From the US to Australia, Hindu nationalism is not only spreading in discourse, it has made its way into political circles.
In their two decade “War against Terror”, Western governments have bombed, invaded and occupied Muslim-majority countries in pursuit of Al Qaeda and Daesh, along with sanctioning and outlawing what they perceive to be militant Islamist political parties, and then freezing assets and denying migrant visas to those with ties to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and countless others.
These governments have also successfully lobbied social media companies and internet service providers to ban and remove content and users that espouse sympathy or support for militant Islamic groups and political parties. A single tweet or post in support of Al Qaeda or Daesh is typically a certain path to prison or a counter-violent-extremism program.
The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Australia have thrown everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink – often in violation of their respective laws and constitutions – to mitigate the threat of “radical Islamic extremism.”
But when it comes to the emerging threat of another form of religious based violent extremism, specifically militant Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, these very same governments are not only asleep at the switch but also unwittingly aiding and abetting its reach and influence, as evident in a new report that found the US government gave $833,000 in Covid-19 relief aid to five organisations that have ties to Hindu supremacist organisations.
Massachusetts-based Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) received more than $170,000 in US taxpayer funded assistance, despite it being the ideological sibling of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a group designated a “religious militant organization” by the United States’ top spy agency – the CIA.
The CIA would also know that VHP is an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation that draws its ideological roots from Germany’s Nazi Party and other European fascist parties, given the spy agency has identified RSS leader Mogan Bhagwat, along with VHP leader Pravin Togadia as among those who lead “numerous religious or militant/chauvinistic organisations; various separatist groups seeking greater communal and/or regional autonomy.”
One can only imagine the national uproar had the American public learned its government handed nearly a million dollars in taxpayer money to militant Islamic groups, such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
I mean, it’s not like these Hindutva organisations hide their genocidal ambition to ‘cleanse’ India of its more than 200 million religious minorities and transform the country’s secular democracy into a tyrannical theocracy or Hindu Rashtra, with RSS leaders publicly promising to have Muslims and Christians “wiped out” before the end of the year.
Worryingly, these Hindutva organisations are entrenching themselves in mainstream political parties in the US, UK and Australia.
During the 2020 US elections, the “Hindutva Lobby” invested heavily in the campaign of Democratic Party candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni in Texas’ 22nd Congressional district, a man described within Hindutva circles as a “Hindu warrior in the religious war to preserve the interests of RSS,” according to Dr. Aslam Abdullah, who warns RSS and India’s ruling party – Bharatiya Janata Party – instruct VHP and other Hindutva organisations to “make inroads in the political circles” to advance the Hindu nationalist project at home and abroad.
At the risk of belabouring the point, had members or even those loosely tied to militant Islamic organisations, whose aim to eliminate Christian, Buddhist and Sikh minorities from their home countries, invested and contested a US election, it’s impossible to imagine there wouldn’t be a congressional and law enforcement response, with the arrest and deportation of those involved in what would be likely called a “Sharia plot to subvert democracy.”
In the most recent UK elections, Hindutva organisations lobbied British Hindus to vote against the Labour Party because the Labour Party Conference had passed an Emergency Motion criticising Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for undemocratically stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status.
In local elections held in Melbourne, Australia last year, the country’s ruling Liberal Party nominated Rohit Singh, and Indian expatriate, to contest a seat in the council of Harrison Ward, despite him being the head of Karni Sena, who are accused of carrying out acts of terrorism in India, and despite posts on his Facebook page referring to religious minorities as “snakes” and promising to teach them their “aukat,” a Hindi term used to describe putting people in their place.
Singh has also called on BJP and Modi supporters within the expatriate community to interrupt solidary protests held in support of protesting Indian farmers, which the Indian government has falsely portrayed a Sikh separatist or anti-nationalist plot.
Last month, a mob of right-wing Indians attacked several Sikh men in Sydney, as Hindutva organisations call for a boycott against Muslim and Sikh owned businesses in Australia, while Indian expatriate community Facebook pages were littered with anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh animus and threats of violence.
“What we can do is educate our [Hindu] kids to not get married to one of them [Muslims] and have more kids like them and make our kids mentally and physically stronger so they can fight back these brainwashed scums of society,” one person posted on the Facebook page titled “Indians in Melbourne Official.”
“For the first time in Australia we are witnessing tensions within Indian community groups, with one group attacking another because they demanded justice from the Indian government,” Deepak Joshi, an executive with The Humanism Project, a secular Indian expatriate advisory group in Australia, told TRT World.
“In the past year or so we have witnessed several instances of online hate and threats of violence against those who criticise the Modi Government and against Muslims in particular in Australia, but this hate has been particularly directed against the Sikhs and social media since the farmers movement began.”
There has also been a number of violent confrontations between Hindus and Sikhs in Canada, with Hindutva groups falsely accusing Canadian Sikh organisations of orchestrating and funding the farmers protests in India.
“In the last 10 years, Canadian Sikhs have become a sort of bogeyman for the government-controlled media in India and for the political parties that rule Punjab,” Jaskaran Singh Sandhu, director at the World Sikh Organization of Canada, told Canada Land.
So clueless are many of these Western governments to the threat of militant Hindu extremism that many of their leaders and diplomats meet with Hindutva leaders, including RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who, as mentioned earlier, is identified by the CIA as the leader of a “militant organization.”
Last year, for instance, Australia’s ambassador Barry O’Farrell not only met with Bhagwat but also praised him and RSS for its relief efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, seemingly unaware that Hindu nationalism has put India’s religious minorities on the “brink of genocide,” according to human rights scholars.
Clearly, Western governments must do more to identify and quantify the considerable threat militant Hindu organisations pose to religious minorities and secular democratic values, and then command border agencies, social media companies and political parties to act accordingly.
To pretend militant Hindu extremism isn’t a problem in need of a solution is to affirm suspicions the “War on Terror” was never really about combatting religious based violent extremism and only ever a civilisational conflict against Islam.
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