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Academics from Around the World Express Concern about University Support to the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” Conference

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Academics from Around the World Express Concern about University Support to the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” Conference

Today, over 75 academics released a letter that was sent to several universities listed as sponsors and co-sponsors of the upcoming Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH) conference. Signed by scholars holding endowed chairs and Emeritus status at several universities throughout the United States and India, the letter expresses “profound concern” that the DGH event appears to deny the existence of Hinduphobia even while it defines Hinduism in derogatory terms and denies systemic persecution many Hindu communities have faced and continue to face globally. The scholars raised concerns for the safety of Hindu students on campus when faced by the political activism and Hinduphobia denialism of their instructors, and also for the reputational “ramifications” events such as DGH cause to their institutions. While affirming a commitment to academic freedom and integrity, the scholars asked universities to issue a reminder that any engagement in “political activity must occur in an individual capacity so that implicit or explicit institutional support to the DGH event, or similar events, is not implied”, and to ascertain that “institutional financial resources are in no way misappropriated to sponsor or co-sponsor the DGH political event.”

Importantly, we note that several academics informed India Facts that several colleagues in the field of religious and South Asian studies declined to sign the letter, while others signed the letter but then asked to remove their names, following sustained threats from colleagues warning against opposing the DGH event. We condemn this type of intramural harassment and intimidation that has become all too common on college campuses where spaces for dissent and academic inquiry are shrinking in the face of ideological purity tests. We commend and stand with the courageous signatories of this important letter.

We the undersigned scholars and educators write to you to express our concern that centers and departments at your institution are listed as “Contributing” or “Supporting” sponsors of a political event entitled, “Dismantling Global Hindutva” (DGH), scheduled virtually for September 10-12, 2021.

The DGH event’s website represents its event as a political meeting seeking to “Dismantle Hindutva,” that DGH defines as the nationalist ideology of India’s democratically elected Bharatiya Janata Party. The goal of the event is not to hold an academic discussion about “Hindutva” inviting a diversity of perspectives, but to create “pedagogy” to dismantle the “economic turmoil unleashed by the authoritarian economic policies and policy-making framework of the BJP government, including the failed demonetization policies and the ill-conceived agricultural reform policies.” A senior member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), a political party in India opposed to the BJP, is an invited keynote speaker, further confirming the political nature of the DGH event.

No dissenting academic perspectives are included, establishing the event’s partisan objectives. Instead, the DGH website and social media feed label those dissenting with the meeting as “supremacist” or “fascist.”

We are profoundly concerned, too, that in its attempt to “dismantle Hindutva,” the DGH organizers promote Hinduphobia. The DGH website defines Hinduism’s meaning as one “under contestation” and “contradictory,” and falsely alleges that Hinduism is at the root of “deep inequities in Indian society, most importantly for the caste system.” Speakers confirmed for the forum include those who deny that Hindus face systemic persecution in different parts of the world. And the DGH social media feed rejects the very existence of Hinduphobia — which is an ahistorical and counterfactual assertion contravening extensive scholarship tracing Hinduphobia’s insidious and dangerous manifestations both historical and contemporary.

Students on several campuses sponsoring the DGH event report a sense of feeling targeted and fear retribution by DGH faculty members when they oppose the political ideology motivating the event. When 20% of the 1.1 million international students contributing $45 billion to the US economy are of Indian origin, many of whom are Hindu, any institution’s sponsorship of this event conveys significant reputational and financial ramifications that go well beyond South Asia studies, and impact scholars, departments, and centers of every discipline.

We also believe that departments and centers sponsoring overt partisan political activity without creating space for dissent, violates the university’s ultimate purpose — to ensure all scholars academic freedom regardless of political affiliation and to impart to students the skills to think critically, communicate effectively, and engage with diversity. As such, we affirm our commitment to both academic freedom and academic integrity.

While faculty organizing, supporting, or participating in the event are free to engage in political activism and mention their academic titles, the DGH event website features no faculty names and instead names entire departments and centers as sponsors. We believe that the use of university names and financial resources for partisan political activity contravenes the educational mission and not-for-profit status of academic institutions and is in violation of use of university name for non-academic program policies.

We, the undersigned, urge you to issue a statement reaffirming a commitment to academic freedom AND to academic integrity, and also condemning Hinduphobia, in its varied manifestations, joining other national universities taking this important step.

We ask that you also issue a reminder that any engagement in political activity must occur in an individual capacity so that implicit or explicit institutional support to the DGH event, or similar events, is not implied, and ascertain that institutional financial resources are in no way misappropriated to sponsor or co-sponsor the DGH political event.

Sincerely,

Signatories are listed in alphabetical order. University affiliation is included for identification purposes only and does not reflect institutional or departmental support or endorsement of this letter.

Narendra Ahuja, PhD, Research Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Portonovo Ayyaswamy, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania

Lakshmi Bandlamudi, PhD, Professor, Social Science, City University of New York

Shobha Bhatia, PhD, Professor, Civil and Envn. Engineering Department, Syracuse University

Tej Bhatia, PhD, Professor, Linguistics/LLL, Syracuse University

Mrinal Bhattacharya, PhD, Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota

Arvind Chandrakantan, MD, Associate Professor, Anesthesiology, Baylor College of Medicine

Vipin Chaturvedi, MS, PhD, Professor, Medicine, University of California San Diego

Bard Cosman, MD, MPH, Professor of Clinical Surgery, Surgery, University of California San Diego

Pamela Cosman, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California San Diego

Yogi Goswami, PhD, Distinguished University Professor, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, University of South Florida

Alex Hankey, PhD, Professor Emeritus, School of Biology, Faculty of Science, MIT World Peace University

Devendra Jalihal, PhD, Professor, Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Yogesh Jaluria, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Rutgers University

Prakash Jha, PhD, Research Associate, Kansas State Research and Extension, Kansas State University

Ratneshwar Jha, PhD, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Rowan University

Parag Joshi, PhD, Professor, Sanskrit Language & Literature, Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University

Subhash Kak, PhD, Emeritus, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Oklahoma State University

Laxmikant Kale, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Siebel Center for Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Laxman Kanduri, PhD, Professor, Nutrition and Food Studies, City University of New York and New York University

KS Kannan, DLit, Chair Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Shreepad  Karmalkar, PhD, Professor, Electrical Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Mukund Karwe, PhD, Professor, Food Science, Rutgers University

Madhavi Kolhatkar, PhD, Professor, Sanskrit Dictionary Department, Deccan College, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

Narayanan Komerath, PhD, Professor, Retired, Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Sunil Kumar, PhD, Professor and Thomas G. Pine Faculty Fellow, Electrical and Computer Engineering, San Diego State University

Penna Madhusudan, PhD, Professor, Bharatiya Darshan, Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University

Shaily Mahendra, PhD, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California Los Angeles

Kishan Mehrotra, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University

Ned Mohan, PhD, Regents Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Minnesota

Ganti Murthy, PhD, Professor, Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University

Ved Nanda, MA, LL.M., Distinguished University Professor, Law, University of Denver

Rahul Pandit, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Ophthalmology, Weill Cornell Medicine, UTMB Health

Kalpdrum Passi, PhD, Associate Professor, Bharti School of Engineering and Computer Science, Laurentian University

Yashwant Pathak, PhD, Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of South Florida

Ramakrishna Periyapatna, PhD, Professor, Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Eswar Phadia, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, William Paterson University

Arun Prakash, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Finance, Florida International University

Prabhat Ranjan Pujahari, PhD, Assistant Professor, Physics, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Sheila Rai, PhD, Associate Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

Kaushik Rajashekara, PhD, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Houston

Ramesh Rao, PhD, Professor, Communication, Columbus State University

Nalini Rao, PhD, Associate Professor, Humanities, Soka University of America

Yogesh Rathi, PhD, Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Radiology, Harvard Medical School

Probal Roy Chowdhury, PhD, Professor, Department of English, Sister Nivedita University

Bhavani Sankar, PhD, Professor, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, University of Florida

K Sankaran, PhD, Professor and Director, Management, Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management

BVK Sastry, PhD, Professor, Yoga, Sankrutham, Yoga-Samskrutham University

Cherla Sastry, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Forestry, University of Toronto

Dinesh Shah, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Chemical Engineering and Anesthesiology, University of Florida

Neha Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine – School of Medicine, Stanford University

Ajay Shah, PhD, MBA, Adjunct Professor, Amrita School of Business, Amrita University

Satish Sharma, PhD, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, San Diego State University

Prasad Shastry, PhD, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Bradley University

Shambhu Shastry, PhD, Emeritus Professor, , Excelsior College

Manohar Shinde, MD, PhD, Chairman Emeritus, Academia,

Santosh Kumar Shukla, PhD, Professor, School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies,

Aseem Shukla, MD, MHCI, Professor, Surgery, University of Pennsylvania

Kundan Singh, PhD, Core Faculty, Graduate Program in Hindu Studies, Hindu University of America

Bal Ram Singh, PhD, Professor, BioTechnology/Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Amity University, Pondicherry University, Starex University, Boston Center of Excellence

Sree Sreenath, PhD, Professor, Electrical, Computer, Systems Engineering, Case Western Reserve University

Ramavarapu Sreenivas, PhD, Professor, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Ashok Srinivasan, PhD, Professor, Computer Science, University of West Florida

Aruna Subramanian, MD, Clinical Professor, Medicine, Stanford University

Atmapriyananda Swami, PhD, Pro-Chancellor, Central Administration of the University, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute

Avinash Thombre, PhD, Professor, Applied Communication, University of Arkansas Little Rock

Kishor Trivedi, PhD, Professor, Elect. and Comp. Eng., Duke University

Narendra Utukuri, PhD, Associate Professor, Retired, Engineering, DeVry University

Shrinivasa  Varakhedi, PHD, Professor , Philosophy, Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University

Pramod Varshney, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University

Giri Venkatagiri, PhD, Associate Professor, Psychology, Iowa State University

Kamala Vijai, PhD, Professor, Retired, Chemistry, Morehouse College

Hrishikesh Vinod, PhD, Professor, Economics, Fordham University

Kalyan Viswanathan, MS, President, Hindu Studies, Hindu University of America

 

IndiaFacts Staff

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