The upcoming ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference to be held in September across a number of universities in the USA is being attacked by several Hindu groups in India and the US as being ‘Hinduphobic’ and ‘promoting genocide of Hindus’.
The three-day virtual Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, co-sponsored by more than 60 departments and centres from more than 45 universities, according to the conference organisers, “will convene panels on a variety of interlinked topics that address the threat and power of Hindutva. Scholars, journalists, and activists will examine the historical development of Hindutva, the fascist dimensions of the ideology, its alignment with other supremacist movements and define all that is at stake across a range of political, socio-cultural, and economic issues.”
The organisers’ Twitter handle says, “We are invested in examining the beliefs and actions that constitute Hindutva, an ideology that propagates hate, promotes Islamophobia, and seeks to reduce the myriad practices of Hinduism to a singular notion of a Hindu motherland.”
Conference co-sponsors from universities include departments and centres at Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UChicago, Columbia, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton and Stanford.
Speakers include scholars, journalists, and activists Anand Patwardhan, Ayesha Kidwai, Banu Subramaniam, Bhanwar Meghwanshi, Christophe Jaffrelot, Kavita Krishnan, Meena Kandasamy, Mohammad Junaid, Nandini Sunder, Neha Dixit, and P. Sivakami.
Referring to the ‘disinformation’, about the conference, organisers tweeted “no cosponsoring department or center at any university has pulled out of the conference. To the contrary, we have received messages of support and solidarity.”
Hindu American Foundation has voiced its strong opposition to the conference. In an open letter to the presidents and administrators of all co-sponsoring universities, HAF has urged the universities to ask the organisers to remove their names and logos from its website, promotional materials, and social media posts and to “ensure the safety and wellbeing of Hindu students, faculty, and staff on your campus who may feel targeted, threatened, or face hostility or harassment as a result of this partisan, anti-Hindu event.”
Expressing concerns that, “Holding Hindus to double standards, defaming or falsely alleging dual loyalty against Hindu Americans, or dehumanizing Hindus by portraying them as inherently bigoted or dangerous crosses the fine line between legitimate criticism of policies of the Indian government and anti-Hindu hatred.”, the letter continues, “Holding Hindus to double standards, defaming or falsely alleging dual loyalty against Hindu Americans, or dehumanizing Hindus by portraying them as inherently bigoted or dangerous crosses the fine line between legitimate criticism of policies of the Indian government and anti-Hindu hatred.”
The Hindu Students Council has also taken to Twitter, calling the conference “a smokescreen for Hinduphobia.” In a video on Twitter, several students urged for boycott of the conference.
Other organisations that have opposed the conference and alleged that the label of ‘Hindutva’ is being used as an alibi for ‘Hinduphobia’ include the Coalition of Hindus in North America (CoHNA), American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) and HinduPACT initiative of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA).
Responding to the allegations of Hinduphobia, the organisers told NRI Affairs, “We categorically reject the allegations. Hinduism and Hindutva are categorically different things: the former is a pluralist faith that consists of diverse beliefs and practices, while the latter is a fascist-inspired political ideology designed to grab power, institute rigid hierarchies, and reduce minorities to the status of second-class citizens. Hindutva ideologues have long hoped to reduce the diverse practices of Hinduism to their monolithic, bigoted, and violent ideology. Speakers and experts at this conference will make clear the distinction between the two systems of belief and action.”, adding, “As you will note, including in the present instance, it has been a consistent tactic of Hindutva organizations to label anyone who critiques them, particularly Hindus, as anti-Hindu. This is the way in which they seek to eliminate any discussion of the ways in which apparatchiks of Hindutva have systematically attacked (and in some cases killed) journalists, teachers, students, public intellectuals, and so on.”
The organisers also told NRI Affairs no co-sponsor had pulled their support, saying, “Not a single cosponsoring department or center has withdrawn their support for their conference. Unfortunately, a great many of the universities concerned have been bombarded with a barrage of emails and phone calls containing disinformation and hate. We ourselves have received hundreds of emails filled with abuse, hate, and even death threats. Moreover, a sustained media disinformation campaign is being conducted by the mouthpieces of Hindutva forces in the Indian media. All of this only goes to show how disturbed Hindutva ideologues are by a simple conference that seeks to discuss what Hindutva is and does. If they were indeed so confident in the validity of their ideology, they would not be so threatened by scrutiny.”
There is support for the conference from the US based advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights USA. In a letter to all American universities supporting the conference, HfHR-USA urged them to “extend the fullest support for the upcoming conference and demonstrate our unified commitment to academic freedom.”
“Sadly, a significant section of the Hindu American community, which has greatly benefited from America’s Civil Rights movement, seems to also support a majoritarian/authoritarian rule in India – a troubling contradiction of values that we have been speaking out against. We are also greatly troubled that Hindutva ideology has been making inroads into academia and the Hindu student population.”, HfHR letter said, adding, “It is in this context that we are writing to express our unequivocal support for the upcoming academic conference titled, “Dismantling Global Hindutva” on September 10-12, with co-sponsorships from 60+ departments and centers at 49 universities worldwide. This conference is coming at a critical time for the world’s largest democracy, which is seeing a precipitous decline in civil and human rights under the current government.”
Supporting the event, Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian History at the university’s Newark campus, tweeted, ““The US Hindutva machine–part of the Global Right–has mobilized to target sponsors of the upcoming Dismantling Hindutva conference.”
In another tweet, Truschke added, “Know about threats and the possibility of violence. Hindutva folks do not play around. Many on college campuses live with threats of violence–against themselves and their families–from the Hindu Right. ”
Support for the conference has also come from the Ambedkar King Study Circle, USA, who have tweeted, “The global presence of Hindutva is a major menace to justice internationally .. share with your alliance partners and the like minded organizations who work on social justice and fighting racial, caste, gender, religious and other discriminations.”
Dr Meena Kandasamy, one of the speakers at the conference has lashed out against the hate messages she has been receiving on social media, “All of this hate because I’m participating in an academic conference, Dismantling Global Hindutva @dghconference. Discourse has now been reduced to dicks. Typical Manuvadi Sanghi Talibani behaviour which can never look at women as intellectuals and thinkers, only as sex slaves.”
The Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference is being held on 10-12 September 2021.