The leaders of a radical Hindu nationalist faction based in India, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are donating to Kulkarni to protect their interests in Indo-American relations and advance their extremist and sectarian agenda in India.
The RSS has orchestrated mob violence against Muslims and Christians across India, advocated for ethno-religious cleansing to promote “Hindu-ness” and purity on the subcontinent, and praised both Hitler and Gandhi’s assassin.
India’s ruling BJP party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been an accomplice to numerous attacks on religious minorities but the tip of the spear in that violence is RSS. Its leaders have stirred up hateful mobs and its militants have killed numerous Christians and Muslims for years.
In 2002, the RSS led the mob violence in the Indian state of Gujarat that brutally killed thousands of Muslims. A member of RSS, Modi, who served as the Gujarat’s chief minister at the time, allegedly ordered police to stand down as the crowds lit children on fire, skewered victims alive, and burned homes, shops, and Mosques.
In 2005, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government watchdog where I later worked, succeeded in punishing Modi for his crimes – denying him a visa to visit the US for over a decade.
A few years later, in 2008, I saw the results of RSS carnage firsthand when I travelled to India as staff director for the bipartisan Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus. Nearly 100 Christians were murdered in sectarian pogroms led by the RSS and its Hindu extremist followers. Over 300 churches were burned to the ground in just four days and tens of thousands left homeless.
It wasn’t an isolated incident but the RSS’s modus operandi. This hate group frequently kills innocents, burns churches, and destroys mosques to terrorize non-Hindus. And its leader demanded the Nobel Committee revoke Mother Teresa’s Peace Prize, falsely claiming the Catholic saint’s ulterior motive was the conversion of non-Christians.
The Houston Democrat’s decision to cozy up to these radicals for campaign cash has not gone unnoticed. The largest and most influential Muslim-American political group in the US, Emgage, publicly criticized Kulkarni in August after emphatically endorsing him in 2018. Emgage asked the would-be congressman to reject the Hindu nationalist organizations and their violence but he refused.
One Hardline Hindu nationalist even claims credits for “discovering” the Democratic candidate. In turn, Kulkarni said one of his RSS-backing bundlers “had become like my father.”
A former US diplomat, Kulkarni is already jockeying for seats on the powerful House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. That would certainly be quiet the foothold for RSS.
Kulkarni’s campaign website boasts of his support for “religious tolerance” but his refusal to renounce RSS ties tells a different story. And India’s governing party, the RSS’s sister organization, needs Uncle Sam to turn a blind eye to its abuses if India hopes to compete economically or militarily in Asia.
India needs both a permanent and favorable trade deal with the US to ensure a market for its goods and services and America to aid its military build-up and territorial ambitions.
That trade agreement has proved elusive, despite Trump’s best efforts. Since India increasingly relies on US defense equipment and American backing for its foreign policy, Modi’s Hindu nationalists need friends in high places to keep the spigot on.
India also needs Uncle Sam to turn a blind eye to its continuing human rights abuses since its sectarian ideology precludes tolerating Christians, Muslims, and other minorities as equals and recently excluded Muslims from becoming Indian citizens. A friend like Kulkarni in Congress would be helpful – to say the least.
And this isn’t a partisan issue. As a staffer, I witnessed firsthand both Democrat and Republican members of Congress who took Hindu nationalist cash bully their colleagues for supporting a crackdown on the Indian government’s sectarian abuses.
Money in politics is often called “dark” or “dirty” – but in Kulkarni’s case it’s “blood” money – the blood of thousands of innocents, both Christians and Muslims, who have been murdered by RSS and its affiliates.
If Russian, Chinese, and Iranian disinformation campaigns targeting our elections worry us, a foreign fascist military buying a seat in Congress should outrage every American who believes that America’s commitment to the dignity and rights of man extends to the entire human race – no matter their race, color, or creed.
Tina Ramirez is an international religious freedom expert, former staff director of the Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus, and President of Hardwired Global, an international religious liberty nonprofit.