Indian Diaspora Becoming a Vanguard of Assertive Hindutva

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The Leicester violence in the UK is just a tip of the iceberg. More such violence is likely to be seen in other hot spots of the world. The new and ugly mood of overseas Hindutva groups is giving a bad image to India.

Syed Ali Mujtaba

THERE are ominous portends from the West with the Indian Diaspora asserting an aggressive brand of Hindutva identity in their host countries. The recent Hindus-Muslim communal clashes in Leicester, UK, Hindu-Sikhs clashes in Melbourne Australia, and the bulldozer march in New Jersey, the US are some of the disturbing developments to name a few.

These events signify that the Indian Diaspora wants to play the role of being the vanguard of the proverbial clash of civilisations on a global scale. Observers feel that the rightwing Hindu elements in India, the BJP government, and also India’s foreign offices are aiding and abetting militant Hinduism abroad.

These developments are posing a serious challenge to the governments of the countries where the Indian Diaspora community is located and are also challenging the Muslim community in these countries to come out for the battle of religions.

Leicester Riots

In Leicester, the trigger was the first cricket match between India and Pakistan at Asia Cup in UAE that India won. The Indian Diaspora took out a victory procession and passed through the places that had a significant Muslim population. They wore masks and chanted the Hindu war cry of Jai Sree Ram and hurled abuses at the Pakistani community in particular and to their religion. This triggered a backlash from the Muslim community. Videos show a saffron flag being pulled down outside a Hindu temple but it did not show how desperately a Muslim cleric was trying to stop this vandalism.

According to several media reports, it was a preplanned activity by the Indian community that wanted to assert their Hindutva identity. They wanted to demonstrate their physical prowess on the Muslims and chose Leicester city for a violent demonstration. The Hindu-Muslim clash in Leicester cannot be attributed to one single cause as this was simmering for a long time. The Indian community was waiting for an opportunity that came its way during the Queen’s funeral when local policemen were called for duty in London. The procession was taken out ascertaining that the minuscule police forces cannot control the mob.

The violence that followed in Leicester is seen as an alarm bell for the rest of England where the Indian communities are abundant. Local MP Claudia Webbe warned that the “fringe elements… inspired by extremism and right-wing ideology in India is rearing its head in the UK and this phenomenon could spread elsewhere.”

Melbourne, Australia

In Australia, the trigger was the farmers’ agitation mainly by the Sikh community. What was essentially an anti-government protest by the Sikh community turned out to be an anti-Sikh riot like the one witnessed in Delhi in 1984. Here, Hindu groups attacked Sikhs. Following this, the Australian authorities deported a Hindu man who received a rousing welcome in India, almost like the rapists of Bilkis Bano who were feted after coming out of jail in Godhra. The message is loud and clear, some Hindus have similar hatred against the Sikh community as they have against Muslims.

New Jersey

The bulldozer justice by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath against a Muslim social activist for raising voice of protest appealed to the Hindu community in New Jersey when some right-wing elements among them took out a bulldozer procession bearing posters of Adityanath and Narendra Modi. This procession was obviously taken out by the local Hindus with the clear cut intention to vilify the global Muslim community living there.

This newfound aggression of the Hindutva elements is not confined to procession. They are also targeting academics, especially those involved in research on India in vile and threatening terms.  Recently, a conference on ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ in Boston was attacked by Hindu groups, and participants were subjected to the vilest abuse.

American analysis has pointed out that the groundwork for Hindutva is being done for a long time. Many US politicians and administrative officials are hands in glove with the local Hindutva-oriented groups, and they support them in their pursuit of the Hindutva agenda because they are on their payroll.

Radicalisaion of the Diaspora

The first and foremost reason for the radicalisation of the Indian Diaspora is that after 2014 when the BJP came to power, Indian politics centered on an aggressive Hindutva campaign.  This aggression has appealed to the Indian community in the West and they are replicating the same in their countries of well-being. They want to consolidate Hindu unity and according to them, the best way to do so is to commit hate crimes against Muslims there.

Hence, the Hindu community is leading an anti-Muslim campaign with a sense of impunity as they think they have bought over local bosses and will get protection from the BJP government and their larger Sangh Parivar in India. This misconception has been fed to them with the theory doing the rounds that the Anglo-Saxon Christian world commonly called as ‘West’ needs Hindu India to counter the Islamic threats perceived world over.

The Hindutva pot is boiling in the West due to years of ideological brainwashing by organisations from India locally funded in the name of spreading Indian culture. The Diaspora kids who go to dance and music classes that are accompanied by religious preaching turn out to be an ideological discourse on Hindutva where hatred towards Muslims is preached. As a result, the right-wing Hindu groups that now boast of their presence in every country are indoctrinated so much that they gleefully involve themselves in acts of hate and violence without fear of retribution.

The rise of the RSS ideology under the benign leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is another reason for the NRIs and PIOs to become Hindutva campaigners. The Hindutva ideology that has long been cherished by the Hindus of India got a star campaigner in Narendra Modi who is inspiring millions of Hindus globally. His public meetings are held in sports stadiums in the US, the UK, Canada, and elsewhere which attract a massive response from the Hindu community. He is being received with a rousing welcome by the local Indians who see Narendra Modi as a messiah who will lead Hindus to the crowning glory in the world.

The other reason is the patronage of the Hindu groups by Indian diplomatic missions in foreign countries. The Indian mission is hosting Yogis and Sadhvis of various kinds and calling select groups of local Hindu Indians to meet them. In Canada, the Indian Mission went to ask the organizers of a local film festival to remove the poster of Kaali (a Hindu deity) which they said hurt the Hindu sentiments.  The Indian mission in the US had to cancel a talk by Sadhvi Rithambara following an outcry by local politicians, including two senators.

The MEA issued a statement against those who vandalised Hindu religious symbols in Leicester while obliquely condoning the acts of the lumpen elements who took out a procession chanting “Jai Shree Ram.” 

In 2020, 13 academics in Australia resigned from the Australia India Institute (AII) at the University of Melbourne citing interference from the Indian High Commission protesting against the shrinking academic space as a consequence.

Last, but not least is the role of social media in stirring up the explosive mix of religion and discontentment in stoking the simmering tensions. Hate messages on social media circulates’ generate fake news among the Indian communities abroad creating social unrest there. Tailored information relayed on social media does all the harm to rupture the peaceful inter-community relationship built over the years for collective survival abroad. Several politicians and academicians have pointed at the role of social media in inciting violence in the Indian Diaspora in their countries.

So, what is inferred is that the Indian Diaspora is mirroring what is happening in India. It is the same kind of Hindu-Muslim polarisation, the same kind of hate-mongering on social media, and the same story of political and official patronage to the Hindu community is witnessed in different countries in the world. Like in India, abroad too, dissent, even a different point of view, is not tolerated, either by the local pro-Indian groups or by the Indian diplomatic missions.

The Leicester violence in the UK is just a tip of the iceberg. More such violence is likely to be seen in other hot spots of the world. The new and ugly mood of overseas Hindutva groups is giving a bad image to India. It is obvious that retaliation is on the cards and a cycle of violence and counter-violence looms large on the horizon.

How such a situation is going to be tackled by the countries in question needs to be seen. Will it be brushed under the carpet blaming the ill effects of multiculturalism and allowing sectarian cancer to grow is something that causes worry? Foreign governments need to be warned that only assertive management of such an ugly problem can only be the only solution and nothing else. 

_____________

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com. The views expressed here are author’s personal.

Cover photo: Police hold back Muslim protesters from marching along Belgrave Road in Leicester to avoid clashes with the Hindu community. — Taken from The Guardian

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