Questions for TX-22 candidate about RSS’s foreign interference

Pieter Friedrich

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Do you know what the specific allegations against you are in relation to the issue of the RSS? Can you name them?

What is the RSS?

You’re a 14-year veteran of the US Foreign Service. Your next posting was to be at the US Embassy in New Delhi. But you have said that you didn’t know what the RSS was until recently. Why didn’t you know? What did you know about the Indian political scene in anticipation of your posting?

Knowing about the RSS now, how important do you think it is for US officials dealing with the ruling BJP to know about the RSS?

Are you aware that 75 percent of India’s current cabinet ministers have an RSS background? A former US ambassador to India called the RSS the “muscle” of the BJP. As a seasoned diplomat, what is your opinion of the RSS’s relationship with the BJP?

You have strong family ties to BJP politicians in India, including the late Defense Minister Pramod Mahajan and his daughter, current MP Poonam Mahajan. What is your opinion of the BJP?

Considering your BJP family ties as well as your attendance at “Howdy Modi,” what is your opinion of the BJP’s Modi?

Coming from the US Foreign Service, what are your thoughts about being assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee if elected?

Changing paths from being a diplomat to being a congressman, what would be your foreign policy towards India? How would you react to human rights violations there, such as by the BJP today? Would you be willing to name and condemn the BJP specifically if it instigates violence?

There’s a strong push in US Congress right now for the US State Department to list India as a “Country of Particular Concern” due to religious freedom and human rights issues under the BJP government. Fourteen Senators just signed a letter supporting it. What do you think of the idea?

Last year, Ashok Malik, a policy advisor to the BJP government’s Foreign Affairs Ministry tweeted in a way that appeared to be in support of your election — specifically mentioning you as the nephew of Pramod Mahajan, who was a top RSS-BJP leader. How do you feel about such statements by foreign officials about local US elections?

This year, a BJP executive threatened to interfere in the presidential election after Bernie Sanders criticized the BJP government’s human rights violations in Kashmir. With so many concerns about foreign interference by other countries, how do you respond to this threat from India’s government?

When did you learn about the RSS?

What is your opinion of the organization?

The RSS has been named in reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the US State Department, and others as linked to anti-minority violence. What, if anything, should be done about that?

You say you began your campaign in response to the Charlottesville Nazi Rally. Alt-right leaders present there previously met with RSS-BJP leadership in India, including the BJP executive who later threatened to interfere in the presidential elections. White supremacist terrorist Anders Breivik calls for collaboration with RSS. RSS founders praised Nazi racial policy. They also met with Mussolini and compared the RSS to his fascist groups in Italy. There are many contrasts between RSS’s Hindu nationalism and white nationalism. What do you think about that? What would you do about it?

How do you feel about RSS leaders entering and touring the US?

What is your opinion of calls to deny entry to Indian politicians, including RSS-BJP officials, with a record of hate speech or accusations of violence against minorities, as was done to Modi in 2005?

Why did you attend an HSS event after winning the 2018 nomination? Were you aware that the HSS-USA is the US wing of RSS? What is your procedure for vetting an organization before associating yourself with it?

Were you aware that one of your longest, biggest donors, who has been involved in your campaign, is a top HSS executive? Were you aware that he has hosted tours of RSS executives, including the RSS chief, who has apparently stayed in his home on multiple occasions?

When did you first meet HSS’s Ramesh Bhutada? He is reported as having brought “financial power” to boost your campaign and get it off the ground in its first month. What has been his involvement in your campaign? What will be his future involvement?

In 2018, when you won the nomination, you described Bhutada as like a father to you. How do you feel about him today?

Were you aware that Bhutada organized large teams in Houston to work to get Modi elected in India in 2014? Did you know that he sent teams to India to campaign? Did you know that many of your donors, including major out-of-state donors, were on these teams? How do you feel about having major donors actively involved in electing the BJP and Modi? What is your opinion of US citizens playing a role in India’s sovereign elections?

Bhutada and many of your donors are associated over a period of many years with the US wing of the BJP, called Overseas Friends of the BJP. The OFBJP sent teams of thousands from US to India and were instrumental in Modi’s election. It was just registered as a Foreign Agent in US. Were you aware of the organization? How do you feel about its change in status?

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