US journalist goes on hunger strike to protest Twitter’s $2.5M donation to RSS linked org

When contacted by Siasat.com, the journalist said, “I hope to send a message that this is not an issue to be taken lightly.”

Hyderabad: California based journalist Pieter Friedrich, who tracks RSS activities in America, entered the third day of his hunger strike, which he began in protest against Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey donation 2.5 million dollars to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-linked NGO Sewa International in the USA.

“I am hunger-striking to protest Twitter’s donation to Sewa international USA because the nonprofit springs from the RSS, a fascist paramilitary with a long track record of extreme anti-minority violence,” Friedrich exclusively told Siasat.com, when contacted on twitter. He added that its founders declared their goal of subjugating Indian minorities.

The California based journalist said that the global Sewa International family is directly connected to the RSS, and claimed that the RSS has been using using international funding to expand RSS’s power in India. Urging people to join him in his hunger strike protest, he said “I have started this journey alone. Many have expressed support, but none have joined my hunger-strike,” Friedrich said that he will continue as long as he is able to.

Furthermore, he told Siasat.com “I hope to send a message that this is not an issue to be taken lightly.” He added that it’s an issue of life and death for the persecuted minorities of India who are increasingly suffering as the RSS rams through its agenda. 

Intimidation on Social Media

When asked about if he received any intimidation or threats online, Friedrich said “I have received multiple wishes from self-declared Hindu nationalists that I fast unto death or starve.” The journalist stated that he received threats mostly on Twitter but also Instagram.

Earlier this month, Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced a donation of $15 million USD towards COVID-19 relief in India. This $15 million USD has been divided among three non-governmental organizations: Care, Aid India, and Sewa International USA. While Care received $10 million USD, Aid India and Sewa International USA received $2.5 million USD each. 

Sewa International is a US-based non-profit organization that is affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). On its website, it says “Sewa International is a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, nonprofit service organization registered under Internal Revenue Code 501 (c) (3). Founded in 2003, Sewa International is part of a larger movement that started in India in 1989 and is active in twenty countries.”

Several people have opposed the decision of Jack to donate $2.5 million towards Sewa International and took it up on different social media platforms with the hashtag #TakeItBackJack. Friedrich, who tracks the RSS activities, also has written extensively about how the organisation, which is the parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India.

“The chairperson of Sewa USA is Ramesh Bhutada. As the Vice-President of HSS-USA (HINDU SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH) and, essentially, the RSS’s number two person in the United States, he has a long track record of political campaign work to support the election and promotion of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi despite Modi’s involvement in an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002.”, mentioned Pieter in of his blog posts.

Pieter has also started a petition which has currently been signed by more than 3,300 people. Sewa International is currently linked to more than 500 partner organizations, most of which promote Hindutva ideologies. Recently, Twitter also expressed its concerns about ‘freedom of speech’ in India over the new information technology rules. The company has requested the IT Ministry for an extension of 3 months to comply with the new rules.

“Right now, we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve. We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” said a spokesperson from Twitter.

Lashing onto Twitter’s concerns over ‘Freedom of Speech’ in India, the Government of India – Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) responded in a press release stating “Twitter’s statement is an attempt to dictate its terms to the world’s largest democracy. Through its actions and deliberate defiance, Twitter seeks to undermine India’s legal system. Furthermore, Twitter refuses to comply with those very regulations in the Intermediary Guidelines on the basis of which it is claiming a safe harbour protection from any criminal liability in India.”

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