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 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. 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

17 thoughts on “Faculty Response to Harassment by Hindu Nationalist Organizations

  1. “Several letter signatories have also been targeted by a board member of the Hindu American Foundation, another Hindu nationalist organization.”

    I was just at the HAF annual dinner. These are very nice people who are simply proud to be Hindu, proud of India and proud on PM Modi. People talk as if those things are awful.

    “the creed of large numbers of Hindus for whom religious tolerance is an essential expression of their Hindu faith.”

    That is the view of the leaders of the HAF.

    The academic community in Hindu studies and their alllies have circled the wagons to support 19th Century German “scientific” scholarship which created the ideas about the Aryans and their then believed origin in Germany which Hitler exploited. They are defending their investment in those ideas, their jobs and their reputations.

  2. Why don’t you display some evidence of these “threats”? Otherwise I will be forced to conclude you are simply playing victim and that you are writing lies (like you did in your “petition”)

    • More cooked up stories and claims. I shudder to think of the so called academic freedoms enjoyed by the students of these so called academics, wherein any criticism of their lies, and fanciful propaganda promptly becomes an attack on them. These folks are worried by “Hindu nationalism” which they concoct stories about, and claim they are not against Hindus and Hinduism. How nice, so any Hindu who is proud of his culture, is nationalistic will automatically be against minorities, be fascist and so forth. These rubbish attempts to tar and feather a particular community need to be seen for what they are, unadulterated bigotry from those who claim to be progressives but are anything but.

  3. Today’s news is that President Obama has invited Ahmed, the Muslim American student who was arrested, handcuffed and humiliated in a Houston school for making and bringing a circuit board to school, to the White House. MIT has invited him to visit, and so has NASA. So how did this incident escalate to this atrocious level (the arrest I mean, not the White House invitation):

    From the ASEE Daily News Brief:

    The student had done it “to impress his science teacher,” but it “spooked his English teacher,” who in turn “told the principal, who told police.”

    IOW, the English teacher felt ‘threatened’ and ‘harassed’ by what science teachers understood easily as innocent, constructive, innovative, inquisitive, non-brain-dead scholarship and communication.

    Says it all about the above blog, and the two (or is it three?) by the same Scholiars and AAUP Editor Aaron Barlow’s wonderfully hospitable hosting of these multiple Encores Of South Asia Scholarship.

    Apparently the Police Chief and his subordinates all had only taken English classes, no science classes. Amazingly, they were able to COMMUNICATE:

    ““neither police nor school officials have apologized.”

    ” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17, Herskovitz) quotes police spokesman James McLellan as saying of Ahmed, “He didn’t explain properly what it was and they felt compelled to arrest him.”

    Says it all, doesn’t it? The true danger in America is from the sheer ignorance and bigoted predudices spread by the so-called and self-proclaimed “Scholars” and their AAUP patrons, many of whom have never so much as taught a graduate course, let alone developed one. Perhaps I misread the word, it was really “Scholiars” which ah ain’t done looked up in no dictionary.

    Informed people do not need to use terms such as ‘stupid’ or ‘dim-wits’ to describe such conduct. All we have to say is “Q.E.D”. We done larned ourselves enough Eyetalian to write that.
    To (mis)quote Sheikh bin Spear about the South Asia Scholiars, English Scholiars and Ant-throw-up-ology Scholiars:
    “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
    When shall v 3 meet again,
    In blunder, slander, Oblerlain?”

  4. I have also posted exactly the same comment in another page. But as it is relevant response to this article too , I ll re-post it here with minor modifications.

    Why is it that Prof . Barlow and most of the gang of 125 , who are opposing “certain aspects of Modi’s” visit , only want to selectively answer questions ? In fact most of the questions raised by them have been answered dozens of times by hundreds of people.

    I reiterate my questions

    1)Why is it that disproportionately large (or should I say almost all) of the “professors” and “academics” who are vituperative against Modi , are in the field of sociology ? (especially “India studies” or “south Asia studies) .

    2) Why is it that almost all their attacks are ad hominem an seldom backed by data?

    3) Why do they never respond , when countered with facts or data?

    4) Why is the same bunch of people also involved in attacking Israel?

    I have tried to avoid name calling so far. And I don’t intend to insult any particular academic persuasion . But I feel , that the thought of India eventually being a developed country haunts these people . This can be demonstrated by the fact , that many of the 125 write venomous articles in the press , whenever the Indian space research organization achieves a milestone. They particularly enjoy reminding the world , that India may have sent a probe to the Mars. But a sizable chunk of the Indian population , does not have access to toilets or basic sanitation. But now we have a PM who has made it a priority to ensure , that the entire population has access to sanitation , by the end of the decade. That takes away the pleasure of them writing all those articles. They seem to get a vicarious pleasure by Indian poverty and thus fear , that Modi might bring the pleasure to an end.

    Other pet subject of these great bunch was India’s caste system. In the US where Black Americans were sold as slaves , not even allowed to vote , or eat at the same restaurants , Such slavery never existed in India . There is no denying that discrimination existed , But it was nothing compared to the western societies . And yet India has done so much to uplift the lives of the erstwhile backward castes. We no that America won’t pay any reparations to he blacks . And the discrimination exists till today. You can get arrested for carrying a homemade clock to school. But their were a few holier than thou folks , who in spite being a part of the discriminators want to pontificate about “religious tolerance.” PM Modi is a slap in the face of these people , as he comes from a “Backward caste. ” And it kicks their narrative about discrimination in India out of the window

    Many of these 125 were also involved in threatening and trying to arm-twist Rajiv Malhotra (RM) to back off . They even tried to get his publishers to withdraw his book. Why did they have such hostility to him? They are crying about civilized discussion , and being “hounded” by “Hindu Nationalists” . But it is a fact that many of these 125 and their supporters hounded , attacked , and tried to intimidate RM often by using tactics that had questionable legality .

    Whether you guys like it or not , India will prevail . And so would Hindus . We have survived murderous Islamic invasions for 2000 years. And a genocidal British invasion. Who are these 125 , that they ll be able to stop us ?

    • When examining history, be even-handed. Go much further than the British time. Thousands of Dravidians who dwelled in the nothern part of present India were butchered by the racial upper class of that time. The history is being repeated now by the upper religious class through political maneuvers.

      • SchCast: Since this is an AAUP blog, I am presuming that the majority of the readers would demand supporting evidence for such a bold claim as yours. I say respectfully, Sire, out with your references.

        Same to the 130+ South Asian Studies US academicians who have very impressive titles and formal degrees if I dare to say so.

      • The aryan invasion theory (AIT) has been discredited a myth by most scholars . No massacre like the one you describe has been documented, by any scholar of note. In fact the raison d’être of various south Asian studies and Hindu studies course in the US , is to create literature that falsely equalizes Hinduism to Nazism ,by generating and propagating myths surrounding the much discredited (AIT).

    • Wow, Detonator docullah has resisted “Islamic invasions” for 2000 years! Since before Islam came into being! What a feat! What a “factual” (or fictual) response to the 125 academicians! Detonator docullah must be a 10000 years old wise rishi to have this foresight and afterthought all together to resist Islamic invasion 1200 years before any muslim warrior invaders came to India and 150 years after they were decisively defeated and replaced by the British and 68 years after India became Independent of all invaders! I suppose the American academicians stand no chance before these so called Hindu Nationalists; the latter know everything that ever happened, is happening, will ever happen, as well as everything that never happened, is not happening, and will never happen. Great scholarship, DD!

  5. Pingback: Hindu American Foundation Statement | The Academe Blog

  6. They have put a huge LCD billboard in 880n Dixon Landing , with the #Modifail.. If you guys had so much concern about free speech and human rights and all the lofty ,moral ideals you claim to be the guardian of , than you could have spent the money in a far better fashion.

    Judging by the size and location of the billboard , it must have cost you guys something like 30,000 dollars. Who finances you guys ?

  7. Did you see the one of the Scholiar sitting in a Google presentation holding a sign saying “Please help! I Paid $69,370/sem For A Useless Education. Taught by South Asia Scholars!” ? She looked totally lost, poor thing. Must be all them big words like url, 404, work, productive citizen, laws, logic, Calculus, Predictive Search, Internet etc.

  8. Threats from anyone to anyone are bad. However, denizens of ivory towers can often be misinformed and misguided by the not so obvious agenda of their sources.

    Hopefully, the interview in this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KD8dSioiKU
    given by one who has been around, who is not a Hindu, and who is deep in the fray will be helpful in disabusing zealous academics of their prejudices and persuade them to kindly give Mr Modi’s government a chance.

  9. In a freewheeling interview with Vrinda Gopinath, Kishwar talks about the disappointment and general despondency six months into Modi’s reign.Prof Madhu Kishwar : December, 2014. The disappointment could be imagined as we all know she is a staunch supporter of Mr. Modi.

    • This suggests that Prof. Kishwar has an open mind, actually influenced by external stimuli and facts other than the stream of funding and propaganda from Communist China that constitutes the Scholiars’ sole mental input. How SHOCKING! She even calls some of the Scholiars her former friends. That was from the time when she was a staunch South Asian herself, until she saw that the nonsense spouted by the Scholiars against Modi was, well, nonsense. Of course many voters are disappointed with any government. That is a sign of human intelligence, surely unfamiliar to the FOIL. For instance, many are disappointed that Modi has not sent the Indian Air Force and Army and Navy to give Peace a chance in South Asia by destroying the Pakistani terrorist enterprise. Has not sent troops to drive Chinese torturers out of Tibet and Aksai Chin – instead he has gone out to China with an outstretched hand of friendship and business ties with the Chinese people. Has not repealed Article 370 which bans Indian citizens from outside Jammu-Kashmir from buying property in J&K, (inhibiting private investment) while Pakistan has no such qualms and rips off Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. They are disappointed that the govt. is moving too slowly in identifying and stopping the funding going to terrorist groups such as the Naxalites from the same people who fund the South Asia Scholiars to put up banners in Silicon Valley and compose rambling 125-signature Letters to AAUP. They are disappointed that people who call for boycotts against India, and for foreign invasion of India, are not prosecuted by the Indian legal system. They are disappointed that Modi has not done far more to stop the illegal antics of the Conversionist invaders who are doing to the constitutionally-protected homelands of the tribal people in India, what they did to the original peoples of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Very disappointing. But that’s what democracy is about. India actually has elections, unlike the South Asia Scholiars’ uncritically-acclaimed People’s Paradise of Red China. Again, any Letter/Petition against repression in China, O Protectors of Individual Freedom? Helloooo Dr. Kamala Visweswaran? Ania Loomba? Vijay Prashad (o! I forgot! Comrade Prashad is busy writing of the paradise of Shangri La under Maoist rule!)

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