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.
In annexing Kashmir, Indian leaders put aside their progressive anti-colonialism, and pursued a policy that stood in direct confrontation with the goals of struggling Kashmiris. Nehru’s professed derision for princes and despots proved facile in Kashmir in this first real test of his commitment to anti-colonialism and democratic values. His decision to urge the discredited and runaway Dogra ruler to sign the imperial Instrument of Accession, and then accept it, was a defeat for the oppressed Kashmiris who had, with great sacrifices, forced the Dogra ruler out. By recognizing the authority of the Dogra ruler, Indian sovereignty over Kashmir simply replaced the sovereignty enshrined in the Dogra maharaja. But along with that sovereignty, India inherited Dogra rule’s illegitimacy as well.
On 26 January 1992, Murli Manohar Joshi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, after travelling by road all the way from the southern tip of India, was airlifted from Jammu to the heart of Srinagar where he half-raised the Indian flag near historic Lal Chowk. All of Kashmir was put under severe curfew, and the army was given shoot-at-sight orders. Throughout the day soldiers shot dead more than a dozen Kashmiris in the streets of Srinagar. Over the previous two years, the Indian government had unleashed a reign of terror on the people, with massacre upon massacre of unarmed protestors dotting Kashmir’s timeline. Joshi’s Ekta Yatra (Unity March), protected and provided of full support by the Indian government, was an important reminder of the nature of the Indian state and the relationship it sought with the people of Kashmir. The event was designed to put on display the majoritarian character of Indian nationhood, and line up power of the state behind it to send barely coded messages to audiences in India and in Kashmir.