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Hindu supremacists 'influencing' well-meaning US centrist, progressive institutions

By Rajiv Shah 

In a sharp admission, several Indian diaspora human rights groups in the US have regretted that there is “a lack of awareness about Hindu supremacy” in the country, leading to “well-meaning centrist and progressive institutions to mis-recognize Hindu supremacists as representative of the wider, far more diverse, and more liberal Indian American community.”
A new report, “The Global VHP’s Trail of Violence”, prepared by Savera: United Against Supremacy with the active involvement of Ambedkar King Study Circle, India Civil Watch International, Dalit Solidarity Forum, Indian American Muslim Council and Hindus for Human Rights, goes out of the way to acknowledge a complete failure to counter Hindu supremacist organisations in the US.
Without being explicit on whose failure it is, the report rues, “American politicians and civil society are frequently hoodwinked into collaborating with and legitimizing a far-right movement that operates under the guise of being a minority community within the US’s multicultural framework.”
“This has routinely meant that organized and well-financed Hindu supremacists can infiltrate and influence spaces where they do not belong”, the report underlines, advising “pro-democracy actors” in the US to “better understand” the “deep transnational reach of the Hindu supremacist movement, and its organizational breadth and sophistication.”
Pointing towards the failure to understand “Hindu supremacy’s century-long and frequently violent history”, which includes “over five decades of patient institution building in the US”, the report says, it continues to influence large sections of diaspora, even though “Hindu Americans, like other minority communities, have faced racism in the US.” The result is, a “subsection of the community has responded not with anti-racist solidarity but a supremacist politics...”
The report says, “Ironically, it is the very legitimacy that has been granted to Hindu supremacist groups in well-meaning centrist, liberal and progressive spaces that has fuelled their growth in the United States. Organizations like the VHP-A, despite their narrow political base, seek to make representational claims on behalf of all Indian Americans, cynically exploiting their positioning as a minority in a multicultural society.”
It notes, “Like many other immigrant farright networks, they have exploited a basic contradiction: while their positioning as a minority is easily visible, their support for far-right politics often is not. This has allowed Hindu supremacist organizations to continue to operate in mainstream spaces, their true alliances remaining hidden to most actors in US civil society and politics.”
The report contends that this has happened because of what it calls “low-information environment”, which has not just “obscured the transnational nature of the far right in countries like India, but also muddled our analysis of the domestic anti-authoritarian movement.”
It asserts, “Without an understanding of Hindu supremacy – and the deep Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, casteism, and disdain for social democracy embedded in it – we will struggle to understand the role played by a figure like Vivek Ramaswamy in laying the groundwork for a broader far right that can hide behind a brown face to claim it is not racist.”
The report warns, “If we are not alert, the transnational far right will manifest in the US as a multi-racial far right, in a form that will be virulent and many times more difficult to uproot. The global Hindu supremacist movement, and its presence in and impact on US politics, is arguably the most concerning emergent example of this phenomenon...”
“If left unchecked”, it continues, “Hindu supremacist groups are in danger of growing within both the far right and the center, fueling an evolving and ambitious white supremacist movement, while blocking any real progressive politics from emerging within the Democratic Party.”
Insisting upon the need to “build a multi-racial coalition of our own, crossing any existing silos, that stands united against supremacy”, the report says, “While this most crucially involves a challenge to deeply entrenched structures of white supremacy within the US, progressive movements within communities of color and religious minorities within the US must also confront supremacist and reactionary strands within our own communities.”
The report warns, if we are not alert, the transnational far right will manifest in the US as a multi-racial far right
Stating that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America (VHP-A) was founded in the US in 1970 as a wing of India’s VHP on “the orders of MS Golwalkar, the second supreme leader of the RSS”, the report says, “As of 2019, the VHP had a self-declared presence in 29 countries across the world.” 
As for the US, it has “formally founded dozens of organizations, projects and programs, including student, advocacy and temple wings” and “informally birthed or remained closely tied to dozens of organizations committed to similar Hindu supremacist goals.”
Its success stems from its claim to be a purely “religious” organization representing Hindus in the US, which helps it enjoy “significant privileges and access to domestic political power, including undeserved representational legitimacy and even funding from government sources.” It thinks, “The harms caused by the VHP have left an indelible impact not just on communities in India and its diaspora, but the broader American political landscape as well.”
Stating that Hindu supremacist ideology is “premised on a deep-seated hate of Muslims”, the report says, while the VHP-A has “regularly sought to deny the very existence of caste-based discrimination”, in the US it has “attacked anti-caste activists as terrorist coconspirators, and regularly opposed attempts to introduce anti-caste legislation in universities or city councils.”
Claiming that the caste system is based on a merit-based distribution of qualities or skills, the report says, “The VHP-A parrots the traditional Hindu supremacist and caste denialist line that defends caste as a harmonious arrangement of society – while turning a blind eye to the history of coercion, discrimination and violence that it relies on.”
Offering examples how the Hindu supremacist leaders are admirers of white supremacist and other US-based far-right movements, the report says, VHP-A member Krishna Gudipati participated in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol four years ago; adding, “Pamela Geller’s Stop Islamization of America, Marvin Belsky’s Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam and Stuart Kaufman’s The United West have all cosponsored and supported protests organized by VHP America.”
“While Indian Americans have long been a reliable Democratic constituency, Hindu supremacist forces have long attempted to move their communities to the right”, the report notes. “This effort has often been led by groups like the VHP-A, which has indicated great enthusiasm about partnering with white supremacist and other far-right groups.”
It adds, “This shift has only grown more pronounced of late, a trend accelerated by the creation of the Republican Hindu Coalition, co-chaired by Steve Bannon, the white supremacist leader and Trump ally.”

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