Thursday, September 17, 2015

Faculty Response to Harassment by Hindu Nationalist Organizations

Faculty Response to Harassment by Hindu Nationalist Organizations

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Over the Labor Day weekend, most signatories of the "Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi's Visit to Silicon Valley" received threats from individuals in South Africa and Canada and email harassment  from the Hindu Vivek Kendra,  a Hindu nationalist organization affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member. Several letter signatories have also been targeted  by a board member of the Hindu American Foundation, another Hindu nationalist organization. We wish once again to underscore that this kind of hate mail and malicious distortion of our position is indicative of the deteriorating climate for academic freedom and freedom of expression in India;  faculty who become apologists for such abuse and who themselves indulge in ad hominem attacks only reflect the rooting of this hostile climate in the U.S. We find it no accident that attacks on us come from members of U.S. Hindu nationalist organizations, since they play a significant role in organizing Mr.Modi's visit to Silicon Valley. One of the key conveners of the "Indian American Community of the West Coast" which is coordinating Mr. Modi's visit has a longtime association with this RSS.

Instead of debating legitimate questions about the Modi administration's record on issues that impact the "Digital India" initiative, we are being asked  by Hindu nationalists and their supporters to explain why we, a mixed group of scholars  from the U.S. and South Asia raised in Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish and non-religious secular traditions,  are not racists,  western imperialist, or anti-Hindu. Such attacks bypass the strong scholarly record of many signatories who are vocal critics of racism, western imperialism, and orientalist depictions of Indian and South Asian cultures, as well as the creed of large numbers of Hindus for whom religious tolerance is an essential expression of their Hindu faith.  We emphatically state that we are not anti-Hindu, or against Hinduism. We are however,  extremely concerned  by  the growth of Hindu nationalism which has resulted in well-documented discrimination and attacks against Indian minority communities; Hinduism and Hindu nationalism  are not the same thing. The vast scholarly literature on this movement–from social scientists and others– has elaborated on this distinction over the past thirty years, and we urge our larger public to consult some of  the academic works cited below. We will provide a more extensive bibliography soon.

S. Gopal ed. The Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India (New Delhi: Penguin, 1991).
Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politic
s, 1925 to the 1990s 
(New Delhi: Penguin, 1999).
Thomas Blom Hansen, The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India(Princeton: Princeton Uiversity Press, 1999).
Paola Bacchetta. Gender in the Hindu Nation: RSS Women as Ideologues (India: Women Ink, 2004)
Chetan Bhatt, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths (Oxford: Berg, 2001).
Arvind Rajagopal, Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and Reshaping of the Public in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Ornit Shani, Communalism, Caste and Hindu Nationalism: The Violence in Gujarat (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Martha Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future(Harvard UP 2007).
John Mcguire and Ian Copland (eds),Hindu Nationalism and Governance,  (OUP,  2008).
Kalyani Devaki Menon. Everyday Nationalism: Women of the Hindu Right in India(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
Parvis Ghassemi-Fachandi. Pogrom in Gujarat: Hindu Nationalism and anti-Muslim Violence in India (Princeton, 2012).
Amrita Basu. Violent Conjunctures in Democratic India: The Case of Hindu Nationalism(Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Documentary Films
Ram Ke Naam, Dir.  Anand Patwardhan, 1992
The Brotherhood: The RSS,  Dir. Ruchira Gupta, 1993
The Boy in the Branch, Dir. Lalit Vachani, 1993
Final Solution, Dir. Rakesh Sharma, 2003
The World Before Her, Dir. Nisha Pahuja, 2012.
Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baaqi Hai, Nakul Singh Sawhney, 2015


7 comments on "Faculty Response to Harassment by Hindu Nationalist Organizations"

  1. davem1962
    September 15, 2015

    "Several letter signatories have also been targeted by a board member of the Hindu American Foundation, another Hindu nationalist organization."

    I was just at the HAF annual dinner. These are very nice people who are simply proud to be Hindu, proud of India and proud on PM Modi. People talk as if those things are awful.

    "the creed of large numbers of Hindus for whom religious tolerance is an essential expression of their Hindu faith."

    That is the view of the leaders of the HAF.

    The academic community in Hindu studies and their alllies have circled the wagons to support 19th Century German "scientific" scholarship which created the ideas about the Aryans and their then believed origin in Germany which Hitler exploited. They are defending their investment in those ideas, their jobs and their reputations.

  2. SMspeak
    September 15, 2015

    Why don't you display some evidence of these "threats"? Otherwise I will be forced to conclude you are simply playing victim and that you are writing lies (like you did in your "petition")

    • akash
      September 16, 2015

      More cooked up stories and claims. I shudder to think of the so called academic freedoms enjoyed by the students of these so called academics, wherein any criticism of their lies, and fanciful propaganda promptly becomes an attack on them. These folks are worried by "Hindu nationalism" which they concoct stories about, and claim they are not against Hindus and Hinduism. How nice, so any Hindu who is proud of his culture, is nationalistic will automatically be against minorities, be fascist and so forth. These rubbish attempts to tar and feather a particular community need to be seen for what they are, unadulterated bigotry from those who claim to be progressives but are anything but.

  3. abdulbinmao
    September 17, 2015

    Today's news is that President Obama has invited Ahmed, the Muslim American student who was arrested, handcuffed and humiliated in a Houston school for making and bringing a circuit board to school, to the White House. MIT has invited him to visit, and so has NASA. So how did this incident escalate to this atrocious level (the arrest I mean, not the White House invitation):

    From the ASEE Daily News Brief:

    The student had done it "to impress his science teacher," but it "spooked his English teacher," who in turn "told the principal, who told police."

    IOW, the English teacher felt 'threatened' and 'harassed' by what science teachers understood easily as innocent, constructive, innovative, inquisitive, non-brain-dead scholarship and communication.

    Says it all about the above blog, and the two (or is it three?) by the same Scholiars and AAUP Editor Aaron Barlow's wonderfully hospitable hosting of these multiple Encores Of South Asia Scholarship.

    Apparently the Police Chief and his subordinates all had only taken English classes, no science classes. Amazingly, they were able to COMMUNICATE:

    ""neither police nor school officials have apologized."

    " Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17, Herskovitz) quotes police spokesman James McLellan as saying of Ahmed, "He didn't explain properly what it was and they felt compelled to arrest him."

    Says it all, doesn't it? The true danger in America is from the sheer ignorance and bigoted predudices spread by the so-called and self-proclaimed "Scholars" and their AAUP patrons, many of whom have never so much as taught a graduate course, let alone developed one. Perhaps I misread the word, it was really "Scholiars" which ah ain't done looked up in no dictionary.

    Informed people do not need to use terms such as 'stupid' or 'dim-wits' to describe such conduct. All we have to say is "Q.E.D". We done larned ourselves enough Eyetalian to write that.
    To (mis)quote Sheikh bin Spear about the South Asia Scholiars, English Scholiars and Ant-throw-up-ology Scholiars:
    "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
    When shall v 3 meet again,
    In blunder, slander, Oblerlain?"

  4. abdulbinmao
    September 17, 2015

    Oh, sorry it was a Dallas school. Same state (of education), another set of (English Scholiars)

  5. Detonator docullah
    September 17, 2015

    I have also posted exactly the same comment in another page. But as it is relevant response to this article too , I ll re-post it here with minor modifications.

    Why is it that Prof . Barlow and most of the gang of 125 , who are opposing "certain aspects of Modi's" visit , only want to selectively answer questions ? In fact most of the questions raised by them have been answered dozens of times by hundreds of people.

    I reiterate my questions

    1)Why is it that disproportionately large (or should I say almost all) of the "professors" and "academics" who are vituperative against Modi , are in the field of sociology ? (especially "India studies" or "south Asia studies) .

    2) Why is it that almost all their attacks are ad hominem an seldom backed by data?

    3) Why do they never respond , when countered with facts or data?

    4) Why is the same bunch of people also involved in attacking Israel?

    I have tried to avoid name calling so far. And I don't intend to insult any particular academic persuasion . But I feel , that the thought of India eventually being a developed country haunts these people . This can be demonstrated by the fact , that many of the 125 write venomous articles in the press , whenever the Indian space research organization achieves a milestone. They particularly enjoy reminding the world , that India may have sent a probe to the Mars. But a sizable chunk of the Indian population , does not have access to toilets or basic sanitation. But now we have a PM who has made it a priority to ensure , that the entire population has access to sanitation , by the end of the decade. That takes away the pleasure of them writing all those articles. They seem to get a vicarious pleasure by Indian poverty and thus fear , that Modi might bring the pleasure to an end.

    Other pet subject of these great bunch was India's caste system. In the US where Black Americans were sold as slaves , not even allowed to vote , or eat at the same restaurants , Such slavery never existed in India . There is no denying that discrimination existed , But it was nothing compared to the western societies . And yet India has done so much to uplift the lives of the erstwhile backward castes. We no that America won't pay any reparations to he blacks . And the discrimination exists till today. You can get arrested for carrying a homemade clock to school. But their were a few holier than thou folks , who in spite being a part of the discriminators want to pontificate about "religious tolerance." PM Modi is a slap in the face of these people , as he comes from a "Backward caste. " And it kicks their narrative about discrimination in India out of the window

    Many of these 125 were also involved in threatening and trying to arm-twist Rajiv Malhotra (RM) to back off . They even tried to get his publishers to withdraw his book. Why did they have such hostility to him? They are crying about civilized discussion , and being "hounded" by "Hindu Nationalists" . But it is a fact that many of these 125 and their supporters hounded , attacked , and tried to intimidate RM often by using tactics that had questionable legality .

    Whether you guys like it or not , India will prevail . And so would Hindus . We have survived murderous Islamic invasions for 2000 years. And a genocidal British invasion. Who are these 125 , that they ll be able to stop us ?

  6. Pingback: Hindu American Foundation Statement | The Academe Blog

Faculty Statement on Narendra Modi's Upcoming Visit to Silicon Valley: A Preliminary Response to Some of Our Critics

September 1, 2015: When we released our letter on August 27, 2015 we had 125 signers. Despite the intimidation and harassment we have received at this blog site and elsewhere, more faculty have written to us asking that their names be included in the list of signatories–we now number 135. We are heartened by our colleagues' willingness to share the burden of unpopular opinion when ad hominem attacks have eclipsed rational discussion. The threats  and ugly tone in the comments section of this blog and elsewhere illustrate exactly how academic freedom, and freedom of expression in general, is compromised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist followers. It is some of these same followers who issued death threats against the eminent Kannada scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Kannada University, M.M. Kalburgi, who was murdered the day before yesterday. We are saddened by Dr. Kalburgi's death and by those who celebrated his murder on social media.

The chilling effect of these attacks makes it difficult to address either the substance of our claims or any legitimate points of contention with our letter. For now, we wish simply to clarify a few points about the letter that have been erroneously reported.

1) We did not send our statement to Silicon Valley CEOs. The statement is addressed to Mr. Modi's audiences in Silicon Valley, which includes Silicon Valley industries. We did not ask Silicon Valley companies not to invest in India; we asked them to consider carefully the terms of partnership with India. The objective of our letter is to raise awareness and debate in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, of Mr. Modi's record on key issues related to "Digital India".

2) We are a diverse group of South Asia and other faculty that includes professional fields, the social sciences, and humanities: anthropologists, sociologists, economists, political scientists, psychologists, historians, and philosophers; literature, law, communications and business/management faculty; as well as scholars in interdisciplinary programs such as science studies, international studies, religious studies, ethnic studies, feminist, gender and queer studies, and film/media studies. Most universities recognize that the problem-solving required for deep social and political issues requires interdisciplinary and collaborative work, and many of us are members of such interdisciplinary programs. We are surprised at the presumption that only science and technology experts pay attention to the effects of technology on society, since the questions of digital society and freedom require attention by scholars in other fields as well. Digital Humanities initiatives, for instance, illustrate the ways some of us actively think about the relationship between technology and society.   Historically all technology has social, political, and ethical effects–precisely because technology is so powerful and far-reaching.  Perspectives from our varied fields of scholarship offer crucial insights into the nature of this impact.

3) We believe that technology can unleash potent changes in society, many of them positive.  Digital initiatives can provide transparency, access to information, and efficiency to communities in need, and indeed have done so.  At the same time, such initiatives empower both corporations and governments in many unforeseen ways, and allow them to reach into people's private lives with ever new and, from our perspective, perilous methods.  WikiLeaks, for example, has helped to expose the pervasive nature of government spying at the international level.  This threat to privacy applies everywhere, including the United States, and is certainly not unique to India.  We caution any Digital India plan to be cognizant of these risks, and to take effective, transparent steps to protect against them.

Our initial statement represents a relative and not absolute consensus. There is healthy disagreement among us on the merits of Universal ID (UID) or "Aadhaar," and e-governance generally. For our critics to act as if the recent Supreme Court of India ruling on UID resolves the issues surrounding privacy and constitutional rights in India is dangerous and misleading. These issues are unresolved in the U.S. and other parts of the globe, and we are surprised that commenters highlight the poor record on these issues in the U.S. as a rationale for not critiquing the Modi administration's record. We do not believe India as a democracy needs to be limited in its protection of rights by the failure of such protection in other states. The general discussion around the performance of the Modi government is one where technological achievement or economic development and other rights (human rights, labor rights, free speech rights, minority rights, and religious rights) are posed as mutually exclusive choices. Our point is that they do not have to be, and can in fact, coexist. Our question is this: What does "Digital India" look like given the Modi administration's intolerance of dissent, its poor record on freedom of expression in general, and on freedom of religion in particular?


The Murder of M.M. Kalburgi

Supreme Court Ruling on UID

Fast-tracking of Central Monitoring System

PART 1: As Modi government puts the Central Monitoring System on fast track, former Minister Milind Deora says that without a strong privacy bill, it could be misused.

PART 2: By allowing the government to directly access phone and internet communications without the restriction of a privacy law, the system could put citizen rights in jeopardy.

Critiques of Digitalization

Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything And Why We Should Worry (University of California Press, 2011)

Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger and Kenneth Cukier. Big Data. (Mariner Books, 2013).

Religious Freedom

Academic Freedom
Crackdown on NGOs

Case against Modi

Is Academic Freedom Only for US?

As American universities start to collaborate more closely with colleges and universities in other countries, ticklish questions are beginning to arise. Oh yes, the questions have been around for a long time, but only now are they beginning to have an impact on American faculties. Few places in the world outside of the US and Europe have any respect at all for the traditions of Academic Freedom that are a bedrock (though much eroded) of European/American education. As American institutions establish campuses elsewhere in the world or develop intimate connections with foreign universities, the question becomes critical: How to we American academics respond to the abrogation of Academic Freedom elsewhere? Particularly, how do we respond when it is abridged?

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe writes about one case where an American faculty group is trying to respond (hat tip to Diane Ravitch, whose blog first informed me of this). Wellesley College and Peking University have recently formed a partnership:

This important partnership is dedicated to educating women for global leadership, and represents a significant commitment by Wellesley College and Peking University…. It is an invaluable opportunity for Chinese and American women to interact with one another in a setting devoted to better understanding the elements of leadership—an understanding critical to both of our countries and to developing the next generation of leaders.

According to Jacoby, the faculty of Wellesley is certainly taking the implied responsibilities seriously: When Peking University economics professor Xia Yeliang risked his career by signing "Charter 08, a valiant manifesto calling for human rights and an end to one-party rule in China" some 40% of Wellesley faculty "signed an open letter vigorously defending Xia's right to express his political views without fear of retaliation."

This may not sound like much: It takes little to put one's name on a petition, especially in contrast to the risk of imprisonment dissidents in China often face. But it is a step. And it has potential for impact:

"We will follow our faculty's lead," [Wellesley President] H. Kim Bottomly told Inside Higher Ed. If Wellesley's professors rebel at partnering with a university that engineers the punishment of a pro-democracy dissident, the partnership will end.

It is going to take concerted effort–going far beyond petitions–for American faculties to impress upon their institutions, their country, connected foreign institutions, their countries–and institutions and countries far beyond–the importance of Academic Freedom.  That effort needs to begin at home: We hardly make the case for Academic Freedom here any longer. We, for the most part, have become docile, easily manipulated by administrations whose agendas include neither shared governance nor Academic Freedom.

Our situation isn't catastrophic, as it can be elsewhere. But we are no longer providing the model we should for the rest of the world. Maybe the lead of the Wellesley faculty can move us to greater activism abroad–and at home. I hope so.

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