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 RSS.
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, 1925 to the 1990s (New Delhi: Penguin, 1999).
The Brotherhood: The RSS, Dir. Ruchira Gupta, 1993
Final Solution, Dir. Rakesh Sharma, 2003
Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baaqi Hai, Nakul Singh Sawhney, 2015