NEW YORK (TIP): George Abraham, Vice-Chair of Indian Overseas Congress, USA, decried the Hindutva movement’s massive effort to silence dissent and restrict Academic freedom. “The massive effort undertaken by the Hindutva forces in the U.S. to silence its critics and restrict Academic freedom in response to a conference titled ‘Dismantling global Hindutva’ reveals how deeply entrenched, resourceful and dangerous these forces are in challenging America’s own value system’ said George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA. “It is quite amazing to witness their efforts to turn American Institutions similar to what they have accomplished with JNU. It is time for Indian Americans who truly believe in democracy, freedom and human rights to come together and condemn the campaign of harassment and intimidation metered out to the organizers and speakers of this event,” Mr. Abraham added.
The ‘dismantling of global Hindutva’ conference was co-sponsored by 70 plus departments of Universities in the U.S. to discuss the impact of the growing clout of the Hindutva movement globally and the corresponding escalation of violence against religious minorities and marginalized communities in India. According to the organizers, global research networks have noted the overall erosion of democratic practices and freedoms in India. The meeting may also focus on the need to develop a comprehensive understanding of Hindutva and its different iterations in the large Indian Diaspora and its potential for building links with other supremacist ideologies to expand their influence well beyond India.
The Hindutva groups are making concerted efforts to paint this conference anti-Hindu, confusing the public and intimidating academia. Over the past three weeks, the Viswa Hindu Parishad of America and Hindu American Foundation claims to have collectively sent 1.3 million emails to universities to withdraw their support for the conference. Speaking to the media, Gyanendra Pandey, Professor of History at Emory University, one of the participating schools, said a deliberate attempt is being made to create confusion over the usage of Hindutva and Hinduism. Mr. Pandey said, “Anyone with any serious knowledge of South Asia knows the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva is almost the polar opposite of Hinduism. It is an aggressive political movement aimed at installing an exclusionist, Hindu nationalist regime in India, in line with right-wing authoritarian movements in many parts of the world.”
Stanford University anthropologist Thomas Hansen, who has been at the receiving end of Hindu right-wing attacks over the last few years, called on US-based institutions to vigorously defend academic freedom. Mr. Hansen said, “It is important not to give up and not to cave into pressure from the forces that represent themselves as representing Hindus as such but who actually represents the interests of a foreign government.”