by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1443)
Since Narendra Modi’s rise to power in India, Hindutva terrorists now have a state under their control. They use state institutions as well as their own stormtroopers to attack and murder Muslims in India. No reason is needed to launch such attacks. Being Muslim is enough to get killed.
The Hindutva brigade’s murderous rampage has now extended overseas as well. Last September, when a number of US academics held a virtual conference about the threat posed by Hindutva, they received death and rape threats from Hindu extremist groups both in India and the US. Titled ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’, the virtual conference held over three days (September 10-12), was co-sponsored by 53 universities.
These included such acclaimed institutions as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers. The conference also received letters of support from 1100 academics worldwide as well as 38 Associations of Scholars.
Hindutva supporters in India and the US first tried to exert pressure to have the conference cancelled alleging that it was spreading hatred against Hindus. More than a million emails were sent to participating scholars, laced with vulgar threats. Many of these were spam, indicating a concerted campaign launched by the Hindu fascists.
When this failed, they tried to pressure universities, especially Rutgers in New Jersey to dismiss Professor Audrey Truschke. She is a leading scholar who has done much work as part of her specialization in South Asian history studies.
“She frequently receives hate mail laced with death and rape threats from Hindu nationalists for her work on Muslim rulers of India. This month [October, 2021], she said, she was notified by the Rutgers police about a violent threat made against her on a university phone number. The matter is under investigation,” according to the Washington Post.
“She is battling a lawsuit from the Hindu American Foundation for what it says are defamatory statements. A group of Hindu students from Rutgers petitioned the administration that she not be allowed to teach courses on Hinduism and India. She often requires armed security for public speaking events.”
Rutgers University has stood its ground and refused to submit to Hindu extremist threats. While Professor Truschke has to be escorted by armed guards, she refuses to give in to such terror tactics. The repeated smear and misinformation campaigns against scholars have led Professor Truschke and other South Asian scholars from North America to create a guide for academics facing harassment from Hindu nationalists on how to defend themselves and educate others.
“These right-wing groups have become significantly emboldened and virulent in their attacks over the past few years, deploying standard Hindu nationalist strategies of disinformation campaigns, trolling, threatening and filing lawsuits, intimidation, and pressuring employers. Such attacks seek to silence a wide range of scholars, including those who work on Indo-Muslim history, Hinduism, Kashmir, and, of course, Hindu nationalism,” Truschke told VOA.
The Dismantling Global Hindutva website points out that it makes a clear distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva. The Hindu extremists want to conflate the two. In targeting the Hindutva conference, they repeatedly alleged that it was against Hinduism and motivated by Hindu-phobia.
Scholars involved in the conference say that though individuals had often faced the ire of Hindu nationalists in the past, the concerted effort to shut down the conference was unprecedented. Academics of Indian origin face even greater risks. Not only are they targeted through Hindu extremist hate mail, their families in India also face the wrath of Hindutva terrorists.
In the US, the Hindutva terrorists have deployed other tactics: to exert pressure on the New Jersey state legislature as well as the governor to have Professor Truschke fired. Perhaps the Hindu terrorists are unaware that unlike India, academic institutions in the West are not subject to government control.
The struggle for academic freedom continues against enormous odds. It is quite revealing that Western regimes continue to court a fascist like Modi who cut his ideological teeth in the ranks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a fascist outfit that openly praises Hitler’s Nazi ideology. It wants to replicate Hitler’s genocide of Jews against the Muslims.
RSS has more than 6 million members who receive regular military training. It has branches in many parts of the world including the US, Canada and Britain. Massive funds are funnelled to India by supporters of this Hindu fascist outfit from the West.
The Modi regime and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made the killing of Muslims legitimate. Even before he became prime minister in 2014, Modi had presided over the massacre of nearly 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat state in February 2002 when he was the chief minister. This gory record propelled him into the prime minister’s office and revealed the murderous nature of Hindutva ideology that wants to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra (exclusively Hindu state where there is no room for other religions or minorities).
Some recent episodes highlight its murderous nature. Take the case of the former foreign minister of India, Salman Khurshid. In a book published in October, he compared Modi’s Hindu fascists to ‘extremist groups’ such as Daesh (ISIS). On November 15, Hindu fascists attacked his house in Nainital, Uttarakhand state. This state is notorious for Hindu extremist violence where churches have also been subjected to arson attacks.
“They shouted slogans, threw stones, broke several windows, ransacked [the entry] and set fire [to a door],” local police chief Jagdish Chandra told the AFP news agency. The Times of India newspaper reported that the group had set fire to an effigy of Khurshid, fired shots and threatened the daughter-in-law of the caretaker with a gun.
If a former foreign minister of India is not safe from Hindu mob attacks, what chance would two young journalists have against the rising tide of Hindu fascism?
The arrest on November 14 of two young female journalists Samriddi Sakunia and Swarna Jha in the northeastern state of Assam for their coverage of anti-Muslim violence in the neighbouring Tripura state has aroused deep concern among parts of the journalistic fraternity. More than a dozen mosques were set on fire and destroyed. While the two female journalists were granted bail the following day, their arrest for merely doing their job points to the atmosphere of intimidation and harassment prevalent in India.
The Tripura police called this ‘fake news’ and filed charges against 102 people, including journalists, for social media posts. The police complaint was lodged by Kanchan Das, member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) that is linked to the BJP.
For several decades, India has used the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to silence critics of its brutal policies. This draconian law has been used in Indian occupied Kashmir but other areas are not immune either if state brutality is exposed. Various media organizations condemned the arrest of the two female journalists but the Modi regime and its stormtroopers are unlikely to be deterred.
Even Bollywood has been pressed into service with the release of an extremely Islamophobic movie, Sooryavanshi, that has been raking in millions at the box office. That such a racist movie would receive so much support in India reflects the anti-Muslim sentiment sweeping the country.
In 2020, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of particular concern” for the first time since 2004. The listing continued in 2021. Not surprisingly, the Indian ministry of external affairs dismissed the report as “tendentious” but facts speak for themselves.