Indian Americans warn that Hinduphobia resolution, linked with Hindu far-right groups, will be weaponized against critics - IAMC

Indian Americans warn that Hinduphobia resolution, linked with Hindu far-right groups, will be weaponized against critics

Washington, D.C. (April 16, 2024) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and allies today warned that a recently introduced House resolution condemning Hinduphobia (H.Res.1131), which is supported by the Hindu American right, can and will be weaponized against critics to shut down criticism of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva.  

Introduced by Representative Shri Thanedar, who founded the controversial “Dharma Caucus” in Congress, the resolution declares that “anti-Hindu hate crimes targeting mandirs and persons are annually on the rise… [while] Hinduphobia in American society is unfortunately rising.” The resolution further “condemns Hinduphobia, anti-Hindu bigotry and hate, and intolerance.” 

While the celebration of Hindu heritage and contributions to society are welcome, Indian American activists have long warned that accusations of ‘Hinduphobia’ have been used to harass, intimidate, smear, and otherwise cause harm to anyone who criticizes Hindutva’s fascist ideals, the discriminatory policies of India’s far-right government, and dangerous expansion and activities of US-based Hindu far-right groups.

“It goes without saying that the IAMC condemns all forms of religious hatred and bigotry,” said IAMC President Mohammad Jawad. “However, no one should ignore the fact that this resolution has been backed by American Hindu far-right groups, some of which have ties to violent anti-minority militant groups in India. The weaponization of Hinduphobia causes tangible harm not just to American minorities – including Muslims, Dalits, and Indian Christians – but also to elected officials, activists, journalists, and academics who are smeared as hateful bigots for daring to criticize Hindu supremacy.”

A Hindutva Harassment Field Manual produced by the South Asia Scholar Activist Collective (SASAC), a group of academics who have faced targeted harassment by the Hindu right, describes the term Hinduphobia as a “problematic” concept used “to stifle academic inquiry into Hinduism as well as criticism of Hindutva.” 

While acknowledging that South Asian Americans – including Hindus – do face racism and discrimination, SASAC writes: “Individual cases of discrimination, no matter how painful, do not amount to ‘Hinduphobia.’… ‘Hinduphobia’ is frequently weaponized by far-right groups to ‘silence and gaslight Dalit organizers and caste-oppressed communities.’ [It] rests on the false notion that Hindus have faced systematic oppression throughout history and in present times.”

Prominent Hindu American activists have also rejected the idea of Hinduphobia as a form of structural discrimination in the United States, including the advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR).  

“We reject the notion of systemic ‘Hinduphobia’ in the United States or India with any equivalence to Islamophobia or anti-Semitism,” the group wrote. “We recognize that the term ‘Hinduphobia’ has been popularized among Hindu nationalist groups in the United States — not by persecuted Hindu populations in Pakistan or Bangladesh… we emphasize that mere criticism of caste, Hindu nationalism, or Hinduism itself — especially when it comes from marginalized communities — should not be construed as anti-Hindu sentiment.”

The weaponization of Hinduphobia has had real and public consequences over the past few years: The Hindu American right has used “Hinduphobia” allegations to attempt to shut down an academic conference about Hindutva, crush laws banning caste-based discrimination in California and Seattle, and block city council resolutions condemning anti-Muslim discrimination in India. 

Additionally, groups with links to both the American and Indian far right have celebrated the resolution. One US-based group that has announced support for the resolution is HinduACTion, an advocacy group of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHP-A). Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative has labeled the VHP-A as a Hindu far-right organization linked to the India-based Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu militant group with a long history of anti-minority attacks, massacres, demolition of mosques, and other violent crimes. Other research has found the VHP-A to be linked with far-right actors and anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States. 

Congressman Thanedar himself has also been featured on the platforms of a VHP-A initiative, HinduPACT, which has repeatedly used anti-Muslim tropes to smear Muslim American advocacy groups and labeled its critics as “Hinduphobic.” 

At a recent press conference organized by HinduACTion, Thanedar asserted that the targeting of the Indian consulate in San Francisco amounted to Hinduphobia. “The Indian embassy… was burnt in California, so what more proof do you need [of Hinduphobia]?” 

While the vandalism and attempted arson of the Indian consulate in San Francisco by miscreants in 2023 was indeed despicable, it’s crucial to clarify that the motive behind the act was rooted in anti-India sentiment rather than hatred towards Hindus.