OP-ED: A Response to Hindu Youth Council's Press Release

Opinion:The grievance performance of Hindu Youth Council New Zealand

The press release issued by Hindu Youth Council New Zealand ‘criticising’ Prof. Mohan Dutta's white paper titled “Cultural Hindutva and Islamophobia,” is full of whataboutery, claiming the ownership of wider Hindu community and seeking to camouflage the existence of cultural Hindutva across the globe and particularly in Aotearoa New Zealand.

 The press release starts with an allegation that the white paper contains ‘several accusatory and unsubstantiated assertions against Hindus and in particular, the Hindu community living in Aotearoa'. This is a false accusation, without any evidence or actual reference to anything stated in the paper. The paper clearly and in depth, analyses cultural Hindutva, and not Hinduism. The press release mischievously conflates this fundamental distinction that forms the basis of the white paper.

The claims in the press release are so preposterous that I doubt whether the individuals who prepared this press release actually read the white paper at least once.

If the authors of the press release actually read the white paper, I would suggest their statement be reworded as the following  ‘several accusations and unsubstantiated assertions against cultural Hindutva and in particular the Hindu supremacists living in Aotearoa’. That will give you a better chance to debate the content of the white paper on its terms. Hindu Youth can then go about explaining why they have a problem with critical analysis of a right wing majoritarian political ideology that is described in the literature as almost fascist. Perhaps, Hindu Youth ought to explain their position with regard to the right wing political ideology of Hindutva.

Anyone who read the white paper will understand without a doubt that Prof. Dutta was focusing on Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), a far-right political ideology based on Hindu supremacy which is at work towards transforming the diversity of India into an exclusive concept of a Hindu nation. This process of imposing a monolithic reading of religion on India draws on monolithic language and monolithic cultural stories. To make up this monolith, Hindutva colonizes diverse Hinduisms and erases the caste and gender inequalities in society.

Cultural Hindutva is a key element in the dissemination of Hindu supremacist ideologies through their strategies of storytelling that continually construct the other. The creation of the Muslim other as the basis of domination forms the basis of Islamophobia in cultural Hindutva. In conflating Hindutva with Hinduism, the Hindu Youth press release mirrors the strategy of Hindutva organizations in India and in other parts of the world, producing the smokescreen of Hinduphobia to silence the criticism of a fascist ideology.  They even throw in a term Hindumisia that is in vogue in the Hindutva twitter sphere.

Furthermore, the press release accuses Prof. Dutta of drawing ‘many false equivalences, which attack the cultural and religious practice of Hindus'. I understand that false equivalence is a logical fallacy in which an equivalence with the flawed reasoning is drawn between two or more things. Now I went back and read the white paper again thinking I might have missed that part of false equivalences attacking the practices of Hindus. I couldn’t find any false equivalences or any mention of cultural and religious practices of Hindus in that 2-page white paper. There were no mentions made in the entire white paper on cultural practices of Hindus.

The only false equivalence at play is in the press release of Hindu youth council, a nugatory exercise to equate Hindutva and Hindu Nationalism with Hinduism and Hindus. Projecting this lie allows Hindu Youth then to play victim, throw in the label Hinduphobia, and then demand apology.

The press release then moved on to attack the ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva,’ Conference, drawing on the Hindutva strategy of accusing it of aiming to vilify the global Hindu community.

It peddles the lie that many reputable Universities globally have withdrawn their support for the conference, while the facts are that every university that committed to the conference supported it. The threats by Hindutva forces led to a large number of additional Universities signing up. By the time it wrapped up, the conference had 30,000 attendees from across the globe.

In the face of the efforts of tarnishing the Conference, it gained tremendous support from the leading intellectuals of South Asia. In this sense, Massey University is in stellar company of some of the leading institutions across the globe which include Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, to name a few. Hindu Youth should at the very least get their public relations team to do basic homework, lest they lose any and all credibility, and be seen as an extension of the Hindutva troll army.

Moving on, the Hindu Youth Council claims Hindu are advocates of free speech and academic freedom, which is actually one of the only accurate claims in the press release. But the question is not about the wider Hindu community, the question is what is the legacy of Hindu supremacists when it comes to free speech and academic freedom? The number of unlawfully incarcerated students, scholars, academics and political activists in India will give us the answer to this question.

The Hindu youth council, self proclaimed advocates of free speech and academic freedom have concluded their media statement with a message from their president Mr Murali Magesan, “The last thing Hindu Youth New Zealand wants to be doing is trying to inform more than 150,000 Hindus in New Zealand that Massey University endorses Hinduphobia and Hindumisia and Hindu students should look to alternative Institutes of higher education where they will not be marginalised and can feel safe". That sounds like a threat, and a campaign to boycott Massey University. Perhaps for the Hindu youth council, these are strategies of advocating for free speech and academic freedom.