#BarryMustResign: Australian Diplomat Must Resign for RSS Visit

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On 15 November 2020, Australian High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell visited the Nagpur, Maharashtra, India headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary for the express purpose of praising the organization.

O'Farrell's visit appeared to clearly condone the RSS and, by extension, its radical Hindu nationalist ideology. As Australia's representative in India, his visit is deeply concerning in context of RSS's heavily documented ideological and institutional inspiration by European fascist movements like those of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. Further, his presence was a grave insult to the memories of the tens of thousands of Indian minorities murdered by RSS and its affiliates.

The RSS has been repeatedly accused of instigating violence. It has been banned three times, the first time following the assassination of M.K. Gandhi by a former RSS member. In 2018, the Central Intelligence Agency listed RSS subsidiaries like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations.”

Notably, the Bajrang Dal is implicated in the 1999 murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was burned alive along with his two sons aged ten and six-years-old.

RSS is notorious for its members dressing in uniforms which strongly resemble those worn by members of the Hitler Youth. It was founded in 1925, the same year that the Nazi party was reformulated with Hitler as its leader. In addition to drawing inspiration from the Nazis, the RSS modeled itself after Mussolini’s fascist movement in Italy. In 1931, for instance, RSS co-founder BS Moonje visited Mussolini to tour his fascist institutions. Subsequently, he declared that RSS was similarly fascistic, writing: "The idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people."

While present, O'Farrell posed for photographs before pictures of the RSS's first two leaders: KB Hedgewar and MS Golwalkar. These men infamously insisted that the goal of RSS is to make India into an exclusively Hindu nation, which they compared to a "Germany of Germans." Golwalkar praised Nazi Germany for "purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews" in order to "keep up the purity of the race and its culture" and called it a "good lesson for us... to learn and profit by."

These early RSS ideologues further described non-Hindus — particularly religious minorities like Christians and Muslims — as "foreigners," "traitors," and "internal threats." They sought to strip them of citizenship rights. This xenophobic ideology has directly translated into anti-minority violence.

While RSS (and its many subsidiaries) are implicated in assassinations and even terrorist bombings, it is also accused of participating in or even orchestrating many pogroms. Some of these include the 1947 Jammu Massacre (20,000+ Muslims killed), the 1969 Gujarat Riots (400+ Muslims killed), the 1985 Gujarat Riots (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1987 Meerut Riots in Uttar Pradesh (hundreds of Muslims killed), the 1989 Bhagalpur Riots in Bihar (900+ Muslims killed), the 1992 nationwide riots following the Babri Mosque destruction (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom (2,000+ Muslims killed), the 2008 Odisha Pogrom (100+ Christians killed), and countless other smaller-scale incidents.

O'Farrell's laudatory visit to the RSS headquarters instills a spirit of dread within the persecuted minorities of India as well as those Australian citizens of Indian minority origin. His open praise for RSS is already being used by right-wing media outlets in India as a propaganda tool to promote the paramilitary. In short, O'Farrell's visit with RSS represents a threat to regional peace and stability.

High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell has demonstrated his utter lack of diplomatic acumen and total insensitivity to the concerns of persecuted people in India. His action was reckless and prejudicial. He has discredited himself and his office and he has proven himself incompetent.

We, the undersigned, demand that High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell resign or, failing that, be recalled. We demand immediate intervention by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne to achieve this goal.