Outcry after Toronto’s Consul General of India speaks at HSS event

Ambassador Dinesh Bhatia, Consul General of India in Toronto, keynoted an event hosted by the international wing of the RSS, prompting blowback from activists working with Indian minorities. 

Dinesh Bhatia

The Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI) reported that “some minorities of Indian origin” were calling for the resignation of Dinesh Bhatia, Consul General at India’s Toronto consulate, after he was the keynote speaker at an October 2018 event that was hosted by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), which is the international wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Also present at the event were Ved Nanda, Sanghchalak (leader) of HSS North America, and Saumitra Gokhale, international coordinator of the HSS.

Ram Mohan, an activist with Canadian Minorities of India (CIM), said, “Thousands of Indians fled religious and ethnic persecution in India to find refuge in Canada,” adding, “Many refugees, including Christians, Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs have endured persecution at the hands of the RSS. The moment Consul General Bhatia spoke on a stage featuring photographs of RSS leaders, he discarded his diplomatic credentials. Bhatia’s presence at an RSS event inspires fear in the hearts of many Canadians from Indian minority communities. He must resign.”

OFMI noted that the stage featured garlanded photographs of RSS founder K. B. Hedgewar and its longest-serving leader, M. S. Golwalkar. OFMI highlighted Hedgewar’s statements, such as his aim “to put in reality the words ‘Hindustan of Hindus,’” and, “Hindustan is a country of Hindus. Like other nations of other people (eg. Germany of Germans), this is a nation of Hindu people.” Notably, Golwalkar had also said, “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. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” 

Key to note here, are India’s own constitutional values, that all Indian citizens are required to follow. It would seem clear that an individual representing India internationally would be held to the same standard, if not a higher one. The Preamble to India’s Constitution defines the country as “a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. OFMI said that according to Bill Rogers, who is based in the United States and monitors the persecution of Christians overseas, “A diplomat who claims to represent a secular country has no business going anywhere near an RSS event.” OFMI also noted that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has said that Sangh Parivar organisations, of which the RSS is the central organisation, “aggressively press for governmental policies to promote their Hindu nationalist agenda, and adhere in varying degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India.”

Moreover, India’s Constitution lays out fundamental duties for each Indian citizen. Article 51A states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities,” and also “to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture“. The fundamental duties work in lockstep with the fundamental rights laid out by the Constitution that include the right to freedom of religion. The RSS and its philosophy seem to be entirely antithetical to these concepts.

OFMI reported that, according to Peter Friedrich, who analyses South Asian affairs “The RSS and VHP are implicated in pogroms against Indian minorities, assassinations of journalists, and terrorist acts. They share ideological affinity with white nationalists. White nationalists want a whites-only nation while the RSS wants a Hindus-only nation. Both are anti-Semitic. Both glorify Aryanism. Both lynch minorities. Horrifying events like the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh are regularly replicated in India by Hindu nationalists who invade churches, mosques, and gurdwaras.”

The attendance of Bhatia, a diplomat, and thereby a representative of India and its government, at an event hosted by the HSS, could be construed as a not-so-tacit endorsement of the RSS, its philosophy, and its activities, in spite of attacks on minorities in India that it has encouraged or been involved in.

Canada is not the only place where the RSS has faced criticism. OFMI underlined that in September 2018, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat prompted protests by Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, African-Americans, Christians, and Buddhists when he keynoted the World Hindu Congress (WHC) in Chicago that was arranged by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP); the CIA has termed the VHP a “religious militant organisation“. Moreover, last year in California, the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies, which is chaired by Ved Nanda, prompted protests after it backed calls for revising the school curriculum. These revisions included the “removal of the word ‘Dalit,’ insertion of language claiming that the caste system created ‘social stability,’ insertion of language suggesting that Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) chose to do ‘dirty work’ which made them untouchable,” among others, OFMI said.

Arvin Valmuci, OFMI spokesperson stated, “Nanda directly modeled his efforts to revise American curriculum after efforts by Bhagwat and his predecessors to rewrite Indian curriculum according to the whims of Hindu nationalists,” adding, “We have seen solidarity among diverse communities protesting the California curriculum changes as well as the WHC in Chicago. Indians in Canada, including freedom-loving Hindus, should also unite, speak out, expose, reject, and eject Consul General Dinesh Bhatia’s affiliation with the agenda of militant religious nationalism.”



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