Washington: 'Dismantling Global Hindutva', a conference scheduled to be held on September 10-12 in the US by organisers who remain anonymous by now, has been condemned by several prominent Hindu leaders in the country, calling such an attempt as a result of increasing Hinduphobia. Several universities in the US also urged the organisers to remove their logos from the programme schedule advertised online.
Niraj Antani, the youngest Hindu elected official in the history of the US, and the first Indian American state senator in Ohio history came out with the strongest words against the conference, terming it nothing but racism and bigotry against Hindus.
"This conference represents a disgusting attack on Hindus across the United States, and we must all condemn this as nothing more than racism and bigotry against Hindus. I will always stand strong against Hinduphobia," Antani said in a statement.
"I am condemning in the strongest possible terms the 'Dismantling Global Hindutva' Conference," he said.
Being held on the weekend of September 10-12, organisers of the 'Dismantling Global Hindutva' have said they want to remain anonymous. However, they have made public names of several eminent speakers and academicians who will participate in the event.
The coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) has written more than 3,50,000 emails against the conference to the universities, academicians and various stakeholders. In an email to CoHNA, Rutgers University president Jonathan Holloway said that it was unaware that the university logo was being used by the organisers of the conference.
"This conference paints Hindus disproportionately and falsely as purveyors of extremism, actively denies the genocide of Hindu people, and most troublingly, labels those who disagree as 'Hindutva' which the conference organisers define as Hindu extremism," CoHNA said in a statement.
"The conference's features the 'Hindutva Harassment Field Manual' as an official resource that categorically states that Hindus have never 'faced systematic oppression throughout history and in present times'. This resource also denies that anti-Hindu bias has ever led to 'casualties on horrific scales'," it said.
In an email, Rutgers University said that it "is not a sponsor of the symposium". However, it noted that individual faculty from Rutgers may well be participating in the conference consistent with the tradition of academic freedom and fundamental American free speech rights. Dalhousie University has urged the organisers to remove its logo from its promotional material.
"We were previously unaware that UMass Boston was listed as a co-sponsor and we have not formally received any request, nor have we approved any request, for UMass to be listed as such," Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, chancellor of the university, said in an email.
CoHNA said its emails to several universities have been receiving similar responses, reflecting that there was a "concerted and organised" effort against the Hindus.
Meanwhile, a group of scholars and members of academic communities, in a joint statement, came out in support of the event.
"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," they said.
In a previous statement to PTI, organisers of the conference said the goals of the conference are to scrutinise what Hindutva says and does with regard to a wide range of topics, from caste to political economy, to gender and sexuality, and more.
The conversation will feature academics, public intellectuals, activists and artists who will speak "carefully and powerfully" to educate the wider public about these issues, they said.
"This conference is held during a time when a Hindu supremacist regime is in power in India, and so this conference will also throw light on what Hindutva does when it has captured state power by closely scrutinising both its official policies, and its unofficial policies like creating impunity for Hindutva violence and setting up a massive propaganda machinery," said the organisers, who have said that they do not want to be identified.
"We categorically reject the idea that critiquing Hindutva is in any way harmful to Hindu students. Indeed, we consider Hindutva to be the most significant threat to Hinduism's pluralist ethos, as well as to efforts to fight ills in Indian society like casteism. That certain groups can't distinguish between a critique of Hindutva and attacks on Hinduism says more about their confusion, affiliation, and desire to defend Hindutva using any rhetoric necessary, than it says about this conference," they said.