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Hinduphobia 'alert': US white supremacists as dangerous as Islamic extremists?

By Rajiv Shah* 

Does the Hindu diaspora in the US in fears facing intensive attacks from white supremacist? It would seem so, if a new report prepared by the Rutgers University in New Jersey, authored among others by researchers associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, is any indication. Titled “Anti-Hindu Disinformation: A Case Study of Hinduphobia on Social Media”, the report seeks to compare the “dangers” the Hindu diaspora face from white supremacists with that of Islamic extremists.
Based on “contemporary analysis” of “anti-Hindu hashtags and comments from popular social networking and messaging platforms Twitter, Tiktok, 4chan, Gab, and Telegram”, the report underlines, without mincing words, “Islamist extremist and white supremacist communities regularly disseminate genocidal and violent propaganda and memes against Hindus.”
Of the five authors of the report, Prasiddha Sudhakar, who leads the team, is president of the Rutgers chapter of the Hindu Students Council (HSC), and is analyst, NCLabs at Reugers. He is backed, among  others, by Dr Parth Parihar, a postdoctoral fellow at Wallis Institute of Political Economy University of Rochester, also general secretary of the national HSC. Founded in 1980s, HSC is the student arm of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA).
The report starts, in its initial pages, by stating how “ugliness, bigotry and violence of anti-Hindu hatred” is not new in the US, pointing out, white supremacists were behind “a series of violent attacks on Hindus in Jersey City” in late 1980s. The provocation, it says, was “publication of a letter to the “Jersey Journal” in 1987 “that amounted to a manifesto of hate.”
The report quotes the letter: 
“I’m writing about your article during July about the abuse of Indian People. Well I’m here to state the other side. I hate them. … We are an organization called dot busters. … We will go to any extreme to get Indians to move out of Jersey City. If I’m walking down the street and I see a Hindu and the setting is right, I will hit him or her.
“We plan some of our most extreme attacks such as breaking windows, breaking car windows, and crashing family parties. … They will never do anything. They are a weak race physically and mentally. We are going to continue our way. We will never be stopped.”

The report points to how, following this letter, so-called ‘dot busters’, “a largely white, young gang had embarked on a campaign of vandalism, violence, and murder designed to terrorize Jersey City’s Hindu population and to drive them out of the city.” Interesting though it may seem, it admits, “An Indian man, although not Hindu, was beaten to death while walking home from Hoboken; his white friend was left unharmed.”
“So”, it insists, “There is, unfortunately, nothing new to the bigotry and violence faced by the Hindu population. Indeed, in a manner similar to anti-semitism, today’s Hinduphobia exploits tropes that are centuries old to re-ignite hatred. What is new, however, is the deployment of those tropes over social media in what amounts to a new playbook for rekindling an old hatred.”
Stating that even “this new playbook” has been “at work before”, the authors say, “Our prior reports have highlighted the deployment of antisemitic and anti-Asian tropes on social media in fueling spikes in the intensity and volume of hate messaging. Time and again, when the intensity and volume of hate messaging has reached a fever pitch, violence has erupted.”
The report states, “Hinduphobic tropes – such as the portrayal of Hindus as fundamentally heretical evil, dirty, tyrannical, genocidal, irredeemable or disloyal – are prominent across the ideological spectrum and are being deployed by fringe web communities and state actors alike”, regretting, “Despite violent and genocidal implications of Hinduphobia, it has largely been understudied, dismissed, or even denied in the public sphere.”
Especially referring to the term “pajeet”, which the authors qualify as “an ethnic slur”, they state, it was “coined as a derisive imitation of Indian names”, pointing out, “Typically, ‘pajeet’ is used to describe Indians on the Internet – and, by default – Hindus.” The term was first used on social media (4chan) by John Earnest, “the white supremacist shooter of the Chabad Synagogue in San Diego, 2019.”
Underlining that “this slur has also been used by white supremacists in white nationalist podcasts in reference to violent, murderous fantasies about Indians”, the report says, “Our qualitative analysis suggests that ‘pajeet’ is used in reference to Hindus and Indians interchangeably, with the majority of derogatory characterizations targeted towards Hindus.” It adds, “In particular, distinctly Hindu symbols (swastika, tilaks, etc.) are used persistently in memes referencing pajeet...”
It continues, “Several clusters from the topic network indicate similar themes – the idea that pajeets (Hindus) are dirty (streetshitter, poojeet), dishonest (scamming) and unintelligent (mong – a slang term on 4Chan for individuals who do idiotic or stupid actions without realization). We see an entire cluster in blue, dedicated to dehumanizing depictions such as ‘shitskinned’, ‘subhuman’, and ‘poon***r’.” 
Seeking to suggest that Islamic extremists actually follow -- in fact learn from -- disparaging social media posts released by white supremacists, it adds, “These derogatory characterizations are often accompanied by visual memes that depict Hindus as dirty and barbaric.”
Islamist extremist and white supremacist communities regularly disseminate genocidal and violent propaganda against Hindus
Insisting that the white supremacist disdain for Hindus is similar to that of Islamist extremists, in that both of them “regularly disseminate genocidal and violent propaganda and memes against Hindus”, the report says, “Through our open-source intelligence collection for comments and images related to ‘pajeet’, we found open calls for genocide disguised using coded language.” However, it does not fail to mention, “We found that the messaging is not limited to Islamist extremists.”
Suggesting that white supremacist disdain towards Hindus is no different from Islamic extremists, the report offers the example of “self-identified Pakistani Islamist accounts” of the social media which “mock the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, in which 175 people were killed by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists.”
In these accounts, it says, “The survivors/ victims’ Hindu identity is particularly emphasized with brownface, saffron clothing, and tilaks. Hindu victims are shown crying, frustrated, and powerless, while Islamist terrorists are depicted as impervious and smug, reveling in the violence.”
Pointing out that “Islamists borrow genocidal motifs from well beyond India, including Nazi Germany and the contemporary United States”, the report says, in one such social media post, “Islamists co-opt the murder of George Floyd by Minneappolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin to suggest the same dehumanizing treatment should be meted out to Hindus.”
However, it does not fail to comment, “Similar anti-Hindu themes are echoed by white supremacist communities; the idea that Hindus are ‘pajeets’ who are dirty, backwards and perverted.” 
In fact, the report notes, “White supremacist communities borrow antisemitic tropes – such as the idea of a ‘Zionist Occupied Government’, a conspiracy theory used in several antisemitic manifestos which denote conspiracy theories about Jewish control over government and media – and use it against Hindus through the dog whistles of ‘Brahmin Occupied Government’ relaying themes about Hindu dominance and control in places of power.”
Quite like white supremacists, the report says, an analysis of 1,766,301 tweets from state-sponsored Iranian trolls from 2010 to 2021 suggests “Iranian state sponsored trolls use influence operations and social justice propaganda to create communal divides in India.”
 ---
*Editor, Counterview

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