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Hindutva is the essence of my existence as a Hindu. I challenge you to dismantle me

Author: Avatans Kumar
Publication: The Times of India
Date: August 28, 2021
URL:       https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/indic-positive/hindutva-is-the-essence-of-my-existence-as-a-hindu-i-challenge-you-to-dismantle-me/

In Chicago, Illinois, the stage was for Swami Vivekananda, a saffron-clad Hindu monk from India. It was the 11th of September 1893. Swamiji delivered a speech at the Parliament of Religions.

Swamiji spoke of rampant “sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendants” and how they have “filled the earth with violence… destroyed civilizations, and sent whole nations to despair.” Swamiji also spoke about a religion “which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.” He talked about Hinduism.

One hundred twenty-eight years later, on September 10, 11, and 12, people from across the globe, anchored virtually from many elite institutions, will join together to condemn the same Hinduism from the platforms of the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference.

The conference, it claims, intends to examine “the historical development of Hindutva, the fascist dimensions of the ideology, and the perpetuation of violence against religious minorities and other marginalized communities.” However, in reality, the conference is an insult and an onslaught on Hinduism, Hindu intellectual tradition, argumentation and disputation, and contemporary followers of Hindu Dharma.

Several radical leftist activists and academics seem to be the conference’s main organizers. One of the panelists, for example, is a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Another panelist has ties with the most violent Maoist groups in India. Yet another person associated with the conference was the main organizer of Holi Against Hindutva on US campuses.

The organizers of the conference are known for their poor scholarship and ignorance of Hindu texts and traditions. One of the scholars had claimed that during Agnipariksha, in Valmiki’s Ramayana, Mata Sita tells Bhagwan Rama that “he is a misogynist pig and uncouth.”

The conference also boasts the backing of, according to its website, more than 40 elite universities of the US.

Several Hindu Hindu advocacy groups, such as the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the Coalition of Hindus in North America (CoHNA), asked these universities to clarify if they were indeed the official sponsors of this conference as claimed by the organizers. They also launched a massive grassroots campaign to reach out to these universities. Eventually, the organizers took all the university logos off their website as well as PR material.

Hindu Dharma is unique as it does not fit the typical “religion” parameters as most modern world understands. For example, Hindu Dharma is non-dogmatic. Outsiders have tried to make sense of Hindu Dharma from their predisposed lenses. Hindu scholars have done their fair part as well. From Swami Vivekananda to Sri Aurobindo and from M. K. Gandhi to V. D. Savarkar, they have contributed to our understanding of Hinduism.

Hindutva is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘the essence’ of Hindu Dharma. V. D Savarkar expounded on Hindu Dharma in his book Hindutva: Who is Hindu? (1923). Most Western and some Indian scholars, however, have misunderstood Hindutva. They consider it static and monolithic. According to Arvind Sharma (Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism, and Hindutva; Numen, Vol 49), the reality is that “its context, text, and subtext have changed over time, depending on the period involved… and the person expounding it.”

An intellectual exercise aims to investigate, debate, and discuss, for no idea is worth rejecting without an academic due process. However, no one has developed a system to judge a scholar’s work on the parameters of Hindutva. But the conference, in its infinite wisdom, has already decided that it must not only be rejected but “dismantled” altogether.

According to Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee (Cry Hindutva: How Rhetoric Trumps Intellect in South Asian Studies), crying Hindutva in academic circles is an effort to “discipline non-conforming [Hindu] scholars.” “To use Hindutva as a smokescreen,” write Adluri and Bagchee, “is to instrumentalize real pain and suffering.”

The conference organizers deny the existence of Hinduphobia. However, Jeffery Long, a professor of religion at Elizabethtown College, tweeted the other day that he is being “harassed” for his views. Incidentally, Long has written and lectured extensively on Hinduphobia. His paper Reflections on Hinduphobia: A Perspective from a Scholar-Practitioner is one of the seminal works on Hinduphobia.

Hindus are a world religious minority and have been persecuted for their faith for centuries. Both marauding invaders and evangelizing colonizers have done their best to either eradicate or convert the indigenous Hindus. Afghanistan just saw its last contingent of Hindus leave the country for good. The neighboring Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Bangladesh are no better either, where the Hindu population has been dwindling for decades.

In the US, the last few years have seen an increase in hate crimes against Hindus. The upcoming conference attempts to weaponize an academic enterprise to bully and silence Hindu scholars and students on university campuses. It also attempts to vitiate the situation for a highly entrepreneurial, educated, successful, and above all, peaceful religious minority in the US.

According to Arvind Sharma (Dharma and the Academy: A Hindu Hindu Academic’s View, American Journal of Indic Studies, 2018), the Hindu-American community has reached a critical demographic mass in North America and India. As such, its ‘response threshold’ has been breached. When a faith community crosses its response threshold, it becomes hard for outsiders to ignore the community’s response to misrepresentations. A Hindu outrage from across the world against this conference must be seen in this background.

 

-Avatans Kumar is a linguist who writes frequently on the topics of Indic Knowledge Tradition, language, culture, and current affairs. Avatans is a JNU and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alumnus.

 
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