Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

They write joint letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman repudiating Hindu American Foundation’s attack

Pieter Friedrich | Clarion India

I AM humbled and deeply touched by the outpouring of support as eight South Asian groups have issued a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in support of me in repudiation of a letter attacking me which Hindu American Foundation had sent to Perez in September 2020.

In their letter, HAF had accused me of “conspiratorial, racist, and religion-based targeting of Hindu American Democrats” due to my investigative journalism of several state and federal political candidates who either have associated with India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its subsidiaries (especially those in the US) or have been heavily funded by leaders and activists in RSS-affiliated groups in the US or both.

In their letter responding to HAF’s attack on me, the eight groups have stated: “We assert that Pieter Friedrich has proven a staunch ally to progressive South Asians, including Hindus, Indian Americans, and Indians for several years now. He has an unimpeachable record of standing up for justice, and has never once been found to spread hatred for any ethnic category or group. Friedrich’s fight, as is our own, is against the ideology of Hindutva, and against those who disseminate it and weaponize it to visit violence upon other groups. Friedrich’s work does not rely on speculation and innuendo, like the HAF letter does. His work presents the facts of the HAF’s and RSS-backed US representatives’ links to hate groups and hate ideologies.”

As the letter further notes, HAF’s attack on me is “only one among many such planned and coordinated actions undertaken by Hindutva groups and their supporters to throttle dissent and criticism.” Other progressive South Asian activists have suffered far more severe attacks, which even include death threats. Meanwhile, the RSS and its affiliates in India have, as the letter states, “fomented violence in response to mass movements against their policies; have incarcerated anyone who opposes or even criticises them; and granted impunity to their ground forces and shock troops, who have gotten away with everything, including murder.”

I extend my deepest gratitude to the support these groups have offered for my research and attempts to document and expose hate, supremacy, and fascism, and pledge to continue to do so whenever and wherever I can.

The full letter is as follows:

Dear Chairman Perez,

We are a group of concerned individuals and organizations representing South Asians and those of South Asian descent, including Indian citizens and Hindus. We are writing this letter in support of the meticulous research conducted by Pieter Friedrich into the toxic influence of Hindutva, a Hindu-supremacist, racist, and sexist ideology that has fueled innumerable hate crimes over the past several decades. In particular, we write to defend Friedrich against the recent allegations of racism and Hinduphobia raised by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in a letter to the DNC that we have been made aware of. The HAF is particularly dismayed by a comprehensive report condemning the influence of Hindu supremacist finances on US politics.

The HAF seems irked by Indian American candidates receiving criticism from someone who isn’t brown. What they may have forgotten is that criticising fascism and fascism’s supporters is the right of every human being who has concern for their fellow humans. As a coalition that spans across nationalities, races, ethnicities, religions, and genders, we are thankful to Pieter for bringing the truth about Hindutva’s influence on US elections to light.

HAF claims to represent the rights of Hindus in the US. While, as a minority group, Hindus and people of South Asian origin face discrimination, and deserve organizations that advocate for their rights in the US, the HAF has allied itself, and has been known to work in concert with groups like the Overseas Friends of the BJP, an organization that has recently been forced to register itself a “foreign agent.” These groups act as extensions of the interests of the Hindutva-inspired, Narendra Modi-led government now in power in India. As many international and Indian Human Rights Groups have documented for years now, this government has instituted policies that are designed to disenfranchise minorities in India. It is remarkably hypocritical for the HAF to claim to advocate for minority rights in the US, while aligning themselves with a government which, in direct repudiation of the constitutional principle of secularism in India, marginalizes minorities, particularly Muslims. As progressive members of the Indian diaspora in the US, many of us Hindu, we write to say in one voice that the HAF does not represent us or our values. We also write to assert that the HAF’s claims of influence over the South Asian community in the US, which it is using to threaten the DNC with an exodus of voters, is wildly exaggerated. Even among Indian and Hindu American voters, their claimed base, the vast majority want no part in their toxic ideology.

Equally, we assert that Pieter Friedrich has proven a staunch ally to progressive South Asians, including Hindus, Indian Americans, and Indians for several years now. He has an unimpeachable record of standing up for justice, and has never once been found to spread hatred for any ethnic category or group. Friedrich’s fight, as is our own, is against the ideology of Hindutva, and against those who disseminate it and weaponize it to visit violence upon other groups. Friedrich’s work does not rely on speculation and innuendo, like the HAF letter does. His work presents the facts of the HAF’s and RSS-backed US representatives’ links to hate groups and hate ideologies. These facts have been meticulously verified by our colleagues at the Polis Project and we stand by every word written in the report attacked by the HAF.

In his concern for justice and the rights of the citizens of India against an authoritarian state, and in his goal to stop the use of US resources and legitimacy to fund and promote violence in India, Friedrich is a better ally and friend to Indian citizens of all faiths than the HAF could ever hope to be. As Indians and Hindus, and as members of the multi-faith diaspora in the US, we are proud of our association with Friedrich and stand by him and against the HAF. We trust that organizations and individuals who care about justice can see through these facile attempts at misdirection, and will not be swayed by ad hominem attacks designed to help Hindutva-inspired groups expand their devious agendas.

The attack on Pieter is only one among many such planned and coordinated actions undertaken by Hindutva groups and their supporters to throttle dissent and criticism. While the attack on Pieter at least pretends to fabricate a dossier, attacks on other progressive South Asian activists have included 1) attempts to compromise their jobs; 2) online and verbal harassment, whether gender-based or based on religion or caste; and 3) in some particularly terrible cases, even death threats. These are the tactics of Hindutva groups in the US, where they are not in power. In India, where they are in power, they have fomented violence in response to mass movements against their policies; have incarcerated anyone who opposes or even criticises them; and granted impunity to their ground forces and shock troops, who have gotten away with everything, including murder.

We are prepared to follow up this letter with a point-by-point rebuttal of the scurrilous allegations against Friedrich, but wish to, at this point in time, voice our support for him, and all our fellow activists who have been subjected to harassment and worse.

Signatories:

Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA)

Coalition Against Fascism in India (CAFI)

Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR)

India Civil Watch International (ICWI)

North American Indian Muslim Association (NAIMA)

PhillyCAFI

Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI)

Voices Against Fascism in India (VAFI)

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