President Joe Biden has nominated around 20 Indian-Americans, including 13 women, to key positions in his administration. However, the list has excluded some Indian-Americans who had worked on the Biden campaign, due to their RSS-BJP links.
According to a report in The Tribune, Sonal Shah and Amit Jani have not made to Biden's list of nominated Indian-Americans to be appointed in his administration. Apparently, they have been excluded due to their links with the extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Tellingly the RSS is the parent organization of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Sonal Shah's father, who has served on Biden's unity task force, was the president of Overseas Friends of BJP-USA and is the founder of RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya. Shah has raised funds for Ekal Vidyalaya, according to the Tribune India report.
Jani was the 'Muslim Outreach' coordinator of 'Name Biden' campaign. His family reportedly has ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders. The exclusion of Jani may have been the case of lax vetting, the Tribune said.
According to the report, those with RSS-BJP links have not found a place in Biden's team because secular Indian-American organizations have urged his transition team to keep such individuals on the sidelines.
The Democrats may have been more cautious about including those with the BJP-RSS links in the government following renewed activism by organizations opposed to the Hindutva project, said the report citing sources.
Indian-American groups plea to Biden
According to The Wir, exclusion of Sonal Shah and Amit Jani comes after a coalition of 19 Indian-American organizations had sent a letter to Biden in December 2020, saying "many South Asian-Americans individuals with ties to far-right Hindu organizations in India are affiliated with the Democratic party". The groups said the Biden administration should have 'no tolerance' for such persons.
Among the Indian-Americans who have made it to the 46th US president's administration are Vivek Murthy, Neera Tanden, Uzra Zeya and Samira Fazili.
Perhaps encouraged by Biden's statements on Kashmir and the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, secular Indian-American organizations have lobbied hard to keep people who "advance the ideology and political interests of violent, extremist Hindu nationalist groups in India" out of his administration.
The letter written by the 19 organizations describes such people as 'foreign agents' of the RSS and BJP. These people "often claim to be anti-Trump, citing their minority status and the values of the Democratic party. But in India, they stand for the equivalent of Trumpism: Hindu supremacy," the letter said.
"Indeed, they practice a peculiar form of identity politics, presenting themselves as spokespeople of the ethnic Hindu minority in the United States, while endorsing the worst forms of Hindu majoritarianism in India. They often use the pretense of fighting American racism, and espouse multiculturalism in the US, but perpetuate a racism of their own in India," it added.
Anyone who has received funding from or makes public statements in support of the BJP, RSS are "entirely complicit" in the rise of "authoritarianism and ethnonationalist violence in India," the letter said.
"We urge that you thoroughly screen all individuals offering advice to, lobbying, vying for a position within, or in any way engaging with your administration. Specifically, there should be no tolerance for any individuals who uphold any form of supremacist belief, including in Hindu supremacy, both in India and the US. As a broad coalition representing the interests of the Indian-American, we demand to be involved in this screening process," it said.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)The BJP is an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu paramilitary organization that believes India is a country solely for Hindus, and views other minority groups as enemies or infiltrators. Many of its affiliate groups have been labelled "religious militant organizations" by the CIA, the letter pointed out, adding: "The BJP has nowhere disavowed the belief system of the RSS; on the contrary, its leaders borrow from both its discourse and its networks, passing legislation that targets minorities and emboldening various far-right Hindu militias. India's Home Minister, Amit Shah, has used the word 'termites' to describe both immigrants and long-dwelling Muslim Indians and cast them as 'infiltrators'." Yogi Adityanath, the BJP Chief Minister of India's most populous state, has publicly said that "If one Hindu girl marries a Muslim man, then we will take 100 Muslim girls in return. If they [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men."
Interestingly, In January 2020, Owais Khanzada of Yonkers, NY, launched a petition to the US State Department to declare the RSS as a terrorist organization. By April-May 2020, the petition had 100,000 supporters. This petition was closed when it reached 102,728 supporters. Here are the contents of the petition, which tells the whole story of this extremist group in 180 words:
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