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Dharma Divided: Conference on ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ Sparks Social Media Vitriol

Dharma Divided: Conference on ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ Sparks Social Media Vitriol

  • Supporters laud organizers for hosting the three-day event with a panel discussion on various topics and ‘passing the gauntlet of threats,’ while critics accused them of Hinduphobia, distorting statements and propagating hatred.

Ever since its announcement, the just-concluded ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference has sparked a debate on social media between the organizers, participants, attendees supporters and critics. Those who oppose the conference maintain that it is “a smokescreen for Hinduphobia,” while the organizers and supporters are calling them out for their inability “to distinguish between a critique of Hindutva and attacks on Hinduism.” 

While Twitter was mostly flooded with criticism and name-calling, supporters lauded the organizers for continuing with the conference despite the attacks and backlash. The organizers also took the social media to thank the attendees for supporting the right to academic freedom. “Thank you for attending our conference and for supporting the right to academic freedom in such large numbers over the last three days! What you witnessed was both banal and extraordinary: the successful completion of a rigorous academic conference threatened by Hindutva forces.”

Throughout the conference, organizers took to Twitter to post highlights of the conference. Similarly, Dr. Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers Newark, shared remarks by some of the attendees and her thoughts on the conference. Truschke had earlier confirmed to American Kahani that she is not among the organizers. ““The current #dghconference is a reminder that when Hindu supremacists tried to silence conference speakers, they were trying to silence Hindus.”

Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor of Islamic and Religious Studies, Stanford University, who attended “every panel” of the conference, tweeted: “I have attended every panel of the @dismantlingglobalhindutva conference. I agreed with and learned from some speakers and disagreed with others. You know what I didn’t do? I did not threaten the ones w/ whom I disagreed with death, rape, or torture. I didn’t even call them names.”

On Sept. 10, the first day of the conference, she tweeted: “Those critiquing the 

@dghconference should really be listening to these panels – this session on political economy is excellent. precise, careful, and evidence-based. It is not some wholesale takedown of any particular party or regime. this is just good scholarship.”

She reiterated her opinion during the closing of the conference on Sept. 12. “As the @dghconference closes it is worth noting the ordinary event of a series of academic panels on controversial topics. In spite of divergent views, not a single panelist insulted, belittled, or shouted (let alone threatened) another. This is what #academicfreedom looks like.”

Sangay Mishra, Associate Professor of Political Science & International Relations Department at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, tweeted: “#dismantlinghindutva conference has been successful in raising important questions. However, many Indian American groups focused on U.S. politics have tried to sidestep this question thinking that it is a judicious thing to do given the divide. reconsider! Find a way to weigh in!”

In another tweet, he wrote: “Many of them [participating organizations] have played an important role in challenging #WhiteSupremacy and strived toward politics of racial equality but prefer to sidestep this conversation happening within and outside the diasporic communities!!”

Support came from global activists and academicians as well. 

Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden tweeted: “If their ideology is so old and powerful, and above all if Hinduphobia is true, why are they so nervous about a few unnamed academics in the US holding an online conference on #DismantlingGlobalHindutva!”

Indian actor and activist Mona Ambegaonkar shared a post by journalist Meer Faisal. “A reason why #DismantlingGlobalHindutva is urgent and important,” she tweeted.

Journalist and author Raghu Karnad chimed in as well. “The organizers of #DismantlingGlobalHindutva have passed through a gauntlet of threats, without flinching – as well as the desperate lie that they are “Hinduphobic,” he tweeted. 

O. M. A. Salam, chairman of the Popular Front of India, tweeted: “Death threats & harassment faced by speakers & organizers of @dghconference underlines one major fact. Umbrella politics of Hindutva working under different names globally is now a menace affecting not just Indians but people across d world. Stop Hindutva b4 it turns a pandemic!”

Twitter user Bhaskar Ramachandran put forth his point of view. #dismantlinghindutva is not happening in some University of USA , I don’t care what they are talking about,” he tweeted. “But dismantling Hindutva is happening in our Villages, in our Towns because we have DISCRIMINATED against our own people!”

The backlash was almost immediate, from Hindu American groups, and activists and religious leaders, both in the U.S. and India. The conference has already rattled a large section of the right wing media, BJP-RSS leaders and other sympathizers of the Hindutva ideology who appear to be engaged in a coordinated campaign to discredit the conference as “politically motivated”, “Hindu Phobic”, and “Anti Hindu.”

Leading the criticism on Twitter was the Hindu American Foundation. “It’s not over,” the HAF tweeted.” #dghconference was a watershed moment that united & galvanized Hindus by lifting the curtain on the extent of ignorance & #Hinduphobia characterizing the ‘academic’ study of our faith. There is much to do, and we’re gearing up for a long struggle. Join us!”

Abhijit Majumder, journalist. co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of http://earshot.in, agreed. 

“Dismantling Global Hindutva conference has ended up uniting global Hindutva a little more,” he tweeted. 

HAF executive director Suhag Shukla also took to Twitter. “This. Is. What. We. Warned. You. About. @dghconference said they want to Dismantle Hindutva. We warned that they meant Hinduism.Your names were used to platform hate,” she wrote, tagging a few universities who were co-sponsors of the conference. 

#dghconference tried to assuage with the Hindutva ≠Hinduism shtick,” Shukla wrote in another tweet. “But they attacked Hindus and Hinduism under the guise of academic freedom,” she added. “Why do we care? We care because this hatred is not only entrenched at, but implicitly endorsed by major universities.

A user named Monica agreed with Shukla. “Dismantling Global Hindutva conference started by saying “we are not against Hinduism but just hindutva” and ended with “Hinduism = Hindutva,” she tweeted. They couldn’t hide their Hindumisia for long.

Physician Rajiv Pandit, who is on the board of directors for the Hindu American Foundation and the Indo American Kashmir Forum, accused the conference organizers of distorting statements given by co-sponsoring universities. He shared an example on his Twitter post.

Dr. David Frawley, Vedic acharya and a proponent of Hindutva, in a series of tweets, condemned the conference and its organizers and participants. “All professors of South Asian Studies should deeply study the teachings of India, the most profound and ancient dharmic civilization, rising again today. They haven’t even learned the basics of Hinduism. They should meditate more and agitate less even for their own wellbeing.”

Additionally, Frawley shared a few posts on the meaning and its salient features. “Hinduism in various names and forms has endured since the dawn of history. Its dharmic culture guided Asia and its Yoga-Vedanta teachings have uplifted millions globally today. Marxist anti-Hindu programs are fleeting mirages of confused minds.”

In another post, he wrote: “Hindu Dharma has a place for the Cosmic Devatas on Earth with temples and sacred sites everywhere. It has a sacred calendar, Panchanga, which celebrates the Devatas on regular festivals connected to the stars. A Cosmic view of time and location, no mere anthropocentric fixation.”

Similarly, Sandeep Sharma of India, who describes himself as a “Maverick Modi Bhakt from Mumbai,” and “Proud Hindu from Dev Bhumi Uttrakhand( Pahadi),” on his Twitter handle, wrote: “Hinduism is culture and way of life unlike organized religion Islam and Christianity. Hinduism is like physics or chemistry or math. It’s mans quest to know the ultimate truth without any barrier. Abrahamic religion has history of full barbarism.”

Rashmi Samant, who resigned a few days after becoming the first Indian woman to be elected as President-elect of Oxford University Student Union, has been a vocal critic of the conference. “On day one, the conference unanimously decided to “Dismantle Hinduism as a religion to cure it of its affliction”. To me, it surely sounds like colonisers reciting the edict to destroy an indigenous faith.”

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Some like immigration lawyer Kartikeya Tanna opined that the conference is “doing a great job at dismantling hesitation on the part of Hindus to embrace Hindutva.”

Indian politician, Ram Madhav, member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, in his tweet, alleged that the conference wasn’t as successful as claimed by the organizers. “Dismantling Global Hindutva was publicised to be a thunder, but ended up in a whimper, thanks to d efforts of @HinduAmerican n other Hindu groups,” he wrote. “None cared. No news. Heard that there were more speakers than viewers.”

Mumbai-based Rapper Av, tweeted a warning to the organizers. “#DismantlingGlobalHindutva Try all you want and fail every time! Sanatan is forever.”

Varun Puri, former IT and social media Head of Punjab BJP wanted organizers to get a lesson in history. “Sanatan is older than time itself, hundreds of invasions & millions of failed attempts have been made to destroy this culture in past millenium,” he tweeted. “This universe vibrates on the rythm of Sanatan. People who are dreaming about #DismantlingGlobalHindutva needs some history lessons!”

German author Maria Wirth, who’s been living in India for the past 38 years, tweeted: “Isn’t it strange?Taliban strictly follows Islam but only Taliban is criticized, never Islam. Yet Hinduism/Hindutva is massively attacked when there’s nothing wrong with it. A conference even wants to dismantle it. Don’t those academics have brains?”

Indian folk singer Malini Awasthi, called on “every Indian staying in the US,” to “unite and protest against #DismantlingGlobalHindutva Conference! This is a clear agenda of creating hinduphobia. Aa a matter of fact, they should organize similar protests on global terrorism! Shame on organisers of @dghconference.”

Many took objection to the conference’s timing, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

“ 20 years after #September11, American academia are in a huddle over #DismantlingGlobalHindutva, while radical #Islam has been given another country by the American government,” Bollywood actor Ranvir Shorey tweeted. 

A user named Ayushi, from Sarjah, UAE, who describes herself on Twitter as “Sanatani, Brahmin |and “Dreamer of #HinduRashtra,” went a step further with her displeasure on the conference. Sharing a photo of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, she wrote: “People who talk about #DismantlingGlobalHindutva deserves this treatment.”

Others drew a connection between the dates as Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893,” tweeted Indian Supreme Court and Delhi High Court counsel and author, Sai Deepak J. “On September 11th, Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. #NeverForget and this is the day they have chosen to hold the #DismantlingGlobalHindutva conference. #NeverForgive”

Student Megha Arun, a 12th grader from Kerala: “In this day of 1893,Swami Vivekananda gave his legendary speech which started with “sisters and brothers of America” in the Parliament of religions.Swami ji showed the world the beauty of Hinduism.And today the same world is trying to #DismantlingGlobalHindutva.”

A user named Thakur Dilawar Singh from Delhi tweeted: “There is not even a Hindu country on globe, still you are trying to dismantling global Hindutva.”

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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