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US Civil Society Speaks Out Against Hindu Supremacy

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Crowd of men, members of India's RSS, marching with penant flaga.

Hindu supremacists are joining forces with the MAGA bloc in this pivotal election year. US movement groups are recognizing that they threaten our common interests in building multiracial democracy.

More than 100 American civil society organizations have issued a joint declaration expressing “acute concern about the alarming rise of Hindu supremacy, also known as Hindutva or Hindu nationalism, in the United States.” The declaration, whose signatories included groups such as the Movement for Black Lives, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Grassroots Asians Rising, was compiled by Savera: United Against Supremacy—an interfaith, multiracial, and anti-caste coalition of Indian-American and partner organizations working to combat the Hindu supremacist movement in the United States as part of a larger struggle against the rising global Far Right. It marks a significant moment in US civil society’s understanding of and orientation toward Hindu supremacy at home and abroad—a moment that has come just in time, as Hindu supremacists move to join forces with the MAGA bloc in this pivotal election year.

The Hindu supremacist movement has been present in the United States since at least the late 1960s, offering significant support to the Indian Far Right and sowing divisions within South Asian American communities. In the past 10 years, however, this movement—fueled by the rise to power of Donald Trump and Narendra Modi—has grown more ambitious, converging with other far-right movements to produce a clear and growing threat to all of our communities in the US.

That this declaration has pulled together such a broad and diverse coalition of American civil society organizations, across racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines, is no accident. Rather, it reflects many months of careful, systematic outreach to various civil society groups, in many cases involving sustained back-and-forth via email or live conversations over the phone, in which we explained to these groups the ways in which the Savera coalition’s focus on Hindu supremacy was connected to their own respective focus areas—from immigration justice to Palestine solidarity to resisting AAPI hate. Out of those conversations a shared analysis emerged: that the Hindu supremacist Far Right threatens our common interests in building a just, multiracial democracy.

Hindu supremacists aim to fracture communities of color

The Hindu supremacist movement’s connections with the broader American Far Right have multiplied from a VHP-A member waving the Indian flag at the January 6th insurrection to the growing number of Hindu supremacist demagogues running for office on far-right platforms. And while it may seem superficially counterintuitive that the virulently racist forces of MAGA extremism and white Christian nationalism would have an interest in building these connections with a non-white community, a closer analysis reveals the chilling logic behind this convergence.

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Not only are Indian Americans among the wealthiest, most elite, and most highly educated ethnic groups in the country, and therefore a valuable source of financial and social capital for the Far Right, but more importantly, they offer an avenue through which the Far Right can invert and fracture the very fabric of American multiculturalism by sowing divisions within communities of color, splintering one of the most reliable bastions of Democratic votes and progressive politics in this country.

From the rise of figures such as Vivek Ramaswamy, to the Hindu supremacist movement’s embrace of the far-right backlash to affirmative action, to the near doubling of Indian-American votes for Donald Trump between 2016 and 2020, examples of this dangerous convergence are all around us.  As such, Savera’s joint declaration reframes the question of Hindu supremacy away from an intra-community issue imported from abroad and limited to an internally divided South Asian diaspora (even if Hindu supremacists are a small minority within the community) to its role as a key node in an increasingly interconnected and multiracial Far Right that should concern all of us.

Zionism and Hindu Supremacy make an unholy alliance

The Hindu supremacist movement’s convergence with other far-right forces has been made especially visible in the current moment through the ever-tighter alliance between the Hindu far-right and the Zionist lobby in the United States. As Aparna Gopalan pointed out in  Jewish Currents last June, this alliance is nothing new. The American Hindu supremacist ecosystem has openly sought to emulate the structures and tactics of pro-Israel forces for years, most significantly by adopting the tactic of weaponizing accusations of victimization (antisemitism in the case of the Zionist far-right; “Hinduphobia” in the case of their Hindu counterparts) to smear and silence anyone who criticizes Zionism or Hindu supremacy.

Hindu supremacist groups like the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the VHP-A have cosponsored pro-Israel rallies alongside Israeli consulates and far-right Christian Zionists, and their leaders have even teamed up with AIPAC and other Zionist groups to bankroll primary challenges against progressives who dare to speak out against the Israeli state’s genocide in Gaza. (For example, US Rep. Summer Lee, a member of the Squad, is facing Bhavini Patel in an April 23 primary; Patel has bragged about the resources she will bring from the Hindu supremacists to defeat Lee.) What lies behind this alliance is not just a desire to amplify each other’s power, or a set of shared geopolitical interests, but also a shared pursuit of a very specific positioning in US society: a proximity to whiteness that can co-exist alongside an aggrieved politics of victimhood.

The only way we can successfully resist these far-right forces is by building solidarity across racial, religious, and ethnic lines to oppose them. In this spirit of collective action and liberation, Savera has compiled this declaration to raise the alarm on Hindu supremacy’s insidious rise in the United States. The text of the declaration follows. New organizations are welcome to sign on.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, express our acute concern about the alarming rise of Hindu supremacy, also known as Hindutva or Hindu nationalism, in the United States. This political ideology, which was first articulated in the early 20th century with direct inspiration from Nazism, Fascism and other ideologies of racial subjugation, now finds itself in a deepening alliance with various facets of the American far-right. Hindu supremacy poses a growing threat to our core values of democracy, pluralism and justice, both in India and here in the United States.

We stand steadfast in solidarity with Savera, a new united front that represents the true Indian-American majority, and that has brought together an interfaith, multiracial, anti-caste coalition of organizations and activists to resist supremacist politics of all kinds. 

Hindu supremacist organizations may hide behind a facade of multiculturalism and diversity, but in practice they have worked to break bonds of solidarity between communities and legitimize far-right politics within communities of color—including by attacking civil rights groups; collaborating with far-right demagogues; spreading anti-Muslim disinformation; opposing affirmative action and caste protections for marginalized communities; and working to curb free speech and academic freedom.

The deeply anti-Muslim project of Hindu supremacy began and continues to function as a dominant caste project, and its history is littered with examples of violence against Muslims and other religious minorities, caste-oppressed groups and indigenous peoples. The Hindu supremacist movement is not only harmful to Indian, South Asian and Muslim Americans, but runs deeply counter to our values of collective liberation. It is our shared responsibility to stand in solidarity with those who are bravely opposing supremacist politics and fighting for a true multiracial democracy. Hindu supremacy deeply concerns us all, and we are committed to combating it. 

Therefore, together, we pledge:

  • To reject all forms of hatred and supremacist politics, including Hindu supremacy; and to educate ourselves about the ideology and global presence of the Hindu supremacist movement, and its intersections with the broader far-right;
  • To stand in firm solidarity with the global struggle to dismantle Islamophobia and annihilate caste, and in particular to support movements to combat anti-Muslim hate and ban caste discrimination in the United States;
  • To support calls for the United States government to center human rights and democracy in its engagement with the Modi regime; and 
  • To stand with activists and organizations working to articulate a diverse, inclusive, and liberatory vision of Indian American identity.

Featured image: Members of the Hindu nationalist militia organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) marching in Bhopal, India, 2016. Photo by Suyash Dwivedi, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED, adapted by Convergence. By some accounts, the RSS is the largest far-right organization in the world.

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