Heat and dust over international conference on 'Dismantling Global Hindutva' beginning today
Attacking organisers for being 'anti-Hindu' and suffering from Hinduphobia, several organisations threatened sponsors, universities and participants to back off
A three-day international online conference on ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’, supported by over 45 universities, takes off on Friday, confirmed organisers on Thursday. They also confirmed that several university departments and academics have also withdrawn following concerted campaigns by ‘Hindutva Groups’ in India and the US. They also indicated their suspicion that Indian diplomats had put pressure on some of the academics and sponsors to back off.
However, Dr Audrey Truschke (not an organiser) tweeted on Thursday to say, “Many sponsors joined in support of the conference after the virulent anti-intellectual campaign against the conference had begun”.
Organisers have justified the conference by pointing to the need to take a close look at Hindu supremacist groups. Academics and researchers have been threatened, conferences disrupted, venues vandalised and participants beaten up in university campuses in India, they said and accused the groups of doing the same now abroad. “Their hate campaign is actually vindicating the misgivings that many academics seem to harbour on Hindutva, they said.
Hindutva and intolerance are not Hinduism. Academics see Hindutva as a political project. Hinduism, they argue, is not against academic freedom, the questioning spirit or tolerance. Human Rights abuses, they maintain, cannot be linked to Hinduism.
In the last week of July 2021, a Central university in Madhya Pradesh pulled out of a webinar after RSS affiliated ABVP raised objections to the presence of Gauhar Raza, former CSIR chief scientist and professor Apoorvanand of the Delhi University amongst the speakers. After the ABVP raised objections a police superintendent also wrote a warning letter to the university VC which caused more consternation. This has been a pattern over the past seven years during which international scholars have been prevented from visiting India and Indian scholars have been denied permission to visit universities abroad.
There is now a pushback from academics and intellectuals in the shape of the 3 day academic conference ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva: Multidisciplinary Perspective’ (DGH) to be held between 10-12 September via online platforms.
One of the key objectives of the conference is to explore the consolidation of Hindu supremacist ideology in India and elsewhere. It would host panels on Caste and Hindutva, Gender and Sexual Politics of Hindutva, Political Economy of Hindutva, Hinduism and Hindutva, Hindutva Propaganda and Digital Ecosystem among others in the context of what the organizer claim to be “rising militant Hindu groups in India and the corresponding escalation of violence against religious minorities and other marginalized communities.”
The conference has already rattled a large section of the right wing media, BJP-RSS leaders and other sympathizers of the Hindutva ideology who appear to be engaged in a coordinated campaign to discredit the conference as “politically motivated”, “Hindu Phobic”, and “Anti Hindu.”
The timing of the event has also been questioned. “Conference is deliberately timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 11 September attacks by Islamist terrorists against the USA. The idea is to try and portray Hinduism as the same kind of violent religious ideology as that practised by the Taliban,” writes Rajiv Malhotra.
Even American senator Niraj Atani issued a statement saying, “This conference represents a disgusting attack on Hindus across the United States, and we must all condemn this as nothing more than racism and bigotry against Hindus. I will always stand strong against Hinduphobia.”