Post from an AAPI activist.
I am writing this blog feeling utterly disturbed, disappointed and unsafe in this multicultural country many of us, including myself, call home. A year ago, when I arrived in this small (and seemingly peaceful) country, I never thought that Hindutva (a political ideology that believes in the superiority of Hindus) would be so rampant and ingrained in the Indian diasporic community in New Zealand. As a researcher on Hindutva, it’s my responsibility to share with our community the imminent threats of violence surrounding us. While I have been working on this article and collecting these posts for months, there could not be a better time than now to publish it. Within the context of the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, the Hindu right is spreading most of the anti-Palestinian disinformation. An example of anti-Palestinian posts in this group is
Even though the post is less violent than many others that we see on the internet these days, the anti-Palestinian sentiment is clear. There are several other similar posts which reflect the support for Israel, that mirror India’s stance on the issue. However, that complex discussion is outside the ambit of this blog.
In this blog post, I will reveal and discuss the misogynistic and Islamophobic content circulated openly on Facebook groups. This blog will only focus on one such group called Hindus in New Zealand; however, it should be noted that several other and more radical groups exist openly online. The blog post has been written after my 6-month digital ethnography of this Facebook group.
The first post attacks both Muslims and “liberals” (read: anyone who propagates anti-Islamophobia). The creator makes fun of the “liberal” perspective that locates terrorism within the global context of colonisation and imperialism. This narrative is problematised and homogenised by the creator by painting Muslims as “terrorists” (and at the same time spreading disinformation about the Quran suggesting genocide of infidels). This plays into popular misinformation circulating for decades in Hindutva and Western discourses. The isolated verse is circulated (without context) in right-wing extremist groups that perpetuate Islamophobia (The verse was spoken in the context of a battle between Muslims and Muskriks of Mecca, who broke the peace treaty).
The next post should be examined within the context of the protests that arose from the shooting of an Algerian-descent teen boy. In June 2023, the 17-year-old was fatally shot by a French police officer. The incident “shook” the nation as the protests turned violent, with cars and buildings being set on fire and thousands of people arrested. The shooting highlighted the police brutality and ill-treatment of Arab and African migrants. The meme translates to, “You shelter me, and I will give you the same what I am giving France.” Using sarcasm and satire, the meme asks countries not to give refuge and shelter to Muslims by portraying Muslims as “terrorists”. The image of the pig is also used derogatively for Muslims (Pork is forbidden in Islam, and the image of the pig is intentionally used to offend Muslims).
The next image contrasts Hindu festivals and Muslim festivals. Firstly, there are questions about the image's veracity and, more importantly, the image stereotypes Muslims as murderous killers while Hindus as peaceful. Even though meat-eating is highly common amongst Hindus (like most other religious communities), the image plays the devil's advocate by isolating Muslims (and one of their festivals associated with meat-eating). Many festivals (including Christmas and Thanksgiving) centre around meat-eating practices, but the image targets Muslims. It also does another job of playing into the “us” vs “them” rhetoric, with the “us” being peaceful/colourful and the “them” being barbaric/dangerous. When circulated within the diaspora, the image paints “Hindus” as model minorities while Muslims as the dangerous “other”.
The next two posts should be looked at simultaneously within the context of murders of women (between 2019 and 2023) by their romantic partners (who also happen to be Muslim). Here, it should be noted that intimate partner violence is widespread in India (as all over the world), with 40-100% of women murdered by their former/current romantic partners (38% worldwide). The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that a woman is murdered by her intimate partner/family every 11 minutes. Without normalising this horrendous violence against women, I draw these statistics to suggest that violence against women is widespread (all over the world), and the narrative drawn by the Hindu right to blame a particular religious community is not only flawed but also highly dangerous. Again, I want to emphasise that the narrative of Muslims as “oppressors, dangerous to women” is not just vested in the Hindu right but also embedded in the White supremacist discourses furthered by the West. The convergence and intersections between the Hindu right have solidified, especially after 9/11.
The first image shows women murdered by their romantic partners (who also happen to be Muslim), reiterating the same narrative of Muslims as “barbarians”.
The next image depicts a girl saying, “Mera Abdul Alg Hai” (My Abdul (Muslim boyfriend) is different). And then she’s murdered in the very next panel - again reiterating the narrative of “love jihad” (a conspiracy theory according to which Muslim men woo Hindu women to convert them to Islam) and Muslims as “dangerous” or “barbaric”. The circulation of these images not only spreads misinformation about Muslims but also dangerously paints them as violators, murderers and oppressors. At the same time, these posts strip women out of any agency - depicting them as “naive, gullible and stupid,” bringing danger to themselves by being/loving a Muslim man. Instead of acknowledging the structures of violence against women, these posts “blame” women for the violence. This clearly aligns with the broader discourses of shame and safety, where any onus of their safety is vested with women (and the failure to do so is seen as a failure). As such, the posts are deeply misogynist and sexist as well.
Even though I have tens of such images/memes circulating similar anti-Muslim discourses, I cannot show them due to time, space and emotional bandwidth constraints. I, on behalf of AAPI, want to urge what Anjum Rahman, Founder of Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono and Spokesperson for Islamic Women’s Council, has already been demanding a country-wide law to monitor hate speech online. Without a law, such harmful images will continue circulating online, feeding into the already existing Islamophobic rhetoric.
AAPI would like to highlight that this Islamophobia is not in a vacuum but has grown in the white supremacist society of Aotearoa that has anti co-governance tours, where MP and leader of New Zealand First Winston Peters indulges in dog whistling to his racist followers and another MP, leader of ACT Party David Seymour stays silent on the murder of Palestinian children as if they do not matter.Or where acting Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thinks a ceasefire in Gaza is not realistic.
Statement From Sikh Council Of New Zealand Regarding The Murder Of Canadian-Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Statement from Sikh Council Of New Zealand regarding the murder of Canadian-Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil.
AAPI stands in solidarity with the Sikh Council and the wider Sikh diaspora affected by this incident. We have always spoken about the presence of Hindu extremist organisations across the world and their interference in the democratic processes of the countries in which they have set up shop. Hindutva methodologies are varied, wide and multi-pronged. They use the concept of multiculturalism and inclusion to promote Hindu supremacy. While concrete evidence about such activities, as required from a Western perspective are not always available, it is simple to join the dots and deduce from the pattern. For that, one must know and understand Hindu fascism.
In quite a few of our blog posts we have shown direct and indirect slink between white supremacy and Hindutva. We have written many times about how Australia’s resident Hindutva ideologue Sarah L Gates, a white person calling herself a yogini, targets ethnic migrant Indian activists and academics deliberately inciting violence.
We have earlier shown evidence of how Professor Mohan Dutta, researchers at the Centre for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), and activists at AAPI, mostly Indians, and a number of us Hindus, have been harassed by far-right Hindutva trolls driven by Gates.
She was a central player in the Hindutva role in the communal violence in Leicester and regularly appears on far-right Hindutva propaganda platforms in India. The popularity gained by Gates in the far-right hate ecosystem is a direct product of her targeting of Professor Dutta, CARE, and Indian diaspora activists.
Now Gates is indulging in conspiratorial collaborations with far-right white supremacists in Aotearoa New Zealand who have been targeting Professor Dutta.
Pay attention here to the conspiracy theory spun by the far-right The Platform, which, as expected becomes the fodder for far-right white supremacist Twitter handles such as @PCVBJF targeting Professor Dutta. And Australia’s resident Hindutva troll Sarah L Gates shows up like clockwork.
Elsewhere, @PCVBJF is seen promoting far-right hate.
Here’s another far-right account targeting Professor Dutta’s lecture on decolonisation.
Our resident Hindutva self proclaimed yogini pops up again to demonstrate her white supremacist credentials. Her method is to build her influence by pitching herself as an expert on decolonisation and dharma while aligning with far-right hate narratives attacking academics doing the actual work of decolonisation.
The white Hindutva decolonisation perpetuated by hatemongers like Gates is the Brahmanical way. Appropriating academic language to talk about colonisation of India by Islam in pre-British times, selectively extracting from Hinduism and unleashing violence on those Hindus that uphold Hinduism’s core ethos of pluralism and syncretism while upholding and propagating white privilege. Essentially forging together Hindutva and white supremacy into a singularity.
After all Hindutva is based on Nazi ideology and the founders were inspired by Hitler and Mussolini.
In settler colonial contexts such as Aotearoa and Australia then, this intersection must be highlighted as it harms their indigenous people the most.
And Hindutva’s sham of decolonisation must be called out each time we witness it.
This post here talks about white Hindu colonisers and their 'decolonisation projects'. https://www.aotearoaprogressiveindians.org/our_whakapapa_and_resisting_white_colonialist_attacks
On 22 July 2023 the New Zealand Herald carried an article about Hindu temples across Aotearoa receiving letters that were critical of idol worship and seemed to carry quotes from the Quran. AAPI wrote an open letter to journalist Cherie Howie, New Zealand Herald and other media including Radio New Zealand and their new Indian division critiquing this story and how such ‘receiving anonymous letters but implying it is the Muslim community’ is classic Hindutva methodology. (Letter included further in this post.)
Gaurav Sharma, senior Indian journalist at RNZ who does digital stories for their new RNZ Asia funded by NZ On Air’s Public Interest Journalism Fund, contacted us to talk to someone about this issue. We directed him to one of our activists. However Gaurav Sharma did not speak with this person. Instead the RNZ website carried a story quoting spokespersons from fascist organisation Hindu Council of New Zealand with the slightly shifting, obfuscating manner that is also classic Hindutva methodology. We wish to point out here that Gaurav Sharma used to edit Indian News, a hard right Hindu platform whose current editor Yugal Parashar openly abuses Indian activists. He called Professor Mohan Dutta a communist rat and despite a complaint to the Press Council had not taken down the article from his website at the time we write this.
But before we question Radio New Zealand on their questionable journalists and complicity in platforming a Hindu fascist organisation we want to break down the stories and show how the kōrero shifts to maintain the façade of decency while also being Islamophobic at the same time.
Even before that we wish to inform once again about the fascist origins of the Hindu Council Of New Zealand. It is the diaspora avatar of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that has been deemed a terrorist organisation. We also urge you to look at their exclusive definition of Hindu in the image below. Finally we ask you to read through our blog to understand how this organisation and affiliates function in Aotearoa.
As we publish this blog the VHP is busy with genocidal acts against Muslims in the Indian state of Haryana with impunity.
The Herald article.
We draw attention to the words ‘intimidating anonymous’ letters with ‘several passages quoted from the Quran, Islam’s holy book. And that Multicultural New Zealand organised a meeting with Hindu and Muslim community leaders. Also highlighted how the story quotes Pancha Narayanan about both Hindus and Muslims condemning the letters.
AAPI’s response below expresses our concerns about this story. We won't repeat it again separately in the blog.
The Radio New Zealand article.
On 31 July the RNZ website carried a story, without a byline, about the letters to Hindu temples. (The story was later posted on their Facebook page with comments turned off.) This time, representatives of fascist organisation the Hindu Council are quoted in the story.
- See how they now say the letter mentions saints and Jesus but yet call it vague.
- Then they go on to say the letters could have been written by anyone adding that the Muslim community had reached out.
- The organisation further says that ‘imported international tensions…can play up’. This alludes to not only Leicester but also India.
- The Hindu Council, particularly Selva, who is from Malaysia, has always preached to Indian activists that they should keep their concerns about the failing Indian democracy in India and not speak about it in Aotearoa.
- Finally, Tandon of the Hindu Council raises the bogie of Hinduphobia by talking about ‘alienation’ of the Hindu community saying they have asked other religious communities to look out for ‘suspicious’ characters. As if a shady person in ‘Islamic clothes’, beard, fez and all is lurking around writing letters to Hindu temples. This harks to Narendra Modi in 2019 when he alluded how Muslims could be identified by their clothes. Tandon is the caricature of a Sanghi WhatsApp Indian uncle with this statement.
Did you notice the shifting narrative in the two stories?
- From ‘intimidating’ to ‘vague’
- From strongly implying that a Muslim wrote it to ‘anyone’ could have written it.
- From seeking a meeting with Muslim leaders to ‘not pointing fingers’ at anyone. YET, saying that the Muslim community had reached out to express their support.
We reiterate here that the Indian Muslim community has not participated in this process of meeting or expressing support. Unlike the Hindu fascists that went to town about the Lynmall horror, the Indian Muslim community has stayed silent.
Most disappointing though is how this Radio New Zealand journalist has not attempted to speak to any member of the Indian Muslim community, not questioned the obfuscation from the Hindu Council, nor asked the police how it intends to investigate.
Instead, RNZ platformed a fascist Hindu organisation with terrorist roots. Would Radio New Zealand platform a Christofascist organisation? Would they platform a Chinese communist organisation? Would they have platformed the protestors outside Parliament?
Radio New Zealand has no cultural expertise on India, no pedagogy to lean on, no understanding. And if they are going to seek Gaurav Sharma’s expertise, who as we mentioned earlier, worked for hard right Hindu platform Indian News, then what weight would Radio New Zealand carry as a national broadcaster?
Now that their independent editorial audit has made 22 recommendations will RNZ investigate their journalist Gaurav Sharma’s connections with hard right Hindu platform Indian News and the Hindu Council that has well documented terrorist roots?
Will RNZ walk the talk or continue to be complicit with Hindutva ultimately losing all credibility and harming the wider Indian community?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to start his official state visit to the United States on 22 June 2023, where he will be addressing the joint session of Congress and attending a state dinner at White House. Prime Minister Modi says the visit is aimed to “deepen India-US ties in key sectors like trade, commerce, innovation, technology and other such areas”. However, Reuters last week reported that the US is pushing India to seal a big armed Sea Guardian drone purchase worth $2-3 billion. Earlier this year Air India (previously a public sector company) now owned by Indian Conglomerate Tata Sons, signed an agreement to purchase 200 aircrafts from the US manufacturer Boeing. President Biden described the deal ‘reflects the strength’ of Indo-US economic partnership, and was looking forward to strengthening this relationship even further, as both countries continue to ‘confront shared global challenges’- China?
Is this the shared global challenge that makes Joe Biden and the U.S. receive Narendra Modi despite his abysmal track record of human rights violations and democratic degradation of India or is it because Modi will allow trade deals that benefit American corporations?
Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States comes in the backdrop of turbulent and volatile internal politics of India. The Northeastern state of Manipur which has a government of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is witnessing an ongoing ethnic violence that has already killed more than 100 people predominantly Christians that belong to the Kuki tribe and thousands have been displaced from their homes.
India’s Olympic medal winning female wrestlers are protesting since January demanding a proper investigation into the sexual assault complaints made against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, senior BJP leader and parliamentarian Brij Bhushan Singh. The actions of Delhi police who tried to intimidate the wrestlers by forced detention and suppress the protest has derived condemnation from wider Indian public and international sports fraternity.
Narendra Modi has kept his usual silence in both the issues, and his government maintained its usual inaction. Narendra Modi and his BJP are expert at using his foreign visits to divert public attention from crucial internal issues whenever the government comes under fire.
On May 13th 2023, Narendra Modi and BJP faced an unprecedented defeat in the Karnataka State elections. Prime minister Modi was leading BJP’s elections campaign in Karnataka and attended 19 rallies and 6 roadshows. However, the people of Karnataka overwhelmingly rejected Narendra Modi, and BJP lost its only stronghold state in South India. The main opposition Indian National Congress bagged a thumbing victory and formed a government in Karnataka. BJP’s defeat in Karnataka sent shock waves across the top leadership of BJP as they fear this is the beginning of the end of Modi’s stardom that alone was supposed to be enough for them to win elections. Ten days after the Karnataka election defeat, Modi flew into Australia even after the QUAD summit was cancelled when Joe Biden pulled out to focus on debit talks. Modi in Australia, without any major official agenda on his list, attended a pre-planned private PR event at Sydney organized by his party men and hundreds of right-wing followers chanting Modi, Modi. Anthony Albanese attended this aggrandizing event as a guest in his own country and was seen saying ‘Modi is the Boss’.
The people of Karnataka who defeated Narendra Modi even after him attending 19 rallies and 6 massive road shows, proved to be a hundred times more democratic and politically conscious than Anthony Albanese who played second fiddle to Modi at this right-wing paid PR event.
Is it surprising then that when the people of India are democratically rejecting Modi, Western neoliberal masters like Albanese and Joe Biden project him as the ‘Boss’ because the last thing these leaders would want is for Narendra Modi to lose the next Indian general elections with a left leaning government in New Delhi that prioritizes the people of India over corporate interests.
After all the Russian crude that India buys has many takers across the democratic ‘anti-war’ Western world, the leaders of which have turned a blind eye to ongoing Chinese incursion on Indian soil.
On 21st March 2023, the Newsroom published an article ‘The secret to success with India’ in which national affairs editor Sam Sachdeva interviewed Dr. Ian Hall, deputy director of Australia Griffith Asia Institute and an academic on international relations. The article aimed to educate the public on what ‘they get wrong about India’ or in this case, what ‘they get wrong about Narendra Modi’, the prime minister of India.
We unpack this article here.
First things first, Newsroom’s national affairs editor does not mention the fact the Dr. Ian Hall is an Academic Fellow of the Australia India institute at the University of Melbourne. In March 2022, 13 academic fellows quit the Australia India institute because “…the Indian High Commissioner to Australia has intervened in the institute’s activities and there have been repeated instances where research or views that are unflattering to the image of India had been blanked.” The academics further alleged that “there was a reluctance to publicise commentary on caste and race, and that official events had “carried the flavour of propaganda”.” https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/academics-quit-melbourne-university-institute-over-foreign-interference-and-free-speech-concerns-20220406-p5ab8x.html
It is interesting to note that Dr. Ian Hall himself had signed a letter with fellow academics, raising similar concerns about the intervention of the Indian High Commission in December 2020. The letter signed by Dr. Hall explicitly states that “socio-political developments in India in recent years raise concerns relating to basic liberties, human rights and democratic values.” The letter further states that the “current majoritarian government has used sedition laws to curtail freedom of speech and has incarcerated academics and journalists as well as social workers with little evidence, due process or access to bail.”
We wonder what has changed in the last two years, Narendra Modi or Dr. Ian Hall?
Moving into the article, Dr. Hall is confident that Modi is going to win a third term in power in 2024. It is worth noting here that Prime Minister Modi, or his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured 37.36 percentage of the popular votes polled (total voter turnout 67.40 %) in 2019, and entered into a second term with an NDA coalition of 45% votes. Three major parties who were allies of BJP in 2019 have already left this coalition.
India experts such as Dr. Hall often forget that it's for the people of India to decide whom they should elect to run their government. Pro Indian democracy supporters are optimistic that the people of India will give a befitting reply to Mr. Modi and BJP for their anti-working class, corporate friendly policies and divisive politics that systematically erase the very existence of religious minorities and marginalised people.
Unlike Dr. Hall, the working class and poorer communities across India are clearly able to articulate that Modi’s ultimate goal is to serve his cronies like Adani and Ambani, and establish a monolithic Hindu state of India using this economic power.
Dr. Hall further observes that India stands out on the global stage rather than aligning to one side. To validate this claim, Dr. Hall points to the increase in India's crude oil purchase from Russia in the backdrop of the latter's invasion of Ukraine. The United states is quiet about these disagreements as they believe that over time, the interest of the U.S. and India will converge. (Modi has been invited on a state visit late in June 2023.) Dr. Hall failed to point out that it is the United States of America that is purchasing the refined petroleum products from India that are made from Russian crude oil.
On a side note, Gatik Ship Management, a dark mysterious company registered in Mumbai with an original fleet of two ships in 2021 now owns almost 60 ships that transports Russian crude to various ports.
This fleet’s insurance was declined ship insurance by major companies for flouting rules and is now covered by Indian companies.
Moving to the next part of the article, Dr Hall downplays Hindutva fascism and Narendra Modi’s role in shaping India's trajectory towards an increasingly authoritarian state. Dr Hall further attempts to make a distinction about what he calls hardline narrower Hindutva ideology, separating this from broader pride in India and stating that this India pride has some elements of ‘Hindu pride’.
Dr. Hall may not know ‘India pride’ originated as a resistance against the British imperialism and colonisation of the subcontinent so he gets it completely wrong when he says Indian pride has elements of ‘Hindu pride’. If this was the case post-independence and Partition in 1947, a Hindu state would have been formed, similar to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We Indians who have a long history of fighting the colonisers are aware of the colonising tactic of ‘divide and rule’. So, we set aside all our differences and united under one Tricolour flag to form a secular socialist state of India. In short, the Indian pride has not just the elements of Hindu pride; it has elements of Muslim pride, indigenous pride, Christian pride, and numerous regional and linguistic prides. This secular fabric of India is in danger under the Hindu supremacist rule of BJP.
Dr. Hall says the middle-class Indians have voted Modi as their lives have improved under his rule and ‘if Modi were to be replaced by more hardliner (Indian Hindu) nationalist the coalition of voters would fall apart and BJP would in turn fall out of power’. Now we seriously doubt what Dr. Hall’s definition of ‘hardliner’ is as Modi allegedly presided over a pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 that killed hundreds of Muslims. A BBC documentary on which was then not only banned by his government but students who attempted to screen it publicly on varsity campuses were also severely punished.
Perhaps Modi is not hardline enough for Dr. Hall?
Finally, Dr. Hall suggests that New Zealand India bilateral trade talks in effect had frozen because of ‘India's protectionist approach to its agricultural sector’. The reality is the farm sector had completely collapsed under Modi's rule, which favours the further privatisation of the agricultural sector. The farmers of India were seen agitating against the controversial farm laws; the diaspora communities in even Aotearoa and Australia have witnessed the waves of these protests and the hatred directed at them by local Hindutva adherents.
Apart from this, Adivasi (Indigenous) lands are constantly under attack under the watch of the Modi government. The mining rush by big corporates are stealing Indigenous lands and dispossessing Adivasi people out of their sacred spaces and ways of lives. The indigenous activists protesting against this land grab are jailed under draconian sections and Adivasi women are physically and sexually assaulted. It seems like Dr. Hall has had to work overtime to ‘whitewash’ Narendra Modi.
Aotearoa New Zealand and India should have strong bilateral relationships and trade that uphold the needs of the working classes and marginalised of both nations.
A bilateral trade relationship is not just between business elites and corporates. It should be between the people and to achieve this we must speak up against the atrocities committed by a fascist ideology and its Führer.
A year ago, far-right Hindu extremists, driven by their ideology of Hindutva, launched a vicious disinformation campaign targeting academics, a large majority of them Hindu, who had come together for a conference titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva.” The far-right Hindu extremists labelled these academics as “Hinduphobic” (a made up term equivalent to White Lives Matter), and targeted them with threats to their jobs, threat of rape and violence including murder. Mirroring the strategies of the white extremist far-right, Hindutva-related organisations launched letter-writing campaigns targeting the academics and the institutions that employed them.
Professor Vinayak Chaturvedi, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine wrote about these attacks on academia:
“In the United States, “Hinduphobia” has become a term deployed to denounce anyone who is concerned about inequality based on class, caste, race, religion, gender, and sexuality in India. Any less-than-celebratory study of the history and politics of India is branded as “Hinduphobic.” Academic research that provides a critique of Hindutva is often condemned for “hurting the sentiments of Hindus”—a clarion call dating back to the early 20th century.”
That Aotearoa New Zealand is not immune to the disinformation and hate ecosystem of Hindutva became amply evident when Professor Mohan Dutta, Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication and Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at Massey University came under attack. These attacks were led by a white Australian Hindu supremacist Twitter account over a white paper Professor Dutta wrote titled Cultural Hindutva And Islamophobia and CARE’s participation as a sponsor of the “Dismantling Global Hindutva” conference.
The Twitter assault as well as a petition organised by the white Australian Hindutva supremacist were picked up by the global Hindutva hate ecosystem including in India and was weaponised here in Aotearoa New Zealand by organisations like Hindu Youth and the Hindu Council of New Zealand (or, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of New Zealand, a militant organisation. See link towards the end of this post.). Professor Dutta was and still is the target of rape threats, death threats, and disinformation campaigns run from anonymous websites.
We note here with deep alarm that the same white Australian Hindu supremacist hate account as well as the anonymous twitter accounts and websites were connected to the recent Hindutva-led violence in Leicester.
Here’s an analysis by Professor Dutta of how the disinformation was mobilized by co-opting democratic and institutional processes in Aotearoa New Zealand.
At the crux of the disinformation campaign was the framing of Professor Dutta, a practicing Hindu, as Hinduphobic. (We would like to remind here that Hinduism is a pantheist, pluralistic religion where practices, rituals and prayers are vast and varied. There is no monolith, no singularity. Therefore, one person’s practice may not be the same as another’s).
As part of the disinformation campaign here in Aotearoa, the Indian media platform Indian Newslink put up a press release from Hindu Youth. It says at the top of the article "Editor’s Note: The following is a Press Release. Indian Newslink is contacting Professor Mohan J Dutta of Massey University for an interview." There is no follow up to that statement. At the time of writing this post we asked Professor Dutta if Indian Newslink had asked him to comment. Professor Dutta said that the editor did a lengthy video interview with him that was never published! We, as members of AAPI, had written a counter response to the Hindu Youth press release that was also never published. We point out here that in carrying a propaganda piece by Hindutva, Indian Newslink ditched even their usual façade of journalistic ethics and note with grave concern that it has continued to carry the disinformation piece even a year after its propaganda has been thoroughly debunked.
The original post of the press release tagged Dr. Pushpa Wood, a Massey academic and community leader who positions herself as representing the Hindu community.
In an earlier analysis by AAPI activist Oscar Romero of the disinformation spread by Hindu Youth that we published on our platform, Romero argued,
“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.”
Hindumisia is another false construct; a neologism derived from Greek mȋsos or hatred. Consider the direct cut-and-paste of the Hindutva propaganda targeting the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, by the Hindu Youth press release:
“What is more shocking is that Massey University is co-sponsoring a highly controversial and Hinduphobic Conference ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva,’ a Conference aimed at vilifying the global Hindu community. Many reputable University’s names have been tarnished because of the association of their department’s participation in this Conference. There have been numerous requests from various Universities globally to take down their logos, multiple edits to the ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ website as universities withdraw, a legal challenge from Harvard University for using its name to scam people. This is the kind of Conference that Massey University is co-sponsoring. Seeing Massey University endorse a Conference such as this is a blot on the legacy of the University and demonstrates the University’s endorsement of Hindumisia.”
Observe the disinformation spread by the Hindu Youth. For instance, contrary to their claim, the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University continued to remain a sponsor of the conference despite an aggressive hate campaign targeting it.
But returning to Dr. Wood, we wondered, why would someone that offers much rhetoric about interfaith and occupies spaces of interfaith in Aotearoa let themselves be tagged through their Facebook page to a Hindutva disinformation campaign and not decry it? Instead, Dr. Wood made a public Facebook post ( not currently publicly accessible so, it’s either deleted or turned to a private setting) about feeling aggrieved by Professor Dutta’s white paper, further sharing the disinformation-based propaganda posted by Hindu Youth. In her post referring to the white paper, Wood writes:
“Feeling under attack for being a Hindu…But for the first time in 40 years, I feel under attack for following my traditions, continuing with my cultural practices, which I feel are integral part of me!”
We point out here the fabrication that conflates Professor Dutta’s criticism of Cultural Hindutva with her personal expression of Hinduism.
So, we ask:
- Does she think the Hindu religion and the fascist Hindutva ideology critiqued in the white paper are the same?
- Does Dr. Wood identify herself and her religious traditions and cultural practices that she depicts as being attacked as Hindutva or Hinduism?
We wish to note here that some Hindus often describe Hinduism as a ‘way of life’, also conflated into Hindutva, which is Savarna (Hindu upper caste) code to kill any discussion about the caste system, about the misogyny, the patriarchy, and proto-fascist thinking denying reform. A topic for another blog.
Dr. Wood’s obfuscation is what Professor Dutta describes as communicative inversion in his academic work; the process of turning the truth on its head. If Dr. Pushpa Wood does not identify as being part of Hindutva or the proto fascist ‘way of life’ inversion, then she had nothing to feel attacked about.
Dr. Wood then refers directly to the white paper and the New Zealand Herald article that outlined the hate Professor Dutta was receiving. She goes on to suggest that the Herald coverage of the hate targeting Professor Dutta was somehow leading her faith to be questioned.
Once again, both the Herald article and Professor Dutta’s white paper were explicitly discussing the far-right extremist ideology of Hindutva. So, unless Dr. Wood subscribes to the Hindutva ideology, she had nothing to be concerned about. It was the Islamophobia of Hindutva that was and should be questioned, and not Hinduism. In fact, Professor Dutta and the Herald article (including the subsequent articles and media interviews) go to great lengths to make this distinction. In his white papers and in his several media interviews, Professor Dutta painstakingly delineates the difference between the two concepts and states that Hindutva is a threat to the pluralism of Hinduism.
When this distinction is pointed out to Dr. Wood on her Facebook post, she ignores and disengages the comments posted.
In fact, the interfaith activist Joseph Thomas goes to great lengths to point out the targeting of Professor Dutta, himself a Hindu and the Hindutva strategy of conflating Hindutva with Hinduism. At this point, if we assume that she is still disavowing Hindutva, then as an academic at least she would have gone on to look at the links Joseph Thomas posted. Instead, she pressed on with the propaganda.
We note with alarm that in the public setting, the post played a key part in bringing in trolls, including the white Australian Hindu supremacist. (The Facebook account Malini Sara who takes credit for raising the issue is the same person as the white Australian Hindu supremacist Twitter account @SarahLGates1] that started the campaign targeting Professor Dutta and propagated Islamophobia after the Leicester violence. In this instance, the account directly engages with the New Zealand politician and community leader Dr. Ashraf Choudhary, demonstrating how foreign interference works. It concerns us that someone actively spreading disinformation in this instance was invited to the Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism conference that directly emerged in response to the Christchurch terrorist attack driven by Islamophobic hate.
It is surprising that as an academic she did not:
- publicly distance herself from disinformation or
- show concern towards a fellow academic when over 100 world renowned academics were writing in support of Professor Dutta and CARE. We at AAPI created and circulated a petition in support of Professor Dutta that was signed by over 300 people. A number of Indian organisations including Bhagat Singh Charitable Trust, Hindus for Human Rights and Indian Association of Minorities of New Zealand, Guru Ravidass Sabha, Bombay Hill, New Zealand; Dr Ambedkar Sports and Culture Association, New Zealand; Dr Ambedkar Mission Society, New Zealand; and Begampura Sikh Temple, New Zealand. (It is powerful to witness the strong presence of Dalit and minority organisations in the support for Professor Dutta. Communities excluded by Hindu organisations.)
- question comments by the white Australian Hindu supremacist who openly propagates violence and Islamophobia.
Later in an interview to Stuff in October 2021, Dr. Wood along with Manjit Grewal, each representing themselves as interfaith leaders, are witnessed stating:
“Both say no-one has ever raised concerns about Hindutva with them. They say New Zealand shouldn’t be importing other countries’ problems.”
The Stuff article notes,
“But, at the same time, they imply there is nothing to discuss.”
We find these claims by two community leaders presenting themselves to be leaders in the interfaith space (and by appearance, placing themselves to be experts in the space related to South Asia), disingenuous. One of AAPI’s activists Dr. Sapna Samant, a Hindu herself, raised concerns about Hindutva in 2007, which Dr. Wood should have been aware of as an interfaith leader and a Hindu. Indian Muslims, including Muslim community leaders, have been raising concerns about Hindutva and the Islamophobia attached to Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand for some time too.
Dr. Wood then goes on to offer the following criticism of Professor Dutta’s white paper:
“When we sit down to speak, along with Wellington Interfaith Council chairman Manjit Grewal, Wood has a list of points she wants to make about Dutta’s paper: it’s too short, it doesn’t give enough historical context, it does not delineate Hindutva from Hinduism, and the academic hasn’t been in the country long enough to be an expert.”
Two points to note here:
- Her criticism that the paper does not delineate Hindutva from Hinduism is patently incorrect, with the paper offering detailed references to the literature on Hindutva.
- For someone who draws on their credentials as an academic, saying “ the academic hasn’t been in the country long enough to be an expert” shine a light on her own lack of understanding about how academic expertise works. If this is Dr. Wood’s criterion of expertise then it is surprising that she feigns no knowledge of Hindutva after having lived in Aotearoa New Zealand for forty years and presented herself as a Crown expert on Indian culture! Not even after the Combined Threat Assessment Group identified Hindutva as Identity Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE)!
We are concerned that Dr. Pushpa Wood continues to represent herself as voice in interfaith, countering violent extremism, and other spaces such as expert witness for the Crown on Indian culture while conflating Hinduism and Hindutva, while sharing a disinformation campaign led by Hindutva, while denying the presence of the fascist extreme right wing Hindu ideology in Aotearoa New Zealand in spite of clear evidence. We are concerned she associates with a white Australian Hindu supremacist figure who freely pushes violence and Islamophobia in the name of Hinduism. We are concerned that after a year since the campaign began and has been thoroughly debunked by academic experts globally, that she has not publicly removed herself from the disinformation campaign of Hindu Youth and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of New Zealand also known as the Hindu Council of New Zealand (the VHP was earlier named by the Central Intelligence Agency as religious militant organisation]).
As a collective of diverse Indians, we thus question her fitness in interfaith and countering violent extremism settings, and the lack of safety her presence creates, particularly for Indians of minority gender and faith identities.
We invite Dr. Wood to respond to this blog by writing to us on our page that AAPI will post verbatim on our website:
- What is her current state of knowledge about Hindutva in India, globally and in Aotearoa New Zealand?
- Does she have a relationship with Hindutva organisations in India, globally and in Aotearoa New Zealand?
- Does she agree with or reject her association with the extremist Hindu propaganda piece from Hindu Youth that Indian Newslink published without any semblance of journalistic ethics and balance?
- Why did she write the Facebook post spreading the disinformation targeting a fellow academic critical of Hindutva while conflating Hinduism and Hindutva?
- If this was a mistake, will she apologise to Professor Dutta and to those Hindus who are critical of Hindutva?
- What does she propose is needed to counter Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand while working in the interfaith and countering violent extremism spaces now that the evidence about its presence is clear?
- Given that it is now well established that the disinformation campaign targeting Professor Dutta had imprints of foreign interference into academic freedom, will she publicly reject such interference?
- What safety does she guarantee those minority Indians in interfaith and counter terrorism spaces she associates herself with and condones the violent white Australian Hindu supremacist?
It was the weekend of 12th-13th May 2007. The weekend of the 1st Hindu Conference of New Zealand to talk about "The contribution of Hindu community to the national life of New Zealand".
My bullshit radar had been beeping non-stop since I came to know about it.
I grew up in Girgaon in old, conservative Mumbai. My maternal grandfather participated in the freedom struggle against the British and my paternal grandfather, a GP and a socialist, had been elected as a councillor in the first municipal elections of Mumbai held after independence. My father was part of the Samyukta Maharashtra Chalwal, a resistance movement to carve out the linguistic state of Maharashtra that included Bombay. The centre and business investors at that time wanted Bombay in Gujarat. It was a movement of working class, Marathi speaking people. My ancestors are from the west coast of the state, the paternal side from Bondiyal gaon (village), Tendoli, district Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, to be precise. The Samant surname is very specific and found only in two communities in India. Maharashtra and Bengal. We are fish eating, meat consuming Hindus. Even when we go visiting the temples of our village deity and the clan deity, we’ll eat the delicious fresh fish cooked the way only us Konkanis know. The only time my side of the Samant whānau becomes vegetarian is five days of the Ganpati festival when we bring home the idol. Although my grandmother was casteist (and I think my mother has some casteist practices in the kitchen), my grandfather did not believe in rigid religious practices, and instead regaled us with the vastness and diversity of Hinduism. It was about accepting and including.
We did not think Hindu fundamentalism could even exist. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) practiced their daily drill behind our building and VD Savarkar, the founder of Hindutva, the fascist ideology, was omnipresent. We did not see the rigidity, the dormant idea of a Hindu nation, the toxicity, the patriarchy, the indoctrination of youth or the deep hatred towards non-Hindu and caste oppressed Indians. My India was a society where all religions, castes and communities co-existed without needing to explain themselves. We all believed in this India.
Until LK Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started his Rath Yatra (Chariot Rally) in October 1990 with the intention of agitating Hindus across India to build a Ram temple in place of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya. The rally left a trail of violence everywhere it went. Being an avid newspaper reader, a habit encouraged by my grandfather, the meaning of Hindutva seeped into my consciousness. I remember Lalu Prasad Yadav, the chief minister of the state of Bihar denying them into his state. Lalu, who was treated like a village buffoon by the Indian English media. Then on 6th December 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by angry Hindu mobs setting off violent Hindu-Muslim riots across India. Even Mumbai, then known as Bombay, was badly affected. Innocent labourers were killed, pregnant women set alight in cars, shops looted, stripped bare of electric wires even. Our patients would come into the clinic and tell us stories about how they took weapons into Muslim localities at night and how Muslims ‘have violence in their blood’, the maha-aartis (very loud and crowded version of a devotional singing ritual) began in the smallest temples to assert Hindu identity, people started greeting each other with ‘Jai Shri Ram’, wearing marks on their foreheads symbolising their upper caste identities. One day rioters gathered around a friend’s building. Her Muslim father alone at home. I remember frantically calling my social networks on the old black dial telephone trying to get a contact high up to just send the bloody army that was patrolling the streets to her locality and scare off the Hindu men.
Then on 12th March 1993 a series of 12 bomb blasts exploded across Bombay a retaliation by mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. My sister was working at the Sea Rock Hotel at when a bomb went off there. She was/is fine. A cousin was working in the Air India building at Nariman Point and hit by shattering glass. He came into our clinic bleeding from his head and arm. I remember removing the shards meticulously and calmly.
All this for a Hindu nation?
In his book The Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru describes India as a palimpsest. Hinduism is just one small part of a rich culture and society. Even the word Hindu isn’t from the land these extremists want to turn into a Hindu nation. It was given to us by those from the West of the Sindhu (Indus) river.
So when I saw an invitation for the 1st Hindu Conference of New Zealand, my radar went on high alert. That Aum, the saffron, the coded language. It was very familiar. I needed to confirm. Maybe I was wrong? No I was right. The saffron flags, the Aum, the scarves, the prayers, the salute, the clothes…this was Hindu extremist territory. What the heck were they doing in New Zealand?
I wrote about it. Here is an extract.
‘It is a pity. In the sixtieth anniversary of India’s independence when the Western world had not given her democracy one chance in hell she has lived through external and internal problems. Multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural India can lead the world in understanding pluralism and tolerance. Instead these Hindu fundamentalists constantly hark back to a mythical golden land and with their blinkered view are stuck in a 5000-year-old time zone. How does that help with living in present day New Zealand? When concepts like national identity and national life are problematic in themselves and require critical discussion, projections of a singular Hindu Indian identity in New Zealand is harmful to the Indian and mainstream community. It does not help with creating intercultural spaces and harmony nor does it assist policy-makers and government officials in any way. And politicians either don’t seem to understand or prefer to fudge contexts. Sir Barry Curtis called Manukau City the ‘Hindu capital of New Zealand’ at the opening ceremony. What did he mean by that? Did the Prime Minister mix up the ‘Hindoos’, the old Indian immigrants with the fundamentalist Hindus or was it deliberate to please Labour constituents? No wonder the stereotypes keep perpetuating.’
Michael Field of Fairfax was the only mainstream journalist who picked up my concerns about the presence of Hindu extremists in New Zealand and asked questions of Asia New Zealand Foundation, Helen Clark’s office and megarich businessman Vinod Kumar of the Hindu Council of New Zealand (the Indian businessman who is Managing Director of Nido according to his LinkedIn account and was previously the owner of a number of Mitre10 chains).
Darpan, a show on Triangle TV interviewed me.
That is when the intimidation began.
Hindu extremists have several techniques of intimidation.
1:- They get personal and demean you.
I was doxed, called a failed doctor, asked to change my religion. I was a single woman hence generally 'insignificant' plus an easy target for misogynist upper caste Hindu men.
2:- They entangle you in legal paperwork misusing democracic processes set up to maintain transparency. (Here is a recent example of how they inundated Massey University and Professor Mohan Dutta.) The vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is a family) spouting Vinod Kumar of the Hindu Council of New Zealand complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority that the interview ‘has seriously breached the broadcasting standards and in turn have caused a very serious damage to Hindu Council of New Zealand, the organisers and Hindus at large.’
Same upright charming citizen called me a rapist at a meeting where he, the former New Zealand First Member of Parliament with ties to the Hindutva outfit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Mahesh Bindra and few other ‘real Hindus’ had gathered to object to my input as a Hindu to a religious diversity organisation.
For all their denying,the Hindu Council of New Zealand IS the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), declared a militant organisation by the CIA. Here is a Twitter thread from Dr Audrey Truschke explaining more about the violence of VHP-America.
Look carefully at the definition of Hindu ‘developed in Bharat (i.e. India)’ is code for Islam and Christianity as coming from outside of India. Plus ‘a person calling himself Hindu’ is code for white supremacist converts to Hinduism; those that perpetuate Hindutva.
In August 2019 Narendra Modi was elected for his second term as the Prime Minister of India and he abrogated article 370 removing the special status of Kashmir, a long-disputed land on the subcontinent. A Muslim majority state that had been promised plebiscite which never materialised. There was a troubled period in the history of Kashmir where Kashmiri Hindus were killed by militants and that hurt needs to be addressed. Instead, by abrogating article 370, the Hindu extremists began their settler-colonial land grab. Kashmir is the most militarised region of the world. It also has had the longest internet blackout in a democracy.
Kashmiris in Auckland gathered that August to protest this move by the government of India and I spoke at the event.
Veer Khar, an ‘important’ Kashmiri Hindu man demanded to talk to me after and warned that I was ‘being watched’ by the Indian High Commission for hobnobbing with the ‘enemy’. He also called for a Muslim genocide a few months later in response to a protest some of us organised to highlight the Citizenship Amendment Act. Veer Khar has received up to $820, 000 of Crown funding towards a Diversity Centre in Papatoetoe! The irony.
Other techniques of intimidation Hindutva style are:
3:- To threaten reporting activities of Indians in the diaspora to the diplomatic mission so they fear
never being able to visit India.
4:- To label Indians protesting Hindutva as “fringe,” “anti-national,” “Hinduphobic,” “jihadist,”
5:- Keep saying their opponents ‘have not read/don’t understand’
6:- To insist Indians that are critical of Modi and Hindutva are creating fake news
7:- To use sexual and other forms of violent abuse.
Finally, there is the threat of violence towards you on a global scale by ‘criminalising’ you within the Hindutva ecosystem. They call you anti-Hindu or Hinduphobic a made up word the equivalent of White Lives Matter; they dehumanise, belittle and decontextualise everything you do or say. They stalk you online.
Early this year a Hindu extremist website operating anonymously and linked to the Hindutva network in India and across the diaspora that has been deemed a hate site targeting critical voices posted my face and information on their home page with images of almost 200 tweets, the violent subtext of which is very clear.
They tweeted about it generating the standard reaction one gets from all kinds of supremacists.
Note the similarity of language across these Hindu extremists.
We also of course have this Australian white supremacist Hindutva adherent with no stake in India who is also an online stalker and incites violence globally.
The kind brown Hindutva elevates because brown Hindutva is still mentally enslaved by the British Raj just like VD Savarkar was. A recent tweet from the Australian white supremacist Hindutva adherent about Professor Mohan Dutta generated a death threat to him by a Hindu extremist. It is in Hindi and says 'Should we kill Datta sister? You only have to command.'
I have never engaged with any of the above except to draw attention to the hate and speak out about it, especially amidst the continual gaslighting by the various Crown ministries. My mahi is to highlight the presence of Hindutva in Aotearoa, how it is a danger to our democracy and how it disrupts social cohesion. (That the minister whose job it is to develop the social cohesion policy has never publicly acknowledged the presence of Hindutva in Aotearoa the topic of another blog.)
Below are screenshots of the article published on the SHHAN site. Notice how my critique about Hindutva is turned into a generic ‘against all Hindus’ argument. Notice the erasures of diversity and the rich history of intellectual debate within Hinduism, notice the singularity.
Notice the stalking again. As if there is a person/team dedicated to taking screenshots of my tweets and pressing the ‘generate outrage’ button. Notice the self-aggrandisement of Hindu extremists and inability to think about our society, our world, our universe and co-existence.
The disinformation and hate generated by Hindutva is very much present here in Aotearoa New Zealand and has been present here for over a decade. By being present at events of Hindutva
aligned organisations, by funding these organisations, and by lending credibility to the upper caste Hindutva supporting Indian men with economic power, the Crown has been a key player in enabling
the Hindutva ecosystem here.
According to Gregory Stanton, the head of Genocide Watch, Islamophobic hate in India has reached genocidal proportions.
The film “The Kashmir Files” has further mobilized the hate ecosystem of Hindutva in India. This hate is evident in the mobs chanting slogans threatening violence toward Muslims. In cinemas, crowds of chanting people are seen calling for the killing and extermination of Muslims, for revenge to be taken against Muslims, and for Muslim women to be raped by Hindu men.
The film is set to release in Aotoearoa on 24 March 2022 and Muslim communities have voiced their concerns about security with the screening of the movie. These concerns should be read in the context of the trauma experienced by Muslims in Aotearoa on 15 March 2019 with the Christchurch terrorist attack. These concerns should also be looked at from the perspective of the Indian and Kashmiri Muslim whānau with Islamophobic genocidal hate being targeted towards them by Hindutva in India and in the diaspora.
David Shanks, the chief censor, is reviewing the film’s classification as standard procedure in response to these concerns. This review has allegedly delayed the scheduled launch date of the film on March 24.
And this delay, much like any potential critical evaluation of the Hindutva propaganda ecosystem, has become the target of disinformation. Within two days.
On March 18, the director of the film, Vivek Agnihotri, a Hindutva ideologue, tweeted:
See here how a legitimate process in Aotearoa is undermined and called an ‘undemocratic tactic’ while labelling the Muslim community ‘radical’.
The tweet as picked up and mobilized by Hindutva adherent Twitter accounts and Facebook pages in Australia and New Zealand. The Facebook page, “Hindus in NZ” that circulates Islamophobic hate, started mobilizing Hindus in New Zealand to speak up.
Hindutva’s resident white supremacist Sara L Gates jumped in to add her two bits, ironically mocking herself. She has mobilised Islamophobic hate before and has trolled Professor Mohan Dutta for a white paper he wrote on cultural Hindutva.
Three petitions were started over the weekend that continued to perpetuate Islamophobia.
Agnihotri tweeted one petition.
This tweet generated Islamophobic responses:
Opportunistic politicians jumped in just like they did with the anti-vax campers in Wellington. Winston Peters posted on Facebook:
The post states, “The film is about true and real events surrounding the 1990 ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir and today over 400,000 Kashmir Pandits remain in exile after 32 years. To censor this film is tantamount to censoring information or images from the March 15th atrocities in New Zealand, or for that matter removing from public knowledge all images of the attack on 9/11.”
Note here the deployment of disinformation to set up the propaganda. The post is shared by Mahesh Bindra, a former New Zealand First politician with close ties to the Hindutva hate organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The post is picked up by right-wing Hindutva ideologues across the Indian diaspora in Aotearoa New Zealand. One such post made by Saten Sharma and tagging the Minister of Ethnic Communities, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, among others:
The issue was also picked by right-wing party ACT. https://www.act.org.nz/minister_tinetti_must_explain_unusual_kashmir_censorship
David Seymour of ACT states here:
“The Kashmir Files is clearly controversial for some New Zealanders, but New Zealand is a country committed to freedom of expression. Furthermore, the film is widely regarded as being based on facts and has being defended by Indian Prime Minister Narandra (sic) Modi as such.
It appears some complainants have had the film censored but answer to uncomfortable issues is not censorship. The New Zealand Government should not try to resolve foreign disputes by censoring one side in favour of the other. If you come to New Zealand, you accept New Zealand values such as free speech.”
Observe here the way in which Seymour draws on the right-wing hate propaganda of Hindutva, in the form of the defense of the film by Narendra Modi, who has previously been condemned by global rights community for his alleged role in the Gujarat pogrom that led to the murder of over 2000 Muslims. His government has indiscriminately jailed activists, journalists, artists and whoever opposes his regime.
Another conservative MP, Melissa Lee of the National Party, chipped in.
Note this meeting ground of the malcontents flying the flag of supremacy over the bogey of free speech and Seymour calling it a ‘New Zealand value’. Note also how the anxiety of the Indian Muslim community in Aotearoa is not even acknowledged.
Facts don’t matter in the Hindutva propaganda structures, and the disinformation infrastructures of right-wing political parties such as New Zealand First and ACT draw on the propaganda to fuel divisions in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In a Facebook video, Mr. Roy Kaunds, a right-wing media mouthpiece with known links to the far-right white supremacist communication networks of Alps and De Ment, (see our piece here) asks
“What the hell does David Shanks know about the Kashmir genocide? Has he studied it? He goes and makes some rubbish statements…this David Shanks appears to be a complete idiot.” He also calls the chief censor a “total, incompetent, nincompoop idiot”.
Muktesh Pardeshi, the Indian High Commissioner, in an interview with Indian Weekender, states, “If it is not creating disharmony in India, why should it create disharmony in New Zealand?”
The lie “There has been no issues anywhere….” moves from the right-wing propaganda networks to the attempts at influencing regulatory decisions in Aotearoa by the representative of a foreign government.
These interpenetrating networks of hate overtly seem to target a regulatory body following due process in response to real concerns expressed by a traumatised community but the real aim is to attack the government. Even as we write, the Indian Weekender, which received funding of $750,000 over three years for four journalists under the Public Interest Journalism Fund but never carries the NZOA logo or mentions PIJF, is opining on free speech and censorship while implying the classification board is being influenced by unknowns. Typical conspiracy rhetoric.
In the climate of disinformation that is being seeded and circulated by right-wing groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is crucial for politicians to actively and critically speak out against it. On one hand, we are disappointed by the politicians of right-wing political parties such as ACT and New Zealand First. On the other hand, we are concerned by the silence of Indian-origin politicians of Labour, MPs Gaurav Sharma and Priyanca Radhakrishnan.
Unlike their Māori and tagata Moana colleagues who speak up about issues in their communities, the Indian MPs seem to be sitting on the fence about the disinformation tactics used by the Hindutva ecosystem to not only perpetuate hate, but also target the government and Prime Minister. We are concerned especially since the Ministry of Ethnic Communities touts their social cohesion project as a response to the Christchurch terror attack.
*We acknowledge the pain and trauma of Kashmiri Pandits and their stories deserve to be told such they are healing and restorative.
ERASURES, UNTRUTHS AND ETHICS
Hindutva media in the diaspora: The double speak of Indian Newslink
Hindutva in the diaspora needs to be tactically savvy in order to disseminate its hate politics and seed disinformation while simultaneously performing inclusive multiculturalism to be accepted by the Pākeha (and tangata whenua). It must make sure that it speaks the language of democracy and rights in the diaspora while erasing alternative voices and perpetuating untruths
The local Indian media in Aotearoa is complicit such that it not only amplifies Hindutva but also disregards journalistic ethics.
Let’s look at Indian Newslink.
This is the Indian media platform, claiming to be the diaspora’s oldest platform, that carried the disinformation and hate targeting Professor Mohan Dutta spread by Hindu Youth in the form of a press release.
When it first carried the piece, the platform tagged Hindu community ‘leaders’ whose names started disappearing as we, along with other progressive Indian diaspora organizations, started pushing back at the disinformation spread by the Hindu Youth.
When AAPI submitted a counter letter to Indian Newslink, we never heard back from the editor.
On Saturday 26 February, AAPI held a protest in solidarity with hijabi Indian Muslim women in the Indian state of Karnataka.
It was a gathering of all Indians, centred around Indian Muslim women, to protest and expand the sisterhood.
Indian Newslink carried a report: https://indiannewslink.co.nz/protest-meet-affirms-womens-right-to-wear-hijab/
An unethical report full of erasure and untruth.
It says the protest took place after a march. Which is not true.
The article then goes on to say that it was ‘a result of an incident that sparked widespread protest in the South Indian State of Karnataka and another, seemingly related incident at the Otago Girls’ High School based in Dunedin.’ This is pure conjecture, conflation and trickery.
Finally, ALL the photos in this report have been grabbed from AAPI’s Facebook page without permission.
Let’s break this down.
Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians is a group of Indians critiquing and questioning the erosion of democracy in India since 2019. While local Indian media focuses on endorsing the Hindu-isation of India, AAPI’s role is to shine a light on the vital, pluralistic, democratic, socialist, secular republic that India is and can be.
By not acknowledging the organisers of this protest event, Indian Newslink obliterates the diverse voices registered through AAPI. Much like Hindutva leaders who occupy the spaces of power and control in the Indian diaspora, all the diaspora Indian media aligned with Hindutva actively works to erase various progressive views from the community that challenge the misogynist hate politics of Hindutva. This enables narrative monopoly to project the Indian diaspora as a singularity.
The erasure of gender diverse communities, women, Dalits, Muslims, and progressive socio-political organizations in the diaspora is integral to upholding the structure of the Indian diaspora as a conservative space controlled by upper caste, economically solvent, largely Hindu men.
By presenting individual voices of Indian Muslim women participating in the protests it not only otherises them but also removes supportive infrastructures that anchor the multiple identities we have as Indians and mobilise against the politics of Hindutva.
Thus, singling out and individualising protest participants with words such as ‘featured women from the South Indian State of Karnataka’ reifies the power of the Hindutva surveillance state. And invisibilizing the organisers maintains that power.
The article begins with false information. That there was a march before the protest.
Then it mischievously states, “The protest was a result of an incident that sparked widespread protest in the South Indian State of Karnataka and another, seemingly related incident at the Otago Girls’ High School based in Dunedin.” This construction is devoid of the framing of the overarching Islamophobia that drives the attack on women’s right to wearing hijab both in Karnataka and Dunedin. It intentionally conflates the purpose of the protest as overreach. In fact, nowhere does the article mention Hindutva or the white supremacy that breeds Islamophobia culminating in violence on Muslim women’s bodies.
THE (NON) ETHICS:
Indian Newslink calls itself a news media platform but fails key ethical and legal journalistic principles by publishing photographs from AAPI’s Facebook page without acknowledgment.
This loops back to the erasure. Because to seek permission to publish the photos, Indian Newslink would have to contact AAPI and by contacting AAPI it means recognising the collective and having to answer questions about the purpose of this article. It means not lying about a march or individualising and otherising Indian Muslim women, it means not conflating. It means Indian Newslink would be required to do due diligence.
None of which is obligatory while working in the Hindutva space yet exert their privilege to do a report on the protest.
AAPI received an email from the editor of Indian Newslink after the protest was over demanding to know more about the protest.
It clearly demonstrates the lack of due diligence and the entitlement of local Indian media. A report about the protest ticks the box about ‘balance’, that Indian Newslink does indeed make space for ‘others’. But how does a journalist do their research? How do they use language to frame issues? Is this email ordering AAPI to explain why the protest was organised?
This insidious game of speaking from both sides enables Hindutva media in the diaspora to cozy up to politicians, be in their good books, and curry favours. The politicians too (particularly from parties posturing progressive politics) can conveniently align with the Hindutva media, pointing to the platform’s coverage of a protest against the attack on Muslim women’s right to wear the hijab.