The “Ideological Commonality” of the Far-Right RSS and the Leicester-Based HSS UK

Situated in Leicester, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK (HSS UK) likes to portray itself as a harmless religious organisation that “has been instilling the ethos of hard work, good morals and selfless working for over 50 years”. This group however is far from harmless as it is a leading proponent of a Hindu supremacist ideology known as Hindutva – a far-right ideology that should be distinguished from the religious practice that is Hinduism.

“… Hindutva is a political philosophy styled after European fascism of the early twentieth century, an ideology that privileges a cult of personality and authoritarian leadership. By contrast, Hinduism is a term used to describe a wide range of religious practices and beliefs that are heterodox, and like the practices and beliefs of any major religion with hundreds of millions of followers, continuously under contestation, and often contradictory.”

The HSS UK, like their counterparts in India, the RSS, have spent decades trying to deliberately conflate their ideology of Hindutva with Hinduism, so, of course, they strongly disagree with such distinctions. Thus when a “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference was organised last September, groups like the HSS UK were quick to express their outrage. As part of a global disinformation campaign, the Leicester-based president of HSS UK inaccurately referred to this important and critical international event as a “sinister” “hate conference” “designed to project Hindus disproportionately and falsely as purveyors of extremism”.

But the contribution of Hindutva politics to the violence in Leicester has now begun to shed fresh light on the activities of HSS UK, something that hasn’t happened since HSS UK was featured in a critical ITV documentary that aired in January 2015 that was called “Charities behaving badly.” In this shocking documentary an undercover reporter attended a “Sangh Shiksha Varg” event for children that was organised by HSS UK, with film footage showing a teacher stating that: “To destroy the Hindu history is the secret conspiracy of the Christians.” In another segment a child asks the teacher: “Do you think Muslims are the biggest problem for Britain?”, to which he responds: “’Yes. For everybody, for everybody.”

The following month the Charity Commission launched an official inquiry into the HSS UK’s activities, but the final ten-page report dealing with this investigation was extremely weak as it limited itself to merely investigating some of the claims and counterclaims that were made in the ITV documentary. The report noted:

“The commission considered that the footage raised a number of concerns, particularly in relation to the content included in Hindu history lessons given by the speaker. At the meeting with the commission, the [HSS UK] trustees offered mitigation in respect of this, explaining that the speaker had spoken at a number of events organised by other organisations or charities and there had been no previous complaints in this regard; the speaker had also previously addressed an event held in respect of Hindu-Jewish inter-faith co-operation.”

Bizarrely the teacher in question even tried to defend his hateful comments and the report stated: “The commission contacted the speaker who in response expressed regret and explained that his comments were badly phrased and mistranslations of what he actually intended to say.”

Yet despite it being no secret that the HSS is a sister organization of the RSS, the Charity Commission’s investigation “found no evidence…of formal links with RSS.” That said, they did recap the findings of a previous inquiry, that had been opened by the commission in 2001 relating to the HSS and the “expenditure of charitable funds [via Sewa International] to aid victims of an earthquake in Gujarat.” In summarising the findings of this earlier report they wrote:

“That inquiry also considered issues around the relationship between the charity and RSS. The [HSS UK] trustees at that time assured the commission that there were no formal links between the 2 organisations and that there was only an ideological commonality; this was then not considered further during that inquiry.”

So, to be clear the commission had already established “an ideological commonality” between HSS UK and the far-right RSS!

To watch the earlier Channel 4 investigation that documented the controversy surrounding the aid that HSS UK provided to far-right Indian organisations in the wake of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake see below:

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