthi is strongly rumored to be considering a run for US Senate.

Aside from Krishnamoorthi, Sri Preston Kulkarni ran failed (but close) campaigns for US Congress in 2018 and 2020. As a career diplomat in the US Foreign Service who had served in India, chances were extremely high that he would have been appointed to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs. That would have placed him in a position to influence and guide US foreign policy towards a Modi-ruled India which, considering his intimate ties to the HSS, would almost certainly have led to biased policies.

At the federal level, there is Sonal Shah, Amit Jani, and Chandru Acharya. Both Shah and Acharya were appointed in 2022 to advisory roles with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Jani, also in 2022, was appointed the White House’s acting liaison at DHS. As I have not written specifically about Jani, it’s relevant to note here that he is the son of the OFBJP co-founder.

From Kumar to Antani and Kuppa, from Miller to Krishnamoorthi, from Kulkarni to Shah, Jani, and Acharya, every single one of these political figures shares one thing in common: connection to the HSS, VHPA, or OFBJP — or to all three. Those who ran campaigns for elected office almost all also share a similar donor base which typically includes Bhutada, Barai, Shah, and a host of other Sangh leaders and members whose names all pop up as financial backers of the same set of politicians. All of them have also propagated and defended (in one way and to one extent or another) pro-Sangh policies.

None of these figures have ever been critized by me — or any other anti-Hindutva writer or activist of whom I’m aware — for or because of being a Hindu.

Is There Really a “Vast Hinduphobia” Conspiracy at Play?

Aside from the three federal-level appointments made by President Joe Biden’s administration, there are currently only three elected officials facing criticism by myself — or any other source of which Im aware — for their ties to the Sangh. These are Miller, Krishnamoorthi, and Antani.

Yet Antani explicitly claimed that I’m engaged in “bigoted attacks against Hindus,” promising to oppose my supposed “attacks on Hindu Americans.” VHPA was even more emphatic about the purported problem, stating: “Hindu candidates are attacked all the time…. Every time there’s a Hindu who’s standing for elections.”

Every time?

I am the only American journalist who has dedicated years to systematically researching, documenting, and exposing politicians with links to the Sangh. Today, while anyone who maintains such links is concerning, I only accuse three elected officials in the entire country of maintaining them closely. That, of course, does not include the three appointments made by Biden.

According to Indian American Impact, an organization focused on building the power of Indian-Americans and South Asian communities, there are around 200 Indian-American elected officials at the city, state, and federal level. According to a 2021 report on the religious demographics of Indian-Americans, about 54 percent of that population is Hindu. Extrapolating those figure, one can reasonably estimate that at least 100 of the current Indian-American elected officials in the US are Hindus. I’m currently criticizing three out of those estimated 100.

As of January 2023, there are four members of US Congress who are Hindu. I’m currently criticizing one out of four.

As of August 2022, the Biden administration has reportedly appointed at least 130 Indian-Americans to various positions. Estimating that approximatey 65 of those are Hindus, I’ve criticized three out of 65.

It’s farcical to claim that “every” Hindu standing for elections faces “attacks” — let alone, as I’ve detailed regarding my own reasons for criticizing a tiny handful of American Hindu politicians, faces “attacks” simply for being Hindu.

In fact, Antani himself, in his interview with HAF, noted his surprise that being a Hindu was no obstacle to his political success in America. “We thought it was going to be a significant challenge, and it really has not born out to be,” he said. Moreover, he further noted, his ease of success occurred in a district consisting of “97 percent” white American Christians.

As one American Hindu politician once told me, they never anticipated that their greatest obstacle to successfully running for office in the US would not be being a Hindu but rather the enemies they would create by opposing Hindu nationalism. Hindutva adherents, in short, have a huge problem even with Hindus who oppose their Hindu nationalist ideology and, in the US, regularly attempt to savage such figures politically.

Meanwhile, the average American, by and large, has no problem — nor should they — with electing qualified, trustworthy politicians of any faith. The problem they should, and oftentimes do, have is with electing candidates (regardless of their faith) who are involved with extremists. In today’s world, there are few movements as extreme (or as under-reported) as the Hindu nationalists who have, with support from American affiliates, taken over India.

As mainstream awareness of Hindutva, especially within politics, spreads throughout US, anyone caught associating with it is increasingly feeling the heat.

Even some Sangh-associated politicians, unable to justify their association, have sometimes been compelled to publicly disassociate. Even Tulsi Gabbard herself — the prototype Hindutva-linked politician — was pressured towards the end of her days in Congress to back off from open collaboration with Sangh Parivar groups.

In 2018, Gabbard was scheduled to be the honorary co-chair of the “World Hindu Congress” in Chicago. The presumptuously named event was hosted by the VHPA, organized by a VHP secretary, and featured the RSS chief as its keynote speaker. At the last minute, Gabbard announced that she had withdrawn, explaining it was “due to ethical concerns and problems that surround my participating in any partisan Indian political event in America.”

Inadvertently confirming just how fringe the event was, Antani commented on it in his HAF interview.

“There were a variety of Indian and Hindu-American elected officials that were supposed to come and speak at World Hindu Congress,” he said. “But then these Islamic groups started their attacks and all but two of us canceled. Me and Raja Krishnamoorthi were the only ones who didn’t cancel our attendance.”

In other words, out of dozens and dozens of Hindu elected officials around the country, only two — both of whom have deep ties to the Sangh organizations behind the event — attended the event.

Hindutva, within the American Hindu community, is fringe. The Sangh Parivar is fringe. The ideology and the organizations espousing it do not represent Hinduism.

The only Hindus who face criticism — whether from myself or other anti-Hindutva entities in the country — while standing for election are the tiny number who have routinely participated in Sangh Parivar events, regurgitated and defended Sangh policy positions, and taken massive campaign financing from Sangh leaders and members. In 2023, when it comes to officeholders, that’s probably about three percent or less of American elected officials who are Hindu.

So no, it’s not true that “every time there’s a Hindu who’s standing for elections” they face “bigoted attacks.” For the most part, the only major figures making that claim are the ones who are being criticized for associating with the Sangh — or the Sangh organizations themselves. Unable to justify Hindutva and the organizations which push it, they resort to smearing anyone who criticizes it as a “Hinduphobe.”

Ultimately, the narrative of a vast Hinduphobia conspiracy designed to “tear down” — for no other reason than their religion — “every” Hindu politician is, to borrow the words of former Michigan State Representative Padma Kuppa, “lots of propaganda.” It’s a smokescreen intended to undermine and prevent criticism of a poisonous religious nationalist political ideology spearheaded by a specific organization, the RSS, which has fascist roots and an openly totalitarian vision.

This propaganda is designed to give cover to American Sangh organizations — and the politicians they support — who are carrying water for a genocidal regime. The best response is to refuse to be cowed, openly call it out as “lots of propaganda,” and carry on the struggle to resist and dismantle global Hindutva.

Source: CounterCurrents