Hindu Americans send 900,000+ emails to varsities against Dismantling Hindutva Conference

The Hindu American Foundation sent follow up letters to the 41 universities initially listed as sponsoring the upcoming Dismantling Global Hindutva conference. 

The communication provided key updates and reiterated concerns about the appearance of institutional endorsement of a partisan political event and the impact that could have on Hindu students and faculty. 

HAF’s Executive Director, Suhag Shukla Esq. and Managing Director, Samir Kalra, Esq. shared that the event organizers had, due to public outcry and several direct requests from universities, removed the display of logos and replaced it with a list of virtually the same universities with a disclaimer that it was specific departments and centers which were contributing or sponsoring the event. The actual names of the department or centers, however, were not included. 

Shukla and Kalra wrote, “We would assume that the legal, tax-exempt limitations on political activities extend from the institutional level to the departmental. The central topic of this partisan event remains the same — to oppose and “dismantle” the Bharatiya Janata Party, a democratically elected party in India… ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ is not only political and partisan. It veers into promoting Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred in the activists and politicians it platforms, in the resources it promotes, and in the reductionist definition of Hinduism it presents.” 

HAF leaders also provided details about the overwhelming response to the Foundation’s five day online campaign and delivered the final petition letter. 

The initial effort to send emails to university presidents delivered slightly more than 928,000 emails in the span of 48 hours. The response was so robust, in fact, that HAF was forced to move to collecting signatures for a petition to be delivered to the same group of university administrators. The final petition count: 10,360 signatures.

HAF leaders lastly reiterated concerns for Hindu students and faculty on the campuses of universities where departments and centers were sponsors. 

“We support the rights of academics in their individual capacity to engage in political activism concerning India. But leave universities, and by extension university departments, centers, and institutes out because, aside from potentially violating tax-exempt status, it stifles open inquiry,” said Shukla. “Students and faculty must have the freedom to explore questions, posit ideas, and express opinions without being viewpoint policed or fear of being labeled a “supremacist” or “extremist” by the loudest amongst them and then paying a professional price.”

Four universities responded to HAF’s campaign and confirmed their name and logo was used in an unauthorized manner and that event organizers were requested to remove the logos. These include: Boston College, Dalhousie University, Princeton University, and University of Massachusetts, Boston. Only University of Massachusetts, Boston was not included in the updated event sponsor list.

The petition reads in part:

“The DGH organizers trade on the prestige of your institution’s name to host, not an academic conference, but a partisan event related to politics in India. The event platforms activists with extensive histories of amplifying Hinduphobic discourse even while denying the existence of Hinduphobia. Many of these activists equate the whole of Hinduism with caste bigotry and other social ills; deny the subcontinental indigeneity of Hindus and Hinduism; and support or minimize violent extremist and separatist movements and deny the resulting genocides and ethnic cleansings of Hindus.”

The petition requests that universities: 1) ask the event organizers to remove university names and logos from the event website and promotional materials; as well as, 2) ensure the safety and wellbeing of Hindu students, faculty, and staff on campus who may feel targeted, threatened, or face hostility or harassment as a result of the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference.

“Importantly, contrary to what Dismantling Global Hindutva’s organizers claim,” Shukla added, “we are not trying to stop this conference, nor remove individual speakers. HAF entirely supports free speech and the right of academics to express themselves. We are simply adding pro-Hindu voices to a conversation where they seem to be deliberately excluded.”

Image courtesy of (IMage courtesy: dismantlinghindutva.com)

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