By Pieter Friedrich / Pieterj Friedrich Medium

The City of Manteca, California made history on 3 August 2022 when it unanimously voted to rescind a proclamation it had issued to the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) following controversy that erupted the previous month over HSS’s ties to India’s Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh paramilitary.

The special meeting, which included an agenda item to consider passing a resolution to rescind, included a hybrid public comments section allowing citizens to express their views about the issue either in person or by calling in. Approximately 150 people on both sides of the issue packed the chambers to sit through the event in person. Perhaps 70 people spoke in public comment, an estimated 35 of whom did so online.

Most opponents of rescinding focused on the premise of the proclamation, which was to celebrate a Yogathon event, and the benign nature of yoga. Comments in favor of revocation, however, repeatedly pointed out that the controversy at hand had nothing to do with yoga but was rather because the proclamation not only contained specific language highlighting and praising the HSS but was also solicited by and presented to that organization.

“Yes, the proclamation and maybe the council’s intention was regarding yoga, but I will also say that I don’t think that’s what’s up for discussion tonight,” remarked Councillor Gary Singh before the final vote. “We are not discussing yoga. None of us are disagreeing with yoga. There is yoga that goes on in this community. We are here to discuss, unfortunately, the organization which brought the proclamation.” He added that his own research had revealed information about ties between the HSS and the RSS.

As the first member of the public to offer comment at the outset of the meeting, I highlighted the RSS’s ideological commitment to a “vision of India where all religious minorities are relegated to second-class citizenship — at best — or, in fact, actually wiped out from the country.” Explaining that “the RSS gained its current position of power with a great deal of direct assistance from its international wing here in America, the HSS,” I pointed out: “The HSS operates from America as a support base and propaganda mouthpiece for the RSS and its agenda back in India. And such applause that the HSS gathers from local city councils like this has been used to legitimize itself and gain credibility even while its leadership — away from your gaze — promotes the fascist, xenophobic, and supremacist agenda of the RSS back in India.”

Citing Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, Imam Mohammad ElFarra of the Manteca Islamic Centre spoke in public comments about how Stanton had accurately predicted the 1995 Rwandan Genocide years before it occurred. “Today, Stanton is predicting a Muslim and other minority group genocide in India and warning the world again to take heed,” said ElFarra. “The HSS-USA is the international vanguard and protector of the Nazi-inspired RSS. According to the founding documents of the RSS, Muslims and Christians must be seen as traitors to India and hence shall have no citizenship rights equal to the Hindus even if they have been living there for centuries. By recalling and rescinding the HSS proclamation, the City of Manteca sends a very strong and loud message that Manteca spoke when it mattered most and joined the call for stopping genocide of minorities in India.”

The many other speakers in favor of revocation included various Christians and Sikhs from the local community. Among them was Sim Singh, who paraphrased Malcolm X: “If you stick a knife nine inches into my back, and pull it out three inches, that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound.”

Singh continued: “I would like to ask the City of Manteca to ponder upon this quote when thinking about the minorities of this community and the minorities of the Hindutva regime. The HSS, who previously in this meeting mentioned that they’re proud of their relation with the RSS, are a threat to the subaltern people all over the globe.” He suggested following the example of US Congressman Ro Khanna, an Indian-American Hindu who, in 2019, called it the “duty” of all American politicians of Hindu faith to reject the Hindu nationalist ideology of the RSS.

Concerns about the HSS in America, Singh explained, “is about the fact that they claim nonviolence and unity but promote the genocides of Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, and all other minorities.” He concluded: “Putting into context Malcolm X, the RSS has stabbed us in the back, and the HSS pulls the knife out three inches by talking about universal peace. Minorities do not stand for this false unity or progress. The voices of these minorities must be heard by all of America, not just Manteca.”

Following hours of remarks from the public, the council concluded their consideration with a 20-minute conversation in which most openly rejected the idea that the controversy had anything to do with yoga or religion — or any of the other issues claimed by the crowd opposed to revocation — and had, in fact, everything to do with the HSS and whether or not it is actually linked to the RSS.

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