DGH Conference: Anti-Hindutva or Anti-Hinduism ?

Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH) conference held on 11th September, 2021 has received widespread attention from across the aisle. While the organizers and supporters like Audrey Truschke claimed that the conference is solely focused on Hindutva ( what they claimed is the militant Hinduism followed by Sangh Parivar and ruling BJP), detractors of the conference claimed otherwise. Critics of the conference, such as American Hindu society, right leaning intellectuals and politicians associated with BJP, claimed the conference is another manifestation of increasing Global Hindu-phobia and hatred against Indian culture and values

So what is the reality of the so-called Dismantling Hindutva conference? Was it solely focused on Hindutva? Or the target was Hinduism? Or was India as a nation was on target?

Let’s probe.

DGH conference on its official website claims that ‘Hindutva is not Hinduism’. Further they claim “Hindutva is a political philosophy styled after European fascism of the early twentieth century, an ideology that privileges a cult of personality and authoritarian leadership. By contrast, Hinduism is a term used to describe a wide range of religious practices and beliefs that are heterodox, and like the practices and beliefs of any major religion with hundreds of millions of followers, continuously under contestation, and often contradictory.”

Claim on DGH website

However, the proceedings and discussions of conducted under the banner of DGH Conference tells an entirely different tale. Several speakers not only defamed and denigrated Hinduism but also criticized the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and others. In their enthusiasm to criticize Hindutva, they went to the extend to malign and vilify the apparently secular practices like Ayurveda. One of the speakers, Leena Manimekali, went few steps ahead and compared India to huge phallus.

Moving further, lets have a look at some of the most controversial statements made by the panelists and moderators of the aforementioned conference.

  • Dr. Pritam Singh (Professor, Oxford Business School): “The Hindutva project is to spread the tentacles of Hinduism in every society”
Dr. Pritam Singh at DGH Conference
  • Gajendran Ayyathurai (Researcher on ‘Modern Indian Studies’, Germany): He singled out 5 Indian surnames as advocates of malignant Brahminism, thus putting hundred of students and diaspora with mentioned surnames at risk. Further, he went on to blame Hindutva for rise of Nazism.
  • Meena Dhanda (Professor University of Wolverhampton & Dalit Activist): She stated that ‘Hindutva’ is political Hinduism, not a distortion but a continuation of it. She went further to accuse the stalwarts like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Mahatma Gandhi et al. for contributing to the modern rise of Hindutva.
  • P Sivakami (Dalit-Feminist activist & former IAS officer) declared ‘Hinduism’ as a danger to independence, equality and brotherhood and enemy of democracy. She further clarified that the idea that Hinduism per se is harmless and only Hindutva is the culprit would not do any good to the lofty democratic ideals
  • Akanksha Mehta (Director, Centre for Feminist Research, Goldsmiths, London) said “I emphasize, without hesitation, that Hindutva is inseparable from Hinduism. And arguments that Hindutva is not Hinduism is deeply dangerous and will not lead us to the future we want.” .
  • Dr. Deepa Sundaram (Professor, Denver University, US): Deepa falsely equated the Hindu festival like Durga Puja as a symbol of caste discrimination. She further accused devout Hindus of creating discrimination with the intention to establish Hindu Rashtra.
  • Shana Sippy (Assistant Professor of Religion, Centre College, Carleton) emphasized that Hindutva is in-fact Hinduism. She further clarified that there is no way to dismantle Hindutva if one is going to ignore the Hinduism of it.
  • Balmurli Natrajan (Assistant Professor, William Paterson University, New Jersey, USA) who was moderating the talk summarized that nobody including him has denied the fact that Hinduism is deeply imbricated to Hindutva.

Conclusion

The conference had problems with everything associated with Hindu way of life be it Durga Puja, devout Hindu way of living, Ayurveda or stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda. In lights of comments made by the panelists, it can be concluded that the ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference is not about opposing the narrow expression of Hindutva but about Hinduism at large.

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