An academic conference in the US titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva” held online 10-12 September 2021 cosponsored by more than 50 universities addressing Hindu extremism has been being targeted by rightwing Hindu groups sending death threats to speakers.
Hindutva, based on Hindu supremacist ideology is a right wing movement that believes that India should be a Hindu state, rather than a secular nation where non-Hindus will be living as second class citizens.
The conference aimed to bring academics to discuss Hindutva from universities including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers and many more.
Far-right groups were mobilised on a global level accusing conference of spreading Hinduphobia and an attack on Hinduism itself rather than discussing the ideology of Hindutva.
In order to defend Hindutva, these groups have themselves used hate speech against Indian religious minorities specially engaging in Islamophobia as well as threatening and demonising those trying to expose Hindutva as a fascist ideology.
Professor Mohan Dutta, Dean Chair of Communications at Massey University in New Zealand who published a paper on “Islamophobic elements” in the Hindutva ideology was hounded, abused and threatened prompting NZ police recently to put in place plans for his safety.
The Hindu Council of Australia has been accused of fronting in speakers at its conferences who deliver hate speech against Muslim and other minorities living in India.
In a Youtube one hour long video titled “Kick Hinduphobia Out of Australia”, Sarah Gates, an Australian Cultural Studies PhD candidate, while explaining “academic systematic Hinduphobia in the Asia Pacific and America”, herself used hate speech against Indian minorities.
During her discourse she justifies Muslims being called invaders in India on the basis that white Australians are invaders and justifies Islamophobia on the basis that Australia was involved in similar genocide against its indigenous people.
She further justifies the hate crimes against Muslims and Sikhs on the basis that they are terrorists consistently referring to Sikhs as Khalistanis implying that they are anti-Indian terrorists.
In a submission by Australian Advocacy Muslim Network (AMAN) titled In Defence of Diversity”, advocates of Islamophobia propagate concepts to dehumanise Muslims such as:
(1) personal religiosity in Islam in itself leads to sub-humanity and extremism,
(2) Islam/Muslims are invading the West to take over through immigration and higher fertility rates,
(3) Islam/Muslims are in a clash-of- civilisations style violent ‘jihad’ war with the West – are harmful and dehumanise Muslims.
Due to the global campaign against the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, several of the would be participants have withdrawn over fears of being banned from returning to their families in India or being arrested on their arrival into the country.
More than one million emails were sent to the 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.
One email sent to the organisers said: “If this event will take place then I will become Osama bin Laden and will kill all the speakers, don’t blame me.”
The rightwing TV news channels in India have accused that the conference is designed to support the Taliban and Islamic extremists.
The groups campaigning against the conference are the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, an Indian organisation that has faced allegations of being linked to the murders of intellectuals and journalists, and US-based rightwing groups the Hindu American Foundation and the Coalition of Hindus of North America.
In a statement the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) USA, the overseas branch of RSS, a Hindu supremacist organisation in India has urged all universities involved to withdraw support.
Dr Audrey Truschke, professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University in the US, whose works on Mughal history have made her a target for Hindu rightwingers, had to contact the police after a threatening voicemail was left for her.
“Because of what’s happening in India, the Hindu right and Hindu supremacists in the United States feel particularly emboldened, and the virulence their attacks on scholars is accelerating significantly,” Professor Truschke said.
Almost 1000 academics from across the world and over 50 organisations connected to south Asia issued a collective statement in support of the conference.