Resisting Hindutva Nationalism: Solidarity Steps for Indians and Hindus in the US
Hindutva nationalism, or Hindu nationalism, is a right-wing political ideology rooted in the beliefs of supremacy and superiority: “Hindus first” and “Hindus only.” It’s on the rise in India through discriminatory government policies and state-sanctioned violence targeting Muslims, Dalits, and religious minorities (read this and this). Its presence is also evident in the United States through academia, politics, and connections between the Trump and Modi Administrations (read this, this, this, this, this, and this).
Those of us who are Indian and/or Hindu in the United States cannot look away and ignore the impact of Hindutva nationalism in India and in the US. Below are solidarity steps for Indians and Hindus in the United States who want to resist Hindutva and support communities facing discrimination and violence.
Step 1: Be Aware of Proximity to Privilege.
To be an ally, we must be clear about the access, benefits, and power we have as a result of our proximity to the Hindu caste hierarchy. To understand why those of us who are upper caste Hindus must acknowledge our privilege and proximity to the caste system and commit to caste annihilation, read this (Colorlines) and this (The Wire). To understand how the caste system continues to operates around the world today, read this and this from Equality Labs, and this from Yashica Dutt.
Step 2: Center the Analyses and Demands of Directly Affected Communities.
Religious minorities in India are facing displacement, statelessness, hate violence, police violence, discrimination, and murder as a result of a Hindu nationalist political agenda. Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi communities and Muslims are the primary targets of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, the Indian government’s most recent discriminatory policies. Learn about the impact of the CAA and NRC here (South Asian Reads) and here (Polis Project). Learn about the far-reaching impact of Hindutva on religious minorities including Sikhs and Christians here. Learn about the communications blackout (that began in August 2019) and ongoing human rights violations in Kashmir and the struggle for self-determination here (Stand With Kashmir). Learn about the February 2020 pogrom in Delhi here (Democracy Now) and here (The Atlantic).
To be an ally, it is vital to understand and support the demands of those who are most directly affected and to follow their lead.
Step 3. Take a Brave Stance
It’s important to remember that as allies, there is no room to equivocate or be ambiguous about the analysis or the facts on the ground. This isn’t the time to offer “both sides” arguments or “this doesn’t matter in America” denials. Those of us who fight against white nationalism should be all the more ready to push back against Hindutva nationalism.
Below are some common pushbacks and suggested responses:
● “Don’t call it fascism or Hindu nationalism”: We must not sugarcoat or use soft language to describe the effects of a Hindu nationalist agenda. This isn’t intolerance; it’s fascism. The violence isn’t a riot; it’s a pogrom. This isn’t about interpersonal differences; it’s about state-sponsored discrimination.
● “This is a political issue happening in India. It has no impact here in the US. Why bother talking about it?”: We do not live inside bubbles or silos, and what’s happening in India does indeed affect people in the US who are religious minorities or who have family members there. Moreover, the long arm of Hindutva is already present in the United States (read this, this, this, this, and this). As the image above from Creatives Against CAA helps us understand, if you are neutral in the face of injustice wherever it happens, you actually have chosen a side already.
● Why are you being negative about Hinduism? We must distinguish between the political ideology of Hindutva and the Hindu faith. To criticize and confront Hindutva is not the same as criticizing Hindus for practicing their faith.
● What about Hindus and the discrimination they face? It is true that Hindus have faced, and continue to face, discrimination in many ways. But Hindus aren’t facing state-sponsored discriminatory policies, mob violence, and displacement in India currently. This “both sides” argument attempts to flatten and equalize oppression without historical context, a power analysis, or a solidarity framework.
Taking a brave stance means preparing for push back, for denials, and sometimes, even threats. Being an ally often requires us to take risks with our reputations and with our relationships. But there are many people who are on the same path. Find them and work together.
Step 4: Find A Lane
As an ally, we have to find an appropriate lane on the proverbial social justice highway. We stay in our lane, follow the lead of those affected, and don’t “overtake” them. We signal to the people in our own lane who might be veering off course with their messages and actions.
And, most importantly, we reach out to bystanders and fence-sitters who are idling on the side of the highway — and urge them to get into our lane. Hindus and Indians in the United States can influence our family members, our peers, our family’s uncle and aunty group of friends, local temples, Indian Students Associations, Indian and Hindu elected officials, Indian and Hindu community-based associations, Indian and Hindu cultural workers and artists, and Indian and Hindu celebrities and social media influencers. Our asks to them are to condemn Hindutva, to support the struggle for equality and human rights, to raise awareness with those in their networks, and to align with the demands of communities directly affected. For more on how Hindus and Indians can be allies to those struggling for self-determination for Kashmir and to those struggling for caste annihilation, listen to the Solidarity Is This podcast featuring Nouf Bazaz and Yashica Dutt.
Take Meaningful and Consistent Actions:
● If you are a student leader or member of an Indian (or South Asian) Students Association, you could ask your organization’s leadership to issue a statement to the campus community (here’s an example). South Asian students around the country are also planning a #HoliAgainstHindutva, happening on college campuses in March (visit http://holiagainsthindutva.com to learn more and read this powerful oped from Shreeya Singh in Teen Vogue). If you’re an alum, make a donation to support your campus organization to take a stance against Hindutva.
● Ask your local city council to pass a resolution that condemns efforts to deny rights to religious minorities and Dalits in India. Follow the lead of the Seattle & Cambridge City Councils who passed such resolutions recently (more here).
● Support organizations that are organizing in the US against Hindutva and the dehumanization of religious minorities and Dalits: @EqualityLabs @IAMCouncil @sasresist @project_polis @SAALTweets, @StandwithKashmir. Volunteer, retweet, donate, and provide resources to support directly affected community members.
● Ask your South Asian elected officials at the local and federal levels to make a public statement condemning Hindutva.
● Petition your temple’s board of directors to publicly condemn Hindutva, and organize a forum to raise awareness.
●Have courageous conversations with apathetic or unsympathetic family members. Using stories as conversation-starters can develop a sense of empathy. Follow stories up with facts and data, and close with a suggested action step. Know that these won’t likely be one-time conversations and that they can be painful and difficult.
●Support the free press and journalists in India and the US.
● Join or organize local efforts to combat Hindutva. Groups in Queens, Chicago and the Bay Area are organizing rallies, campaigns, and teach-ins.
● Raise awareness among non-South Asians through teach-ins, articles, and grassroots efforts.
Step 5: Show up again and again
To be a strong ally, we have to be consistent with our voice and our presence. It’s natural to feel tired or numb at times. During those moments, listen to your body and spirit to give yourself the break you deserve. Trust that there are others who will be moving along, and that you can catch up when you are able.