Dharma in California?


Do you love yoga, curry, and henna? Should you be worried about Hindu education in California? It depends. Who’s allowed to salute the sun? What’s cooking? Who’s teaching whom? And how?

A range of Hindu-centric religious groups have come together to make a gift of $8 million dollars, with several million more rumoured to be in the pipeline for the largest Indian Studies Centre in North America. The most vocal institutional support for this Sangh-affiliated push for a Hinduism-based curriculum reform seems to come from a small group of supporters of “faith-based” learning. Faith-based history is understood by its proponents as superior to a historiography of religion that draws from documents of conflict, hegemony, politics, and culture to craft an understanding of religion that places on par with other socially-shaped forces. The rise of faith-based initiatives accompanies a backlash against what the right wing considers the corrupting influences of Marxism, feminism, and post-colonialism.

In the first week of December 2015, UC Irvine students invited signatures in support of their request for review of these donations:



  Diasporic Responses to the Indian politics of Hate

In 2015, a transnational epistolary campaign against “intolerance” made headlines. A range of centrist and rightwing Indians complained that left intellectuals have protested selectively, having welcomed an earlier politics of patronage that came from the Congress Party at the Centre, and the CPM, which had influence on campuses. This is seen outside India as an internal battle, oscillating among party loyalists. Both miss a key element of an emerging global rightwing shift: the constitutive role of transnational politics. The assumption of an authentic national origin diffusing to the diaspora needs revision. No longer can we assume an authentic Indian nationalism that the diaspora follows in nostalgic obedience. Some of the most aggressive right-wing moves as well as some of the most politically creative agendas emerge from diasporic spaces, and travel everywhere. Ideology’s travels include but are not entirely explained by the space of the Motherland, or origin stories of autochthonous politics.

Progressive academic letters expressing outrage at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of India’s diversity are important, but appear to place the blame on a faulty modernity back home in India, while diasporic academics appear innocent. The accusations flying back and forth among South Asian academics in the US and in India fail to capture the global dynamics through which the Sangh Parivar’s conservative agenda has grown over the last decades, and the extent to which diasporic Indian populations have played a key part in shaping, and profiting from, a new geopolitics founded on technocratic models of politics, communitarian essentialisms, and neo-fascist philosophical commitments.


Further Reading


“Our target is to make India a Hindu Rashtra by 2021. The Muslims and Christians don’t have any right to stay here. So they would either be converted to Hinduism or forced to run away from here.”

— Uttar Pradesh Dharm Jagran Samiti (DJS) functionary, Rajeshwar Singh, December 2014

“My brother threw goat’s skin in the garbage dump. But some people circulated a rumour that a cow was slaughtered and an announcement was made from the local temple,” Mohammed Saifi, the victim’s brother, said. “Soon a mob of about 1,000 people, armed with lathis [batons] and swords, gathered and attacked the house of my brother.”

Indian mob kills man over beef eating rumour (Al Jazeera)

“To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here… Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by. Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”

—  M. S. Golwalkar, We, Or Our Nationhood Defined (1939)

“Discourses of truth that provoke laughter and have the institutional power to kill are, after all, discourses that deserve some attention.”

— Foucault, Abnormal, p. 6.

[1] See the Ghar Wapsi movement, Christmas 2014 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghar_Wapsi . The Indian Express reported back on one event, cancelled because of Party Leadership’s orders. In other words, political parties and in particular the ruling BJP can easily enforce good behavior; in most cases they fail to do so, See http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/rss-cancels-aligarh-ghar-wapsi-event/ Satprakash Navman, convenor of the Samiti, the Manch’s local unit in Aligarh, said: “We had completed our preparations but top brass today asked us to cancel it. We have got directions from the top leadership not to go ahead with the programme”.

[2] Golwalkar cited in A. Roy, The Monster in the Mirror, The Guardian 13 December 2008, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/dec/12/mumbai-arundhati-roy

[3] Golwalkar’s 1939 book is available online: http://www.culturism.us/booksummaries/We%20or%20our%20Nationhood%20Defined%20Newer%20PDF.pdf

[4] Manohar Shinde, in a 2012 speech, articulated the agenda of building Sangh-affiliated academic bastions in the USA, using this phrase to describe his vision.

[5] See e.g., work by Romila Thapar, Vinayak Chaturvedi, and Benjamin Zachariah. One of the earliest popular books by historians to analyze this was the co-authored Basu Tracts for the Times, Tapan Basu et al. Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993.

[6] For an account of how the politics of the Tea Party and Hindutva, diaspora and homeland, are deeply intertwined, see, e.g., Yasha Levine, “Ruh Ro: How the Valley’s favorite politician may be foiled by a Hindu supremacist banned from the US,” https://pando.com/2014/05/29/ruh-ro-how-the-valleys-favorite-politician-may-be-foiled-by-a-hindu-supremacist-banned-from-the-us/ May 29, 2014, accessed Oct 1, 2015. It is telling that the best investigative journalism on this topic comes from an emigré Russian freelancer, and not from Indian intellectuals.

[7] 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and its aftermath led to the founding of many diasporic Indian groups in the left. For example, in 2002 the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate and FOIL organised South Asian progressive youth summers as a counter to Hinduism summer camps On Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, see left coverage < http://www.countercurrents.org/comm-mathew120805.htm  and the Right reaction, e.g. http://www.ahouseofcards.net/groups/csfh/ See also the multiple debates in Sacramento over Hindu American amendations of California textbooks.

[8] “Is Teesta Setalvad India’s most hounded activist?” Soutik Biswas, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34105194

[9] See, e.g., National Public Radio and Green Peace reports on the BJP’s regulation of NGOs since 2014

[10] The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate documented ways in which the IDRF in 2002 funded the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat.

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2 Responses
  1. V Lakshminarayanan says:

    This article is packed with Hinduphobia and full of hatred towards Hindus and Indians in general. Selective quotes from fringe groups are presented as mainstream opinions to slander the Indian community. It further implies that Indians and Hindus do not have a right to represent themselves.

  2. Richard Henry says:

    Your hatred towards Hindus and Hindu studies are visible in this manufactured article. Hindu studies are written by the scholars and academicians who are neither Hindus nor born in India, and wrote books what they understood. You are against the freedom of expression, and believe in murdering truth by blocking new findings and right studies. People like you are a real terrorists who want to continue wrong notion and studies. Shame on you!