Supersizing victimhood: Hindu Right’s appropriation of Islamophobia, the Jewish Holocaust & Indigenous struggles


The seemingly illogical idea of Hindu victimhood – the victimhood of a majority – is alive and vibrant among a section of what one might term the Hindu Right. Those peddling such ideas of victimhood had earlier built their case by leveling accusations against the Muslim and the colonial rulers of India, holding them responsible for the historical subjugation and humiliation of Hindus. 

The works of V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar laid the foundations of the above discourse and several historians published lurid details of the depravities of the foreign rulers. 

Today, the above formulations still carry currency. In continual diatribes against Islamic and British rulers, a whole host of historical wrongs are trotted out and sought to be assuaged. The long drawn out Babri Masjid affair was a particularly vicious example of such posturings. 

More recently, in order to express their own condition in connection with other instances of persecution around the world, the proponents of the Hindu victimhood thesis have brazenly linked to the Jewish Holocaust, Islamophobia, and the oppression of indigenous peoples. A good number of these proponents are part of the Indian diaspora. They seem to have wised up to the utility of magnifying their own sense of persecution by linking with that of other communities. 

Positioning Hindus as the indigenous population and civilization of India, such proponents unabashedly and unproblematically attempt to hijack the struggles of those whose indigeneity has been mostly unquestionable. Not just that. Terms associated with experience of indigenous and other oppressed peoples around the world, such as “intergenerational trauma,” are also employed unashamedly.

Such trauma, denoting the  psychological effects of various kinds of oppression carried over several generations, is often associated with the current lived experiences of  indigenous and Black communities around the world. It is a very serious, sensitive and a real condition that afflicts those communities since they have been under oppression generation after generation. 

To appropriate such terminology by unproblematically thinking themselves as “indigenous” and claiming resultant trauma from having been under foreign rule for generations is an example of deception and unethical posturing. on part of the Hindu Right 

Also increasingly employed is the idea of “Hinduphobia”—or a supposedly cognate term, Hindu dvesha (animosity towards Hindus), the former term patterned very consciously and cheekily on the ideas surrounding Islamophobia. 

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and other organizations put together seminars and talks on Hinduphobia and Hindudvesha, especially in school textbooks. This strand of thought is a continuation of the controversy regarding the depiction of Hindus and other Indian groups in California textbooks. 

The issue of Hinduphobia was also front and center recently in the backlash against hstrian Audrey Truschke at Rutgers University in the US, where she was accused of hurting the sentiments of the Hindu students. 

Such wild imaginings about one’s victimhood does not stop there. A webinar organized by the Dharma Civilization Foundation, a part of VHPA, titled “What Can Hindus Learn From  The Jewish Holocaust,” explains the thinking behind the event: “What are possible Holocaust lessons for Hindus who have experienced genocide in several countries and who continue to experience sustained Hindudvesha –  a discourse that dehumanizes Hindus everywhere.”

The list of countries the Hindus might have experienced genocide in seems to be anybody’s guess. The Indians, and a majority of them Hindus, form the largest diaspora in the world. They figure in the upper ranks of professionals and decision-makers in places like the US and Europe; they control large businesses in Africa; and they form both the laboring and service classes in the Middle East. How such a community with admittedly more than a modicum of success and prosperity is the target of dehumanization everywhere is a mystery.

The quest to understand and transcend the supposed inferiority, humiliation and dehumanization is however not a monopoly of diaspora actors. A recent presentation organized by the “Indian Knowledge System” track of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Ministry of Education, was titled, “The Real History of Prosperous India.” The two main presenters, from an organization called “Bharath Gyan,” were at pains to explain how Indians had high achievements much before the common era. They repeatedly pointed out that the Hindus were not “Janglis” (wild and uncultured), as several historians would have the world believe. 

It is such self-crafted profiles of victimization that the adherents of a nationalist Hindu agenda conjure up and then work to disseminate. It creates a platform to keep up the myth of persecution and of feigned inferiority.. What it urges, more covertly than overtly, is a solidarity based on supposed shared suffering, and, for historical justice, common enemies to blame. There is the perpetuation of a fabricated memory of victimhood, which in the present plays out in forms of irrational hate, a desire for avenging the persecution, and an endeavor to constantly glorify a supposed golden past. 

(The author is a writer based in Delhi NCR)





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