Dismantling Global Hindutva: Part-1
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
When Twenty highly qualified attorneys, academics, and researchers from 15 prestigious universities organize an international conference to dismantle Global Hindutva, you cannot describe it as a propaganda forum. Moreover, when the organizers come from all major religious traditions, one cannot call it a campaign against a particular religion.
Yet, the supporters of Hindutva, a Hindu nationalist ideology, generated more than a million hate mails against organizers, speakers, and participants. The supporters of the Hindu nationalist group the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh and its offshoots threatened to kill, rape, and harm
people associated with the Dismantling Global Hindutva Zoom-based conference started on September 10, 2021, a day before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.
More than 900 scholars, 50 professors of Genocide Studies, 60 community organizations, and 50 academic institutions from all over the world did not budge an inch from their stand. On the contrary, they celebrated the right to freedom of expression by speaking louder than all the opposing voices.
The first day of the conference saw 17 speakers from India, the UK, and the USA focus on the emerging threats of Hindutva. In his opening remarks, Dr. Gayan Parakash of Princeton called Hindutva an ideology of paranoia, hatred, and extremism. "This conference takes place at a time when farmers, workers, women, Dalits, Adivasis, Bahujans, Muslims, religious and sexual minorities, are opposing the project of Hindu majoritarian nationalism," he added. "As education is an arena where Hindutva seeks to establish its dominance and control, such a conference is a collective intellectual exercise to plot and imagine our way out of this caste-fanatic, misogynist nightmare."
Famous French academicians Christophe Jaffrelot, a well-known poet and social critic, Meena Kandasamy, and renowned documentary make Anand Patwardhan defined Hinduism in the session moderated by Thomas Blom Hansen, Standford. Jaffrelot attributed the rise of global Hindutva to the organizational skills of the RSS and the use of the internet for the propagation of the Hindu supremacy ideology. He explained that Hindutva in India and globally receives funds from the Indian diaspora, mainly Gujaratis.
Describing Hindutva as entirely different than Hinduism, Patwarden said, "it is a castest project in which a Brahman elite recruit the powerless in an endless war against imaginary demons." He called for the creation of a rainbow coalition to fight the RSS and its offshoots.
Kandasamy, who received death threats from Hindutva terrorists, equated Hindutva with inequality and oppression of women. In her view, Hindutva was not different than fascism, Nazism, and Trumpism. She called the term Sanatan offensive as it promotes the domination of Brahmanism, a Vedic concept.
The second session focussed on the political economy of Hindutva.
The Political Economy of Hindutva. Jens Lerche of Delhi School of Economics, Pritam Singh of Oxford University Vamsi Vakulabharanam, a noted economist based in the US, spoke on the RSS-led fiscal policies. Political economist Smriti Rao moderated the session. They argued that the farm laws, demonetization, and taxation policies have added to poverty and unemployment. In addition, the RSS-led political regime uses the religious divide to hurt India's economy and create social chaos to serve Brahminical hegemony.
The third session moderated by Rupa Viswanath, an authority on Caste was on Caste and Hindutva.
Gajendran Ayyathurai, professor at a German university; Meena Dhanda, a philosophy professor at Wolverhampton University and Bhanwar Meghwanshi, a former RSS official, described Hindutva as a movement of upper castes to subjugate the rest of the society. They argued that Hindutva was Brahmanism, and temples are the instructions to perpetuate inequality. The RSS never stood for democracy and is keen to replace the constitution with Manusmirit, a religious book that considers non-Upper castes low origin. Caste is anti-democracy and anti-egalitarian, and Hindutva seems to be determined to protect Caste. Without demolishing Caste, Hindutva would continue to thrive.
It was a bold move on the part of academicians to speak on a taboo subject in India. The conference is a landmark in the academic world. It is the first time that Caste-based politics has become a subject of academic discussion at the highest level in the US. Then, the Hindutva groups in the US would use all their resources to harass and intimidate the academicians. However, the voices have become so loud that the hate mongers cannot silence them anymore.
The ad-hoc organizing committee included the following
Sahar Aziz, Rutgers University
Ben C. Baer, Princeton University
Sruti Bala, University of Amsterdam
Laura Brueck, Northwestern University
Ananya Chakravarti, Georgetown University
Zahid R. Chaudhary, Princeton University
Rohit Chopra, Santa Clara University
Ashley Cohen, University of Southern California
Meena Dhanda, University of Wolverhampton
John Esposito, Georgetown University
Shubhra Gururani, York University
Jyotsna Kapur, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
David Ludden, New York University
Radhika Mongia, York University
Meera Nanda, IISER Pune (former Visiting Faculty)
Gyan Prakash, Princeton University
Sharmila Rudrappa, South Asia Institute, University of Texas-Austin
Lotika Singha, University of Wolverhampton
Suchitra Vijayan, Author, and Barrister-at-Law
Feminist Critical Hindu Studies Collective