US academic conference on ‘Hindutva’ targeted by Hindu groups | Human Rights News

US academic conference on ‘Hindutva’ targeted by Hindu groups | Human Rights News

Boston, US –  For the primary time within the United States, students and lecturers from numerous American and worldwide universities have come collectively to organise a serious on-line conference on Hindutva.

Cosponsored by departments and centres of greater than 53 universities, most of them from the US, together with Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference will talk about numerous points regarding the Hindu supremacist ideology in India and elsewhere.

Hindutva, or Hinduness, refers to a century-old right-wing motion that goals to create an ethnic Hindu state out of a multicultural India, dwelling to greater than 200 million Muslims.

The three-day conference, beginning on September 10, will host numerous panels on world Hindutva, caste oppression, Islamophobia, and the persecution of minorities in India, that includes greater than 25 academicians, activists, and journalists as audio system.

Over the previous three weeks, the organisers and audio system of the conference have been on a receiving finish of harassment and intimidation by numerous Hindu right-wing groups and people staunchly opposing the conference, calling it a “Hinduphobic gathering”.

The organisers insist the conference solely goals to debate the worldwide implications of Hindutva and develop assets for an anti-Hindutva pedagogy within the academy.

‘Textbook Hindutva approach’

Since the day Meena Kandasamy’s title was launched by the conference organisers as one of many audio system, she has been incessantly harassed and abused on-line.

A poet and caste activist, Kandasamy instructed Al Jazeera {that a} poem she wrote 10 years in the past was picked up by Hindu groups, alleging it was offensive and ridiculed Hindu gods.

Kandasamy acquired a number of emails warning her in opposition to taking part within the conference. On Twitter and Instagram, the Hindu proper targeted her household, her kids and even issued dying threats.

“This is the textbook Hindutva approach. They just indulge in character assassination, slandering my personal life, questioning the parentage of my children, asking if they were born to one father,” Kandasamy instructed Al Jazeera.

“The Hindutva groups both in the US and India are miffed at the huge academic support for the conference and they just want to silence us at any cost.”

On September 3, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a far-right group whose members are accused of assassinating journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh in 2017, wrote a letter to India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, in search of motion in opposition to the India-based audio system of the conference.

Delhi University professor Nandani Sundar, who can also be one of many audio system on the conference, acquired hateful emails and was trolled on Twitter.

“This is what Hindutva groups have been doing in India – shutting down seminars by threatening the organisers, physical disruption etc. Now they are doing the same thing globally,” Sundar instructed Al Jazeera.

Charges of ‘Hinduphobia’

Some US-based Hindu groups have been aggressively campaigning and pressurising the taking part universities to drag out of the conference, saying it promotes “Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred”, a cost denied by the organisers.

Over the previous three weeks, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), the Coalition of Hindus in North America (CoHNA), and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) declare to have collectively despatched greater than 1.3 million emails to dozens of universities to withdraw their help for the conference.

Last week, the HAF issued an e-mail motion alert, calling on the non-resident Indians (NRIs) to write down letters to India’s international ministry to steer the cosponsoring universities to rethink their affiliation with the conference.

David Ludden, professor of historical past at New York University, one of many co-sponsoring colleges, acknowledged receiving hundreds of emails however says his division won’t again out.

“Administrators did receive emails claiming that the conference represents anti-Hindu ideology. They reached out to me and I explained that this is an academic conference aimed at expanding the production of knowledge about Hindutva, including a critical analysis of its claim to represent Hindus, Hinduism, and Indian culture,” Ludden instructed Al Jazeera.

Ludden additional stated the latest efforts are a part of a world technique to strangle crucial discourse that Hindutva supporters worry will “undermine their credibility as claimants to Hindu tradition”.

Ohio State Senator and Republican politician Niraj Antani additionally issued a press release, condemning the conference and calling it “racism and bigotry against the Hindus”.

“I will always stand strong against Hinduphobia,” he stated.

Al Jazeera reached out to CoHNA and Senator Antani to hunt extra readability on their “Hinduphobia” allegations, however didn’t obtain any response.

“The campaign against the conference is meant to both shut down the conference and send a clear signal to all critics of Hindutva,” conference organisers instructed Al Jazeera in an emailed assertion.

The organisers and different lecturers name it a concerted effort by the US-based Hindu right-wing groups to stifle any criticism of Hindu nationalism whereas conflating Hindutva, the political motion, and Hinduism, the faith.

Gyanendra Pandey, professor of historical past at Emory University, one of many taking part colleges, stated a deliberate try is being made to create confusion over the utilization of the phrases Hindutva and Hinduism.

“Anyone with any serious knowledge of South Asia knows the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism,” Pandey instructed Al Jazeera.

“Hindutva is almost the polar opposite of Hinduism. It is an aggressive political movement aimed at installing an exclusivist, Hindu nationalist regime in India, in line with right-wing authoritarian movements in many other parts of the world today and requires careful study and analysis, which is what the ‘Dismantling Hindutva Conference’ will contribute to,” he stated.

Attack on academic freedom

Purnima Dhavan, affiliate professor of historical past at University of Washington, Seattle, and member of South Asia Scholar Activist Collective, expressed severe considerations over the intimidation of conference organisers and audio system by the Hindu right-wing groups.

“It will have grave and negative consequences on academic work,” Dhavan instructed Al Jazeera.

“It creates an atmosphere of fear in the classroom when faculty and students know that they will be trolled, harassed, or threatened for any discussion or debates about these topics.”

Last week, greater than 50 South Asian diaspora organisations, 937 lecturers from the world over, together with students of genocide and mass violence, issued a press release in help of the conference and known as for an finish to the Hindu right-wing assaults on academic freedom.

“The campaign of intimidation carried out by Hindutva affiliates cannot be allowed to take root in the academy in the US, Europe, or around the world. Free speech must be protected,” stated the assertion.

John L Esposito, professor of faith and worldwide affairs at Georgetown University, echoed Dhavan’s considerations. He stated the Hindutva motion within the US could be very lively and makes use of totally different means, reminiscent of writing letters to college administrations and threatening students with lawsuits, to disrupt academic freedom.

“The threat of these groups has grown significantly in recent years. These groups wish to silence any empirical, fact-based, analysis and critique of Hindutva by the scholars,” Esposito instructed Al Jazeera.

He known as on the US academia to provoke extra debates and discussions on Hindutva.

“Academics have a professional and moral obligation to respond to Hindutva, as they would to charges of antisemitism, Islamophobia, or racism,” Esposito stated.

Stanford University anthropologist Thomas Blom Hansen, a number one professional on Hindu nationalism, who himself has been on the receiving finish of Hindu right-wing assaults over the previous couple of years, known as on the US-based establishments to vigorously defend academic freedom.

“It is important not to give up and not to cave in to pressure from the forces that represent themselves as representing Hindus as such but who actually represent the interests of a foreign government,” Hansen instructed Al Jazeera.

“Institutions need to step up to assist in that task, rather than worrying about reputations or potential donors,” added Hansen.

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