The attacks on the conference are not simply an attack on the conference, but on academic freedom more generally.
Original article here.
BY JOAN W. SCOTT
In response to the growing influence of Hindutva, a Hindu supremacist ideology supported by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and a growing number of Indians both within and outside that nation, a conference has been organized to analyze and contest the ideology. “Dismantling Global Hindutva” will take place on-line September 10–12. The purpose of the conference is to bring together leading scholars in South Asian studies and public commentators on Indian society and politics from around the world in order to discuss the global phenomenon of Hindutva. The conference aims to expose the havoc Hindutva is currently wreaking in India for Muslims, Dalits, non-conforming women, and non-Hindus in general. More than sixty programs, departments, and centers, and forty-nine universities are co-sponsoring the event. More than 5,500 people have registered to attend.
In recent days, the conference has been subject to an all-out assault by Hindutva groups and trolls. Co-sponsoring universities have received tens of thousands of emails demanding the conference be canceled and asking universities to withdraw support. Individuals involved in the conference have been receiving violent threatening emails and phone calls. The attacks claim the conference is promoting hate speech about Hindus (not unlike the ways extreme Zionist groups claim that criticism of current Israeli politics is anti-Semitic). The attacks are not simply an attack on the conference, but on academic freedom more generally. They are attempts to silence the exercise of the critical thinking we associate with academic work.
A statement of support for the conference and its organizers, which defends the conference on the grounds of academic freedom and calls out disingenuous charges of Hinduphobia, is now available for signature. It is being widely distributed among academics both in the US and abroad. It is aimed at maintaining and increasing participation in the conference by individuals and universities, and at standing fast against all attempts at intimidation and censorship.
Academics Stand in Solidarity with Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference
As scholars and members of academic communities around the world, we strongly condemn the campaign of harassment and intimidation against the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, and stand in solidarity with the 49+ universities and 60+ departments and centers sponsoring the event.
In recent days, cosponsoring institutions have been besieged by political extremists who have disingenuously sought to smear the conference as “Hinduphobic” or “anti-Hindu.” We firmly reject these misleading attempts to conflate Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva is NOT a religion, nor is it a synonym for Hindu cultural identity, or “Hindu-ness.” Hindutva is an authoritarian political ideology that historically drew inspiration from Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Its guiding principle is to transform India from a secular democracy to a religious state where Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities are relegated to second class citizenship or genocidally purged from the nation. In the name of Hindutva ideology, the current government of India has instituted discriminatory policies including beef bans, restrictions on religious conversion and interfaith weddings, and legislation designed to restrict immigration and citizenship pathways to Hindus. The result has been a horrifying rise in religious and caste-based violence, including hate crimes, lynchings, and rapes directed against Muslims, non-conforming Dalits, Sikhs, Christians, adivasis and other dissident Hindus. Women of these communities are especially targeted. Meanwhile, the government has used every tool of harassment and intimidation to muzzle dissent. Dozens of student activists and human rights defenders are currently languishing in jail indefinitely without due process under repressive anti-terrorism laws.
The purpose of the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference is to bring together leading scholars in South Asian studies and public commentators on Indian society and politics from around the world in order to discuss the global phenomenon of Hindutva. The conference is guided by an ethical commitment to protecting the rights of minorities, dissidents, and ordinary people whose very existence is under attack by Hindutva’s proponents. This agenda epitomizes the vital social and intellectual work that universities are designed to foster, and it must be protected by the principles of academic freedom. The campaign of intimidation carried out by Hindutva affiliates cannot be allowed to take root in the academy in the US, Europe, or around the world. Free speech must be protected. The attacks on academics, students, professors, and all conference participants must stop.
We affirm the principles of academic freedom and secular democracy. We stand in solidarity with the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference.
A list of signatories and a place to add your name can be found at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfKwnT197OFotWVo0W7hAYcX3qLpbBm_9B7PiuiMPdNWIN6DQ/viewform
Joan W. Scott is professor emerita in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and a member of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.