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Hindu Bashing in American Institutions

Beware Of Hindu-Bashing In American  Institutions 

Politically aware Indians have made much recently of the increasing 
strain between the U.S. administration and India over positions and 
statements on Kashmir.  Those expressing this concern, however, may be 
unaware of a growing phenomenon currently taking place which has more 
profound and far-reaching implications; legitimization of Hindu-
bashing in U.S. institutions.

Influenced and supported by noisy self-appointed Indian 'secularists,' 
many  Western scholars and government officials are now taking a 
position on Hindu revivalism.  With very few exceptions, this position 
is exceedingly negative.  Though this phenomenon is now limited to 
those conversant with South Asia and has not yet influenced the 
general public's opinions, in time it will.  Though there are many 
forums for Hindu-bashing currently being opened, I will reserve my 
comments here to two recent conferences, one sponsored by the U.S. 
State Department and one by the University of Wisconsin.

On July 16 of this year, the State Department held a conference 
entitled, 'Hindu Revivalism in India: Position, Prospects and 
Implications for the U.S.' Many highly placed individuals were present 
including former Congressman Stephen Solarz, Deputy Assistant 
Secretary for South Asia John Malott, Deputy Assistant Secretary for 
Regional Analysis Phyllis Oakley and a wide range of U.S. government 
officials.  Scholars were invited to make presentations on Hindu 
Revivalism.  On the whole, the atmosphere was one of ridicule.  There 
was a lot of finger pointing at Hindu revivalism as the source of 
India's current problems and of potential conflict with the U. S.

        On November 5 to 7, at the Annual Conference on South Asia at 
Madison, Wisconsin, two panels and many individuals presentations were 
devoted  to Hindu Nationalism.  Every single presentation was negative 
towards Hindu Nationalism with remarkable statements being made that I 
never though I would hear in an academic institution.

        I will detail the presentation of Lisa McKean of the 
University of Sydney because she was a featured speaker at both the 
University of Wisconsin and at the State Department conference.  I 
will give a sampling of the statements made by other scholars.  Though 
I have documented their statements as well, I will avoid references to 
the names in this essay.

        Lisa McKean claims to have spent a lot of time with Vishwa 
Hindu Parishad, enough to make scholarly presentations, anyway.  The 
basic thrust of her argument is that Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America 
is a fascist organization which remits funds to its illegal sister 
organization in India.  Not mentioned, of course, is that the corrupt, 
opportunistic Congress party banned the VHP for its own political gain.

        Lisa describes VHP-sponsored groups in America as "front 
organizations" for a larger fascist cause.  She refers to VHP 
activities, including Diwali celebrations and Swami Chinmayananda's 
spiritual camps as "covert operations" and to active members as 
"militant activists."   Lisa called the late Shri Chinmayananda a " 
master manipulator" and alleged that he initiated unwanted physical 
contact with women, including herself.  Not content with merely 
bashing VHP, Lisa referred to the monthly magazine, Hinduism Today, as 
a front paper supporting militant activities.  Global Vision 2000 was 
targeted as a fascist assembly.  She described Hindus moving into 
professional positions as "infiltrators" working for the cause of 
Hindu fundamentalism.  Hindu Digest, Samskar and the Hindu Students 
Council did not escape her censure.

        Perhaps, most appalling was the warm hand given to her at the 
end of her presentation in both conferences.  Praised as a "bright, 
young progressive scholar," most of the audience accepted her 
statements as fact, particularly those progressive Indian 
'secularists.' One even suggested that universities should ban Hindu 
Students Council of America.  Lisa was certainly not alone and played 
to an appreciative audience.

        Scholars   making    presentations    at the State Department 
conference were less concerned with facts than with making points.  
Many erroneous statements were made such as "the Sangh Parivar planned 
the execution of Mahatma Gandhi and will stop at nothing.  " The 
misquoted statement of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray about Indian 
Muslims being like the Jews of Europe was used in making the 
authoritative statement that    "Sangh Parivar underpinnings are just 
like those of Nazis."

        An example of how criticism of Sangha Parivar activities is 
extended to Hindus in general is the statement of a John Hopkins 
scholar that "Hindus in the U.S. are very sympathetic and supportive 
of fundamentalism.  "One scholar even justified        discrimination 
against Hindus in India itself with the remarkable statement, "Equal 
rights for Hindus is equal to absolution of minority rights.  " The 
scholar made this statement after echoing the hollow line started by 
Indian 'secularist' Romila Thapar that "there is in reality no such 
thing as Hinduism."

        The University of Wisconsin panels were truly pitiful and I 
will give only a few quotes from various presentations.  One   Indian 
'secularist' suggested that India was an artificial entity which 
"requires fascism to maintain its existence.  " A scholar from 
Berkeley referred to the "dirty communal imprint"  that Hindus leave 
on Indian society.

Incredible as the assertions of these misguided 'intellectuals' are, 
there is a danger of an appearance of legitimization of these ideas 
thorough repetition.  These unprincipled 'scholars' would leave no 
stone unturned to denigrate Hindu culture and world view.
The complexity of Indian civilization simply overwhelms most Western 
scholars and apparently, Indian "secular" scholars as well. They do 
not, for the most part, understand that the rhythms of Hinduism beat 
in the heart of most "oppressed untouchables" and in the hearts of 
much of the minorities as well. One scholar, facing the complexity of 
increasing Harijan, Christian and Muslim sympathy for Hindutva, echoed 
the true feelings that most Western scholars have always exhibited 
towards India. Asked how he could analyze such a complex civilization, 
he replied: "When Hinduism dies, We'll do a better job."


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