The Hindutva experiments in Americatext_fields
From the very beginning of prime minister Narendra Modi's first term of office, there has been the criticism that he was focusing on polishing his own image abroad, especially in developed countries, more than on improving the standard of living of countrymen. Through constant foreign tours, and by skillfully using the Indian diaspora in those countries, he and the central government had been trying to sell 'Brand Modi'. At times, that campaign pitch went to the extent of even denigrating the former rulers of the country while abroad. Boosting the image of India overseas is sure to elate every Indian. But that is to be achieved not through branding of an individual, but by improving the domestic and foreign policies and programmes of the country. There is no use building a reputation at international level while practising deeply divisive politics in the domestic front, and ignoring burning issues like rising prices which bring the common man's daily life to a halt.
Soft power is a means used by most countries to enhance their value and appeal abroad. Arts, culture, media interventions, educational institutions, research schemes and fellowships are the main areas where this is attempted. For India, the strongest soft power is the Indian workforce living in various developed countries. The kind of interventions they make in the countries they reside in, will ultimately determine whether they are favourable or harmful to the mother country. The RSS has since early on had plans and programmes to use the Indian community in foreign countries to serve Hindutva objectives. Their plans have made major strides targeting the Indian communities in the USA and Europe. They are active to a large degree also in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Gulf countries. A study that came out in May 2022 in the US titled 'Hindu Nationalist Influence in the United States' is a comprehensive exercise in this series. The study which deals in detail with the interventions for Hindutva programmes during the period from from 2001 to 2019, was compiled with the involvement of voluntary organisations, media-persons, academicians and researchers. During the 2001-2019 period an amount of Rs 1231 crore was spent for propagation of HIndutva in the US alone. Their chief activities are to secure acceptability for Hindutva movement in America, extend financial support to the sangh parivar bodies and service schemes in India, and form different kinds of Hindutva outfits in America. Their main programmes also include targeting counter operations against individuals and institutions that oppose sangh parivar ideals. Huge amounts have also been spent on lobbying to sway American foreign policy in favour of sangh parivar stances. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the American version of the RSS has 222 shakas (branches) spread over 166 cities in 32 states of the US. In addition, there are other other entities working in different regions with the same goals such as Hindu American Foundation, Foundation for India-America Diaspora Studies and Hindu American Political Action Committee. Crores have been spent for establishing courses and chairs in line with Hindutva schemes in different universities. Since the Modi government came to power in 2014, all such initiatives came to enjoy an official halo and authenticity. The Indian diaspora in several developed countries wield such a financial clout as to influence matters in the country. The net result of the work of such elaborate machinery is that all of them are being converted to schemes totally as desired by sangh parivar.
It needs no elaboration to realise the damage caused by the Hindutva scheme of things on the democratic ethos and secular values of our country. Therefore, a democratic society should not lose sight of the organised and systematic endeavours being made to tune the Indian communities in such countries in favour of such schemes. The protests in the last few days in Australia against the meeting of hate campaigner and Yuva Morcha leader Tejasvi Surya, and those in England against the director of the hate-mongering film 'Kashmir Files', Vivek Agnihotri are signs of the counter-voices rising among the Indian communities abroad against the dangerous trends. And all democratic, progressive forces are bound to integrate and strengthen such voices.