By Syed Ali Mujtaba
There are ominous signs that the Indian diaspora community is asserting the aggressive brand of Hindutva identity in the countries of their wellbeing. The Hindus- Muslim communal clashes in Leicester, UK, Hindu -Sikhs clash in Melbourne Australia, and the bulldozer march in New Jersey, US are some of the disturbing developments.
These events signify that the Indian diaspora community wants to play the role of being the vanguard of the clash of civilizations on a global scale. Observers feel that the Hindu right-wing elements in India, the BJP government, and also India’s foreign office are aiding and abetting militant Hinduism abroad.
These developments are posing a serious challenge to the governments of the countries where the Indian diaspora community is located and are also challenging the Muslim community in these countries to come out in the battle of religions.
In Leicester, the trigger was the first cricket match between India and Pakistan at Asia Cup in UAE that India won. Indian diaspora community took out a victory procession and passed through places that had significant Muslim populations. They wore masks and chanted the Hindu war cry of Jai Sree Ram and hurled abuses to the Pakistani community in particular and to their religion.
This triggered a backlash from the Muslim community. Videos show a Hindu flag being pulled down outside a Hindu temple but it did not show how desperately a Muslim cleric was trying to stop such vandalism.
According to several media reports, it was a preplanned activity by the Indian diaspora community that wanted to assert their Hindutva identity. They wanted to demonstrate their physical prowess on the Muslim community and chose Leicester city for such a violent demonstration. The Hindu- Muslim clash in Leicester cannot be attributed to one single cause as this was simmering for a long time. The Indian diaspora community was waiting for an opportunity that came due to Queen’s funeral when local policemen were called for duty in London. The procession was taken out knowing that the minuscule police forces cannot control the Hindu- Muslim clashes.
The Leicester violence is seen as an alarm bell for the rest of England where the Indian and diaspora communities are abundant. Local MP Claudia Webbe warned that the “fringe elements… inspired by extremism and right-wing ideology in India is rearing its head in the UK and this phenomenon could spread elsewhere.”
In Australia, the trigger was the farmers’ agitation mainly by the Sikh community. What was essentially an anti-government protest by the Sikh community turned out to be an anti-Sikh riot like in New Delhi in 1984. Here Hindu groups attacked Sikhs which resulted in physical violence. Following this, the Australian authorities deported a Hindu man to India who received a rousing welcome in the country, almost like the rapist of Bilkis Bano who was feted after coming to jail in Godhra. The message is loud and clear that some Hindus have similar hatred against the Sikh Community as they have against Muslims.
The bulldozer justice by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath against a Muslim social activist for raising voices of protest appealed to the Hindu diaspora community in New Jersey when some right-wing elements among them took out a bulldozer procession bearing posters of Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi. This procession was obviously taken out by the local Hindu community with the clear cut to vilify the global Muslim community living there.
This newfound aggression of Hindutva elements is not limited to such kind of procession alone. They are also targeting academics, especially those who do research on India in vile and threatening terms Recently a conference on ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ in Boston was attacked by Hindu groups, and participants were subjected to the vilest abuse.
American analysis has pointed out the groundwork for Hindutva is being done for a long. Many US politicians and administrative officials are hands in glove with the local Hindutva-oriented groups, and they support them to pursue the Hindutva agenda because they are in their pay role.
Why Indian Diaspora is getting radicalized
The first and foremost reason is that after 2014 when the BJP has come to power, Indian politics centered on an aggressive Hindutva campaign. This aggression has appealed to the Indian diaspora community and they are imitating in their countries of well-being what is happening in India. They are doing for uniting their Hindu identity and the best way to do so is to commit hate crimes against the Muslim community there.
The Hindu diaspora community is leading the anti-Muslim campaign because they think they bought over the local bosses and they will be protected by the BJP government and their larger Sangh Parivar in India. This misconception has been fed to them because the theory is making rounds that the Anglo-Saxon Christian World commonly called as ‘West’ needs Hindu India to counter the Islamic threats perceived the world over.
The Hindutva pot is boiling in the West due to the years of ideological brainwashing by organizations from India that are locally funded in the name of spreading Indian culture. Diaspora community kids who go dancing and music classes that are accompanied by religious preaching turn out to be an ideological discourse on Hindutva where hate Muslims is preached. As a result, right-wing Hindu groups that are now present in every country are indoctrinated a lot and gleefully get involved in acts of hate and violence without fear of retribution.
The rise of the RSS ideology under the benign leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is another reason for the NRIs and PIOs to become Hindutva campaigners. The Hindutva ideology that has long been cherished by the Hindus of India got a star campaigner in Narendra Modi who is inspiring millions of Hindus globally. His public meetings are held in sports stadiums in the US, UK, Canada, and elsewhere which attracts a massive response from the Hindu community. He is being received with a rousing welcome by the local India who sees Narendra Modi as a messiah who will lead Hindus to the crowning glory in the world.
The other reason is the patronage of the Hindu groups by Indian diplomatic missions in foreign countries. The Indian mission is hosting Yogis and Sadhvis of various kinds and calling select groups of local Hindu Indians to meet them. In Canada, the Indian Mission went to ask the organizers of a local film festival to remove the poster of Kalai which they said hurt the Hindu sentiment. Indian mission in the US had to cancel a talk by Sadhvi Rithambara following an outcry by local politicians, including two senators.
The MEA issued a statement against those who vandalized Hindu religious symbols in Leicester while obliquely condoning the acts of the lumpen elements who took out a procession chanting “Jai Shree Ram.”
In 2020 thirteen academics in Australia resigned from the Australia India Institute (AII) at the University of Melbourne citing interference from the Indian High Commission protesting against the shrinking academic space as a consequence.
Last but not least is the role of social media in stirring up the explosive mix of religion and discontentment in stoking the simmering tensions. Social media circulates hate messages and generates fake news among the Indian communities abroad creating social unrest there. There tailored information relayed on social media does all the harm to rupture the peaceful inter-community relationship built over the years for common survival in the lands abroad. Several politicians and academicians have pointed out the role of social media in inciting violence among the Indian diaspora in their countries.
So what is inferred is that the Indian diaspora is mirroring what is happening in India. It is the same kind of Hindu -Muslim polarization, the same kind of hate-mongering on social media, and the same story of political and official patronage to the Hindu community is witnessed in different countries in the world. Like in India, abroad too, dissent, even a different point of view, is not tolerated, either by the local pro-Indian groups or by the Indian diplomatic missions.
The Leicester violence in the UK is just the tip of the iceberg. More such violence is likely to be seen in other hot spots of the world. The new and ugly mood of overseas Hindutva groups is giving a bad image to India. It is obvious that retaliation is on the cards and a cycle of violence and counterviolence looms large on the horizon.
How a such situation is going to be tackled by the countries in question needs to be seen. Will it be brushed under the carpet blaming on ill effects of multiculturalism and allowing sectarian cancer to grow is something that causes worry? Foreign governments need to be warned that only assertive management of such an ugly problem can only be the only solution and nothing else.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com