The Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians (AAPI) is issuing this statement to express absolute solidarity with Professor Mohan Dutta and the heroic work undertaken at The Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at your prestigious institution. During his time so far at CARE, Professor Dutta has produced a crucial body of work that is anchored in academic rigour. This work has not only informed many students and academics but also social activist, journalists and the general public. CARE’s mahi is vital in promoting peace and maintaining democratic discourse against intolerance, violence, bigotry and hate-mongering.
AAPI is not surprised at the attack from Hindutva ideologues. This is not the first time they have targeted those who lay bare it’s fascist tendencies and bring to the attention of the public the atrocities committed by its adherents in India and within the Indian diaspora.
Hindutva is an extremist, exclusionary, nationalistic political ideology that endorses a monotheistic, puritanical, upper caste Brahmanical hegemonical world view that was created in 1923 and is not to be mistaken or confused with the ancient, pantheist conglomeration that is Hinduism.
It was a Hindutva ideologue that took up arms in 1948 to assassinate Gandhi, another burned the Australian Christian missionary Graham Steines and his two sons Philip and Timothy to death. Hindutva systematically disenfranchises Muslims, Christians and other Indian religious minorities. Hindutva endorses the caste system and hence the oppression of the Dalit communities. Hindutva also targets India’s indigenous peoples eroding their cultures and erasing their existence. Journalist Gauri Lankesh, social activists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi were all brutally murdered by Hindutva foot soldiers for standing up to their terror. Many students, activists and journalists are languishing in Indian prisons now, being refused their basic rights to health and wellbeing as well as access to support. The elderly Stan Swami, an indigenous rights activist, was not even allowed a straw to sip water while severely ill. Kashmir continues to be the most militarised region in the world with increased suppression of Kashmiris, even being denied mourning for their dead.
At the time of writing this letter the academics and activists from India who are participating in the Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference have received death threats and are likely to pull out of the conference to stay safe.
Hindutva conflates its chauvinistic ideology with Hinduism and any criticism of Hindutva is deliberately projected as ‘Hinduphobia’ or being anti-Hindu. They also do not hesitate to use the whiteness of Westerners to perpetuate this myth of ‘Hinduphobia’ as in the case of hate directed towards Professor Dutta where a white Australian woman Sarah L Gates has been the main instigator of this attack. She discovered the white paper exposing the Hindutva roots of the Chinmaya Mission and its links with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that was deemed a terrorist organisation by TRAC, the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium. While these links are mentioned in the white paper Sarah L Gates went on an offensive against Professor Dutta by not only attacking him on Twitter but tagging Hindutva fundamentalists to write to Massey University. It is not shocking at all that the university received so many emails as Hindutva supporters are a dedicated bot army. Sarah L Gates continues to harass Professor Dutta with utter impunity.
Ironic considering Hindutva ideologues dismiss scholars like Audrey Truschke and Wendy Donniger, with years of academic research grounded in pedagogy, as ‘outsiders’ while a white ‘yogini’ is acceptable.
Members of APPI have experienced similar hate attacks and threats from local Hindutva zealots in Aotearoa when highlighting the human right abuses and Islamophobic attacks. As such, AAPI has brought this to the attention of the Honourable Minister of Government Communications Security Bureau, Andrew Little and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) about the presence of these groups in Aotearoa and the danger they present in light of the Christchurch attacks. Hindutva believers have been emboldened since the tragic incident at Countdown, Lynnmall on 3rd September 2021 and AAPI has gathered enough evidence of the perpetuation of Islamophobia by these right-wing Hindus. It is important to explore the links between these groups from within Aotearoa and across the world, which is part of the crucial mahi that CARE and Professor Dutta do.
It is the responsibility of citizens in a democracy to maintain the privileges this democracy accords and to ensure humankind progresses towards equity, peace, and a state of aroha.
Academic freedom is key in preserving democracy and speaking truth to power.
AAPI strongly condemns these attacks that have taken on a personal nature and we stand unanimously with the CARE and Professor Dutta.
Ngā mihi nui,
The AAPI Team.