NAGPUR, India—US Consul General in Mumbai David Ranz’s act of throwing flowers at the feet of the first Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Leader) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has many wanting to pluck him from office.
Ranz visited the headquarters of the RSS, a powerful Indian paramilitary, on February 6 to meet with RSS-Nagpur President Rajesh Loya. Media was restricted from the closed-door meeting and Ranz refused to take their questions afterwards. One of the only images that has emerged is one of Ranz, accompanied by Loya, laying flowers at the feet of a statue of KB Hedgewar, who served as the RSS’s Supreme Leader from 1925 to 1940.
Loya told media that Ranz “paid floral tributes at Hedgewar memorial” and visited the RSS because he was “curious” to know about “how RSS does character building of its cadres.”
“Anyone familiar with basic etiquette in India knows that touching the feet is a sign of obeisance and subservience,” says Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India. “Consul General David Ranz’s worshipful act of laying flowers at the feet of the first RSS chief is a diplomatic disaster. The image he conveyed is one of surrendering to the RSS and the violent ideology that fascist organization represents. He needs to resign or be recalled for paying tribute to the RSS.”
“Bowing down to a statue of Hedgewar is way worse than bowing down to a statue of David Duke,” comments activist Jada Bernard. Explaining that he grew up in Louisiana, where Ku Klux Klan leader Duke was an elected official, he says, “The KKK of India is called the RSS, but their body-count is astronomically higher, especially as they operate with impunity in today’s India. The RSS is responsible for lynchings, assassinations, bombings, and pogroms against Christians, Muslims, and anyone who stands up against its xenophobic agenda.”
Ranz’s visit occurred amidst reports by Voice of the Martyrs, a US-based advocacy group for persecuted Christians, that the RSS operates a “spy network” to monitor and stop Christian activity in India. “They want to have radical Hindu nationalists stationed in every one of India’s villages, watching for Christian activity… and then actively trying to strike that down,” said VOM spokesperson Todd Nettleton.
According to The Jerusalem Post, “The RSS is a controversial, extremist paramilitary-style volunteer organization connected to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. It shares fascist ideology supporting Hindu nationalism and anti-Christian and anti-Muslim beliefs…. The RSS has been banned several times throughout its history, and has been incriminated in instigating anti-Christian and anti-Muslim violence in India, including involvement in the 1992 demolition of the 16th-century Babri mosque.”
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).
Demanding Ranz’s resignation, West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara President Balbir Singh Dhillon says, “The RSS is the world’s biggest terrorist organization. The CIA named RSS subsidiaries like the VHP and Bajrang Dal as ‘religious militant organizations.’ Consul General David Ranz’s support for the RSS creates an atmosphere of fear for minorities of Indian origin living in America, many of whom came to this country as refugees fleeing the violence of the RSS. David Ranz should resign.”
Last year, similar controversy swirled around Germany’s Ambassador to India, Walter Lindner, after he became the first ambassador in the world to publicly pay homage to the Hedgewar statue despite accusations that the RSS was heavily inspired by European fascist movements like that of Nazi Germany.