by Pieter Friedrich

Introducing the Highlights Reel of Hindutva Interference

My first direct, personal experience being threatened for opposing India’s Hindu nationalist movement, as an American citizen on US soil, occurred in 2015 in my home state of California when I protested the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

I was standing outside the venue, silently holding two signs, when an Indian man of perhaps 300 pounds — at least twice my size — approached me, began shoving me with his body, and whispered in my ear: “I will break you.” Soon after, Modi supporters ran up and grabbed both my signs. Police approached and quickly escorted me away to safety.

That incident was a major catalyst for me to begin a deep dive investigation into the nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in India, its connections to us here in the US, and, very specifically, ways in which American politicians have engaged with Hindutva elements.

I’m going to briefly detail the structure of the Hindutva family of organizations here in America and ways in which they maintain a two-way engagement with their parent organizations back in India. Then I’ll briefly give a highlights reel of ways in which the Hindutva movement is interfering with American politics, intimidating academics, and threatening Indian minority communities. But first, I will give a little more detail about how I’ve personally been repeatedly targeted, often in ways that may constitute transnational repression, for my journalistic work on Hindutva.

Focused attacks on me first began in about 2019 after I published a cover article in an Indian magazine about how then Congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard was tied to the Hindutva movement. Here’s a few of the major ways I’ve been attacked.

In 2019, after Congressman Ro Khanna commented approvingly on my article, a group allegedly from the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) — the US wing of India’s RSS paramilitary — protested outside one of Khanna’s town halls while holding posters denouncing me. Notably, my article had heavily emphasized the direct, intimate ties between America’s HSS and India’s RSS. Such ties include HSS leaders attending RSS training camps in India as well as bringing RSS leaders to America to inspect HSS units around the country.

In 2021, months after my reportage exposed the Hindutva ties of a US congressional candidate, the Indian government itself stepped in to target me.

On February 15, 2021, a shadowy group called “DisInfo Lab” published a nearly 100-page dossier on me on February 12, 2021. The report contained details about my parents, my in-laws, and even details about my past work history which have never been public record and could probably only be unearthed via an intelligence operation. In fact, in December 2023, The Washington Post exposed how this “DisInfo Lab” outfit is almost certainly headed by an agent of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s equivalent of the CIA.

The same day (Valentine’s Day 2021 for me, in the US time zone), the Delhi Police hosted a press conference accusing me of connections to “terrorists” and implying that I was the “mastermind” behind a PDF social media “toolkit” which taught people how to talk about the then ongoing Farmers Protest. They stated that I have been “on the radar” of Indian intelligence agencies since 2006.

This double whammy attack on me, an American citizen, by the Indian government subsequently disturbed and even upended my life in a wide variety of deeply personal ways and continues to stress me, particularly after reports that the Modi regime may have been responsible for the assassination of a Canadian citizen and the attempted assassination of an American citizen in 2023.

Most of my recent work focuses on exposing the major “name brand” Hindutva outfits in America. These are three of them:

  1. The HSS, a direct corollary of India’s RSS.
  2. The VHPA, a direct corollary of India’s VHP, which is the cultural wing of India’s RSS.
  3. The Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP), the US corollary of India’s BJP, which is the political wing of India’s RSS and has been registered as a “foreign agent” in America since 2020.

Please note three things. First, all three of these groups have often shared cross-pollinated leadership and membership and they appear to all work in sync. Second, all three groups appear to maintain extensive two-way links — from America to India and from India to America — with their parent organizations in India. Third, these groups seem to behave almost as a US-based extension of the Indian state even while they are insidiously infiltrating and influencing every level of American government.

So let’s examine some major ways in which elements linked to these Hindutva outfits and/or the Modi regime have worked to impede, interfere, and intimidate at both the street and also the state level throughout the US. I will run through these swiftly to give an idea of how extensive this is.

Hindutva in Americas Street-Level Interference

First, starting at the street level.

Last month, in January 2024, when Modi inaugurated a controversial temple on the site of a mosque destroyed by Hindutva groups, sympathizers gathered in Times Square in New York and chanted that this was only the prelude to destruction of other mosques throughout India.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here.