Violence in Leicester and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh

On Thursday evening a number of progressive South Asian groups including the Indian Workers Association came together in London at a protest held outside the Indian High Commission. Organised through the South Asia Solidarity Group, this important event was called to send a loud “message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his party, the #BJP and his organisation, the RSS,”. The message the protest aimed to send was “Stop Dividing Our Communities!” and organisers of the event observed that the “diverse, multi-faith South Asian diaspora in the UK must stand together against fascism in all its forms, as it has always done.”

However, while Modi’s far-right government is certainly Islamophobic, and it is true that their extremist supporters amongst the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS) are part of an organisation whose heritage can be traced back to early fascist movements, we should be clear that the Modi regime is not a fascist regime. This is an important point to make as if we define Modi’s government as fascist then it implies that democracy no longer exists in India, a fact that is clearly not true. Hence chants made on the street outside the Indian Commission like “Who are the fascists? BJP, RSS!,” while pointing in the right general direction, are not correct because the manner by which socialist defeat fascist governments is very different to the ways that we organise against non-fascist governments.

Nevertheless, one of the organisers of the protest made many excellent points in her speech. When highlighting the nationalistic violence of RSS and their Hindutva activists, she explained that…

“…what they seem to be trying to do now is to export [their extremist ideology] to the UK. And the reason for this, we think, is because they don’t actually care what happens to the communities in Leicester. They don’t care about the Hindus in Leicester either. What they are interested in, is firstly, building up Islamophobia, but also, particularly, building up their narrative of Hindus being victimised.

So, they would like to see more and more violence escalated, and we are here to say that what we want is peace and unity, and that we are not going to let them divide us. And I think it is worth knowing that both the VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] and HSS [Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh], which is the overseas wing of the RSS, have their headquarters in Leicester and have done for several decades. So, as we were saying in our statement it hasn’t come out of nowhere. It’s not just a matter of a few groups of migrants from India, it something that is actually coming out of people who are very established in the UK and who have a lot of money and funds, and we heard about the fundraising that they do through Sewa International. Sewa International raised so much money for the Gujarat earthquake in 2001 and then it was proven that this money went to groups on the ground who were carrying out the violence in Gujarat in 2002…” (from 5min 30 onwards)

Another speaker at the protest also made a good point when she said:

“We strongly condemn what has happened in Leicester and we think that these kinds of actions are rooted in this [extremist Hindutva] ideology which is designed to divide the Indian working-class, which is already united as we can see in the case of the workers movement, the general strike, and the farmers movement in India…”

Further Information About HSS UK and Sewa International

The current President of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK is an elderly Leicester-based accountant named Dhiraj Shah (b.1951), who is also a UK trustee of Sewa International (for a useful introductory article detailing the activities of Sewa International, see “COVID relief donations are supporting a project to “Hinduize” India,” Slate, June 8, 2021). According to a journal article published in 2018, Dhiraj Shah through his work for “British wing of the RSS—the HSS” served as the founding editor of “its periodical Sangh Sandesh (Sangh Message) in 1977.”  

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