Getting to Know Peter Friedrich, Activist From Toolkit Case
Who is this Peter Friedrich, and why is he of such interest to the Delhi Police in the toolkit case?
In its 15 February press conference on Disha Ravi case, the Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police Manish Chandra mentioned Peter Friedrich as an “incongruously looking name” that surfaced in the toolkit case investigation. Without disclosing much, Chandra said that Friedrich has been on the “radar of Indian security establishment since 2006”. But who is this Peter Friedrich, and why is he of such interest to the Delhi Police in the toolkit case?
While talking about the hashtags and accounts mentioned in the toolkit, the Delhi Police stated that one of the accounts mentioned in the toolkit belongs to Peter Friedrich.
Calling Friedrich an “active proponent of Khalistan”, the Delhi Police told the media that “Friedrich has been on the radar of Indian security establishment since late 2006 when he was noticed in the company Bhajan Singh Bhinder alias Iqbal Choudhury”.
Bhinder is alleged to be associated with a group that the police has termed as K2 (Kashmir-Khalistan), a group allegedly having links with Pakistan’s ISI.
However, the Delhi Police did not disclose the nature of the case against Friedrich, neither did they provide any information about his alleged involvement in the 26 January incident. Talking about the content of the toolkit, DCP Manish Chandra said:
“Why the name of Peter Friedrich finds relevance among those who are to be followed as resource persons is an answer which accused Disha and her colleagues will tell us.”DCP Manish Chandra
Who is Peter Friedrich?
As per his official website, Peter Friedrich is an author and activist specialising in historical and current affairs in South Asia. Calling himself a “staunch advocate for religious liberty”, Friedrich has lectured in educational institutions such as Columbia University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, Carleton University, and St. Stephens College. Friedrich’s website further describes him:
“He engages with issues such as human rights, supremacist political ideologies, ethnonationalism, politicisation of religion, authoritarian government structures and policies, state-sponsored atrocities, and the need to unify around doctrines of liberty.”
Friedrich has co-authored 2 books with Bhinder (whom he calls Bhajan Singh), including one on the origins of Sikhism and its anti-caste struggle. In 2015, he held a protest at a site of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in San Jose, California. Friedrich calls that protest as a beginning of his journey of becoming an “expert on Hindu nationalism”. Subsequently, in 2018, he travelled to Chicago to oppose the presence of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at World Hindu Congress organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America.
In 2019, the The Caravan magazine did a cover story on Friedrich’s investigation on US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s alleged links with the RSS. In that story, Friedrich argued that Gabbard is funded by the RSS and she used her position to “whitewash Modi’s reputation as the architect of the 2002 Gujarat Genocide”.
Peter Friedrich’s Response to Delhi Police’s Allegations
Friedrich recently issued a lengthy public statement responding to the allegations put against him by the Delhi Police. He says that he is being targeted by the agencies as he’s “one of North America’s most relentless voices against the rising fascism of the Modi regime and, particularly, the RSS”. He further states that although it would’ve been an “honour” for him to plan the hashtags and the entire toolkit for the farmers’ protest, he had nothing to do with it.
On the issue of his relations with Bhindra, Friedrich said that he learnt about the “decades of human rights violations in India” from the man the police calls a K2 agent. Friedrich claims that Bhindra has nothing to do with Khalistan. In fact, he says, Khalistan is an agenda propped up by the Indian State to “discredit legitimate Sikh activism in support of human rights”. Describing his relation with Bhindra, Friedrich said:
“The reason I didn’t run away from Bhajan was because he disavowed the concept of Khalistan and instead embraced a universal humanitarianism. And so, over the years, we off-and-on participated in a variety of protests and seminars — and co-authorship — to encourage egalitarianism and celebrate its brilliant history in the Indian subcontinent.”Friedrich
Friedrich has further responded to the claims made against him by what he calls “pro-Modi regime media - Republic TV”. Responding to the Republic TV’s allegations wherein he’s touted as a “mastermind” of the toolkit, he said that despite his willingness, he has nothing to do with the preparation of the toolkit.
In his response, Friedrich invoked a recent statement made by India’s former Union minister P Chidambaram wherein the latter noted, “India is becoming the theatre of the absurd and it is sad that the Delhi Police have become a tool of the oppressors.”
Claiming that he has no involvement with the Khalistani movement, Friedrich went on to say:
“As the Khalistan movement today — with which I have absolutely zero involvement — appears to me to be entirely propped up by the Modi regime for purposes of creating a Frankenstein monster on which it can blame all ills, it seems to serve no other purpose than as a Modi regime psy-op to distract attention from the crimes of the RSS-BJP. It’s laughable that the entire world today — from a white Christian writer like myself to a Black Barbadian singer like Rihanna — are labelled as supporters of a fictitious Sikh separatist state.”
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