To highlight Hindutva fundamentalism/extremism against Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs, Christians, Adivasis, and other dissidents, the Hindus ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ (DGH) conference was held from 10-12 September 2021. The purpose of the conference was to bring together leading scholars in South Asian Studies and public commentators on Indian society and politics around the world to discuss the global phenomenon of Hindutva. It aimed to protect the rights of minorities, dissidents, and ordinary people whose very existence is under attack by Hindutva’s proponents.
The massive campaign of intimidation carried out by Hindutva affiliates was not encouraged by the conference organizers to take root in the academy in the US, Europe, or around the world. Therefore, the conference was backed by 45+ departments and centers from 53 universities including Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, University of Chicago, Berkeley, Rutgers, North-Western, etc.
They had 70+ cosponsoring entities from 53 universities and received a letter of support from over 900 academics across the world. Most of the panelists were Indian academics serving in the most elite universities and think tanks in the western world.
The harassment and intimidation against speakers by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were reported by all top-notch newspapers. The presenters shared how they received life threats, suspension of their passports, and other serious threats to their families by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and RSS supporters across the globe in an attempt to suppress their voice and keep them away from the conference.
More than 1 million emails were sent to the president, provost, and officials at universities involved in the conference pressurizing them to withdraw and dismiss staff who were participating, promoting an organized campaign by groups in India and the US. The organizers decided to become anonymous due to serious threats.
More than 1m emails were sent to the presidents, provosts and officials at universities involved in the conference pressuring them to withdraw and dismiss staff who were participating, pointing to an organised campaign by groups in India and the US.
— Meena Kandasamy (@meenakandasamy) September 9, 2021
Despite a massive campaign of disinformation, threats, torture, and attacks of all types, the conference was held online. Many presenters dropped while others remained determined to burst the bubble of Modi regime fundamentalism.
RSS & Hindutva: Enemies of Indian democracy?
I was privileged to attend the conference and collected first-hand information. I found the scholars, journalists, and activists examined the historical development of Hindutva, the fascist dimensions of its ideology, its alignment with other supremacist movements, and defined all that is at stake across a range of political, socio-cultural, and economic issues. The presenters unveiled the atrocities and pain caused by RSS both within and outside India.
While listening to the speakers’ experiences of revealing threats, it was shocking and surprising that India which claims to be a democratic country does not care about academic freedom and basic fundamental rights for its citizens. Now, the question is, what is Hindutva and where did it emerge from?
The term Hindutva came in 19 century. Its narrative is deeply rooted in Brahmanism and is the offspring of Hindusim. Its strategy is based on violence, hatred, terrorism and is an enemy to democracy. Existing Hindutva is resistenec to castism. They use rape as an instrument to achieve its malign objectives. It’s a sort of war against women and humanity.
Hindutva emerged from RSS that is an Indian right-wing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary volunteer organization founded in 1925 by K.B Hedgewar. In 2020, RSS had almost 585,000 members and over 57,000 branches, including a trade union wing (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh), women’s wing (Rashtriya Sevika Samiti), student wing (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), and economic wing (Swadeshi Jagaran Manch). The Print, an Indian news outlet, estimates that 3 out of 4 ministers in the ruling BJP are members of the RSS, including the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Here the issue is why is India under Modi scared off from such an academic venture like DGH? Also, what were the biggest fears of BJP and RSS from the DGH conference? Modi and his affiliates reacted as if they are launching nukes against Hindutva supporters.
The damages caused by Modi’s Hindutva ideology
At the DGH conference, the speakers talked about what is global Hindutva and how it poses threats to minorities, women, and Muslims. The political economy of Hindutva was also uncovered and how Hindutva exploits castism. Hindutva uses rape as a weapon to exploit politics and the contours of the nation.
Moreover, Hindutva under Modi mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic and posed a serious threat to Indian people, science, and healthcare. Hindutva is also responsible for peddling fake news as a propaganda campaign. The difference between Hindusim and violent Hindutva was explored. Lastly, Islamophobia, White supremacy, and Hindutva were brought to light.
From Hindutva extremist ideology to ill-treatment of the women, transgender issues, minority exploitation, extreme policies towards Muslims, violation of the rights of Kashmiris, and overall violation of the basic fundamental rights of Indian academics, medical practitioners, and so on were a part of the larger discussion. The list is quite huge to be shared here.
In a nutshell, the conference highlighted that RSS under Modi is the largest organized extremist hate group in the world. It draws its inspiration from Nazi ideology and Italian fascism. Its guiding principle is to transform India from a secular democracy to a religious state where Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities are relegated to second-class citizenship.
Dismantling Global Islamic Jihad: Unmasking RSS hate for Muslims
In the name of Hindutva, the current government of India has instituted discriminatory policies including beef bans, restrictions on religious conversion and interfaith weddings, and the introduction of religious discrimination into India’s citizenship laws. These measures led to a horrifying rise in religious and caste-based violence, including hate crimes, lynching, and rapes directed against Muslims, non-confirming Dalits, Sikhs, Christians, Adivasis, and other dissident Hindus.
Women of these communities are specially targeted. Modi government has used every tool of harassment and intimidation to muzzle dissent. Dozens of student activists and human rights defenders are currently languishing in jail indefinitely without due process under the repressive anti-terrorism law.
In response to DGH, the RSS launched ‘Dismantling Global Islamic Jihad’ on 11 September 2021. That shows the RSS cunningness, intolerance, and hatred towards Muslims, minorities, human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of academics.
The DGH conference has rightly concluded that India has moved away from a secular state that it inherited to a purely Hindutva state where only Hindutva decides whom India will love or hate! Hence Indian democracy is designed to serve only Hindutva, not the common Indian citizens!
Dr. Farah Naz is a Professor at S3H National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. The article was first published in Strafasia and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.