There has been keen interest among Indians around the world in an unprecedented online international conference titled ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ held on 10-12 September 2021.
The rise of Hindutva, an extreme right-wing ideology has become a major concern for among Indian intellectuals in India and diaspora around the world that led to the initiative of holding the conference which brought together leading scholars in South Asian Studies and public/political commentators from around the world.
The conference was backed by over 50 departments and Centers from 41 universities including Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, Berkeley, other Western universities as well as several leading academics from India. There were more than 70 co-sponsoring 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 reputable institutions across the globe. It is interesting to note that most of the presenters were Hindus, most willing to speak up against fascist forces overtaking India under the BJP government led by PM Modi.
The conference discussed a variety of interlinked subjects to address the threat and power of Hindutva. They investigated the historical development of Hindutva, the fascist dimensions of the ideology, its alignment with other right wing supremacist movements and the threat it poses to a range of social, political, religious and economic issues.
They also looked into it as a creed which has spread in the Indian diaspora, resulting in the financial support which flows to the Hindutva political allies and affiliates in India. Speakers expressed concern on how conservative populism transformed itself into ultra-nationalism leading to the emergence authoritarian governance in India.
Gyan Prakash, Professor of History at Princeton University, Christophe Jaffrelot, Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at Kings college London, famous activist from Chennai Meena Kandasamy explained the phenomenon of global Hindutva and how it poses threats to minorities, in particular Muslims in India.
The Hindutva fake news propaganda, which has become a tool for inciting Hindu sentiments, was exposed by freelance journalist Cyril Sam and Salil Tripathi, the editor at Mint and at Caravan in India who has written extensively in international magazines including The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The speakers also defended Hindu faith as a religion which propagated non-violence, justice, truth and how it was different to violent and fascist philosophy of Hindutva. They emphasized the distinction between “Hindutva” and “Hinduism”.
Hindutva being a political philosophy inspired by European fascism of the early twentieth century that aims to alter the constitutional order of India and to diminish India’s credentials as a secular and plural democracy by establishing an exclusive Hindu rashtra.
Demetrius Eudell, Professor and Chair of History at Wesleyan University and Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor at Centre for South Asian Studies, UC Santa Cruz gave a fine presentation on Islamophobia, White supremacy and Hindutva.
Other subjects covered at the conference included the political economy of Hindutva , mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including campaign against Muslims in the capital New Delhi itself.
Speakers exposed Hindutva followers promoting non-scientific medicine using conspiracy theories thus posing threat to healthcare and the way they use rape and fear as a weapon to exploit politics and the contours of the nation.
India has experienced aggressive crackdown on all forms of democratic dissent over past few years. Many journalists and human right activists who have advocated for marginalised communities have been sent to jails without trials.
The conference organisers felt the need to develop a comprehensive understanding of Hindutva and its global implications through its constant effort of involving the large Indian diaspora and its potential for building links with other supremacist ideologies in US and other Western countries.
The conference concluded that a global effort is needed to counter Hindutava ideology and empower the groups who are determined to challenge them in an effort to return India to its glory as a tolerant nation where minorities also prosper and live in peace without discrimination free from oppression.