Career diplomat says he didn’t know about world’s largest paramilitary

Pieter Friedrich

In video footage leaked from a political house party held to support Sri Preston Kulkarni’s campaign for Congress in TX-22, the former diplomat pleads ignorance of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Kulkarni is facing allegations of intimate ties to the RSS’s American affiliates, particularly focused on claims that the Vice-President of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS-USA) — the American wing of the Indian paramilitary — organized instrumental financial support for Kulkarni’s first campaign in 2018. Kulkarni has called the HSS executive, Ramesh Bhutada, “like a father to me.” Furthermore, approximately 30 percent of the donations Kulkarni received before winning the Democratic Party’s nomination for TX-22 in 2018 came from individuals known for holding executive positions in US affiliates of the RSS, campaigning for the election of RSS activist Narendra Modi to the prime ministership in India, and more.

Kulkarni, however, says he did not know what the RSS was as recently as two years ago. In the video, he states:

“And… and… I will say too, I never thought about this. I didn’t know about all this, like all this RSS stuff, to be honest. If you had asked me two years ago… if you had asked me two years ago, I would have said it stands for Real Symbol Syndication. Because I… I was born, I didn’t know what this word even meant. Honestly, and I’ve… I’ve had to learn about all these things.”

Kulkarni’s claim to be ignorant about the RSS, however, falls flat considering he is a 14-year veteran of the US Foreign Service whose next posting — before he resigned to run for Congress — was supposed to be at the US Embassy in New Delhi. Any diplomat posted to India would be expected to have basic knowledge of Indian politics, which would certainly include awareness of the RSS and the significance it plays in India today.

Furthermore, Kulkarni is the nephew of Pramod Mahajan, an Indian politician who was — until his murder in 2006 — one of the key leaders in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the political wing of the RSS. Mahajan was an RSS member since childhood and, in the mid-1970s, joined the paramilitary as a pracharak (full-time worker). Mahajan’s daughter — and Kulkarni’s cousin — Poonam is currently a BJP member of parliament.

Moreover, Kulkarni grew up in Houston, which is a major hub of RSS in America activity, most of which is spear-headed by Kulkarni’s major donor, Ramesh Bhutada, and his network. Writing for the local Houston Chronicle, Bhutada has praised “Modi’s upbringing in the culture of RSS,” insisting that “critics should revisit the RSS.” Reportage on Bhutada, a prominent national figure in the Indian-American community, invariably highlights his role not only as VP of HSS-USA but also the HSS’s connection to the RSS.

Beyond that, Kulkarni himself has actually attended HSS events in Houston — such as on 2 June 2018, less than two weeks after winning the nomination in the 2018 primaries.

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Sri Preston Kulkarni at HSS event in June 2018

Kulkarni’s attempt to plead ignorance of the RSS doesn’t hold up under examination and places him in the position of either being an incompetent diplomat or else actually lying about his knowledge vis-a-vis the RSS.

Kulkarni, running for Congress for the second time, has been previously accused of being heavily funded by US supporters of controversial Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as leaders in American affiliates of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the paramilitary that groomed Modi for office from early days. The new video is the first accusation levied against Kulkarni by local Black activists. Previously, such accusations were made by myself — Pieter Friedrich — who documented the close affiliation between Kulkarni and the Vice-President of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS-USA), the American wing of the RSS. Bernard, based in Texas, is the first Black activist to take note of and grant credibility to the allegations.

Bernard’s video states as follows:

The Charlottesville Nazi rally horrified our nation. It seemed that the KKK once more threatened to dominate the streets of America.

When we most needed a resistance to the politics of hate, we had a spark of hope in Houston after Sri Preston Kulkarni said he was running for Congress in response to the rise of the KKK.

That’s why we were so shocked when we peeled back the progressive mask and discovered that Kulkarni took hundreds of thousands of dollars from American affiliates of the KKK of India.

India’s version of the KKK is the RSS — a violent paramilitary that was literally inspired by the Nazis and is now turning India into a fascist nation. The RSS controls India through Modi, a man who was once banned from America and nicknamed the “Butcher of Gujarat” for orchestrating a massacre of Muslims.

The RSS has expanded across the world — even to Houston, where the RSS’s number two man in America — Ramesh Bhutada — is based.

Kulkarni calls Bhutada “like a father to me” and says his campaign “literally could not have happened” without the RSS activist — while Bhutada’s fellow activist, Vijay Pallod, boasts that they brought “financial power” to get Kulkarni’s “campaign off the ground.”

Bhutada and Pallod are better known for campaigning for Modi. They organized hundreds of activists — even sending a unit from Houston to India — to work for Modi’s election and then they threw victory parties when the Butcher of Gujarat became the Prime Minister of India.

After Modi was elected, the RSS in America organized a reception for him in Houston. 15,000 people protested outside, chanting “Modi, Modi, you can’t hide, you committed genocide.” Most Indian-American politicians boycotted the event. But Kulkarni joined his RSS donors — aka, Modi’s American campaign team — inside.

Kulkarni is quick to denounce America’s KKK but refuses to utter a word against the KKK of India. Instead, he has financed his campaign with huge donations from the RSS in America — even while the RSS in India builds its bodycount of slaughtered minorities and dissidents.

Sri Preston Kulkarni is the wrong choice for our fight against supremacy.