As Hawaii Congresswoman and 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard addressed supporters at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, March 30, several people gathered outside to protest her ties to nationalist groups in India. Waving signs reading “Tulsi, Prince$$ of the R$$” and “Stop Supporting Fascism in India,” the rally, organized by the Organization for Minorities of India, included Christians, Dalits, and Sikhs. “I came here because I want to preserve American values of freedom and justice,” said Los Angeles-based businessman Harjeet Singh.
Flyers alleging Gabbard’s close ties with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were distributed. It also posed a series of questions to Gabbard regarding her meeting with OFBJP members in the U.S., her acceptance and later refusal of the being the chairperson of the World Hindu Congress held in Chicago last year.
Inside the church, Gabbard shared her experiences serving as a soldier in the Army National Guard, being deployed twice to the Middle East, serving in Congress for more than six years, and on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, a press release from her campaign office said.
According to Organization for Minorities of India, Gabbard was questioned about her RSS ties and her collaboration with the group by Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs. “Hawaii resident Michael Brannon Parker says he has known you since you were a child and he introduced you to the RSS,” said Friedrich. “Vijay Pallod of Texas is a leader in RSS-affiliated groups in the USA, and he confirms that he met you through Michael Brannon Parker. In your first two terms in office, you also met the RSS spokesperson at least three times. And you spoke at many RSS events, including two in India. When did your collaboration with the RSS begin and how much money have they given you?”
Protestors outside the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Calif., March 30, organized by the Organization for Minorities in India, included Christians, Dalits and Sikhs, who decried Gabbard’s close ties to Hindu nationalist groups in India and the U.S.
“I’m a soldier, and I took an oath,” Gabbard said in response to the question. “One oath in my life.” She continued, “That was an oath to serve and protect this country, to put my life on the line for the people of this country.” She added, “We stand for aloha, we stand for diversity, we stand for peace.” While most of the audience remained seated, she stated, “Thank you everybody for standing with me.” Finally, she concluded, “It is this kind of attacks that are rooted in religious bigotry that we must stand together and condemn.”
“It’s sad to see Tulsi refusing to acknowledge the extreme violence of the RSS,” said Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India said.
“We remember the most recent pogrom against Christians, in 2008 in Odisha, where even the chief minister of the state said that the RSS was guilty,” he said. “It’s even more shameful that Tulsi, as participants in the protest told us, refused to answer any of the questions about her links to the RSS.”
Supporters cheer as Hawaii Congresswoman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard addresses the campaign rally.
As Gabbard’s event ended, dozens reportedly interacted with the demonstration outside. Some gathered to listen as several demonstrators spoke through a megaphone, the OMI press release said.
“I am a representative of the black community,” the OMI press release quoted demonstrator Jada Bernard as saying. “It is sad to say that, in 2019, white nationalism is an issue for the black community. The diversity of America must be protected,” he said.