Date/Time: Monday, October 4, 2004
Rebranding the Sangh:
US Universities Legitimate the RSS
The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH) deplores the fact that prestigious American educational institutions such as the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania are granting unprecedented legitimacy to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) by providing an unmediated forum for its spokesperson, Ram Madhav. An organization inspired and modeled on the Italian fascists and the Nazis , the RSS has been responsible since its inception in 1925 for propagating a politics of hate and violence against non-Hindu minorities [2,3], most recently evident in the massacre of 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat . The RSS renders all of India's history as a black and white picture of Muslim marauders and oppressed Hindus, and makes no distinction between historical truth and pure prejudice in its efforts to push its violent political agendas. What purpose can it serve, then, to allow the RSS room to air its views, with neither opposing viewpoints offered, nor contextual information provided?
A hardened RSS ideologue, Mr Madhav is on record as a key representative of RSS positions. For instance, his recent warning of the "very grave threat" posed by the rising Muslim population and similar scaremongering against Muslims by his colleagues is very reminiscent of the Nazi-era witchhunt of Jews . While not overtly eulogistic about the massacre of 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat like some of his colleagues [6,7], he has been at least as steadfast in his defense of the perpetrators  and critiqued "softer" stances that his own partymen took on the issue . What can students and faculty learn from one with such "intellectual" credentials?
Free speech is a valuable ideal to protect when those who are being denied access are powerless and when what such organizations and people have to say would stand up to the bare minimum academic scrutiny. Commenting on the issue Ra Ravishankar, CSFH collective member said:
"Free speech is just a cover... Which RSS position stands up to academic scrutiny? That Muslim invasions are the cause of contemporary problems in India? That Indians must develop race pride like the Nazis? This is not about free speech but about the legitimation of the RSS in the United States."
While we appreciate the role of universities as places where diverse views should be discussed and challenged, lending institutional credence to an ideology that supports genocide  distorts the idea of intellectual debate. Is it not ironic that victims of the Gujarat carnage are gagged in India at each step in the judicial process even as a first world educational institution promotes the voices of the perpetrators ? In fact, to honey coat the RSS' credentials -- Johns Hopkins called it the "pre-eminent nationalist Hindu organization in India" and University of Pennsylvania described it as an organization emphasizing "Hindu-ness" -- is the very anti-thesis of transparency and free speech. It is unfortunate that institutions that will not have the gumption to host the KKK's official representatives in the name of free speech could legitimate its Indian equivalent.
Indeed, we anticipate that if these talks serve any purpose, it will be one that benefits the RSS's global objectives. Our 2002 report titled, The Foreign Exchange of Hate , has shown thorough evidence from federal tax documents how the Sangh Parivar, the larger RSS-affiliated family of organizations, funnels out dollar contributions gathered in the guise of charity to India to build its organizational base; similarly, a 2003 British investigative report  documents how the same Hindutva organizations channel charity funds from the U.K. to India. The U.S. universities hosting Mr Madhav should be aware that the record of this sponsorship will be flaunted in RSS self-advertisements as evidence of how much credibility it enjoys in the United States. Usha Zacharias, CSFH collective member summarized the impact of the legitimation process as follows:
"They will provide what the RSS urgently needs: cosmetic legitimation to make over its image after the Gujarat genocide, to gain a rebranded identity stamped with a U.S. visa that it can now proudly market again to raise funds in western currencies and to expand its political base worldwide."
The decision is not complicated: can we take a stand to support genocide, as the RSS did in Gujarat, 2002, when 2000 human beings were massacred, only because we reside within the walls of the first world academy?
3. "The Hindu organizations most responsible for violence against Christians are the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal,and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS). According to a former RSS member, these groups cannot be divorced from the ruling BJP party: "There is no difference between the BJP and RSS. BJP is the body. RSS is the soul, and the Bajrang Dal is the hands for beating."
4."The groups most directly involved in the violence against Muslims include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that heads the Gujarat state government. Collectively, they are known as the sangh parivar, or family of Hindu nationalist organizations."
5. Venkaiah Naidu, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party
(political wing of the RSS) said, "It is disturbing that Muslims now
form 12.4% of the population" and that this was "a cause of grave
concern for all those who think of India's unity and integrity in the
long run." See
6. VHP Working President Ashok Singhal claimed, "What happened in Gujarat after the Godhra carnage had the blessings of Lord Rama." See
7. VHP leader Praveen Togadia called the secularists the "impotent fringe" and threatened to "make a (violent) laboratory of the whole country." See http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/5905_120559,0008.htm
8. See http://www.southasiamonitor.org/india/2003/aug/ind1.html and
10. Golwalkar, an early political visionary who shaped the RSS, explicitly endorsed Hitler's campaign against the Jews in Germany by calling it a form of "race pride"" India should emulate [Golwalkar, M.S. (1939), We, Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publications, p.35.].
11. India: After Gujarat Riots, Witnesses Face Intimidation [http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/09/23/india9383.htm]
12. The Foreign Exchange of Hate - IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva [http://stopfundinghate.org/sacw/index.html]
13. In Bad Faith? British Charity & Hindu Extremism