- Threatening death messages and ominous threats of vile consequences sent to the participants of the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” proves the rise of Hindu fundamentalism within the U.S. and elsewhere.
What was billed as one of the largest virtual conferences — cosponsored by the South Asian Studies Departments and Centers at several prestigious universities including Northwestern, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton and Stanford — is finally over and with it, one hopes, the rabid forces of Hindutva based in U.S., Canada and Europe’s feigned outrage over it.
Titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva”, the conference was spread over three days (September 10th-12th) and included some eminent scholars and academicians. I do not yet know whether the three-day event was a resounding success or made little dent in the rising of the Hindutva forces, especially here in the U.S.
What I do know is that I do not have any qualms whatsoever in using the newly-minted term “Talibalization” for the right-wing fanatics of Hinduism or more specifically to the elements of Hindutva. Again, the conference was addressing this radicalization, not Hinduism as a religion. But who cares to read and find the differences when it is so easy to read and be outraged by the cunningly cultivated verbiage of the assault on academia that dares to address this problem? And a problem it is.
After the first day of the event itself, several of the participants reported death threats made to them over social media. The Guardian reported that these threats forced several scholars to withdraw as ‘far-right fringe groups’ accused the event of being ‘anti-Hindu.’ The organizers were already worried that increased online presence of Hindu-nationalist propaganda falsely characterizing the discussion of the political ideology of Hindutva as an attack on Hinduism itself was in full swing.
As was the case with the now-debunked CAA (Citizen Amendment Act), the overt and covert propaganda war machine was busily churning out materials for its digital foot soldiers to carry forward the false narrative. In their eyes, anything that even remotely touches or questions the Modi government’s actions (or inaction as was seen during the CAA agitations) concerning minorities (read Muslims) is high treason indeed.
Much of the information passed along mostly via the WhatsApp university (sarcasm intended) comes from the propaganda machines based in India that these zealots race to the social media to upload so the gullible and the naïve can read their drivels and diatribes and forward it with a worry and a frown — our culture, religion and the Hindus overall are under attack! Hinduphobia is on the rise and will soon wipe out over a billion-plus Hindus from the face of the Earth, the propaganda online version of the leaflets scream.
I received a forwarded WhatsApp message before the start of the conference that read “…look at the speakers – it’s a who is who of rabid Hindi haters, virulent anti-Indian voices and traitors. This is nothing short of a blatant call for destroying the assertion of Hindus as people and Hindu Dharma as civilization.” THAT’S A TALL ORDER! Traitors! Just Wow!
I do not know the origin of such a diatribe, but it was forwarded several hundred times if not more. My friend who in turn forwarded me this chain is in no shape or form a Hindu fanatic but the fact that these words did have an impact on him to take a relook and question the authenticity of an academic endeavor that addressed topics as far and wide-ranging as Caste and Hindutva; Gender & Sexual Politics of Hindutva; Hindutva Propaganda and the Digital Eco-System; Islamophobia, White Supremacy & Hindutva as well as an overall in-depth look at what is Global Hindutva.
The conference and its speakers did not appear to be insane Hindu-haters and Hinduphobes – they were mostly rational and learned scholars who have devoted decades to the topics they touched upon. In a statement, sent to various publications including The Guardian, the organizers described how “immense pressure has been placed upon universities by fringe groups to back out of the conference” and emphasized the “sinister implications” of this “massive disinformation campaign.
Several of the participants have withdrawn from the conference over fears it would lead to them being banned from returning to their families in India or being arrested on their arrival into the country. Dozens of speakers and organizers involved have had violent threats made against their family members. Meena Kandasamy, a speaker, had pictures of her children posted online with captions such as “ur son will face a painful death” as well as casteist slurs. Other academics have been forced to file police cases after receiving death threats,” according to The Guardian.
More than 1 million emails were sent to the presidents, provosts and officials at universities involved in the conference *the far-right wing sympathizers and followers gleefully owned up) pressuring them to withdraw and dismiss staff who were participating, pointing to an organized campaign by groups in India and the U.S. At Drew University in New Jersey, more than 30,000 emails were received in just a few minutes, causing the university server to crash.
“We are deeply concerned that all of these lies, taken together, will be used to incarcerate those who speak at the conference, or worse, inflict bodily harm, up to the murder, upon those associated with the conference,” read the statement by the conference’s organizers. “Due to the variety of the nature of these threats, several speakers have had to withdraw from participating in this conference over the past two to three days.”
Organizers reported receiving “death threats, threats of sexual violence, and threats of violence against their families. Women participants have been subjected to the vilest kind of misogynistic threats and abuse and members of religious minorities associated with the conference have been targeted with casteist and sectarian slurs in the ugliest sorts of language.” That brings me back to my point – the actions are in keeping with the “Talibanization” of the Hindutva forces within Hinduism. It needs to be checked now or else it may well become a behemoth that will be tough to contain as history has shown us over and over again.
Kuhu Singh lives in Eden Prairie, Minn., a suburb of the Twin Cities. Bidding adieu to journalism a decade ago, she nonetheless loves to write and express her very strong opinions on social media and blogs and sometimes in a few Indian publications. She is a Senior Digital Marketing Manager for a broadcast retail company. Race relations, diversity, social issues fascinate and roil her into action. She volunteers her time with certain political organizations and community organizations.