Hindutva, Part 2: The Rise of Hindutva in the US


Date published: Thu, 7 July 22

Following part 1 of the article, this article will explore the state of Hindutva in the United States, taking largely from a recent report published by Jasa Macher. 

Hindu nationalism has steadily become more and more entrenched in the social and political landscape and fabric of the US. According to the Macher report, the Hindutva agenda in the US focuses on consolidating power for Hindutva groups through networks of groups that “organize Hindu communities by capturing the righteous frustration at experiences of racism.” They further wish to direct diaspora Hindus to engage with upper caste cultural repertoire – accepting Hindus as the “true owners of land in India.” 

Through accessing US transparency laws, court documents, lobbyists, and archives, Macher reports on a variety of ways that Hindutva has entrenched in the US, which you can read here

Since the BJP’s ascension to power in India in 2014, the emphasis on transforming India to a Hindu-first state was accelerated through a rise in violence against Christians, Dalits, and Muslims. There have been many reports of tech companies in Silicon Valley and the US engaging in caste discrimination, discriminating against lower-caste Indians. 

Hindutva influencers in the US include the Hindu American Foundation, Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora, the Bhutada Family Foundation, the Dharma Civilization Foundation, and more. 

Macher argues that Hindutva groups are seeking to become cultural gatekeepers and representatives of Hindu communities in the US via youth programs. The ability to mobilize large groups of Hindu families carries significant weight when these groups hold fundraisers for US government officials on issues related to Hindus and India. A report published in 2014 found that $55 million was transferred from the US to India via Hindutva related charities in the US, the evidence through which was taken from tax records. 

Twitter, in early July, filed a suit against the Indian government in an attempt to limit government oversight over politically charged content moderation decisions. The lawsuit was filed in the Karnataka High Court. Modi and the BJP party have flooded Twitter with requests of content moderation requests. The government had expressed to Twitter to remove content expressing support for the farmers’ protests in Indian Punjab last year. Twitter has said that the Indian government “arbitrarily and disproportionately went after content and users on its platform.” 

Last year in 2021, US-based researchers announced an online conference to discuss the rise of Hindu nationalism, which was struck by intense backlash by Hindutva groups. Its organizers and speakers received death and rape threats, which forced many scholars to withdraw. Pro-Indian government news channels commented that the conference was an “intellectual cover for the Taliban,” evoking intense Islamophobic tropes. 

The Washington Post reports, “Now those tensions are seeping into American universities. In interviews, a dozen academics based in the United States say pressure from Hindu nationalist groups and supporters of the Indian government threatens to undermine academic freedom on American campuses, creating a hostile environment for those specializing in India and South Asia. Some of those interviewed did not want to be named for fear of being targeted or because of employment concerns at their universities.” 

Hindutva has been and continues to entrench in the systems of the US. If left unchecked, it will only continue to grow and fester from something we see as subtle to much more obvious.