Sri Preston Kulkarni dodges questions about RSS support for campaign

Pieter Friedrich

In his first response to questions about how his campaign for US Congress in Texas is being financed and organized by top US leadership of the Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary, Sri Preston Kulkarni issued a statement (reportedly via a WhatsApp message sent to Muslim constituents in the district he is running to represent) in which he took a “shoot the messenger” approach instead of addressing the allegations.

His statement is replicated below:

Dear Friends,

Last week an article was published by a person who does not live in Texas and does not know what our campaign is truly about, who implied that this campaign is Islamophobic. (He has also written articles about how Mahatma Gandhi was a racist and the COVID quarantine is fascist).

Some of you have asked if I would respond to the article. The reason I have not responded to the article is because it is absurd, and replying to every absurd accusation would be a gift to our opponents, because that would invite more absurd accusations, and take away precious time we need to organize over the next 85 days. I have made a previous statement about human rights including people in Kashmir, which Ibrahim shared above and can be shared again. This is my final word on the topic: *I have spoken out against Islamophobia since before this campaign ever began. Fighting Islamophobia, and bigotry of any kind, was the purpose for starting this campaign in the first place. I have never, and will never, condone discrimination against Muslims or any other group. Period.*

The truth is, actions speak louder than words, and this campaign is not about one person. It is about our entire community, and what we can accomplish when we bridge our divides and strive to be as inclusive as possible. Specifically with regards to the Muslim community, this campaign has had a Muslim in the highest leadership position. (Nehls has never had that). This campaign has spoken out against the Muslim ban. (Nehls has never done so and his #1 campaign issue is “standing with Donald Trump.) I have spoken out against Islamophobia in Fort Bend and Brazoria. (Nehls never has) There are so many people out there who truly have hate for the Muslim community, and anyone who is different from them. Their dream is for us to spend all our time going around in circles with each other, rather than building a coalition that can create actual change. *Actions speak louder than words.*

It is our job to educate any doubters about what this campaign has stood for from the beginning: inclusion, compassion, reason, and decency, all of which are sorely lacking in our current political system, something that has been made incredibly clear by the country’s inability to respond to our current pandemic.

We have a historic opportunity to make a positive change together, and show what is possible when we bridge divides to create a better future. *This opportunity will not come again if we squander it now,* so please let everyone in your own networks know what is on the other side, and how critical it is that we don’t waste the efforts of so many people over the last 3 years. We are 85 days away from achieving something historic for *OUR* community. We have to focus on finishing this job. We owe it to the thousands of volunteers who have worked so hard on this movement.

This is our campaign. Let’s show the world what we can do together.

In other words, when pressured on the question of his funding by US representatives of India’s fascist movement, the candidate resorted to strawman attacks on the individual who brought up the questions.

As the individual who brought up the questions, my response to Kulkarni is brief. I’m not the one under scrutiny here. You are. I’m not running for office. You are. You’re the one that wants the reigns of power. Not me.

My opinion about Gandhi? That’s entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the allegation that your campaign is propped up by US leadership of the RSS. You are called, therefore, to address the issue of the RSS and the rise of Hindu nationalism. As a candidate for a powerful political office, your opinion is demanded. My opinion on the issue of Gandhi—or any other issue—is entirely irrelevant to the facts at hand. Moreover, the allegation is that your campaign is financed and organized by the RSS, a member of whom was responsible for murdering Gandhi.

On the issue of lockdown, yes, I have stated that it is being used by fascist regimes—like that of Modi, a member of the RSS, whose representatives in the US are accused of pulling the strings of your campaign—to advance their authoritarian agenda. Here is a quote from my lengthy interview with an Indian outlet about the topic:

When a regime that is already accused of totalitarian tendencies and violence against minorities or dissidents imposes a lockdown in the name of protecting public health, the rational response is extreme scepticism.

And yet, what relevance does my personal political opinion about the imposition of lockdowns have to the truth or falsehood of the allegation that Kulkarni’s campaign for US Congress features the Vice-President of the international wing of the RSS?

Kulkarni states that I have implied that his campaign is Islamophobic. I have not done so in the least. I have, instead, directly stated that his campaign is floated by US elements of the RSS, the most radically Islamophobic organization in the world. Furthermore, I have stated:

I’ve heard talk about how Kulkarni’s opponent is Islamophobic — which I don’t deny, and I certainly don’t care to see him win — and how Kulkarni is making all kinds of efforts to reach out to the Muslim community and express “positive sentiments.”

Sentiments are great, but they are just that. Sentiments. And Kulkarni’s sponsor, Ramesh Bhutada, is doing the same thing. He’s an advisor to the Indian American Muslim Association of Greater Houston. That’s the nature of the RSS in America. They pay lip service to democracy, diversity, equality, liberalism, multiculturalism, and the like while, at the same time, extending their support to one of the most organized, fascist, and radically Islamophobic groups in the world.

Thus, the question still stands. Why are you, Sri Preston Kulkarni, associating with top US leadership of the RSS? What is your opinion of the RSS? What is your foreign policy?

Remember. You are the one running for office. Not me.

You are the one who must answer to the people.