Op/Ed – Cultural Malware: The Rise of the RSS

Origin story of Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary that rules India

“The violence in which the RSS - and the Hindu nationalist movement it has cultivated - is implicated includes assassinations, bombings, and even pogroms against Christians, Muslims, and anyone who stands up against its xenophobic agenda,” said Pieter Friedrich at a 19 February 2020 seminar.

Speaking at University of California, Los Angeles, Friedrich detailed the importance of the RSS in modern India, the historical circumstances of its origins, and what its founders believed. “It’s no surprise that the RSS is responsible for such shocking violence considering its ideological ties to European fascism,” he said.

“The correlation between fascism in the West and Hindu nationalism in the East traces all the way back to the paramilitary’s origins in the 1920s,” he stated. Describing how Hitler published Mein Kampf and founded the SS in the same year that the RSS was founded, he claimed that the group’s founders “took ideological inspiration from - and even engaged in direct contact with - the rising fascist movements in Italy and Germany.”

Noting that a former US ambassador to India had called the RSS the “traditional muscle power” of the ruling BJP, he explained, “Its role is much broader than that, however. Today, the RSS doesn’t just provide boots on the ground to help win elections - it pulls the strings of the party’s elected officials.”

Friedrich pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and 75 percent of the BJP-controlled Central Government’s Union Cabinet hail from the RSS. “Since December 2019, the streets of India have been engulfed by mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens,” he said. “Essentially, these are protests against the implementation of the RSS’s agenda.”

“Under the RSS regime in India today, the fascist vision of the founding fathers of the Hindu nationalist movement is swiftly being implemented with deadly consequences and, the longer that the RSS rules the roost, the deadlier those consequences will be,” concluded Friedrich.

An author and activist who specializes in analysis of South Asian affairs, Friedrich has spearheaded demands for resignation of Western diplomats who met with the RSS. Last year, thousands signed a petition demanding that Ambassador Walter Lindner, Germany’s envoy to India, resign after laying flowers at the feet of a statue of the RSS’s first leader. “Germany must in no way demonstrate any tolerance for fascism, especially for fascist movements like the RSS which have a demonstrated record of admiring and seeking to model themselves after Nazi Germany and other affiliated fascist movements,” stated the petition.

In September 2019, when Modi visited Houston, TX for a rally dubbed “Howdy, Modi,” Friedrich coined the response: “Adios, Modi.”

“The RSS developed with inspiration from the Nazis,” he said at the Houston City Council days before the event. “And it produced Narendra Modi…. Modi’s hands are stained with blood. Those who shake his hand in welcome cannot wash their hands of complicity in his crimes.”

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