A group of Indian-Americans from Silicon Valley held a peaceful demonstration against Congressman Ro Khanna earlier this month, demanding that he distance himself from anti-Mahatma Gandhi and anti-India activists.
News reports said the group gathered Oct. 3 outside a town hall meeting in Cupertino, California, convened by Khanna, in which they also denounced his membership on the Pakistani American Congressional Caucus.
Khanna, an Indian-American Democrat who represents portions of the Silicon Valley and Fremont, joined the Pakistani American Congressional Caucus in July. Khanna is also a member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.
The demonstrators said Khanna's endorsement of anti-Gandhi activists Amar Shergill and Pieter Frederich through his social media posts have angered many in the community.
“Frederich and his outfit, Organization For Minorities In India (OFMI), have been at the forefront of a movement to remove the statues of Gandhi from public places in California,” the protestors said in a statement.
An online petition signed by over 1,500 people demanded Khanna distance himself from individuals and groups that oppose Gandhi and have been running anti-India campaign.
“It is ironic that Congressman Khanna, who never tires of talking about Gandhi, is today standing with the very individuals who are bent upon denigrating Gandhi and erasing his legacy,” said Nikhil Kaale, a resident of Fremont and the author of the petition, according to a News 18 report quoting news agencies.
Khanna has denied these allegations.
Khanna’s grandfather was honored in Congress Oct. 2 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during her recognition on the House floor of the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. “Amarnath Vidyalankar was a champion for freedom who spent years in prison alongside Gandhi in the quest for Indian independence,” said Pelosi, noting Khanna’s “direct connection” to Gandhi.
Chinmoy Roy, a Khanna supporter who attended the Oct. 3 town hall, told India-West newspaper that about 25 people stood outside, bearing placards reading: “Ro Khanna, Stand with Gandhi. Do not mix with bigots.”
Roy told the paper that he was informed by the protesters that they belong to the HSS — Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh — and that Khanna is against Hinduism. Roy said he explained to them that Khanna is not against Hinduism, but does support secularism and that he wants to ensure that Pakistan and India do not go towar.
“Shame on you Mr. Khanna. You have betrayed the trust of Indian American community and we refuse to support you from now on,” Cupertino resident Mahesh Lalwani wrote in a Facebook post.
Mahesh Kalla, national spokesman for the HSS U.S., told India-West that the HSS was not involved in the protest against Khanna. “The HSS had absolutely nothing to do with the protest. We are bi-partisan and do not indulge in political activity of any sort,” he said.
Another online petition on change.org compliments Khanna for rejecting Hindutva. “Khanna should be applauded for speaking out against the religious nationalist political ideology of Hindutva which undergirds the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary and Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” it said.
That petition, which was signed by at least 239 people as of Oct. 7, said both the RSS and the BJP have repeatedly been implicated in acts of mass violence against minorities, as well as targeted violence against Hindus.