The so-called radicality of this Conference did nothing but further contribute to the erasure of Indian Muslims and Indian brand of anti-Muslimness. It carried out Hindutva’s goal. Genocide of Muslims is an aesthetic project for Hindutva. Genocide of Muslims is an aesthetic project for this seemingly anti-casteist but clearly and always anti-Muslim left.
By Shaista Aziz Patel
At the conference on Dismantling Global Hindutva and its violence held in September 2021, I had a difficult time scanning the conference program to see where Muslims were as organizers, speakers, and as sites of critical discussion. I could find only a few instances of Muslim presence and not always in ways that would encourage us to actively think about the core place of anti-Muslim violence –as it appears at various intersections of the dominance of Hinduism, caste, gender, and sexuality in the formation of right-wing Hindu nationalism in India and diaspora. This conference claimed to present “multidisciplinary perspectives,” and yet, the reality that most of the speakers and organizers were caste-dominant Hindus really worried me as a caste-oppressed Muslim scholar of Critical Muslim Studies. At this conference, Interdisciplinarity, which is about the critical work of connecting the streets to academia, and also centering the people who are the actual targets of violence, seemed to have been co-opted by South Asian academics in the US who are comfortably situated in terms of caste, class, and citizenship. The organizers and presenters of this conference received several threats from Hindu nationalists in India and diaspora, and I genuinely appreciate the efforts of mostly graduate students and untenured faculty who carried the burden of organizing this conference. However, it was troublesome that the actual subjects targeted by Hindutva forces in India, the Dalits, the Bahujans (lowered-caste people), Indian and Kashmiri Muslims and other religious minorities were displaced from the positionality of those constantly under the threat of death and incarceration in India. These are the people(s) who have been targeted for centuries, for millennia, and regardless of Hindutva in power.
Official figures rank India as second only to the United States at 30.50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 401,050 deaths,with a mere 3.9% rate of full vaccination as of July 3, 2021.The New York Times reports a much graver situation, including an intensive study of three different antibody tests, called serosurveys, which convincingly demonstrate the utter gravity of Covid-19 pandemic in India. The in-depth scientific analysis of the serosurveys by NYT indicates that at the most conservative the estimated number of deaths in India is at least 600,000, with a more likely estimate of 1.6 million deaths, and a worst case scenario of 4.2 million deaths. Post-August 5, 2019, when India unilaterally derogated Articles 370 and 35A, after dismissing even the façade of the elected assembly in 2018, the Indian State has even more vigorously discriminated against the people of Jammu & Kashmir, particularly its Muslim population, especially in the form of explicitly prejudicial new land laws aimed at full-blown settler-colonialism. In a frightening feedback loop, the Indian state violence draws upon and abets Islamophobic violence against Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir at large, and includes a rising number of lynchings, the latest on June 21, 2021. The pandemic situation in Kashmir is thus exacerbated by a settler-colonialism aimed at “drowning Kashmiris once and for all.”
A sharply combative polemic that hits the nail on the head and which must, for that reason, be hailed. However, I doubt that Chatterjee’s response, if at all he deigns to come up with one, will throw any new light on the matter, much less open new horizons. His intellectual orientation and theoretical presuppositions — which stem from his political complicity only to reinforce it – are simply incapable of that. Subalternity is a constitutive crisis of the horizon or structure of valourisation, measure, distribution and/or representation. (The operative word here is constitutive.) In such circumstances, to envisage politics in terms of affirmation of subalternity – which is precisely the theoretical and historiographical project of the Subaltern Studies collective – is to reproduce that structure and its constitutive lack or crisis. For, subalternity is the crisis of the structure of representation that is nevertheless sutured on to it. In other words, to envisage politics in terms of affirming subalternity is to reproduce the constitutive duality of the élite and the subaltern, and thus enable its continued extension through intensification. This is pretty much a continuation through intensification of the politics of passive revolution. Something the Subaltern Studies, and Chatterjee in particular, claimed to have critiqued — albeit only as one of its concrete historical moments or appearances — by precisely perpetuating its general political mode.