Controversy is raging after Germany’s Ambassador to India, Walter Lindner, visited the Nagpur, Maharashtra headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on July 17 despite the group’s implication in anti-minority pogroms and heavily documented inspiration by European fascist movements, including that of Nazi Germany.
“It is world’s largest voluntary organization,” said Lindner. “Though not uncontroversially perceived throughout its history.” The historical controversies surrounding the RSS include prolific praise by its longest serving leader, M.S. Golwalkar, for Nazi racial policy towards the Jews. Notably, Golwalkar wrote in 1939:
“To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
Germany’s Lindner, however, posed for a picture with current RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat while standing before a framed photo of Golwalkar.
“Ambassador Lindner’s decision to meet with the RSS, a brutal paramilitary which has repeatedly and systematically slaughtered various minority groups, is an absolute outrage,” comments Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI) spokesperson Arvin Valmuci. “Being pictured with Nazi apologist Golwalkar, the Guru of Hate, sends a chilling message to India’s minorities. The global rise of neo-Nazism, especially its attempts to align with the RSS to promote violent supremacist goals, poses a dire threat to the peace and harmony of the whole world. Ambassador Lindner legitimizes fascist ideology, including that of the defeated Nazi regime, by engaging with the RSS on any level other than the harshest censure.”
Valmuci notes that the RSS has a stated goal of establishing India as an ethno-state. “Just like the Nazis wanted a purified Germany of Germans, where only Aryans were allowed to live and thrive, the RSS wants India to be a nation where all non-Hindus are either treated as foreigners or else eliminated,” says Valmuci. “Ambassador Lindner should be stripped of his position. We call on Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to intervene without delay, issue an apology, and reaffirm Germany’s opposition to fascism wherever it is found in the world.”
Accused of organizing or being involved in at least a dozen pogroms since 1969, the RSS most recently was reported by various international human rights groups as taking a leading role in the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom (which left over 2,000 Muslims dead) and the 2008 Odisha Pogrom (which left over 100 Christians dead). Furthermore, high-level RSS worker Swami Aseemanand alleges that Bhagwat was party to a 2005 meeting in which the swami detailed his plans to bomb Muslim targets. Bhagwat reportedly told him, “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.” Subsequently, Aseemanand conducted (and later confessed to) several lethal terrorist attacks from 2006 to 2008.
On an international level, in 2011, Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik had praised the RSS for how they “dominate the streets” and “often riot and attack Muslims.” He further called for white supremacists and Hindu nationalist groups like the RSS to “learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible.”
Last year, in the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency categorized two of the RSS’s major subsidiaries — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal — as “political pressure groups” which are “religious militant organizations.”