The second day of the conference on dismantling global Hindutva got more intense as academicians and researchers exposed the violent ideology engaged in deceiving the world under the cloak of religion. Three sessions explored the hidden dimensions of an ideology that has built its structures on the blood and bones of the weaker sections of Indian society, especially those who belong to minority groups.
Speaking on Gender and Sexual Politics of Hindutva, Leena Manimekalai, a public poet and filmmaker whose documentary on the rape culture of Hindutva is under preparation, told about her ordeal for exposing alleged rapists. Tamil refugee and compiling rape nations
Rape nation. The authorities impounded her passport a few days before she was to travel abroad to teach a course. She explained that Hindutva zealots and their backers in law enforcement agencies use rape as a woman to humiliate and degrade Muslim and Dalit women. She highlighted several cases from Godhra in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kashmir where authorities and goons participated in the gang rape of Dalit and Muslim women. Modi presided over the rape and killing of scores of Muslim women, and the UP chief Minister withdrew charges leveled against upper castes involved in rape and murder cases. In her words, the atrocities committed against Muslims were state-sponsored pogroms.
She narrated that rape is a tool for Hindutva fanatics to torture Muslim women. The carving of Hindu symbol on the dead bodies of the raped women speak of the barbarism of the RSS-inspired people, she asserted. The state protects rapists and terrorists, he added.
Dr. Aniruddha Dutta at the University of Iowa spoke about the emerging alliance between transgender people and the RSS-BJP nexus. She explained that the BJP recruits transgender to promote hatred against Dalits and Muslims.
Akanksha Mehta, a research scholar at London's SOAS Ph.D. project, examined right-wing women's everyday politics. She described the right-wing women in the Hindu Nationalist movement in India and the Zionist Settler project in Israel-Palestine to explain how right-wing women mobilize and perform politics and violence while contesting patriarchal structures within their campaigns. By examining practices and spaces of pedagogy, physical violence and aggression, leisure, friendship, intimacy, 'charity' and 'humanitarian' work, she raised dichotomies around agency/victimhood and personal/political in feminist international relations. She called for anti-caste and anti-capitalist solidarity to defeat Hindutva.
P. Sivakami, a former IAS officer, explained how the caste system had become an integral part of Hinduism as defined by Hindutva
'The concept of untouchability in Hinduism has not received adequate focus because it is the essence of Hinduism,' says the Dalit activist and writer.
P Sivakami said she was puzzled by the strident criticism of the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, a virtual symposium organized by several participating universities in the US and featuring academics, writers, and activists part of various panel discussions. Speakers faced death threats, vicious trolling, intimidation, and abuse — all before the event had even taken place.
However, Sivakami, author of at least 11 literary works — explained that the severity of the backlash was more confounding because of the nature of the conference itself.
"Hinduism is an amalgamation of many religious streams native to India: Vedic, Brahminical, Jain, Buddhist, Saivaite, Vaishnavite, Veera Saivaite, Bakthi Marg, Tamil Siddha traditions and the worship of small gods or legendary forefathers by Dalit people and several others. Polytheism in Hinduism indicates the existence of several gods and acknowledges and emphasizes the plurality of people who coexist under unity and diversity. The Constitution of India upholds the freedom of people to profess any religion under fundamental rights. And it's intolerant towards any religious fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. However, Brahmanism dominates the Hindu way of life, and the caste system has become the essence of Hinduism," Sivakami says, of what her session at the conference will cover.
Sivakami pointed to the "rise and growth of the RSS, and its subsidiary movements, their ideology of establishing a Hindu Raj" as having resulted in political manifestations that are harmful to the interests of certain sections of the populace. Furthermore, she observed that the amendments to the Citizenship Act had enabled religious persecution under the guise of citizenship criteria against the Constitution of India. Other developments that Sivakami cited as concerns include the abrogation of Article 370 for Jammu & Kashmir, the Centre's new farm laws, and attacks on intellectuals.
Apart from this context, however, what she hopes to bring to her session at the DGH conference is her professional and lived experience. "I served the Government for 28 years in different capacities and gained enough experience on caste and gender discrimination," says Sivakami, who has played a pivotal role in movements such as the Dalit Land Right Movement and The Women's Front. Her books on Dalit Feminism are characterized as delving into the inextricable link between the caste system in Hinduism and the subjugation of women.
She concluded. "I only need to put forth the point that the concept of untouchability in Hinduism has not received adequate focus because it is the essence of Hinduism."
Paola Bacchetta moderated the session. She is a Professor of Gender & Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-chair of the Political Conflict, Gender and People's Rights Project based at Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkeley. She is on the Executive Committee of the California-wide Center for New Racial Studies and previously served as Coordinator of the Gender Consortium at Berkeley. The second session on contours of the nation had four speakers.
Dr. Mohamad Junaid, an anthropologist based in the US, focused on the situation of Kashmir and asserted that India is a defacto Hindutva state and promotes anti-Muslim sentiments. The new India is totalitarian and uses Hindu mythology to justify its practices.
Hindutva draws its strength from demonizing Muslims and persecuting Kashmiris. Referring to the Dogra rule in Kashmir, he detailed the Hindutva practices that tried to marginalize Muslims.
Professor Arkotong Longkumer of the University of Edinburgh talked about new Hindutva in Northeast Indian states. He explained that through art and literature, the Hindutva agents try to impose the idea of a greater India with a distinct Hindu identity.
Professor Yasmin Saikia of the Arizona University talked about Muslims in Assam in the context of citizenship laws. She described the Hindutva strategy to paint the state's 35 percent Muslims as outsiders. She explained the internal divisions among Muslims based on their linguistic preference and the role of the BJP in using the differences to its political advantage.
Professor Nandini Sundar of Delhi school of economics focused on the plight of tribal. They have no safeguards to protect their culture, religion, and traditions. They are not Hindus, yet the RSS uses them as foot soldiers to attack Christians and Muslims. She blamed the country's census for incorrectly identifying the tribals and ignoring their religion and gods. She also held the mining companies to destroy their land and mountains.
Suchitra Vijayan, a renowned author, and historian, moderated the session.
The third session was on Hindutva, science, and healthcare. The speakers included Meera Nanda, IISER, Pune scholar. Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Professor at Columbia University and Banu Subramaniam |of the university of Massachusetts Elmhurst. Joseph Alter moderated it.
The three speakers talked about bad medicine, fake history, and unscientific roots of Ayurvedic treatment. The Hindutva used the COVID-19 pandemic to impose unscientific treatment and support companies that relied on myth more than reality.