Chai, Yoga, Gandhi: Operatives in US Target India’s Soft Power Symbols Says Disinfolab
BY SANJEEV SHARMA
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in California was vandalized by a group of miscreants in January 2021 in a nefarious act against the embodiment of peace. The statue given by the Indian government to the city of Davis in 2016 was installed in a park that fell prey to the anti-India and anti-Gandhi organizations. A similar incident was also reported in Washington D.C. in December 2020, when a group of miscreants defaced Gandhi’s statue, which made headlines in both Indian and the American media.
According to a recent report by The Disinfolab, the key organization behind these acts was the Organization for the Minorities of India (OFMI), founded by Pieter Friedrich, a self-proclaimed expert on South Asia; and Bhajan Singh Bhinder, a.k.a. Iqbal Choudhary, a pro-Khalistani operative residing in the US.
Bhinder was a member of Sikh Youth of America, which was the pro-Khalistani group spearheading the Khalistani activities in the US and Canada. The group was under the radar of the governments in Ottawa and Washington on various occasions for their links with the International Sikh Youth Federation based in Canada, in a drug trafficking case.
In the infamous Lal Singh vs State of Gujarat case, Bhinder was named as the financier of the planned terrorist attacks in India. Lal Singh along with four others — Mohammad Sharief (ISI agent), Tahir Jamal, Mohammad Saquib Nachan and Shoaib Mukhtiyar — all worked with the Pakistani intelligence for a conspiracy called K-2 (Kashmir-Khalistan) in 1991-92, which was hatched in Lahore under the patronage of Amir ul Azeem, the then Secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami, and was actively supported by several Pakistani establishment players including Choudhary Altaf Hussain, eventually the Governor of Punjab province and uncle of the former Information Minister, Fawad Choudhary, The Disinfolab said.
The OFMI was registered by Friedrich in July 2007, when Bhinder was listed as a terrorist by the Indian government. Since its inception, the Organization’s founders opened a surfeit of entities varying from a transport company (Safety Net Transpo) to a book publishing house (Sovereign Star Publishing). However, OFMI was the focal institution, that has been behind the vandalization and defacing of the statues of Gandhi, a figure symbolic of the legacy of non-violence in India.
“The OFMI adopted alternative methods to dent India’s image of non-violence, yoga, and Chai (tea). The alternate narrative was designed to hit India’s image as a democracy and deem it as a ‘Fascist state’, with degrading democratic values. A group of pseudo-experts was thus created to bolster the alter-narrative,” The Disinfolab report said.
Friedrich, who was being promoted into the mainstream as an ‘expert’ wrote books on ‘Fascism in India’, against Gandhi, and even whitewashed Pakistan’s role in the 2020 Kabul gurdwara blast in which 25 Sikh worshippers were killed.
All his “literary masterpieces” were published under Bhinder’s Sovereign Star Publishing.
“India is seen as a rising nation and Chai, Yoga, and Gandhi, are symbolic of the Indian soft power and are considered a gift to the world. Pieter systematically targeted these soft power elements of India through several books that he doled out under different names ranging from Patrick J. Nevers to Pieter Friedrich. Other identities included Singh of Judah, Pieter Singh, and Peter Flanigan. The names were used to pick a particular narrative and set attacks on India and carry out anti-Gandhi activities,” The Disinfolab report said.
Interestingly, the OFMI was also a part of an alliance in tandem with Indian American Muslim Council, and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), which also allied in 2019 and named Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), which describes itself as “a broad coalition of Indian American organizations”.
These organizations via AJA staged a protest in Houston during the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in September 2019.