The Falsehoods Of The Hindutva Ecosystem In Aotearoa. Or, How’s That For Social Cohesion?

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:

                                                            It means Lord Ram will rule and mocks a famous Pakistani protest poem.                 

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”.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10159338080765280&id=719580279

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?”

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=2087868108055926

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.

https://www.indianweekender.co.nz/Pages/ArticleDetails/51/19132/Comment/OPINION-Will-NZ-stand-up-for-the-right-of-Free-Speech

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Erasures, Untruths And Ethics

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.

THE ERASURE:

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 UNTRUTHS:

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.

 

 

 

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On The Hijab Ban (2)

Two Indian Muslim women living in Aotearoa have offered their opinion on the hijab ban in Karnataka, India.

Both writers wish to remain anonymous for the obvious reason of safety. For themselves and whanau. AAPI appreciates that they took time to write.

Here is the second article:

Victims In Their Game.

 I’m seeing a theme here. It’s a theme that has existed my whole life that is showing no sign of slowing down. That is the question of a Muslim girl’s right to education. New Zealand has been confronted with this question last week. Who deserves safety on school grounds?

There are gaps in how this theme is explored in mainstream conversations. Almost always with Muslim men portrayed as ones removing Muslim women from their rights, and almost never as non-Muslim men doing the same thing. From France to India, Muslim women are being denied the ability to receive their education while being dressed in a way that is authentic, meaningful, and comfortable for them. Neither of these countries are Muslim countries. In fact, they are countries which have launched campaigns specifically designed to alienate and disenfranchise their Muslim populations. Why then do images of ‘extremism’ in these countries not pop into our heads when we merge the words ‘Muslim girls’ and ‘education’?

I must disclose here that I am a Muslim woman of Indian heritage. I do not wear hijab except for prayer, when at the mosque, or at a dawat where it’s appropriate to do so. This decision can change at any time and if it does, I can’t imagine why it would impact on my ability to do my job, further my education, or make my own choices in life.

This is the piece that is always missing in conversations about hijab; bodily autonomy. Forcing a woman to dress in a way that is not authentic to them is peak misogyny, whether that is in or out of a hijab. Too often, we focus on one more than the other at the detriment of millions of women who proudly wear their hijab.

It cuts deeper when we talk about India. This is a country where all religions have coexisted for centuries as friends and neighbours, celebrating each other’s festivals, and eating from each other’s plates. All that makes our region beautiful and unique is being stripped away as Muslims continue to be lynched and denied education.

The denial of education is key because education IS the key. To educate a woman is to educate a nation. To deny a woman education is to deny her and her community the opportunity to rise, seek their own conclusions about the world around them, and challenge them. And nothing can challenge oppression and extremism more than an educated woman who so boldly wears her faith for the world to see, empowered by her relationship with her Lord. 

The schools in Karnataka who are denying entry to women in hijab claim the hijab is a distraction. I can’t imagine how. What they really mean is that they understand the damage this will cause the girls - psychological, emotional, and therefore their grades - and are acting on enforcing that damage.  

And so, the theme continues. They disrespect Muslim women by not giving them credit to make their own lives, and then use them to further their own political and extremist agenda. In the end we all lose because, and this needs repeating, to educate a woman is to educate a nation.

Image

Image courtesy @nabihaiderali via Twitter

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On The Hijab Ban (1)

Two Indian Muslim women living in Aotearoa have offered their opinion on the hijab ban in Karnataka, India.

Both writers wish to remain anonymous for the obvious reason of safety. For themselves and whanau. AAPI appreciates that they took time to write.

Here is the first article:

What’s The Purpose?

The recent happenings in the Indian state of Karnataka over the ban of hijab in education centres calls for an examination and overhaul of the current policies in the country that are setting the stage for rapid self-destruction of a mighty nation. The purpose behind the uniform may be with good intentions: The wearers cannot be discriminated based on their cultural or religious identity and unisex uniforms may be intended at preventing gender-based discrimination. However, the whole idea of a uniform appearance across any given premise is nonsensical because people do not need to hide their identity. They need to show their identity proudly and not be discriminated against for who they are.

“Unity in diversity” is a badge that India likes to wear but ironically, diversity has always been under a constant threat. A country like India with its history and diversity spanning across millennia does not need leftist or rightist governments to set the platform for any futuristic dialogue. The current need of the hour is a centred approach which allows its citizens the net of safety, protection, progress, and freedom guaranteed by its constitution.

Indians are naturally deeply religious and spiritual people. Many nations started off as religious but chose worldly progress over time and religion took a backstage ideally serving as a personal choice. In India, religion is very much alive and is on the forefront of every political agenda. Religion has sadly been used to deepen the divides among its citizens. The best assets of any organisation are its human resources. The Indian government has chosen to sadly lose this potential rather than build on it. The few advancements that India can boast of today are way below expectations for a country that has been independent for more than seventy years and for a country that has had a very vast set of resources at its disposal. Globalisation has proved that Indians thrive as model citizens wherever they go and where their fundamental rights and freedoms of expressions are not challenged at every turn.

The constant battle of survival faced by Indian citizens of lower castes, different religions, and women in general can now no longer be ignored. The systematic harassment where communities are marginalised and targeted render the Indian democracy as a gross humanitarian failure. The apparent notion of establishing an ethnocratic nation is far from ideal. It is extremely hard to imagine the result without worry: A hypocritical society where socio-economic success belongs to only a certain subset of people. “The world is one family” ideology has no room in the current environment. Access to elemental needs and progress must not be determined by people’s socio-economic status, looks, language, culture, and gender. The state policies should not be designed based on exclusion in the name of uniformity. Such policies should be completely overhauled and redesigned based on absolute inclusivity and freedom from bias. In a parallel universe, the Karnataka State Government had the choice to amend the said uniform act to make it inclusive to all thus becoming a role model for a progressive India, no?Image

 Image courtesy @BagchiAsh via Twitter

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The Only Language They Know.

Sharing here a post by Balamohan Shingade that he wrote for the CARE website in which he talks about how Indian News, a local outlet that is a Hindutva mouthpiece, reacted to an article in the NZ Herald where they interviewed him. We commend Balamohan for his bravery and for standing up to Hindutva bullies.

AAPI's blog is a register for resistance against all forms of Hindutva extremism in Aotearoa. This includes anti-Black and anti-Maori racism.

Thinly-veiled threats: A response to The Indian News by Balamohan Shingade

on February 17, 2022

by Balamohan Shingade

 

The Indian News Editor interviewing mainstream politicians in Aotearoa

I’ve just received a thinly-veiled threat from an Auckland outlet called the Indian News.

It's in response to the story I'd shared with the Herald on being the target of a conspiracy theory by a Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) platform, which tried to establish a link between me and the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence. (See Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians's website for more on the conspiracy theory, part of a far-right strategy of propagating hate).

Today's piece in the Indian News (February 17th, 2022) is built around a key deceit. In reference to the Herald report, the editor-in-chief writes that the Herald "has quoted some staged, fake narratives of a couple of gullible anti-Hindu and anti-India left leaning youngsters. [...] it only confirms any doubts of some bigger and nefarious designs working behind the scenes, against Hindus and the Indian nation."

Nope. You'd hope a newspaper that calls itself "New Zealand's most trusted Indian media group" would contact its subjects and check the story. But actually, it's a routine part of their "journalism." The quotes the Herald draws on are from recorded interviews with two researchers, both of us Indian origin youth in the diaspora, which are portrayed by the Indian News as “staged”.

As an aside, are we gullible or nefarious? They're two quite opposite things... the first presumes we're "youngsters" being manipulated by some anti-Hindu, and by extension, anti-India force, whereas the second suggests we're larger-than-life puppeteers doing the manipulating.

How is it that the Indian News feels emboldened to circulate disinformation when the New Zealand Media Council upheld two complaints against them late last year for breaching ethical standards of journalism? The Media Council wrote of one of the complaints, "Comment should not cross the line into personal abuse, nor should it undermine trust in a publication's ability to distinguish fact from opinion, or robust debate from abusive personal attack. In this case the Council believes The Indian News has crossed that line."

When the Media Council's rulings aren't holding much water, what's left to do? Of course, we'll follow the complaints process... but friends, what else?

It is clear that the Indian News is an important platform for Hindutva groups in Aotearoa New Zealand. In fact, their editor-in-chief is part of the Coalition of Hindus who organised an online petition in November last year to promote fascist ideologues like M. S. Golwalkar, who wrote in 1939, "Germany shocked the world by purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. [...] a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” And he sits as a trustee at one of Auckland’s most important temples, the Bharatiya Mandir.

The threat in the Indian News to those who dissent against the divisive politics of Hindutva is characteristic of its chauvinism: "The harsh reality this nexus miserably fails to recognise is, that India and its majority population are not the same anymore. They do not take any nonsense, anymore from anyone whether in India or in overseas."

The funny thing is, friends: This is all in response to my fairly innocuous Facebook posts and that single interview with the Herald. I've made very little of my ethnographic studies on Hindu Nationalism available to anyone outside my research team. 

The Indian News continues to attempt a nastily tight grip on who gets to represent the ‘Indian community’ in Aotearoa New Zealand. They do so using intimidation and issuing diktats, all the while patting themselves on the back for serving “Indian and multicultural communities,” and collecting endorsements from MPs of major political parties and ‘community leaders.’ No wonder then that so many Indian youth of Aotearoa New Zealand find platforms such as the Indian News to be importing the worst of the regressive patriarchal nationalism ripping through India today. And in their dominating presence in our media landscape, speaking out is risky. But as my quote ran in the Herald: “The danger is if you don’t find your voice, other people will find it for you.”  And it is clear from today’s op-ed that the Indian News wishes to do just that.

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Petitioners endorse Hindu supremacists V. D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar: The circulation of Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand

In its latest avatar, the Hindutva campaign targeting academic freedom, initiated by Hindu Youth and Hindu Council, has taken the form of an online petition. Having failed at their earlier attempts to silence academic freedom, the campaigners in their desperation are attempting to recruit Hindus to their hateful ideology by once again strategically conflating the fascist ideology of Hindutva with Hinduism. 

As on the week of November 8th, 2021, a petition by Coalition of Hindus of New Zealand has begun on the website Change.org with the title “Support Hindu Community to have the freedom to follow cultural practices of Hindu Dharma.” The petition is intended “to New Zealand Parliament,” and the petitioners, “ask Massey University and its employee Professor Mohan J Dutta to cease and desist from such activities [...].” Their reference is to Prof. Dutta’s scholarship, including the publishing of a white paper in May 2021 titled Cultural Hindutva and Islamophobia. In this paper, Professor Dutta explains how narratives of Hindu supremacy help to prop-up a sense of pride in the Indian diaspora, and how this pride is intertwined with the circulation of Islamophobia.

Among the many pieces of disinformation in the petition, the worst is the whitewashing of the Hindu supremacists V. D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar. The petition mentions the founders of Hindutva, Savarkar and Golwalkar, and what’s more, they ascribe to these two men the honorific “Sri”. The petitioners’ claim is that the writings of Savarkar and Golwalkar do not mention the narrative of Hindu supremacy, and accuse Professor Dutta of misrepresentation.

Savarkar, who was the inventor of the term Hindutva and the founder of the movement, clearly stated that Hindutva is not Hinduism. In his text Essentials of Hindutva (1923), he rejected the term Hinduism and along with it the pluralistic religion it describes. As he wrote, “If there be any word of alien growth it is this word Hinduism and so we should not allow our thoughts to get confused by this new fangled term.” Instead, Savarkar vigorously promoted Hindutva and its core political objective of crafting India as a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu Nationalism). In the words of Savarkar, “a Hindu Rashtra where some Indians will be more equal than others.” In an interview in 1944 (here), Savarkar was asked by an American war correspondent, “How do you plan to treat Mohammedans?” Savarkar replied, “As a minority, in the position of your Negroes.” The fundamental value of racial inequality (jati) advocated by Savarkar is in order to create the idea of Hindu supremacy, which continues to form the basis of Hindutva today. 

As Vinay Lal puts it (here) in his analysis of Savarkar’s contribution to 20th Century anti-colonial movement in South Asia, “Savarkar imbibed the worst of Western political and social traditions, and his warped ideas about race superiority, the survival of the fittest, and the nation as a “blood entity”, so to speak, were derived from the most objectionable strands of Western thinking. [...] If Savarkar is at all to be remembered, let it not be forgotten that as Nathuram Godse plotted to take Mahatma Gandhi’s life, Savarkar blessed him and wished him success in his God-given task.” The Hindutva ideology formed the ecosystem that led to the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.

Similarly, consider the writings of Golwalkar from his 1939 book: “German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. [...] a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” In Golwalkar’s writings, it is clear to see how the ideology of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) was developed through sustained interaction with ideologues in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

Hindutva is a supremacist force based on aggressive and strategic deformations of Hinduism, and an organized attack on the pluralistic character of India and its diaspora. Fascist in the classical sense, Hindutva threatens to strip the subcontinent of its pluralism and syncretism, of its many cultures and creeds. What’s more, the political ideology of Hindu Nationalism is opposed to and indeed aims to undo the secular foundations of India. Indeed, Hindutva is a global threat as it destroys all forms of stability in the subcontinent with repercussions far beyond.

We reiterate that Hindutva is not the same as Hinduism, and the false conflation of the two is a deliberate strategy of Hindutva, which aims to spread disinformation based on distortion, manipulation and obfuscation. (We have written about the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva in significant detail in our open letter on October 3rd, here).

To continue the narrative that the two are the same thing shows clearly that the organisers of the petition are aligned with the poisonous ideology of Hindutva. It is plain to see that the petitioners, and each signatory that endorses V. D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar, are Hindutva-aligned, seeking to further circulate the ideology of Hindutva hate in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Given the abundance of evidence on the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism, for the organisers of this petition to continue to pursue the narrative that the two are the same is a deliberate attempt to prop up their supremacist ideology. They have made this abundantly visible in their attempt to whitewash Hindu supremacists. Savarkar and Golkwalkar are to Indians what Adolf Hitler was to Germans and the world. Therefore, petitioning the democratic parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand to support falsehoods about Hinduism, and to further push Hindu supremacists as idols is a very dangerous exercise. It should not be summarily dismissed as a silly attempt out of desperation, but rather should be read as a Hindu supremacist propaganda that should be surveilled on an ongoing basis. We should be gravely concerned that these forces of hate feel so emboldened to target the New Zealand parliament, much like we should be concerned by the attempts of Trump supporters and QAnon conspiracy theorists in attacking the New Zealand democracy.

 



Screenshot from the Change.org petition, accessed 10 November:

Petition

In the context of the petition, the one-off and contextless mention of Professor Zaheer Baber’s article Religious Nationalism, Violence and the Hindutva Movement in India (2000) demonstrates the petitioners’ persistent misreading and misrepresentation of scholarly work. Baber’s work is precisely on the violence of Hindutva. Here is an extract from Baber’s passages mentioning Savarkar:

 

Baber

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The History Of Resisting Hindutva In Aotearoa

Resistance to hate does not bloom overnight but is nurtured and sustained by the spirit of activists who constantly question and disrupt the narratives of supremacy crafted by the brokers of that hate. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Hindutva ideology has been challenged on an ongoing basis by activists, who have continually shone a light on their agendas of divisiveness. In 2007, the Hindu Council, an organisation attached to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a militant Hindu religious entity, held an inaugural event, titled “Contribution of Hindu community to the national life of New Zealand.” The event, with funding from the Asia:NZ Foundation, was attended by then Prime Minister Helen Clark and mayor of Manukau City Barry Curtis. We are re-publishing a blog post written by one of the co-founders of AAPI, Dr. Sapna Samant, after attending this event in 2007. It was published on the site sikhcentre.wordpress.com in 2008. The blog post and the ensuing exchange show how concerns were raised over a decade ago about the agenda of the Hindu Council to impose a monolithic agenda and the project seeking to speak for all Hindus in Aotearoa.

 

We must remember and document this history of resistance challenging Hindutva especially as Crown structures have deliberately ignored evidence confirming the fascism of this ideology, perhaps to accommodate conveniently the vote bank politics of the ruling parties

 

The current campaign organized by the Hindu Council targeting Professor Dutta, CARE, and Massey University is reflective of this hate ideology of the Hindu Council Dr. Samant had presciently warned against. The Hindu Council does not speak for Hindus in Aotearoa New Zealand but propagates a supremacist upper caste idea of India. Therefore it certainly does not speak for Indians in Aotearoa New Zealand.

 

We reject its divisive politics and urge the Crown to actually stand behind its rhetoric of social cohesion. It is not enough for Minister Radhakrishnan to just give statements acknowledging their presence while not actively renouncing the fascism and supremacy.

 

                                                                                                                                                   *********

 

"Saffron flags emblazoned with Aum fluttered in the afternoon sunlight as I made my way towards the venue of 1st Hindu Conference in New Zealand on 12 May. The alarm bells in my head rang loud and clear. This was fundamentalist territory. The Hindu Conference was organised by The Hindu Council. A sophisticated arm of the Hindu extremist parties like the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad). Its cousins being the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the militant Bajrang Dal. The alarm bells had triggered off ever since I got the press release that invited participants and said that this was not a religious or philosophical conference. Delegates would be vetted and allowed only if they had any contributions to make (read no troublemakers). ...."   

(https://sikhcentre.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/dr-sapna-samants-comment-on-1st-rss-conference-in-new-zealand/).

 

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Why Is The High Commission Of India In Aotearoa Spreading Disinformation?

Hate works through the seeding of disinformation. The creation and circulation of disinformation propels this agenda in the hate factories of India.

Those that spread hate profit from repetition of disinformation. Those that produce hate bank on the idea that if you repeat the disinformation enough number of times, it will somehow stick.

Unfortunately, it seems the High Commission of India has fallen into the same trap.

In an article, “Indian diplomats weigh in on Hindutva spat”, published by Newsroom, the High Commission of India defends its decision to share a disinformation-based video piece done by Roy Kaunds 4and published on Apna TV.

In an earlier analysis, we had shared how Kaunds repeats the lie targeting Prof. Mohan Dutta’s white paper “Cultural Hindutva and Islamophobia,” accusing the paper of attacking Hindus. We noted then:

“Primary among the insidious narratives Kaunds employs is the false conflation of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) with Hinduism, Hindu peoples, and Indian New Zealanders in order to obfuscate, distort the matter of facts, and ultimately aims to silence the critique of Hindutva. Kaunds’ report is unjustifiable. It misconstrues what is at stake in NZ Herald’s articles and the scholarship of Prof. Dutta, which is the unmistakable presence of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the circulation of Islamophobia.”

In multiple analyses since the white paper came under attack by Hindutva ideologues, we have pointed out categorically that the attacks have been driven by this strategic conflation of Hindutva and Hinduism, meant to serve the Hindutva agenda.

In another analysis of the initial press release by Hindu Youth that started the campaign targeting Prof. Dutta and CARE, we pointed out the mischief being played by Hindu Youth to strategically confuse the audience, accusing a criticism of Hindutva as a criticism of Hinduism and by extension, an attack on all Hindus in New Zealand:

“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.”

We had asked Hindu Youth, a recipient of crown funding, to “explain their position with regard to the right-wing political ideology of Hindutva.”

In another analysis of the campaign being orchestrated by the Hindu Council (international arm of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, recognised earlier as a militant extremist organisation by the CIA and part of the Hindutva structure), we showed how the campaign targeting CARE was carrying out the Hindutva agenda.

We were not surprised when we saw Roy Kaunds generate and amplify this disinformation. After all, he is the producer of Talanoa Sa’o and appears on the platform Counterspin Media founded by the key architect of disinformation in the West, Steve Bannon, voicing hate content targeting Māori and spreading disinformation in Aotearoa.

But we were shocked and disappointed that the High Commission of India shared the video. We had noted:

“That the HCI shared this video is deeply alarming since this official body is supposed to be aligned with the Constitution of India. However, the HCI’s active endorsement of Kaunds’ video is seen as a signal that the HCI intends to shift away from a commitment to the principles of secularism, which is at the heart of both the Indian and New Zealand democracies. Instead, it demonstrates the HCI’s complicity in the promotion of a “Hindu Rashtra,” as envisaged by the ideologues of Hindtuva such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishva Hindu Parishad.”

Rather than reflect on its decision in the interview to the Newsroom, the High Commission decided to repeat the same disinformation that has been targeting Prof. Dutta. The High Commission stated that the Apna TV clip was shared “with the objective of promoting understanding and [a] balanced point of view”, arguing the video was not critical of Dutta’s work but “tried to remove some misconceptions about Hindus living in New Zealand”. It is concerning when the High Commission has to resort to a disinformation-laden view to give a 'balanced' point of view.

The spokesperson of the High Commission then goes on to state that most people of Indian origin were hurt by Prof. Dutta’s white paper, which it frames as “selective and one-sided in depiction of the truth” and accuses it of having “attacked the entire Hindu community”. Observe here how the same lie that is distributed by the online trolls, Hindu Youth, and Hindu Council is also repeated by the High Commission purporting to speak on behalf of all Hindus in a monolithic voice to produce this false account of hurt. Framing a white paper on Hindutva as attacking the entire Hindu community.

The facts are, many Hindus are deeply concerned about Hindutva and its hate politics that is spreading here in Aotearoa and fanning divisiveness. Many of these Hindus, including several of us, are concerned about our own safety, security, and access to India, to be able to speak up against the Hindutva organisations and the High Commission.

We ask, has the High Commission spoken to all Hindus living in Aotearoa? We ask, is it the High Commission’s role to go against the Constitution of India? We ask if the High Commission of India has actually made an effort to listen to the voices of Indian minorities who have been raising publicly, including on the High Commission’s own page, concerns about Islamophobia and Hindutva?

The spokesperson adds, “People who disrupt this harmonious relationship existing between the communities by hate speech or provocative statements should not be encouraged.”

Let’s break down this statement carefully. One is the irony of the insinuation here, that an academic analysis and accompanying media reports documenting Hindutva, a fascist ideology driven by hate, are labelled as hate speech and provocative.

Second, the use of the word harmonious. It is fascist code for order. An order that does not allow the questioning of authority and where conformity is considered ‘peace’. For the High Commission, Indian migrants living ‘in harmony’ in Aotearoa means not only not showing concern about their people suffering under Hindutva, but also not engaging with democracy and the right to dissent while benefiting from it at the same time. It implies keeping your head down (*unless it is to cry anti-Indian racism only against themselves).

Seeking validation from colonial whiteness and upholding the power of that whiteness is a deep desire of Hindutva. VD Savarkar, the Hindutva idol, wrote multiple petitions to the British, seeking mercy and promising not to oppose the colonial government. While he may has started out as a violent ‘revolutionary’, provoking others to kill British officials, he could not face jail himself and chickened out. That pardon from the British, and the subsequent loyalty to them has continued within Hindutva adherents to this day.

It seems that the harmonious relationship the High Commission seeks is the Hindutva version where the diaspora voices of Muslims experiencing Islamophobia or Sikhs facing hatred and violence will be erased or will have to get into line with the Hindutva ideologues.

Finally, the High Commission fails to recognise the long history of protest and struggle for social justice by the tangata whenua of Aotearoa, groups like the Polynesian Panthers and the mass opposition to the Springbok Tour. Resistance that has had Indian allies.

Thus, for the High Commission, a harmonious relationship is a suppliant relationship. Of silencing dissent against the toxic forces of Hindutva.

The irony takes the cake toward the end of the article where the High Commission states it does not support the online trolls who have harassed and continue to harass Prof. Mohan Dutta, and places the onus on New Zealand authorities “to investigate any allegations about Hindutva and Islamophobia in the country”. Here it seems, the High Commission does understand the concepts of Hindutva and Islamophobia and seeks to distance itself from the online trolls.

If that is indeed the case, and the High Commission does understand the concepts of Hindutva and Islamophobia, why is it propagating disinformation based on a lie that paints a critical analysis of Hindutva as an attack on all Hindus in Aotearoa? The High Commission must recognise that it feeds the armies of trolls when it regurgitates the disinformation being spread by the Hindutva machinery.

More importantly, given the evidence that has now emerged of the presence of Hindutva and Islamophobia in Aotearoa, what is the High Commission going to do to address the growing concerns about the divisive forces of Hindutva that are being expressed by Indian minorities here?

 

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Owning Our Whakapapa And Resisting White Colonialist Attacks

Owning Our Whakapapa And Resisting White Colonialist Attacks.

The Māori concept of whakapapa situates decolonising struggles in connections with ancestral origins. Referring to genealogy, as a fundamental principle of Māori culture, it offers the basis for a Māori person to claim their identity, connecting oneself to land and tribal groupings and to the mana of those.

Whakapapa serves as the basis for locating oneself, one’s knowledge, relationships, and practices in the context of ancestral teachings and practices.

As Indian origin activists in Aotearoa, we whakapapa to the diverse and plural spaces of India, connecting our lived experiences in Aotearoa with the strong traditions of democracy, secularism, and socialism that form the basis of the republic of India. Our struggles for the soul of India amidst the large-scale onslaught of fascist forces attacking its fundamental constitutional values are deeply intertwined with the ways in which we construct our identities as deeply connecting to the land, relationships, and commitments.

We remember the anticolonial struggles of our ancestors against the whiteness of British colonialism, resisting its divide and rule policies that seeded hate and inter-religious strife. Our resistance to the rise of Hindutva here in Aotearoa and at home in India is also a resistance to the ongoing colonial politics of whiteness.

White supremacy and Hindutva are intricately linked. Hindutva is a facsimile of the white supremacist ideology so rampant in Europe on the 1920s and was initiated as a project in 1925. Hindu ethno-nationalism aimed at purging Muslims and other but not the British colonisers. Hindutva organisations like the RSS never resisted British rule did not play a role in the mass freedom movement that eventually led to a secular, democratic India.

It is here that Indian origin activists in Aotearoa find their force and energy. A movement that the colonial politics of whiteness does not acknowledge as it cuddles up to the hyper nationalism of Hindutva in the name of Hinduism.

The everyday lived experiences of Indians, in India and within the diaspora, are syncretic and negotiated within the framework of culture. They own it, irrespective of region and religion.

The irony is both comic and deeply troubling that the whiteness of the colonizer conveniently takes up the identity of the Hindu to rally behind the divisive forces of Hindutva while at the same time driving up a campaign that silences Indians in the diaspora challenging the destructive forces of Hindutva by labeling them as Hinduphobic.

Australian white woman, Sarah L Gates, who set off a barrage of trolls against Professor Mohan Dutta is one such example. While flaunting her own Hinduism and seeking a Hindu nation for India, she chooses to ignore the lives and heterogenous practices of millions of Indians from the subcontinent and the ancestral struggle for an independent, secular, democratic India. Instead using violent language to attack their whakapapa all the while located in the white privilege of the settler colonialism of Australia.

As Vikram Zutshi writes, “Caucasians converting to ethno-religions like Hinduism, normally associated with brown skinned people from the Indian subcontinent raise some contentious issues.”

The white Hindus portray themselves as more authentic, mimic the ‘Orientalist archetype’, hold up the conservative order and suppress the diverse voices of Hinduism. While being the white colonialist they are.

(See link below.)

Sarah L Gates not only targeted Professor Dutta but also AAPI and the activist group“Hindus for Human Rights” for their ongoing dissent against the divisive forces of Hindutva that threaten the syncretism and pluralism of Hinduism.

She celebrates violent acts by Indians against other Indians in the name of Hindutva.

Recent Islamophobic tweets about the terrible attack on the Durga Pooja celebrations in Bangladesh also deny the complex history of the subcontinent, the Partition of India, Bangladesh’s own struggle to separate from Pakistan, the common Bengali culture so seeped into the daily lives of those who live there and in the diaspora.

The disinformation she creates and spreads is a security threat for several of us, including jeopardizing our links with India threatened by the authoritarian forces of a fascist regime.

That is the privilege of whiteness. To enter spaces of colour, appropriate and extract for one’s benefit, negate the histories and struggles of those people, and aggressively silence them.

For Sarah L Gates this bullying is immensely profitable in the digital networks of hate with Hindutva ideologues recognizing her as a ‘better Hindu’ than those fighting for the soul of India.

However, much like how our ancestors resisted the whiteness of colonialism, we will continue to resist Hindutva and its collaborations with whiteness/white supremacists to secure the syncretic, plural, democratic, and secular traditions of India. Because this is who we are.

Inquilab Zindabad.

 

https://www.newslaundry.com/2017/05/19/who-are-the-white-hindus

                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Response to the High Commission of India in New Zealand

​​It comes as a shock to us that on October 7th the official Facebook page of the High Commission of India in New Zealand (HCI) shared misinformation, false reporting, and propaganda video aired by the Apna Network. Apna’s journalist Roy Kaunds has been regularly scrutinised for the spread of fake news as well as questioned for content that is bigoted, hate mongering, Islamophobic, and misogynistic. (See Byron Clark’s investigations on Webworm. Link and images below)

Apna’s video is another in a series of Kaunds’ highly problematic reporting, this time allegedly in response to the NZ Herald’s articles on the existence of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) in New Zealand, and the scholarly work of Prof. Mohan Dutta, Massey University, particularly his white paper “Cultural Hindutva and Islamophobia” (May 2021).

Primary among the insidious narratives Kaunds employs is the false conflation of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) with Hinduism, Hindu peoples, and Indian New Zealanders in order to obfuscate, distort the matter of facts, and ultimately aims to silence the critique of Hindutva. Kaunds’ report is unjustifiable. It misconstrues what is at stake in NZ Herald’s articles and the scholarship of Prof. Dutta, which is the unmistakable presence of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism) in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the circulation of Islamophobia.

That the HCI shared this video is deeply alarming since this official body is supposed to be aligned with the Constitution of India. However, the HCI’s active endorsement of Kaunds’ video is seen as a signal that the HCI intends to shift away from a commitment to the principles of secularism, which is at the heart of both the Indian and New Zealand democracies. Instead, it demonstrates the HCI’s complicity in the promotion of a “Hindu Rashtra,” as envisaged by the ideologues of Hindtuva such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishva Hindu Parishad.

Against the backdrop of these comments, AAPI would like to ask the High Commission of India in New Zealand the following questions: Before sharing the misinformation, false reporting, and propaganda aired by the Apna Network, did you communicate with Professor Dutta to solicit his views and to understand the white paper and its purpose? And did you communicate with the NZ Police to obtain the facts of Hindutva-aligned groups and individuals in Aotearoa New Zealand?

Not all Indians and New Zealanders subscribe to Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism), and consequently, such persons have the human right to non-discrimination in Aotearoa New Zealand. As per the Human Rights Act of 1993 Section 21(1), the prohibited grounds of discrimination includes “political opinion.” The consequence of HCI sharing Apna Network’s discriminatory content on Facebook indicates foreign interference in the matters of, and, poses a threat to academic freedoms and freedoms of the press in Aotearoa New Zealand. Furthermore, HCI’s endorsement of Apna Network’s video presents a personal risk to the life and livelihood of Professor Dutta.

We should like to know, as Indians and New Zealanders, whether you are complicit with the ideology of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalism), and its project of the “Hindu Rashtra,” which actively aims to undo the secular and democratic foundations as per the Constitution of India?

 


On the official Facebook page of the High Commission of India in New Zealand (HCI), 7 October 2021.


Below is an excerpt from part II of Byron Clark’s investigations into New Zealand’s fake news, which includes Roy Kaunds' deeply problematic journalism. For the full report, click here.

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