September 18, 2015

USA: Faculty Response to Harassment by Hindu Nationalist Organizations


Faculty Response to Harassment by Hindu Nationalist Organizations

Over the Labor Day weekend, most signatories of the “Faculty Statement
on Narendra Modi’s Visit to Silicon Valley” received threats from
individuals in South Africa and Canada and email harassment from the
Hindu Vivek Kendra, a Hindu nationalist organization affiliated with
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of which Prime Minister Narendra
Modi is a member. Several letter signatories have also been targeted
by a board member of the Hindu American Foundation, another Hindu
nationalist organization. We wish once again to underscore that this
kind of hate mail and malicious distortion of our position is
indicative of the deteriorating climate for academic freedom and
freedom of expression in India; faculty who become apologists for
such abuse and who themselves indulge in ad hominem attacks only
reflect the rooting of this hostile climate in the U.S. We find it no
accident that attacks on us come from members of U.S. Hindu
nationalist organizations, since they play a significant role in
organizing Mr.Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley. One of the key conveners
of the “Indian American Community of the West Coast” which is
coordinating Mr. Modi’s visit has a longtime association with this

Instead of debating legitimate questions about the Modi
administration’s record on issues that impact the “Digital India”
initiative, we are being asked by Hindu nationalists and their
supporters to explain why we, a mixed group of scholars from the U.S.
and South Asia raised in Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist,
Jewish and non-religious secular traditions, are not racists,
western imperialist, or anti-Hindu. Such attacks bypass the strong
scholarly record of many signatories who are vocal critics of racism,
western imperialism, and orientalist depictions of Indian and South
Asian cultures, as well as the creed of large numbers of Hindus for
whom religious tolerance is an essential expression of their Hindu
faith. We emphatically state that we are not anti-Hindu, or against
Hinduism. We are however, extremely concerned by the growth of
Hindu nationalism which has resulted in well-documented discrimination
and attacks against Indian minority communities; Hinduism and Hindu
nationalism are not the same thing. The vast scholarly literature on
this movement–from social scientists and others– has elaborated on
this distinction over the past thirty years, and we urge our larger
public to consult some of the academic works cited below. We will
provide a more extensive bibliography soon.

S. Gopal ed. The Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of
Communal Politics in India (New Delhi: Penguin, 1991).
Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politic
s, 1925 to the 1990s (New Delhi: Penguin, 1999).
Thomas Blom Hansen, The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism
in Modern India (Princeton: Princeton Uiversity Press, 1999).
Paola Bacchetta. Gender in the Hindu Nation: RSS Women as Ideologues
(India: Women Ink, 2004)
Chetan Bhatt, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths
(Oxford: Berg, 2001).
Arvind Rajagopal, Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and
Reshaping of the Public in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2004).
Ornit Shani, Communalism, Caste and Hindu Nationalism: The Violence in
Gujarat (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Martha Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and
India’s Future (Harvard UP 2007).
John Mcguire and Ian Copland (eds),Hindu Nationalism and Governance,
(OUP, 2008).
Kalyani Devaki Menon. Everyday Nationalism: Women of the Hindu Right
in India (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
Parvis Ghassemi-Fachandi. Pogrom in Gujarat: Hindu Nationalism and
anti-Muslim Violence in India (Princeton, 2012).
Amrita Basu. Violent Conjunctures in Democratic India: The Case of
Hindu Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Documentary Films
Ram Ke Naam, Dir. Anand Patwardhan, 1992
The Brotherhood: The RSS, Dir. Ruchira Gupta, 1993
The Boy in the Branch, Dir. Lalit Vachani, 1993
Final Solution, Dir. Rakesh Sharma, 2003
The World Before Her, Dir. Nisha Pahuja, 2012.
Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baaqi Hai, Nakul Singh Sawhney, 2015