American Hindu advocacy group, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), has launched an online campaign against an upcoming three-day programme titled Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH) and requested authorities at 41 US universities listed as “co-sponsors" to distance themselves from the "partisan" event that it says has political connotations.
HAF, whose campaign targets the programme slated for 10-12 September, also asked the universities to "ensure the safety and well-being of Hindu students, faculty and staff on your campus who may feel targeted, threatened or face hostility" because of the "anti-Hindu event", according to its letter.
HAF told the universities that the event planned by anonymous organisers was promoted "as co-sponsored by your institution", and "respectfully" requested authorities at the educational bodies to remove their "name and logo appearing on the DGH website, promotional materials and social media posts"."Holding Hindus to double standards, defaming or falsely alleging dual loyalty against Hindu Americans, or dehumanizing Hindus by portraying them as inherently bigoted or dangerous crosses the fine line between legitimate criticism of policies of the Indian government and anti-Hindu hatred.
"While academics at your institution may choose to engage in political partisan activism concerning India, we hope you would agree that your institution should not," the letter said.
The partisan political event targets Hindu students and puts their safety at risk. 1/ https://t.co/MwUIa0E61i
— Hindu American Foundation (@HinduAmerican) August 19, 2021
According to a publicity material on the Eventbrite website, which identifies itself as a "global self-service ticketing platform for live experiences that allows anyone to create, share, find and attend events", the programme will be co-sponsored by a total of "60+ Departments or Centers from 45+ Universities".
The post, which did not have the name of the organisers, said the speakers will include filmmaker and activist Anand Patwardhan, Left leader Kavita Krishnan, academics Banu Subramaniam, Nandini Sudar and Ayesha Kidwai, and French political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, among others, including journalists. The artwork on the publicity material shows a hammer being used to claw out what are obviously cutouts of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers.
"This conference will convene panels on a variety of interlinked topics that address the threat and power of Hindutva. Scholars, journalists, and activists will examine the historical development of Hindutva, the fascist dimensions of the ideology, its alignment with other supremacist movements and define all that is at stake across a range of political, socio-cultural, and economic issues," said a part of the text in the publicity material.
According to the post, the co-sponsors of the event included "Departments and Centers" at UC San Diego, NYU, UToronto, UPenn, Princeton, Stanford and Harvard. The list of supporting co-sponsors featured Boston College, Columbia, Concordia, Rutgers, U Illinois Chicago, U Michigan, U Virginia, York and U Wisconsin-Madison, among others.
— Hindu American Foundation (@HinduAmerican) August 20, 2021
On Twitter, HAF said the speakers' list consisted of activists who "equate Hinduism with caste bigotry", "deny indigeneity of Hindus to South Asia", "support the violent Kashmir militancy" and "deny Hinduphobia & systemic oppression Hindus face throughout South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir)". "The DGH website mentions no academic organizers & specifically defines the event as nakedly political with an intention to 'dismantle' the current government of India. Universities have clear political neutrality statements that oppose sponsorship of partisan political events," another HAF tweet said.
HAF said it "wholeheartedly supports free speech and academic freedom as we are guided by the Hindu precepts of satya (truthfulness), vāda and saṃvāda (debate and discussion), and viveka (discernment)".
"We ask that institutions of higher learning (whose names and logos are projected as co-sponsors of the event) support the same and also privilege academic integrity by promoting open inquiry, encouraging a diversity of viewpoints, and modeling constructive disagreement," it added.
"This event, however, is the antithesis of all of these values."
HAF also announced that it will launch a "grassroots campaign to enable students, alumni and concerned citizens to send their own letters to every university ostensibly co-sponsoring the DGH event" as part of a mass email drive.