Just two months into his tenure in New Delhi, German Ambassador Walter Lindner is in the middle of a controversy over his visit this week to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.
On July 17, Lindner posted photographs of a visit to the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur. The RSS is regarded as the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, with most senior leaders of the ruling party, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, having their origins in the organisation.
Lindner tweeted about his visit to the RSS headquarters and mentioned having a ‘long meeting’ with RSS Sarsangchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat. He described the RSS as the ‘world’s largest voluntary organization – though not uncontroversially perceived throughout its history’.
However, the ambassador’s visit to RSS has attracted much criticism and even an online petition calling him to resign as German envoy to New Delhi.
“On July 17, 2019, Ambassador Walter Lindner (Germany’s ambassador to India) visited the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur, Maharashtra. His visit condones the RSS paramilitary as well as its ideological and institutional inspiration by European fascist movements like those of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy,” states a petition by Pieter Friedrich, an author and public speaker specialising in analysis of historical and current affairs in South Asia, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
“He was further pictured with a photo of RSS leader MS Golwalkar, who wrote glowingly in support of Nazi racial policy. Golwalkar believed that being Indian meant being Hindu. So he wrote ‘only the Hindu has been living here as the child of this soil’. Just in case his reader misunderstood his intentions, he also phrased it another way: ‘We repeat: in Hindustan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation’,” the petition states. “Golwalkar thought that the only true Indian ‘patriots’ were people who aspired to ‘glorify the Hindu race and Nation’, claiming ‘all others are… traitors and enemies to the National cause’. He called it ‘treason’ for an Indian to convert away from Hinduism, writing ‘It is not merely a case of change of faith, but a change even in national identity. What else is it, if not treason, to join the camp of the enemy?” the petition goes on.
“In 1935, the Nazis began redefining ‘national identity’ in Germany when they passed the Nuremberg Laws, stripping Jews of citizenship and banning relationships between Germans and Jews. This was followed in 1938 by Kristallnacht, the first Nazi pogrom against Jews. In 1939, as the Second World War broke out in Europe with Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, Golwalkar detailed the RSS’s vision for an ethno-state, ‘The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, ie, of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge into the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights,” the petition states.
“Declaring that our Race Spirit has once again roused itself, he compared this new racial consciousness to that washing over Nazi Germany. The ancient Race Spirit, which prompted the Germanic tribes to over-run the whole of Europe, has re-risen in modern Germany,” the petition stated.