Carmel, Indiana, USA—Although the Carmel Police Department was proud to host the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, social media outcry has been far less sweet to the Indiana law enforcement agency.
On February 6, the HSS gave Carmel, IN police officers a presentation about the history of Hinduism and India. Presenters, however, may have neglected to mention that the HSS is the international wing of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. A uniformed paramilitary with an estimated six million members, the RSS has been accused of violence against Indian minorities, an allegation repeatedly raised by hundreds of furious commenters on Facebook and Twitter.
“The HSS/RSS was formed with inspiration from Italian fascists and the Nazi regime,” wrote Khalid Azam on Carmel PD’s Facebook post about the event. A leader in the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Azam added, “The founder of the Hindu nationalist movement met with Mussolini and collaborated with Nazis to establish a similar fascist movement in India, now represented by RSS and its overseas branch, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. These are the same people that burnt alive a Christian missionary family in India, have been attacking churches in India, and are currently sexually assaulting women in Delhi, India’s capital.”
Govind Acharya, a member of Amnesty International USA’s Board of Directors, commented on Twitter, “This seems rather troubling.” Navjot Kaur of California, who works with persecuted refugees from India, was more direct. Calling it a “massive misuse of taxpayers’ money,” Kaur wrote on Facebook, “Respected Carmel PD, I am sure you have lot better to do than wasting time on learning about a foreign paramilitary fueled by Nazi propaganda.” Also on Facebook, North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Committee Member Elyas Mohammed wrote, “Police department is for public service and protecting citizens. Such departments shouldn’t associate themselves with controversial organizations such as RSS/HSS, which has some serious charges of hate and violence against minorities in India.”
Concerns over HSS’s involvement with American police stem from the RSS’s collaboration with police in anti-minority massacres in India. In 2002, when approximately 2,000 Muslims were killed in the Indian state of Gujarat, Human Rights Watch reported that the RSS was the “umbrella group” behind the Hindu nationalist organizations responsible for the violence. Describing how the violence was “organized with extensive police participation,” HRW reported:
“In almost all of the incidents documented by Human Rights Watch, the police were directly implicated in the attacks. At best they were passive observers, and at worse they acted in concert with murderous mobs and participated directly in the burning and looting of Muslim shops and homes and the killing and mutilation of Muslims. In many cases, under the guise of offering assistance, the police led the victims directly into the hands of their killers. Many of the attacks on Muslim homes and places of business also took place in close proximity to police posts. Panicked phone calls made to the police, fire brigades, and even ambulance services generally proved futile. Many witnesses testified that their calls either went unanswered or that they were met with responses such as: ‘We don’t have any orders to save you’.”
The controversy in Carmel comes mere months after the city’s police department sparked similar outrage for hosting an HSS celebration of Raksha Bandhan, a traditional Hindu ceremony.
Commenting on Carmel PD’s Facebook post about the August 2019 event, IAMC founding member Shaik Ubaid wrote that “no US police department should have anything to do” with the HSS. “The HSS is the international wing of the RSS, a violent and supremacist paramilitary in India whose founders praised Nazi racial policy and modeled themselves along the same lines as the Hitler Youth,” Ubaid explained. “They display pictures of these founders at most of their gatherings. They are a fascist organization, not a religious group.”
“Under the guise of celebrating Raksha Bandhan, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh infiltrated the Carmel Police Department,” says Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India. “We are deeply disturbed that the HSS, which represents a violent Hindu nationalist movement in India, is now lecturing police in Indiana about Hinduism. The presence of the fascist HSS/RSS in an American police department frightens minorities of Indian origin and inculcates a feeling of deep insecurity.”