American activist journalist starts online petition demanding resignation of US Consul General in Mumbai David Ranz.
An India-based US diplomat has courted controversy by visiting the headquarters of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary volunteer organization linked to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
David Ranz, US Consul General in Mumbai, visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra, on February 6 and laid flowers at the “Smriti Mandir,” memorial of RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
Ranz, who was accompanied by RSS city chief Rajesh Loya, and RSS secretary Arvind Kukde, did not address the media about his visit to the RSS headquarters.
But soon after the news of Ranz’s visit sprad, many liberal activists on social media began questioning the purpose and intent of a US diplomat’s visit to the right-wing organization.
Pieter Friedrich, an activist and journalist, who writes on South Asian issues and has been a vocal critic of RSS, started a petition on Change.org calling for Ranz’s resignation. Titled “US Consul General Must Resign for Endorsing Nazi-Inspired RSS Paramilitary,” it is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Signed by more than 1,800 people so far, the petition says that the diplomat’s visit to the RSS headquarters endorses its “fascist ideology,” which has often come under the scanner.
Initially started with a goal of having 1,500 signatures, the petition now expects 2,500 endorsements.
“With far-right regimes rising around the world, it terrifies me as an American citizen to see a US diplomat paying tribute to a fascist paramilitary like the RSS,” Friedrich told the American Bazaar.
“Ranz probably thought his RSS visit would go unnoticed in America, but it’s important that, as a representative of our country, he will be scrutinized at every turn,” he said.
“The demand for his resignation is receiving widespread support from many people who fear the RSS is a threat to global peace,” Friedrich claimed.
Since protests against India’s new controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Citizenship Register (NRC) “began, I’m seeing much more rigorous opposition to the RSS in online spaces,” he said, adding “I think that’s a reflection of what’s going on in India, where the struggle today is between the RSS and the Indian people.”
Dismissing a suggestion that ignorance of the intricacies of the Indian history may have played a part in US diplomat’s visit, Friedrich said: “There is a general ignorance of Indian history, both ancient and modern, in the West.”
“Yet, we should expect a diplomat to rise above ignorance and grasp the geopolitical intricacies involved,” he said. “Ranz is supposedly an expert on South Asia, though, so I doubt ignorance is his excuse.”
“With the RSS controlling the BJP and RSS leadership frequently touring the US, any American diplomat who engages with India has a duty to understand the RSS, its ideology and goals and its involvement in violence,” Friedrich said.
“Meeting the RSS is questionable enough, but what disturbs me is that the nature of his meeting was a photo-op where he literally paid tribute to Hedgewar,” Friedrich said. “That is not diplomacy. It’s capitulation.”
Here is the text of the petition:
On 6 February 2020, Consul General David Ranz of the U.S.’s Mumbai consulate visited the K.B. Hedgewar memorial in Nagpur, Maharashtra to pay homage to him as the first chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Ranz’s visit condones the RSS paramilitary as well as its ideological and institutional inspiration by European fascist movements like those of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Its earliest leaders praised Nazi racial policies and said that Indian Muslims should be treated like German Jews. They demanded that India be declared a Hindu nation and taught that non-Hindus were traitors.
The RSS was founded in 1925, the same year that the Nazi party was reformulated with Hitler as its leader. In 1931, RSS co-founder BS Moonje met Mussolini in Rome. After praising the dictator’s fascist youth group, ONB, for its “military regeneration” of Italian youth, Moonje wrote, “India and particularly Hindu India need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus.” He claimed that “the idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people” and declared: “Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of Nagpur under Dr Hedgewar is of this kind.”
Hedgewar was RSS chief from 1925-1940. He was succeeded by M.S. Golwalkar. The longest-serving RSS chief, Golwalkar, called it treason for an Indian to convert away from Hinduism or refuse to “glorify the Hindu Race and Nation.” In 1939, he also wrote glowingly in support of Nazi racial policy: “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.” He called this “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
The RSS has been repeatedly accused of instigating violence. It has been banned several times, the first time following the assassination of M.K. Gandhi by a former RSS member.
In 2002, Human Rights Watch named the RSS and its subsidiaries as the groups responsible for an anti-Muslim pogrom that killed 2,000 in the Indian state of Gujarat. In 2012, Swami Aseemanand, a full-time RSS worker, confessed to orchestrating several terrorist bombings which claimed hundreds of lives from 2006 to 2008. Many other instances of bombings, assassinations, and pogroms have been laid at the feet of the RSS.
In 2018, the Central Intelligence Agency listed RSS subsidiaries like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations.” In its June 2019 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that the RSS’s agenda “to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution.”
The RSS (including its many subsidiaries) has been linked to many other major incidents of anti-minority violence all across India. These include the 1947 Jammu Massacre (20,000+ Muslims killed) and the 1969 Gujarat Riots (400+ Muslims killed) — both of which occurred shortly after visit by Golwalkar. Later RSS-sponsored pogroms include the 1985 Gujarat Riots (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1987 Meerut Riots in Uttar Pradesh (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1989 Bhagalpur Riots in Bihar (900+ Muslims killed), the 1992 nationwide riots following the Babri Mosque destruction (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2008 Odisha Pogrom (100+ Christians killed), and countless other smaller-scale incidents.
The US diplomatic mission in India should have nothing to do with the RSS.
Consul General Ranz’s laying of flowers at the feet of RSS chief Hedgewar is widely interpreted as an endorsement of the paramilitary. His action was reckless and prejudicial. He has discredited himself and his office.
We, the undersigned, demand that Consul General David Ranz resign or, failing that, be recalled. We demand immediate intervention by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to achieve this goal.