“Supremacist” Subramanian Swamy Sparks Scandal Over MIT India Conference Keynote

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. — File photo

“Swamy’s hate speech is not just abstract,” human rights group warns MIT

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Eight years after Indian MP Subramanian Swamy’s economics courses were dropped by Harvard University after he was accused of inciting violence against minorities in India, he is scheduled to return to the same city to keynote a conference at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

After completing his PhD at Harvard in 1965, Swamy joined the faculty as an assistant professor of economics. A few years later, he returned to India to begin an academic career there and entered politics in the 1970s. In February 2011, however, Harvard announced it would host two summer session courses by the seasoned economist.

In the middle of the first session, though, Swamy wrote an essay calling on India to strip voting rights from all Indians who refuses to acknowledge that their “ancestors were Hindus,” recommending mass destruction of mosques, and demanding “a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion.”

In response, over 400 Harvard students signed a petition demanding Swamy’s dismissal. By December 2011, the university canceled his courses. Comparative Religion Professor Diana Eck told the campus newspaper, “Swamy’s op-ed clearly crosses the line by demonizing an entire religious community and calling for violence against their sacred places.”

Faculty members at MIT are shocked that the controversy didn’t prevent Swamy from being invited to keynote the February 16 MIT India Conference.

Citing the Harvard incident, nine MIT professors launched a petition asking MIT President Rafael Reif and Provost Martin Schmidt to disinvite Swamy. Protesting that he has “a record of hate speech directed against religious minorities, LGBTQ community and, more recently, against bipolar people in India,” the petition concludes, “Swamy’s statements go against the core of MIT’s values and principles and are disrespectful of the diverse community that is our institution.”

“We shouldn’t forget that the hatred contained in Subramanian Swamy’s statements is about far more than just outrageous comments by an Indian politician,” says Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “It’s not just hollow rhetoric when he calls for destruction of hundreds of mosques in India. Leading members of his political party, the BJP, and similar Hindu nationalist outfits, acting upon Swamy’s rhetoric, have razed mosques, burned churches, massacred minorities. The MIT conference organizers need to know that Swamy’s hate speech is not just abstract.”

Swamy is no stranger to such a scandal

Last year, a coalition of Indian minority groups protested Swamy while he keynoted a “cow culture” conference in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. At that conference, Swamy claimed people do not have the right to eat what they want, stating, “In India, there is no such thing as an absolute fundamental right to anything.” Demanding that India pass a national law criminalizing cow slaughter, he added, “Anyone killing a cow should be prosecuted for murder.” Meanwhile, outside, protestors held banners with slogans such as, “Cow Lovers Lynch Dalits & Muslims in India: Will Subramanian Swamy Lynch Ronald McDonald in Milpitas?”

Swamy maintains that India has a “Hindu identity” which must be preserved by the government. In 2016, speaking in Texas, he asserted, “India’s identity is Hindu. This is similar to USA’s identity as ‘Anglo-Saxon Caucasian Protestant Christian.’ It may have citizens from various races and religions. Similarly, India may be home for people practising various religions. The identity, however, is Hindu.”

He made identical claims in a 2015 interview. “The Americans say — and no one seems to mind — that the American identity is white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant, Christian, English-speaking, population when a large population is not that,” said Swamy.

“Swamy recycles white nationalist rhetoric to justify his supremacist agenda for India,” comments Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs. “The United States is a multicultural nation which embraces secularism as a foundational doctrine. It is not and never has been a so-called ‘Christian nation’ and the American identity is certainly not white. As the demographics shift and the non-Hispanic white population approaches less than fifty percent, white supremacists advance ‘white genocide’ conspiracy theories about the supposed disappearance of the white race. Their agenda is to preserve white supremacy. Swamy and his friends use the same alarmist, xenophobic arguments to demand that the Indian State discriminate against non-Hindus. The latest example is Swamy’s support for the Citizenship Bill.”

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which is being considered in India’s Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) after passing the Lok Sabha (lower house), attempts to naturalize millions of undocumented immigrants in India by premising their eligibility for citizenship on religious grounds. Muslim immigrants are specifically ineligible.

Swamy, a member of Rajya Sabha, supports the bill. On February 10, he stated, “It is our responsibility to give citizenship to Hindus in the region.”

“If Swamy were an American politician using his national platform to demand that only Christians be given citizenship, he would cause outrage and be thrown out of office by the voters,” says Friedrich.

The controversial politician appalls for many other reasons. Audrey Truschke, an assistant professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University who is also protesting his invitation to MIT, calls him “a racist, homophobic, Muslim-hating, woman-hating fanatic.” Like others, she refers to Swamy’s views on homosexuality.

“It is not a normal thing,” said Swamy in 2018. “We cannot celebrate it. It is against Hindutva. We should invest in medical research to see if it can be cured.” Elsewhere, he stated, “It’s not a choice. It’s a genetic disability.” Criticizing “the Americans,” he said, “They started gay bars. I don’t want gay bars in our country. It leads to pedophiles.”

“We join the MIT faculty in demanding that Subramanian Swamy be disinvited from the MIT India Conference,” says Bobby Singh, a Sikh activist who joined OFMI and other groups to protest Swamy at the California Cow Culture Conference. “His long record of hate is an absolute violation of the conference’s official code of conduct. MIT is embarrassing themselves by any association with this Hindu supremacist.” (ofmi)



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