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Hindu nationalism must be defeated — also in the US

  • October 25, 2019

Society & Solidarity

Hindu nationalism is festering in the United States, and opposing it should be a priority for American anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians.

Ab ki baar, Trump sarkar!

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must have relished this particular moment from the massive rally held in his honor in Houston, Texas on Sunday, September 22. The Hindu nationalist hardliner, who was recently reinstated as India’s Prime Minister, backed his American authoritarian counterpart Donald Trump for re-election with a slogan that Trump adapted from one of Modi’s own previous campaigns.

Devised as part of Trump’s effort to woo Indian American voters, “This time, Trump government” is a spin on, “This time, Modi government,” widely used by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the leadup to Modi’s first general election victory in 2014.

As Modi and Trump swapped slogans, smiled for the cameras, and waved to the crowd of 50,000 packed into the NRG Stadium, they embodied the extent to which Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) is a transnational project with powerful links to the United States. These links are not without precedent: as members of the lowest-ranking group in India’s caste hierarchy, Dalits living in North America have endured continued exclusion, erasure, and abuse at the hands of upper-caste diasporic Hindus for decades, as exemplified by the Hindu American Foundation’s recent attempts to whitewash the horrors of the caste system from Californian K-12 textbooks.

While casteism is by no means exclusive to Hindu nationalists, the latter’s wholehearted endorsement of Brahminism — the domination of South Asian society by the highest-ranking priestly caste — has reinforced and exacerbated casteist violence. Furthermore, during the 1990 campaign to demolish the Babri Mosque in Uttar Pradesh — a key event in the Hindu Right’s rise to power over the past three decades — American Hindu nationalists donated bricks for the construction of a Hindu temple in place of the Mosque.

However, the ascendancy of Modi in India and Trump in the United States requires anti-fascists in both countries to unravel the connections between the two authoritarian projects at hand.

As a decolonial anarchist of Indian origin studying in the United States, I am concerned by the lack of knowledge among many of my American comrades about the totalitarian catastrophe currently unfolding in India. This lack of knowledge is all the more concerning because American anti-fascists have the opportunity and thus the responsibility to confront this catastrophe in their own backyards, as part and parcel of their confrontation with American white supremacist capitalism and its settler-colonial state and empire.

A Nation Bleeding Saffron

Traveling to eastern India just a few months after Modi’s re-election, I witnessed Hindu nationalism in full force wherever I went. Modi’s face was everywhere — on billboards, TV screens, shop signs, and temple signs — reinforcing the Orwellian personality cult he has constructed around himself. Saffron flags flew from every other rooftop, clogged up roundabouts, and lined street dividers; the RSS adopted saffron as its official color upon its establishment as a political party in 1951, and, as of today, it can only symbolically reaffirm Hindutva, regardless of the other historical meanings it has held and even regardless of the more innocuous cultural meanings that its users might assign it.

The political agenda attached to this symbolic warfare became clear on the night of August 15, India’s Independence Day, when I heard Hindu nationalist goons in the streets chanting, “If someone won’t say, “Hail Mother India,” send them to Pakistan!”

Modi and the BJP belong to the broad family of Hindu nationalist organizations known as the Sangh Parivar, which is overseen by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organization or RSS for short). The founders of the RSS were greatly inspired by the garb, goals, and strategies employed by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, writing at length about how they endeavored to replicate the latter’s economic strength, cultural saturation, and sociopolitical domination and extermination of minority populations.

Today, the RSS has gone some way towards fulfilling the vision of its founders: it is a massive paramilitary volunteer organization that counts between five to six million members and, for all intents and purposes, sets the Hindu nationalist agenda; Modi himself is a proud longtime member of the RSS and regularly consults with the RSS leadership on his policy positions.

The ultimate goal of the RSS and the Sangh Parivar as a whole is the redefinition of India — one of the world’s most diverse countries with one of its largest Muslim populations — as a Hindu nation. These organizations have demonstrated their willingness to employ violence to achieve this goal on countless occasions, from the 2002 Gujarat pogrom that Modi oversaw as Chief Minister of the state to the now near-daily mob lynchings of minority community members primarily on suspicion of cow slaughter.

Reinvigorated by their — highly suspect — landslide victory in the 2019 general election, the BJP and Sangh Parivar have gone from strength to strength — or, rather, show of strength to show of strength — in the past few months. In August, the BJP-controlled lower house of the Indian Parliament nullified Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which guaranteed some measure of political and economic autonomy to residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

This move and the brutal crackdown that has followed have opened up the possibilities of the abrogation of Article 371, which contains vital protections for several tribal-majority northeastern states, or the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code, which would provide a single law to govern all personal matters for all religious communities. In Assam, the BJP has published a National Register of Citizens that excludes almost two million residents of the area, a move accused by many of targeting the state’s sizeable Muslim minority and one that could soon spin into a nationwide initiative.

On September 17, Modi celebrated his 69th birthday by visiting the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, the BJP-ordered filling-up of which has threatened to displace thousands of villagers in the region. On September 20, thugs from the BJP, the RSS, and the ABVP (the RSS’ youth wing) attacked Jadavpur University in Kolkata, West Bengal, critically injuring students, setting fire to several parts of the campus, and vandalizing long-standing shops at the traditionally left-leaning institution.

The crisis in Kashmir notwithstanding, most progressives and radicals I have engaged in the United States seem unaware of what is happening in Modi’s India. They are appalled when I recount the horrifying developments listed above, but they nonetheless view these developments as the machinations of a far-flung authoritarian regime, with corresponding oppositional action in the United States limited to awareness-raising campaigns, displays of solidarity in spirit, and calls for action by elected representatives and diplomats.

Uncovering Yankee Hindutva

BJP activists wear Prime Minister Narendra Modi masks and shout slogans during a campaign rally on April 03, 2019 in Calcutta, India. Photo by Saikat Paul / Shutterstock.com

The saffron seeds of Hindu nationalism have taken root in American soil for some time now, cross-pollinating with American capitalism, white supremacy, settler colonialism, and imperialism in the process. Anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians in the United States have to join the fight against Hindutva for all of the following reasons:

1. Hindu nationalist organizations in India receive a significant amount of funding and support from the Indian diaspora in the United States. These organizations in turn provide financial and logistical support to sister organizations and key American figureheads who spread their message and share their interests.

In September of 2018, a group of progressive South Asian activists interrupted the World Hindu Congress in Chicago, organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) of America (VHPA). Attendees choked, kicked, and spat on these protestors, with BJP lawmaker and foreign ambassador Vijay Jolly yelling, “We should have bashed them up!”

This sequence of events and the very fact that they unfolded in the American Midwest may appear bewildering at first. However, they make perfect sense in light of how the RSS and its affiliates have sought to spread their influence not only to every corner of India but also to Indian diasporic communities around the world, especially in the United States.

The VHP entered the United States in 1970, just six years after its foundation in India; the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the American counterpart of the RSS, maintained 172 branches in the USA as of 2016; and the American branch of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) has some 4,000 members and up to 300,000 supporters.

At first glance, these organizations seem to spend most of their time on relatively harmless or even beneficent cultural programs and charitable campaigns, such as yoga sessions, prayers, and food donation drives. However, a report published by the South Asian Citizens Web in 2014 reveals that these and other largely tax-exempt nonprofit Hindu nationalist organizations pour millions of dollars into the Sangh Parivar’s on-the-ground efforts to Hinduize India.

Between 2001 and 2012, five Sangh-affiliated charitable groups from the United States allocated more than $55 million to projects mostly in India; two of these projects were the post-earthquake construction of a Hindu-exclusive village in Gujarat and the creation of teacher schools for indoctrinating Indigenous people into pro-Hindu militarism. Indian elections, like these nonprofit organizations, tap into the considerable social and economic clout of the Indian American diaspora.

The BJP considers Non-Resident Indians — above all Indian Americans, who are the richest ethnic group in the United States — its biggest individual donors, and Modi has gone out of his way to court overseas Indians, encouraging them to engage in “diasporic diplomacy.” This courtship seems to have made its mark: numerous Hindu Americans phonebanked for Modi prior to the 2014 and 2019 general elections.

The Sangh Parivar does not rely solely on its own sister organizations, proxies, and individual supporters in the United States to protect its image. Its defenders have attempted to make inroads into the most prestigious quarters of the American higher education scene. Between 2001 and 2013, the Infinity Foundation set up by Rajiv Malhotra, one of American Hindutva’s most ardent intellectual promoters, gave $1.3 million in funding to researchers, academic associations, and academic departments around the world, including at Harvard, Columbia, and UT-Austin.

It has all the while maintained ties with a range of Sangh-affiliated organizations, with Malhotra harassing and encouraging the harassment of his secular critics both in India and the United States. In 2015, the University of California at Irvine turned down a $1.5 million endowment from the Dharma Civilization Foundation in response to student and faculty complaints regarding the Foundation’s ties to the RSS and HSS, as well as the endowment’s stipulation that recipients should not be “confused and distorted by secularism.”

The Sangh’s forays into the American political arena present perhaps the most visible and immediate concerns for American progressives and radicals seeking solidarity with their Indian counterparts. Modi developed a “close friendship” with Barack Obama during the 44th American President’s last two years in office. Among other things, this friendship translated into India’s designation as a “major defense partner” for the United States, with the Trump administration subsequently signing a landmark agreement to supply surveillance technology to India in 2018.

However, no single figure perhaps epitomizes the Sangh’s influence upon American politics more than Tulsi Gabbard. Though her 2020 presidential campaign may have petered out, Gabbard is still regarded as a rising progressive star within the Democratic Party. Progressive South Asians, on the other hand, deem her the “Princess of the RSS” — and for good reason.

Though Gabbard is not of Indian or otherwise South Asian descent, she was raised in a reactionary Hare Krishna splinter group and began publicly identifying as a Hindu early in her political career. Encouraged by the support she subsequently began to receive from the HAF and OFBJP, among other American Hindu nationalist entities, she further enamored herself to the Sangh by opposing a 2013 House Resolution that highlighted incidents of mass violence against religious minorities during Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Touched by her vote of confidence, Modi personally invited Gabbard to visit India in 2014 and even sent her a personal greeting and gifts on her wedding day. In the years since her adoption by the Hindu Right, Gabbard has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for her congressional campaigns from RSS and other Sangh affiliates. She has also spoken at several conferences organized by these affiliates and was in fact scheduled to speak at the 2018 World Hindu Congress before pulling out at the last minute.

Unlike Gabbard, Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Democratic House Representative for Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, did speak at the 2018 World Hindu Congress. So did Rajiv Malhotra. And Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak or Supreme Leader of the RSS. The WHC cannot be dismissed as a one-off event disconnected from the overall American political landscape, with the protests against it going down as an internal matter for the Indian American community to handle by itself.

On the contrary, these flashpoints highlight on a multi-million dollar economic, social, and political network decades in the making, linking some of the most powerful individuals, associations, and institutions in India and the United States through philanthropy, education, and elections.

Even more worryingly, many Stateside members and supporters of this network have sought alliances with reactionary political forces with whom American anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians may be much more familiar.

2. Many Hindu nationalists and American white supremacists draw inspiration from and collaborate with each other, reinforcing anti-blackness and casteism in the process.

I am a big fan of Hindu, and I am a big fan of India!

Donald Trump’s grammatical error could not quell the enthusiasm of the diasporic Indians and Indian Americans attending the Republican Hindu Coalition fundraiser at which Trump was the honored guest in October of 2016. Trump’s promise to combat “radical Islamic terrorism” both in India and the United States was music to their ears, as were his guarantees of lower taxes to protect their wealth, his celebration of Indians as a model minority, and, of course, his endorsement of the Modi regime.

Since Trump took office, Hindu chauvinists, both in India and the United States, have lavished praise upon his Muslim ban and other abhorrent policy moves. The Hindu Sena, a New Delhi-based right-wing Hindu organization, performed a hawan or fire ceremony to bless Trump while he was the prospective Republican nominee and has celebrated his birthday every year since he came into office.

To be clear, Trump-loving Hindu nationalists by no means represent the Indian diaspora in the United States in its entirety. On the contrary, a survey conducted by Karthick Ramakrishnan of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy in 2016 determined that 79 percent of Indian Americans viewed Trump unfavorably, with this group also displaying the greatest likelihood among all Asian American populations to identify as Democrats instead of Republicans. However, these tendencies perhaps speak more than anything to the debilitating centrism of the Democratic Party and its resultant eagerness to protect — multiracial and multicultural — bourgeois wealth; being good liberal citizens also does not automatically prevent Indian Americans from backing Modi and the Sangh Parivar.

And although Indian Americans can preach good liberal values in their adopted home while embracing authoritarian rule in their homeland, the resonances and connections between Hindutva and white supremacy could draw them closer to the social and philosophical substance of Trump’s nativist project, if not its electoral face. After all, these links have certainly drawn many members of Trump’s white supremacist base closer to their Hindu nationalist counterparts.

Both the Sangh Parivar and America’s so-called Alt-Right broadly base their genocidal visions of the future upon Indo-European or Aryan supremacy. Many in the latter camp have embraced India’s Sanskrit civilization as evidence of a shared ancestry and thus an ideological and geopolitical kinship with upper-caste Hindus. Neo-Nazi poster boy Richard Spencer, white nationalist statesman Steve Bannon, and other Alt-Right figureheads adore Savitri Devi, a French-Greek mysticist who worked as a spy for the Axis forces in India during World War II and traveled around the country promoting Hindutva and Nazism as natural bedfellows.

San Francisco-based white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents carries four titles by Devi, whose claim that Hitler was an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu has also inspired a Nazi-normalizing semi-parody religion called “Esoteric Kekism.” The transnational fascist information, communication, and mobilization network in which American white supremacists are embedded only magnifies the influence of Devi and other past and present proponents of the Sangh Parivar.

Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik — the Alt-Right icon who has inspired several other white supremacist terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere — hailed Hindutva over and over again in his now-notorious manifesto.

The prospect of a full-fledged alliance between Hindu nationalists and white supremacists is terrifying. Countless documented instances of anti-blackness and casteism in South Asian diasporic communities suggest the devastation that this alliance could wreak. On the one hand, South Asian Americans are themselves minoritized racial subjects, as evidenced by the brutal police assault upon Sureshbhai Patel in 2015 and the overall spike in hate crimes against South Asians since Trump’s rise to power.

On the other hand, the American state has constructed Asian Americans, including South Asians, as a model minority precisely to pit them against other racially marginalized populations, above all else Black people. Tantalized by the false promise of inclusion into the American nation or more cynically seeking to leverage its social hierarchy, a number of typically older South Asian Americans have internalized this discourse: they perpetuate white supremacist stereotypes of Black persons as lazy drug-dealers from broken homes and sanction the latter’s systematized persecution by the police.

Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, and Dinesh D’Souza are the most extreme manifestations of this tendency. By encouraging its followers to consolidate their political, economic, and cultural supremacy by any means necessary — including alliances with Islamophobes who also tend to be pro-capitalist racists, militarists, and xenophobes — Hindutva multiplies the unjust spoils promised by model minority discourse to diasporic South Asians. In doing so, it deepens South Asian American complicity in Black oppression and racialized class warfare against other oppressed peoples in the USA.

If Hindu nationalism indirectly promotes anti-Blackness, it directly justifies casteism in South Asian diasporic communities. The caste system — the 3,000-year-old system of religious division, exclusion, exploitation, and abuse codified by Hindu scripture — is neither relegated to the past nor geographically limited to South Asia. In fact, a 2018 report by South Asian community technology organization Equality Labs found that one in four of all Dalit respondents living in the United States had suffered caste-based verbal or physical assault, while two in three had endured mistreatment at their workplace, and one in five felt that local businesses had discriminated against them.

When asked about the report, a representative of the Hindu American Foundation said that it “alienates Hindus by scapegoating them,” reiterating the same claim that the HAF made against Dalits, Sikhs, and others who challenged its attempted saffronization of Californian K-12 textbooks. The parallels between the narratives of self-victimization spun by Hindu nationalists and white supremacists are as striking as the violence they inspire is alarming.

Just imagine if those narratives were to converge more than they already have.

3. Combating Hindu nationalism is part and parcel of combating transnational capitalism in India, the United States, and the world as a whole.

On September 25, 2019, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation honored Modi for his controversial Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Campaign at a glittering ceremony in New York City. The Foundation received a petition with over 100,0000 signatures demanding the withdrawal of the award on the basis of the Modi regime’s litany of human rights violations — most recently in Kashmir and Assam — but decided to roll out the red carpet for the “Butcher of Gujarat” anyway.

In many ways, the fact that the world’s second-richest man is vouching for Modi is all-too-fitting: during their time in power, the Indian strongman and his saffron colleagues have become the darlings of transnational capitalist powerbrokers both at home and the world over.

India’s leading corporate dynasties have by and large maintained a stranglehold on the country’s economy ever since independence, a trend for which the opposition Indian National Congress is in no small part responsible.

However, since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, India’s tycoons have increasingly joined forces with him to reap the rewards of plutocracy: Ratan Tata, the venerated patriarch of the $100 billion group, avows that Modi is “what the country needs at this point in time,” an opinion no doubt aided by Modi’s crucial assistance to the conglomerate’s car manufacturing division in Gujarat. Nandan Nilekani, the billionaire co-founder and non-executive chairman of tech giant Infosys, was instrumental to the Modi government’s rollout of Aadhar, the biometric identification system that could very well enable mass surveillance on an unprecedented scale. Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries and the world’s 13th richest person, has accompanied the man he calls “our beloved prime minister” on a number of foreign trips.

India’s oligarchs very much show their appreciation for Modi in kind: following the removal of a cap on corporate donations and the allowance of anonymous donations through “electoral bonds,” corporate donors provided 92 pecent of all funding received by the BJP in the 2017-’18 fiscal year.

That India’s economic and political elites are gorging themselves on the fruits of their plunder while unemployment soars, displacement becomes ubiquitous, and farmers commit suicide in droves should be sufficient to move American anti-authoritarians to solidarious action. What makes this action all the more imperative is the growing global presence and power of India’s foremost private corporations: approximately 100 companies of Indian origin have invested $17.9 billion in the United States alone, with Infosys recently opening a design hub in Rhode Island and Reliance resuming lobbying in the US.

Indian corporate heavy-hitters have been even more proactive south of the border: the Aditya Birla Group — accused of providing a Rs. 250 million bribe to Modi while he was Gujarati Chief Minister — generates $2 billion in revenue from its activities in the Latin American and Carribbean (LAC) region, citing the devastating devaluation of local currencies and assets under neoliberal regimes as key draws.

As the Amazon burns, the fact that Indian agribusiness company UPL Limited — accused of producing electronic poll propaganda for the BJP — earns 26 percent of its total revenue from the LAC also catches the eye. Indian companies sourcing crude oil and minerals from Africa, meanwhile, have made the news for grabbing land, evading taxes, violating labor and environmental standards, and doing business with autocrats.

Even when they lack the personal ties that Tata, Nilekani, and Ambani have established with Modi and even when they may not express support for his regime, Indian corporations almost unequivocally benefit from the “business-friendly environment” that the reigning Prime Minister has built on a foundation of nationalist terror, enjoying the significant impunity that it affords them wherever in the world they choose to do business.

In addition to homegrown tycoons, Modi has gone out of his way to woo the pre-eminent vanguards of global capitalism. On the sidelines of the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Modi delighted the CEOs of Unilever, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Pepsi, and 37 other global corporations by encouraging them to invest in India’s digital securitization and make the most of the goods and services tax widely blamed for grinding the economy to a halt. Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai, the Indian CEOs of Microsoft and Google, have been among Modi’s most vociferous American corporate cheerleaders.

India, as I have argued elsewhere, is under weaponized, religiously sanctioned economic occupation, with its occupiers coming for their pound of flesh from near and far, by invitation of its political gatekeepers. India’s similarities to Israel in this regard are far from a coincidence.

4. Confronting Zionism in its totality necessitates confronting India’s occupation of Kashmir and its ever-closer relationship with Israel.

PM Netanyahu and PM Modi at Olga beach. Photo by Kopi Gideon / GPO

When Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel in 2017, Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed him by saying, “Prime Minister Modi, we have been waiting for you for a long time, almost 70 years … We view you as a kindred spirit.”

I’ll bet.

India’s attitude to Israel has drastically changed in recent decades. Despite recognizing the state of Israel in 1950, India’s political leadership supported the Palestinian struggle in the decades after independence, albeit largely to curry favor with Arab states and, ironically, to gain their support for its claim to Kashmir. India even voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which recognized Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination.

However, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberalization of India’s economy catalyzed India’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Since then, India has become one of Israel’s top trading partners, with a particularly troubling emphasis focus on the fields of defense, counter-terrorism, and intelligence: India is Israel’s largest arms market, receiving aircraft, air defense systems, and missiles amounting to around $1 billion annually.

India’s turn towards Israel has very much been a bipartisan venture, for which the BJP and its primary opponent, the Indian National Congress, have both been culpable. That said, this turn has particularly gratified the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh’s Nazi-loving founding figures were simultaneously enamored of the early twentieth century Zionist movement; their successors see Israel as a working blueprint for a Hindu state, from its formalization of second-class citizenship for religious and ethnic minorities to its promotion of majoritarian migration.

Nowhere is the Hindu Right’s aspiration to emulate Israel more obvious than in Kashmir. Indian-occupied Kashmir, with its decades-long history of massacres, mass disappearances, mass incarceration, torture, and rape, has arguably resembled the Occupied Palestinian Territories for some time now. However, Modi and the BJP have taken these parallels to another level with the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. The communication blackouts, transportation blockades, curfews, abductions, and maimings carried out by Indian security forces to enforce this legislative move are “straight out of the Israeli playbook.”

The same goes for the far-less publicized removal of property acquisition restrictions, which could allow corporations to flood the Kashmir Valley in much the same way that they have the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As the icing on the cake, Indian security forces have implemented the BJP’s mandate in Kashmir using Israeli weapons “field-tested on Palestinian bodies.”

Kashmir and Palestine do not simply parallel each other: they are sites of occupation joined by the American-backed global Israeli military-industrial complex’s river of blood, justified as part of New Delhi, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.’s ongoing crusade against “radical Islamic terrorism.” The allegiances forged between Zionists and typically anti-semitic white supremacists add yet another dimension to the deeply unnerving prospect of a Fascist International. The image of the Hindu Right, the American Alt-Right, and the Zionist Right walking hand-in-hand is as surreal as it is, perhaps, closer to the contradictory realities of the global fascist upsurge than many would assume or care to admit.

American anti-authoritarians would do well to pay attention to the long-standing solidarity between Kashmiris and Palestinians: they know better than anyone that the settler-colonial Zionist project is also an imperialist venture, the abolition of which necessitates a anti-imperialiast alliance between its multiple points of origin and impact.

Burn the saffron flag, too

I wrote this piece out of desperation.

India is currently facing its most profound political crisis since the de facto authoritarian rule of the mid-1970s Emergency periods. As a revolutionary anarchist of Indian origin, I cannot stand idly by as it burns — and neither can anti-fascists, anti-authoritarians, and people of conscience in the United States for that matter.

Hindu nationalism should be of utmost concern to American progressives and radicals of all kinds: voters and community organizers, college students and faculty members, people of color and their white allies, anti-racists and anti-capitalists, and anti-Zionists and anti-militarists.

Thousands of progressive South Asian community members and organizations in the United have courageously confronted high level representatives of the Sangh Parivar, from Tulsi to Malhotra to Modi himself.

They could use some backup.

I understand that my Stateside comrades might hesitate to confront Hindu nationalism as ferociously as they confront white supremacy: it claims a religious tradition to which they probably do not belong and about which they may not know much. The transnational Hindu Right, for its part, has conjured the boogeyman of “Hinduphobia” to dismiss any and all criticisms directed against it.

This defense is as hollow and hypocritical as the Zionist charge of anti-Semitism against anyone who dares to criticize it. Hindutva enshrines the very worst aspects of Hinduism by suppressing whatever internal diversity, dynamism, and subversive potential the Hindu tradition might contain: it is far more of an enemy to the vast majority of global Hindus than its opponents will ever be.

That said, I would certainly urge reflexivity and sensitivity when interacting with diasporic South Asian youth who buy into Hindutva: many of the latter have unwittingly turned to Hindu supremacy because parasitic, well-camouflaged entities like the HSS and the VHPA have offered them a sense of cultural belonging that they are in many ways denied by America’s white supremacist settler colony.

A new generation of left-leaning Asian Americans is blossoming, and I have high hopes that they will build upon critical conversations already occurring in South Asian American circles about Islamophobia, caste, race, class, and migration.

American anti-fascist solidarity with Hindutva’s Indian and American targets cannot be an ill-informed First World rescue mission or a mere add-on to the prevailing anti-racist agenda. Rather, it must be a joint undertaking that confronts Hindu nationalism as a transnational project inextricably interconnected with American capitalism, white supremacy, settler colonialism, and imperialism.

The specifics of this solidarity must be determined by the local landscapes into which the Sangh Parivar has inserted itself. Moreover, they must be determined through rigorous dialogue with the South Asian individuals, communities, and organizations who have taken on the thankless and often dangerous task of documenting and resisting the Indian and American Sangh.

Whatever forms solidarity takes, any popular front against fascism in the United States — or anywhere else, for that matter — will be incomplete to the extent that it fails to confront Hindutva. This article might focus on the United States, but its call to action extends to every part of the world that Hindu nationalism has infiltrated, from the United Kingdom to Kenya to Australia and beyond.

As an existential threat to oppressed populations and their ways of life wherever it ventures, Hindutva must be defeated at all costs by any means necessary if we are to cultivate another world, a world in which many worlds can fit.

Burn the saffron flag, too, comrades. It is planted a lot closer to you than you might think.

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Sarang Narasimhaiah

Sarang Narasimhaiah is an Indian political organizer and doctoral candidate in political science currently living in the United States.

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Source URL — https://roarmag.org/essays/hindu-nationalism-must-be-defeated-also-in-the-us/

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