How an online conference on dismantling Hindutva rattled the Hindu Right

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By Aviral Anand

When the Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH) conference was announced sometime in Aug (the conference was held Sep 10-12), it featured on its flyer the imagery of what were unmistakably RSS figures in profile being yanked out by a hammer. One could read this image as signifying the rooting out of the insidious effect of Hindutva from its base – the act of “dismantling Hindutva” that the conference aimed for.

Ordinarily, online conferences of this nature, even with the most ambitious titles, are mostly academic in nature and elicit a tepid response. They have a usual cast of characters and the narratives are predictable. So they rarely make a splash beyond their immediate target audience.

But something about this conference title, the imagery and the fact that it claimed that several top universities in the US were sponsoring it set off a firestorm among the Hindu right-wing organizations, especially in the US. Soon, every TV and youtube channel worth its nationalistic salt was covering the news of the conference as if the very existence of Hinduism depended on it.

Organizations like the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), which claim to represent the Hindu interests in North America, swung into action.

They employed principally two strategies to sensationalize their responses.

First, at a broad level, they conflated Hindutva with Hinduism, ignoring the clarifications already in the conference details. They began to spread rumors that the conference was designed to malign Hinduism. In this vein, they also raised a false alarm about a supposed Hindu-animosity at work, which they label Hindu-dvesha or Hindu-phobia.

And second, even while crying wolf about Hinduphobia, as a shockingly shameless counter-strategy, they indulged in Islamophobia.

This they did in the usual manner, by pointing to the liberals like the conference organizers not addressing issues of “Islamic terrorism.” They alleged that the conference organizers had falsely decided to malign Hinduism to take attention away from goings-on in Afghanistan and the takeover by Taliban. In their opinion, the recent events in Afghanistan demonstrated that Islamic terrorism had manifested itself again and needed urgent attention.

What followed from this point on was a lot of frenzied action to try to convince anyone who was willing to listen that a conspiracy to undermine and tar Hinduism was underway. Nevermind that several participants in the conference were Hindus by birth and the organizers had explained that their attempt was to take on the threat of a kind of ultra-nationalistic Hinduism (“Hindutva”) that was exclusionary and bigoted.

The conference opposers dug up anything in the conference speakers’ past they could lay their hands on to show that they had been insulting towards Hinduism. They even proceeded to threaten the families of the participants with dire consequences.

The diasporic organizations leading the charge, like HAF and CoHNA,  began to bombard US universities and departments with emails and phone-calls, asking them to withdraw any support that the institution might have indicated. They also tried to enlist the support of as many organizations in the US – several temples among them – to rally for the Hindu cause.

And, in other imitative attempts at hitting back at the organizers, an organization sympathetic to the opposers’ reasoning even announced a “counter-conference,” titled “Dismantling Global Islamic Communist Jihad,” with Delhi-riots-accused Kapil Mishra as one of the participants.

The entire Hindu right-wing digital ecosystem – which we know can be formidable and malicious – went into overdrive. However, the discussions never went beyond the crude strategies adopted by the opposers. They endlessly moped over the denigration of Hinduism – and India. The discussions had lurid titles such as, “Dismantling Global Hindutva is a supremacist tactic to demean non-Abrahamic faiths,” “Dismantling Global Hindutva भारत के खिलाफ अंतर्राष्ट्रीय साजिश,” and “Dismantling Global Hindutva Conf: Conspiracy to create hatred towards Hindus.”

It is quite obvious that somewhere the Sangh Parivar and its supporters used this occasion to vent their frustration towards all those who have been speaking out against their bullying tactics. Academics and academic institutions who have dared put forward a narrative that does not agree entirely with the sanitised version of history and religion that the Parivar wants have faced relentless attacks.

Recently, Delhi University removed certain authors’ works from their undergraduate reading syllabus. In the US, an historian called Audrey Truschke of Rutgers University has been the target of particularly vicious attacks from the Hindu Right for allegedly having hurt Hindu sentiments by her works. A Sanskrit scholar was recently forced off an online list for the crime of having authored books with Romila Thapar and R.S. Sharma, and for having spoken against the Right’s stance during a controversy involving school textbooks in California, USA.

Truschke has been particularly unbowed by all the criticism leveled against her. She is part of the South Asia Scholar Activist Collective which released the Hindutva Harassment Field Guide a few months ago. The Collective lent its full support to the DGH conference and that did not endear Truschke to the Hindu Right any more.

The vicious reaction of the Hindu right to the conference points to a fact that many have known for a long time now: the active participation of the Hindu diaspora in Hindu advocacy in particular and the Hindu cause, more generally. The digital world of social media has just made the effect more seamless, with programs based in the diaspora, chiefly the US, and in India feeding off of each other.

But before this digital buildup, there has been a fairly deep recent history of the diaspora taking up the Hindu Right’s cause, either through official institutions like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Overseas Friends of the BJP, or through several other trusts, foundations and other “service-oriented” organizations.

Added to this has been an aggressive confrontation with US-based academics, long before the current confrontation with Truschke. They have been accused of hurting Indian sentiments through their writings or supporting theories such as the Aryan Migration Theory, something that nativists among the Hindu Right detest.

The opposition to the DGH conference brought together the fury of all these different strands of supporters of the Hindu cause, past and present. For an academic conference which took aim at the toxic effects of a belligerent nationalism, with no concrete action planned, the ire of an entire army of opposers came down upon it, with the opposers baying for the blood of the organizers and panelists.

In some ways, one got a glimpse of the mobilization of a lynch mob, a reality that India has seen in horrifying details in recent years. For the Hindu Right that makes fun of the notion of “tolerance,” it was no surprise to see the demonstration yet again of vicious intolerance on its part. The intolerance and virtual lynch mentality were similar to the mindset behind the on-ground lynching one has encountered in India. They was based on “fake news” and rumors about transgressions against the Hindu religion, they easily constructed the image of the ‘Other’ – the Muslims and some communists thrown in this time, and the only solution in this case was a complete cessation of what was irritating them – a life, in actual lynching cases, a conference on this virtual occassion.
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Aviral Anand is a freelance writer based in Delhi

4 COMMENTS

  1. The organisers and participants of this abominable event shouldn’t have been threatened. I completely agree with them, most of these people started hating on Hindus the second they opened their mouth.
    As a matter of fact, what they told was enough to figure out that they are completely of the rocks and Hindus are some of the best people on this earth.
    Some examples :

    1) ” There are increasing alliances between Hindutva politics and hijra and trans politics, which is yet another sign of Hindtuva’s ability to make forays into marginalized communities. ”

    So, liberals argue all the time for greater representation of the LGBT community but when Hindutva groups reach out to them, then liberals claim it is dangerous. In contrast, the Church and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board are still twisting themselves in knots over the issue of LGBTQ rights, making their “Islamo-liberal” cheerleaders look ridiculous.

    2) ” Savarna women must turn into caste-traitors ”

    Arguing in favour of intercaste marriage is a separate discussion altogether but what the panelists are doing is encouraging psychological manipulation of women for the sake of their political agenda.
    What the Dismantling Hindutva conference is essentially arguing is that if women do not marry as per the wishes of its “”esteemed”” 🤣🤣 panelists, then they are fascists.

    3) ” The third space for Hindu women is friendship and leisure – a mixture of friendship, fun and violence in a nexus for Savarnas in India and diaspora. ”

    Women have gained mobility and liberals are not happy! In fact, they are quite alarmed. Because they have discovered that Hindutva women have “captured formal space in education.” Further, these women are creating narratives, officiating in seminars and conferences, expressing themselves on social media and so on.
    In other words, when you come across a woman who is bold, outspoken or successful, you should doubt her merit. That’s liberalism in 2021.

    Well, at least they admitted that women are playing a key role in the Hindu nationalist movement.
    Unlike some religions ☪️☪️, where women are being allowed to drive now in 2021 or worse, being confined in their homes to sexual slavery.

    4) ” Unlike Abrahamic fundamentalists, Hindutva is not opposed to science. Rather, they use rhetoric from both science & Hinduism, modernity and orthodoxy, western & eastern thought to build a powerful vision of India ”

    So, contributing to a powerful Indian nation has become bad now.
    You have to burst out laughing here. So the Hindu nationalists embrace science. They mix eastern thought with western thought, as well as modernity with orthodoxy. Excuse me, but what exactly is objectionable here?

    You will notice a common thread in all these confessions. They admit that Hindu nationalists have all these wonderful qualities and then insist that these wonderful qualities are part of some terrible conspiracy. In other words, by rejecting homophobia, transphobia, sexism and casteism, Hindu nationalists have proved that they are the worst of all.
    This is what happens when Islamo-fascists spend too much time being cheerleaders for the Taliban. When they come across those who are genuinely open minded, they think it must be a big conspiracy.

    • Marquis de kalia aka RSS fake new peddling bhangi troll,

      Another cut and paste hack job from the resident gandu hindu troll. Talking about women driving? You mean Saudi Arabia where Hindus sell their kidneys to get visas to go clean our toilets? Hindu women can’t even go to the bathroom without fear of being raped by animalistic hindu pervert rapists. Hinduism treats women like sh1t, thats why India is the most dangerous country in the world for women. The presence of women is the Hindu terrorist circles is like maggots competing for the same filth. I guess they are lucky enough they weren’t aborted or raped since Hindus are experts on female fetecide and drawing inspiration of rape and perverse acts from their gutter pagan Brahmin led cult. No such thing as “islamofascists” just Muslims who will not accept the tyranny of Hindu terrorists and the lies they peddle.
      Hitler loving Hindu terrorist vermin complaining about the Taliban is too funny. The only way to dismantle Hindu “nationalism” aka terrorism is to dismantle Hinduism which is the source of filth, violence, extremism, misogyny and all the evils which plague India.

  2. More scuh conferences are the need of the hour before this Nazi inspired ideology of the RSS gets out of hand and results in mass genocide of its hapless minorities and Dalits. Those supporting such fascist organization should be deported from where they are enjoying exemplary status.

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