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Identifying Hinduphobia/Hindudvesha Cloaked in Pseudo Gandhian-ism

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Identifying Hinduphobia/Hindudvesha Cloaked in Pseudo Gandhian-ism

Many statements that promote Hindudvesha in the guise of secularism, pluralism and social justice attempt to downplay, and sometimes even negate the fact that Hindudvesha (i.e., systematic Hinduphobia)is quite real, and growing across many cultural spaces. Kuhu Singh has written one such article, which was recently published in American Kahani. Singh begins her essay by claiming that the efforts to identify systematic Hinduphobia are false efforts because the entire idea of Hinduphobia is, for Kuhu Singh, a myth.

On the basis of such assertions, albeit insubstantial and unsubstantiated, Singh labels all those who welcomed and celebrated the declaration of October 2021 as Hindu Heritage Month as ‘extremists’ and ‘supremacists’. She tries to lend credibility to her spurious claim by disguising her statement as an assertion of Gandhian ideals and thought.  In this article, I intend to lay bare the Hinduphobia Singh’s article reeks of, and to read the author’s own Hinduphobia/ Hindudvesha as is apparent from her ‘disapproval’ of the insertion of Sri Rama’s name in Gandhi’s ‘favorite’ bhajan.

It is clear that one aims to designate Hindudvesha as a myth for two reasons: first, because one is actually unaware of its existence because of the subtleties employed by the agencies that perpetrate Hinduphobia/ Hindudvesha; and second, because one condones it under the assumption that all practicing Hindus are supremacists and deserve the hatred that is directed at them.  Singh’s article does not flinch from implying the latter. Notwithstanding this, let us for a moment grant her benefit of the doubt and assume that she is genuinely unaware of the various kinds of Hindudvesha that exist in the Islamic countries neighboring India, the types of Hinduphobia  within India, in the print and social media, and in the mostly Leftist Indian academia, as well as the unrelenting barrage of articles appearing in Western media and academe.

In such a case, and to ensure that the readers of American Kahani are not misinformed, I reproduce a few examples of Hinduphobia/Hindudvesha in these spaces, and we will begin with citations from the history of the subjugation of Hindus and Hindu cultures in South Asia.

The subjugation of Hindus and people of other Indic faiths in South Asia started with the Islamic invasion in the 8th century. As noted by Dr. Koenraad Elst in his article titled “Was There an Islamic Genocide of Hindus?”, the number of Hindus killed by  Islamic invaders of South Asia could easily exceed the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis. This hypothesis is certainly reasonable given that the killings took place over several centuries and across the entire Indian subcontinent, unlike the limited time frame of the Jewish Holocaust.

The ethnic cleansing of Hindus that started sometime during the early eighth century continues even today in the Islamic states that surround India.  The ethnic cleansing of Hindus since India’s independence has been well documented by Richard Benkin, an American human rights activist, in his book titled The Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: The Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus and in a companion video.

Dr. Benkin documents the genocide of Hindus that transpired at the time of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. He notes that 2.4 million Hindus were brutally killed by the Pakistani army and allied Islamic militia outfits.  More importantly, Benkin foregrounds the continued and quiet ethnic cleansing of millions of Hindus in Bangladesh since that time. The impact of the continuous ethnic cleansing is  explicit in a religion-wise breakdown of Bangladesh’s population , which will show how Bangladesh’s Hindu population has dropped from 22% in 1951 to 8% in 2011, and is still on the path of a steady decrease.

recent round of the cleansing of Hindus  in Bangladesh began on October 13, 2021, after a carefully planned  social media campaign managed to spread false rumors about a blasphemous act against the Quran that had purportedly ‘happened’ at a Hindu Durga Puja pandal, one of the few which had been erected in the area for the Bengali Hindu festival of Durgapuja. During this time, as per official records, around ten Hindus were brutally murdered, and twenty-three Hindu women, including a ten-year-old minor, had been raped.

In addition, nearly 1,500 homes were burnt, 315 Hindu temples were partially vandalized or destroyed, and hundreds of Hindu businesses were razed to the ground. Western media and human rights organizations have largely ignored the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh since it began, almost right after the formation of that country. Further, instead of condemning the whole murderous pogrom and asking the Government of Bangladesh for answers and demanding from them the safety and well-being of their non-Muslim citizens, these so called ‘media’ agencies have focused their attention on criticizing the Indian government’s efforts to provide citizenship to the victims of this ongoing ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh.

The ethnic cleansing of Hindus and other Indic faiths has also happened in severabouts in Kashmir, which has been historically an integral part of India. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan invaded and occupied part of Kashmir post-Independence, and laid claim illegally on a large area which is today referred to as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (“POK”). Upon occupation by Islamic agencies supporting this move by Pakistan, the Hindus that remained in that part of Kashmir were brutally treated and soon a time arrived when ‘ralive, salive, galive’ (leave, convert, or die) slogans rent the air in Kashmir – from the ramparts of masjids and khanqahs.

Today, the non-Muslim population of this ‘POK’ region is essentially zero. Having ethnically cleansed the Hindus in POK, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has focused on instigating a new wave of violence and intimidation to eliminate the remaining Hindus in Kashmir. In this respect, in 1990, the Islamists of Kashmir, aided by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, managed to orchestrate the ethnic expulsion of the remaining Hindu population from Kashmir. Eventually, more than 400,000 Hindus fled the Kashmir Valley and sought refuge in other parts of India that year in the month of January after a rigorous anti-Hindu armed pogrom was unleashed by Islamist agencies in the region.

Hindudvesha on social media is perpetrated by contemporary anti-Hindu groups such as Equality Labs in the US and like-minded anti-Hindu agitators. Equality Labs’s hatred for Hindus can be readily gleaned from its “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy” poster and repeated derogatory references to Brahmins in its articles and social media posts. It can also be indirectly discerned from the Brahmin hatred that pervades the social media posts of those who have been influenced by the hateful propaganda of Equality Labs. I have stated this at length in my article titled “Equality Labs: Transporting Racist European Indology And Anti-Hindu Movements To American Shores,”[1]“Equality Labs has learned to combine the racist and hateful theories about Hinduism and its adherents formulated by British and German Indologists with a hate-filled political ideology of Periyar Ramaswamy to appeal to a gullible fringe of the political left in America.”

Blatant Hindudvesha and Hinduphobia is widespread in Indian academia, and even in some very significant cases, in academic spaces across the world, and especially in Europe and even in many parts of the United States. Prominent among the perpetrators of this Hinduphobic attitudes are large numbers of western scholars, who call themselves Indologists and who approach ancient Indian texts with scepticism if not suspicion, and view them as objects to be exploited, either to support their religious or political ideologies or to enhance their self-interest, because it is the truth that demonizing the East as backward and primitive has been almost every influential historian’s key career move.

This sceptical approach has only succeeded in fragmenting Hindu texts and has abetted the production of an array of mutually exclusive speculative theories about the nature and intent of the original text.  These so called ‘research initiatives’ and ‘reading’ efforts have not resulted in any knowledge or findings that have contributed to the improvement of society or have helped individuals lead more productive and happier lives

For instance, Adolf Holtzmann Jr. was the first Indologist to make reconstruction of the original texts the primary goal of his study of the Mahābhārata and the Bhagavadgītā. His approach to studying Sanskrit texts was highly influenced by his zeal to prove that the epic traditions, namely the Greeks, Germans, and Indians, were branches of a common heritage. He saw kshatriyas as members of a noble Indo-Germanic race and hypothesized that they were the subject of the original epic.

Holtzmann viewed Brahmins as contemptible manipulators who were responsible for ruining the original Indo-Germanic epic through interpolations and redactions. Driven by his ideology, he engaged in a violent reconstruction of the Mahābhārata and Bhagavadgītā. Holtzmann’s characterization of Brahmins and his support of the now disproved Aryan Invasion Theory, formulated by Christian Lassen, had triggered the anti-Brahmin hate movements in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

There are many examples of Hindudvesha in mainstream media as well.  However, I will focus on a couple of egregious examples by current and former employees of National Public Radio (“NPR”). Both these examples focus on the racist trope that labels Hindus as urine drinkers. Krishnadev Calamur, formerly a senior editor at the Atlantic magazine and now the deputy Washington editor for NPR, wrote an article in the Atlantic that implied that a large segment of Hindus are used to drinking cow urine as an elixir. NPR producer, Furkhan Khan, was more explicit and directly referred to Hindus as ‘piss drinkers’ and ‘dung worshippers’. Can Kuhu Singh honestly call Hindudvesha/Hinduphobia a ‘myth’ with such examples of it, and many besides these literally planted in almost every node of global media?

Having demonstrated the absurdity of Singh’s spurious claim regarding Hindudvesha, I now turn to her designation of a large swath of the Hindu community as extremists and supremacists. Singh has implied that many of the members the Hindu community in the United States who celebrated or championed the declaration of October 2021 as Hindu Heritage Month are extremists and supremacists simply because they chose to celebrate their heritage openly.

Singh shamelessly engages in a false equivalence. She states that “these little acts of subversion or denying history ha(ve) bigger and greater consequences. Think of Nazi Germany and American Confederates and more recently idolizing Gandhi’s murderer and RSS recruit Nathu Ram Godse in India.”[2] She further has accused many American Hindus of defaming Gandhi and glorifying his assassin merely because they chose to sing a different version of a hymn favored by Singh states “there is a deliberate attempt by elements of Hindutva to deny and erode Gandhiji’s legacy.  Hailing his murderer Nathu Ram Godse as a hero is also part of this subterfuge.”[3] In doing so, however, she purposely failed to disclose that it was not the Hindus who changed the hymn but rather Gandhi himself who had changed the lyrics of the song originally and had produced a morphed version of a centuries-old bhajan sung across Hindu devotional spaces in India. The original lyrics of this ‘favorite’ bhajan of Gandhi had been composed by Sri Lakshmanacharya in the early seventeenth century

The history of this bhajan is very interesting as the general reader may not be aware of the long tradition of Ram Dhun Kirtan practiced across India during the Bhakti movement. The poet who composed this song, Sri Lakshmanacharya, had used the names of Sri Rama in the order used by Valmiki in his Ramayana kavya, or epic poem, and had composed the song called the Nama Ramayana which was later adapted by Gandhi as a necessary, and very effective accessory of his secularizing project. The original lyrics run thus:  Bhadragirishwara Sitaram, bhakatajanapriya sitaram (literally, ‘Lord of Bhadrachala, O Rama, Beloved of Sita, Beloved of His Devotees, O Rama’). Gandhi had had these names removed and had used the first four lines of the Nama Ramayanam as available in the book Sangita Ratnakara compiled by Kashmiri Hindu scholar Sharangadeva.

But to lend credibility to her hate-filled diatribe, Kuhu Singh quotes an ‘authority’ of Hindu culture, Anantanand Rambachan who isa self-proclaimed champion of the “humble and harmonious practice” of Hinduism. However, from a cursory review of Rambachan’s writings[4] and publicly known affiliations, one can easily decipher that the man’s self-proclaimed status is fallacious. His affiliation with a group called Sadhana is sufficient enough to nullify his self-proclaimed status as a proponent of ‘unadulterated Hinduism’.

For those who do not know, Sadhana is an organization that includes the hateful propaganda of Equality Labs as part of its curriculum. Further, a founder of the organization who is also a member of its Executive Board has recently been sued by the Hindu American Foundation in an U.S. district court for defamation and conspiracy to defame the organization.

In essence, Kuhu Singh’s article indicates that her views have been heavily influenced by a vocal minority that cannot relate to the Hindu community’s diverse views and practices. This vocal minority wants its narrow and uninformed fringe views to dominate the public space. In her article, Singh has adopted this vocal minority’s strategy of pre-emptively labelling all dissenters as Nazis, supremacists, etc., and assert that Hindudvesha is  a myth.[5] Following this vocal minority’s example, Singh has also appropriated Gandhi to give her false claim a veneer of authenticity.

To probe a bit further into this murky realm of conspiracies, it remains a fact that this vocal minority has also appropriated the term ‘social justice’ to provide cover for their own Hinduphobia/Hindudvesha.  A prime example of this is Equality Labs and their rabid intolerance of almost everything Hindu. This vocal minority has roots and branches all over the world and even in India, but all these offshoots share a common trait — a rabid hatred of the diversity of views within the truly pluralistic Hindu society.  For the sake of social harmony, this vocal minority, and its gullible followers, who are masquerading as social justice warriors, Gandhians, or secularists, must be exposed for what they represent.  They are not social justice warriors, Gandhians, nor champions of secularism. They are zealots who want to impose their narrow and uninformed views on the broader society and are willing to use unscrupulous tactics to accomplish their goal.

 

Bibliography.

  1. Adluri, Vishwa and Bagchee, Joydeep. The Nay Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  2. Nagarajan, Venkat. “Equality Labs: Transporting Racist European Indology And Indian Anti-Hindu Movements to American Shores.” Swarajya Magazine (August 2020). https://swarajyamag.com/blogs/equality-labs-transporting-racist-european-indology-and-indian-anti-hindu-movements-to-american-shores
  3. Nagarajan, Venkat. “Hindudvesha in the Guise of Pluralism, Secularism, and Social Justice.” India Facts (August 2021). https://www.indiafacts.org.in/hindudvesha-in-the-guise-of-pluralism-secularism-and-social-justice/
  4. Singh, Kuhu. “Is Distorting Gandhi’s Favorite Bhajan a Part of Subterfuge That Glorifies the Mahatma’s Assassin Nathu Ram Godse?” American kahani (October 2021)

Citations.

[1] Nagarajan, Venkat “Equality Labs: Transporting Racist European Indology”

[2] Singh, Kuhu, “Is Distorting Gandhi’s Favorite Bhajan a Part of Subterfuge That Glorifies the Mahatma’s Assassin Nathu Ram Godse?”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Refer to “Hindudvesha in the Guise of Pluralism, Secularism, and Social Justice” for additional details.

[5] Singh uses Hindutva as a pejorative label to group all those who disagree with her viewpoint. Therefore, by designating Hindutva as an extremist ideology, she is also designating all Hindu-Americans that she views as proponents of Hindutva as extremists.

Venkat Nagarajan

Venkat Nagarajan is an economist with a deep interest in Indian philosophy and Hindu Studies. He is currently a student at the Hindu University of America.