India’s continuous growth will discredit the "academics and their collaborators" who try to portray a distorted picture of Hindus on the global stage, Bollywood actor Anupam Kher has told a group of students at Princeton University in the US at a recent event.
"The truth has a way of finding its way out in the open,” he said, replying to a question on an upcoming event titled Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH), which has triggered a heated online debate.
Leading Hindu advocacy groups in the US say the "anti-Hindu and partisan" event planned by anonymous organisers features speakers who have biased views. The groups have launched a campaign asking over 40 US universities listed as cosponsors to dissociate themselves from the event slated for 10-12 September.
Kher, a Kashmiri Pandit, said supposed desperate attempts by the DGH event organisers could only be "laughed at”, asked the audience to respond to them with “amusement”, and urged the gathering not to react to their provocations.
The actor's programme was part of his new initiative, Kher on Campus, and hosted by the Association of South Asians in Princeton and Lead India group on campus.
"Keep walking on the path of truth in this era of misinformation and malice, and you will shine," he told the gathering at the event celebrating India's 75th Independence Day.
The Hindu advocacy groups say their sustained campaign against the DGH event is yielding results with some of the universities distancing themselves from the conference. They also accuse the organisers of unauthorised use of names and logos of some universities.
The organisers, who have not disclosed their identity, maintain "that every single cosponsoring department, center, or program from the universities listed on our website continues to stand by the conference".
To a student's question on apparent labelling of the Indian people as "retrograde and exotic", Kher said such "colonial stereotypes" persist because of the “ignorance of others”, stressing that Indians would never do this to other civilisations because they are “the most large-hearted people”.
Kher, also a former chairman of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, was unsparing in his criticism of "our own people" from within India who he said engage in promoting anti-Hindu sentiments.
Kher also emphasised the importance of being a global ambassador for India, even as he focused on relaying messages of unity in diversity and cultural cohesiveness.