Hateful Hindutva Ideology Infects Indian Diaspora

Hateful Hindutva ideology is spreading rapidly among the Indian diaspora. Individuals and organizations connected to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) are actively working to promote India's divisive Islamophobic politics among the Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and their children. Hundreds of the RSS shakhas (branches) are now found in at least 39 countries around the world. Hindutva is a Hindu supremacist ideology inspired by 20th century Fascism and Nazism in Europe; it is very different from the ancient Hindu faith, according to American history professor Audrey Truschke who teaches Indian history at Rutgers University in the US state of New Jersey. Top Indian economists have raised alarm about it. 

Global Hindutva Sangh Parivar. Source: Audrey Truschke

False narrative of victimhood underlies Hindutva ideology. Indian historian Aditya Mukherjee characterizes the Hindutva victimhood as follows: “The great achievements of the past are then contrasted with a false sense of victimhood, the concept of a great threat the majority is supposedly facing from the minority. This is how fascism works, globally".  "Hindutva was never meant to be understood as bounded by national borders; his (Savarkar's) ambition was always planetary", writes Vinayak Chaturvedi, author of "Hindutva and Violence". "He (Savarkar) gained notoriety for his programme to “Hinduise Politics and Militarise Hindudom” while also arguing for permanent war against Christians and Muslims", Chaturvedi adds. 

Recent hate incidents in Leicester (UK), Edison (NJ) and Silicon Valley (California) all have connections to the far right Hindu organizations in India.  Here's how a recent New York Times report "Tensions That Roiled English City Have Roots in India" explains what is going on with the Indian diaspora since Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to power in India: 

"Across the Indian diaspora, ugly divisions are emerging. A bulldozer, which has become a symbol of oppression against India’s Muslim minority, was rolled down a street in a New Jersey town during a parade this summer, offending many people. Last year, attacks on Sikh men in Australia were linked to extremist nationalist ideology. In April, Canadian academics told CBC News that they faced death threats over their criticism of growing Hindu nationalism and violence against minorities in India. Since India’s independence struggle, Hindu nationalists have espoused a vision that places Hindu culture and religious worship at the center of Indian identity. That view, once fringe, was made mainstream when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party came to power".   

"We are all with you Modiji and Yogiji", said an Indian American man who tweeted a video clip of a recent car rally in Silicon Valley, California. Rally participants are shown carrying pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Some also carried BJP's lotus flags. Hindu Americans enjoy the freedom to practice their faith and culture in the United States while at the same time they support Hindutva fascist rule in their country of origin. 

69% of Hindu Americans Support Modi. Source: Indian American Attitudes Survey 2020

The 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS) results confirm the anecdotal evidence of India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's massive popularity among Hindu Americans. The findings of a survey sponsored by Washington-based think tank Carnegie Endowment For International Peace reveal that 69% of Hindu Americans approve of Mr. Modi's performance. 70% of Hindu Americans agree or strongly agree that white supremacy is a threat to minorities in the United States, compared to 79% of non-Hindu Indian Americans. Regarding Hindu majoritarianism in India, however, the data point to a much sharper divide: only 40% of Hindus agree that Hindu majoritarianism is a threat to minorities, compared to 67% of non-Hindus, according to the 2020 IAAS Survey. 

The 7 in 10 approval rating of Mr. Modi by Hindu Indian Americans stands in sharp contrast to that of barely one in five Muslim Indian Americans. Indian American Christians are almost evenly divided: 35 percent disapprove, 34 percent approve, and 30 percent did not express an opinion. Twenty-three percent of respondents without a religious affiliation and 38 percent from other faiths approve of Modi’s performance, respectively. The share of “don’t knows” is the smallest for Hindus and Muslims compared to other religious categories, suggesting that views among respondents of these two faiths are the most consolidated.

The IASS survey sample includes 54 percent Hindus, 13 percent Muslims, 10 percent Christians, 8 percent belonging to other faiths, and 16 percent do not identify with any religion.

A US report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Gro... disclosed the following findings regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

 a. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

b. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

c. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.
Here is Professor Audrey Truschke on Nazi origin of Hindutva:
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Comment by Riaz Haq on July 19, 2023 at 7:50am

Modi and India’s Diaspora: A Complex Love Affair Making Global Waves


https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/18/world/asia/india-diaspora.html

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to fuse his image to the economic and political power of Indians abroad. They voice both pride and worry in return.



With an emphasis on national pride, Mr. Modi and his conservative Hindu-first Bharatiya Janata Party have cultivated a surprisingly strong relationship with India’s successful diaspora. The bond has been strengthened by a global political machine, supercharged under Mr. Modi with party offices in dozens of countries and thousands of volunteers. And it has allowed Mr. Modi to fuse his own image — and his rubric of elevating India — with superstar executives and powerful, often more liberal constituencies in the United States, Britain, Australia and many other nations.

No other world leader seems to draw such a steady flow of diaspora welcome parties, most recently in Paris, New York and Cairo, or giant audiences, including 20,000 fans at a rally in Australia in May. Mr. Modi was in France on Friday as the guest of honor at the annual Bastille Day parade, and with elections next year in India, the pattern has been set.


“The B.J.P. leadership wants to show its strength abroad, to create strength at home,” said Sameer Lalwani, a senior expert on South Asia at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

But in some corners of the diaspora, strains are emerging. Many Indian professionals who cheer when Mr. Modi boasts that India has become the world’s fifth-largest economy — who gush about new infrastructure and more modern cities — also fear that his government’s Hindu-supremacist policies and growing intolerance of scrutiny will keep India from truly standing as a superpower and democratic alternative to China.

Vinod Khosla, a prominent Silicon Valley investor, who has often pushed for closer U.S.-India relations, said in an interview that India’s greatest risk is a disruption to economic growth from the instability and inequality inflamed by Hindu nationalism. Others worry that Mr. Modi, in a bubble of political celebrity and religious certitude, is ignoring the fragility of positive momentum in a complex, diverse and volatile nation of 1.4 billion people.

“The demographics only work for India if there is progressivism and inclusion,” said Arun Subramony, a private equity banker in Washington with digital, health and other investments in India. “The party has to make an extra effort to make clear that India is for everyone.”

--------

political scientists believe that the B.J.P. and Hindu organizations draw a significant flow of money from the diaspora. In 2018, Mr. Modi’s government rushed through Parliament a law allowing Indians living abroad and foreign companies with subsidiaries in India to make undisclosed political donations. Spending on India’s 2019 campaign topped $8 billion, making it the most expensive election in the world.

“There’s an absence of transparency, and it’s by design,” said Gilles Verniers, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

In the United States, the B.J.P. registered its presence — a requirement for any foreign political party — only after questions were raised about the financing of a giant “Howdy Modi” celebration in 2019 in Houston with President Donald J. Trump.


In Australia, the organization still does not appear in the foreign transparency register, despite the costs associated with Mr. Modi’s rally in May at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena, where hundreds of people lined up outside for selfies with twin Modi cardboard cutouts framing a giant sign with “We ❤️ Modi” in bright white lights.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 19, 2023 at 10:45am

How did Rajiv Gandhi, applauded for his modernist ideologies, accelerate Hindu nationalism politics?
An excerpt from ‘India is Broken: And Why It’s Hard To Fix,’ by Ashoka Mody.
Ashoka Mody


https://scroll.in/article/1042462/how-did-rajiv-gandhi-applauded-fo...


In 1987, Indians owned just 13 million televisions. Friends and neighbours gathered around television sets in homes and at shopfronts. In villages, hundreds of people assembled around the one available set. On average, about 80 million people (almost 10 percent of the population) watched an episode. By the time the serial ended, almost all Indians had seen multiple episodes. More so than the Ekatmata yagna (the series of processions in late 1983), the Ramayana serial fused Savarkar’s view of India as the fatherland and holy land of the Hindus.

In a tribute Savarkar might have savored, the Indian Express’s media correspondent Shailaja Bajpai commented on August 7, 1988, a week after the series ended, “From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Gorakhpur, millions have stood, sat and kneeled to watch it.” Reflecting on that total absorption, she wondered: “Is there life after Ramayana?” No, she answered, there could be no life after Ramayana. Instead, echoing the void Jawaharlal Nehru sensed when Mahatma Gandhi died, Bajpai wrote: “the light has gone out of our lives and nothing will ever be the same again.”

For the 78 weeks that Ramayana ran, it presented a martially adept and angry Ram dispensing justice. The VHP projected its partisan view of the serial in its iconography of Ram. The author Pankaj Mishra described the Ram in VHP posters as an “appallingly muscle- bound Rambo in a dhoti.” Theatre scholar Anuradha Kapur lamented that VHP images showed Ram “far more heavily armed than in any traditional representation.”

In one image, Ram carried a dhanush (a bow), a trishul (trident), an axe, and a sword “in the manner of a pre-industrial warrior.” In another image, Ram, the angry male crusader, marched across the skies, his dhoti flying, chest bared, his conventionally coiled hair unrolling behind him in the wind. Accompanying those images, every VHP poster pledged to build a temple in Ayodhya. The dismayed Kapur noted that Ram, the omniscient and omnipresent Lord, was everywhere. Pinning him down to Ayodhya made no sense. “Hinduism,” she despairingly wrote, “is being reduced to a travesty of itself by its advocates.”

The Hindutva movement’s heavy reliance on young hypermasculine warriors to achieve its mission only exacerbated this travesty. In April and May 1987, when the Ramayana serial was in its early months, bloody Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Meerut, a city in western Uttar Pradesh. By most accounts, Muslims provoked the riots. But then the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary, infected by the Hindutva virus, killed hundreds of Muslims in cold blood.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 25, 2023 at 7:48am

Sex scene with Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh in ‘Oppenheimer’ becomes latest target of India’s Hindu nationalists

https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/24/media/india-oppenheimer-backlash-hin...

New Delhi
CNN

Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer” has sparked controversy among the Hindu-right in India, with some calling for a boycott and demanding the removal of a sex scene in which the titular character utters a famous line from the religion’s holy scripture.

The film tells the story of the atomic bomb through the lens of its creator, Robert Oppenheimer, and the scene in question depicts actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the lead role, having sex with Florence Pugh, who plays his lover Jean Tatlock.

Pugh stops during intercourse and picks up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures, and asks Murphy to read from it.

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” Oppenheimer’s character says, as they resume intercourse.

The scene has caused outrage among some right-wing groups, with a politician from India’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calling the film a “disturbing attack on Hinduism” and accusing it of being “part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces.”

In a statement Saturday, India’s Information Commissioner, Uday Mahurkar, said the scene was “a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus,” likening it to “waging a war on the Hindu community.”

He added: “We believe that if you remove this scene and do the needful to win hearts of Hindus, it will go a long way to establish your credentials as a sensitized human being and gift you friendship of billions of nice people.”

The film has been received well in most quarters in India, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, with critics giving it rave reviews and people flocking to cinemas to watch it.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in "Barbie"
The 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer' double feature shouldn't be a one-off


“Oppenheimer” grossed more than $3 million in its opening weekend in the country, according to local reports, higher than filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated “Barbie,” which released on the same day and grossed just over $1 million.

India’s film board gave “Oppenheimer” a U/A rating, which is reserved for movies that contain moderate adult themes and can be watched by children under 12 with parental guidance. There are so far no bans on the film in any of the country’s states and union territories.

This isn’t the first time that the Hindu-right has taken offense to films, television shows or commercials for its portrayal of Hinduism. Some have been boycotted or even forced off air following outcry from conservative and radical groups.

In 2020, Netflix (NFLX) received significant backlash in India for a scene in the series “A Suitable Boy” that depicted a Hindu woman and Muslim man kissing at a Hindu temple. That same year, Indian jewelry brand Tanishq withdrew an advert featuring an interfaith couple following online criticism.

Meanwhile, analysts and film critics say there has been a shift in the tone of some Indian films, with nationalist and Islamophobic narratives gaining support from many within India, as well as the BJP.

Last year, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri’s box office smash “The Kashmir Files,” based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus as they fled violent Islamic militants in the 1990s, polarized India, with some hailing the film as “gut-wrenching” and “truthful,” while others criticized it for being Islamophobic and inaccurate.

Similarly, the release this year of “The Kerala Story,” about a Hindu girl who is lured into joining ISIS, angered critics who called it a propaganda film that demonized Muslims.

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