India: A Democracy’s Near Collapse into Religious Terror, Part VI
The struggle to be investigated is not confined to India: the Hindu right has a powerful and wealthy U.S. arm, which both funds suspicious activities in India, possibly activities associated with Gujarat’s genocidal violence, and foments discord here and in Britain. Much of the animus of the U. S. group has focused on scholars. Colleagues here in the United States have been threatened with physical violence, even death, or had eggs thrown at them, when they tell a version of long-ago history that does not suit the agenda of the Hindu right. Representatives of the Hindu right have made serious, though unsuccessful, attempts to have American universities remove troublesome scholars from assignments involving the teaching of ancient Hindu traditions. Although I myself have been verbally attacked at times, and although my Dean had one phone call saying that I had no right to teach, the odd thing about the nature of these attacks in America is that a person like me who writes about a genocide today, saying that the Hindu right is complicit in the murders of thousands, is less likely to be targeted than someone who writes about mythology or ancient history in ways that contravene the new orthodoxy. Part of the story of my book on this subject will involve unraveling the complicated connections between the Hindu right in India and the expatriate community in the United States, which surely need careful scrutiny and further inquiry. whatever one’s political and religious views may be.
One further reason for me to write the book lies here. When my colleagues in South Asian studies or religious studies write the truth as they see it, they can be attacked in ways that may mean the loss of an entire career. They, or their students, may be denied archaeological permits; they may be denied access to archives and other sources of information. Their works may be suppressed in India, and they may encounter difficulty getting published in the U. S., since publishers fear violence. And when they are personally attacked or threatened for their work on India, that attack goes directly to the heart of everything they have stood for in their scholarly career. I expect to be attacked for writing the book, but I also view these attacks as less significant for me than they would be for lifelong India scholars. Leaving aside the issue of physical violence, the worst that could happen to me would be to be denied a visa – something not at all likely under the present government, and something that did not happen to established scholars (only to the young) even under the previous regime. That denial would cost me a good deal in terms of fellowship and friendship, but it would not cripple my work. I am also a political person and I expect trouble. My friends in religious studies sought a peaceful scholarly life focused on spirituality; they are surprised, wounded, and utterly unprepared, when politics reaches into their lives. So it seems appropriate that I should step in and shoulder a part of the burden that so many now bear who are more deeply at risk.