April 4, 2019
As Hindu, Indian and Indian diasporic scholars based in/from Canada, we are writing in support of the event “Dalit and Muslim Persecution in India: History & Current Politics”, on April 6, and the speakers Dr. Chinnaiah Jangam (Assistant Professor, Carleton University) and Ms. Sanober Umar (PhD Candidate, Queen’s University). The event is being co-organized by the Noor Cultural Centre, University of Toronto, Queen’s University, York University, and Jamhoor.
This event is both critical and timely, given that India’s general election begins next week. In the last few years, there has been an exponential escalation in violence against Dalit, Muslim and other minority communities in India, fuelled in part by rising of the right wing Hindutva government. The instances of violence in the last five years have been well-documented in the Indian and international media (see links below).
As the invited speakers at this upcoming event, Dr. Jangam and Ms. Umar are experts in the field and they can contextualize the violences with historical and contemporary perspectives; their scholarly work has been foundational to understand violence based on caste and religious prejudices in India. Both are exemplary scholars and their academic accolades and accomplishments speak for themselves. As a matter of fact, many of us have learned and deeply benefitted from their scholarship and we see them both as important scholars of India in Canada and globally. As scholars of India and Indian diasporas, we commend the co-organizers for putting together this important event and creating much needed space for this conversation in Toronto.
We are therefore appalled to hear that some self-appointed speakers of the Hindu and Indo-Canadian community are calling this event anti-India and anti-Hindu, actively organizing against the event, and disrespecting the credentials of the guest speakers. As scholars of India and Indian diasporas, many of us who are dominant caste Hindus, are dismayed at this response. As educators, we believe in dialogue, and we think it is important to create spaces for those whose voices are least heard. It is critical for those of us who come from Hindu communities to pause and reflect on the violence against Dalit, Muslim, and other minority communities in India which is often perpetrated in our names. Learning from those who are oppressed and experience violence in India is important for developing a more nuanced understanding of the region. Voices of scholars like Dr. Jangam and Ms. Umar indeed “balance” the reactionary voices of those against the event and the speakers. Rather than “escalating tensions” between Muslims and Hindus in the GTA, as those in disagreement have suggested, we believe that this is an important opportunity to explore issues that are no doubt also affecting the friends and families of many Indians in the GTA, across Canada and India as well.
We want to make clear that those protesting against this event do not speak for all Hindus or for all Canadians of Indian descent. As Hindus, we see the protest against the event as deeply Islamophobic and casteist against the speakers as well as the communities they represent. Moreover, complaints suggesting that lynching of Muslims and Dalits is exaggerated and untrue appear to be invoking the concept of “fake news”, and this speaks to their alignment with white North American conservatives as well as with the Hindu right. There is nothing “balanced” in the denial of these everyday lived realities of violences that Muslim, Dalit, and other minority groups face in India.
Further, calling Noor Centre anti-India and anti-Hindu is also deeply Islamophobic. We are troubled that those against the event and the speakers are invoking ideas of an homogenous Hindu community in the GTA and Canada. As Hindus we reject this line of thinking and refuse to allow these individuals to speak on our behalf. To suggest that talking about violence against Dalit and Muslim communities in public is anti-Indian and anti-Hindu is confounding, and itself “anti-democratic.” Dalit and Muslim communities are part of “India”, and that is precisely what this event intends to address. Conflating Hinduism with India, and Hindus with Indians is deeply troubling, given the history of the Indian subcontinent, and the diversity of Hindu communities from across South Asia, South East Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean present in Canada.
We would like to thank the Noor Centre and all the co-sponsors of the event for creating this forum, and are grateful that the public will hear Dr. Jangam and Ms Umar speak.
Dr. Sailaja Krishnamurti, Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, NS)Dr. Nishant Upadhyay, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (Dartmouth, MA)Dr. Shubhra Gururani, Associate Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Arun Brahmbhatt, Assistant Professor, St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY)Dr. Soma Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Nissim Mannathukkaren, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS)Dr. Tanisha Ramachandran, Associate Professor, Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)Dr. Aparna Sundar, Independent Scholar (Toronto, ON)Harshita Yalamarty, PhD Candidate, York University (Toronto, ON)Sabina Chatterjee, PhD Candidate, York University (Toronto, ON)Aaditya Aggarwal, Independent Scholar (Toronto, ON)Aprajita Sarcar, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University (Kingston, ON)Heena Mistry, PhD Candidate, Queen's University (Kingston, ON)Saira Chhibber, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University (Kingston, ON)Dr. Mayurika Chakravorty, Instructor, Carleton University (Ottawa, ON)Dr. Dia Da Costa, Professor, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)Dr. Kajri Jain, Associate Professor, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Dr. Ishita Pande, Associate Professor, Queen's University (Kingston, ON) Dr. Preity Kumar, Faculty Associate, George Brown College (Toronto, ON)Dr. Radhika Mongia, Associate Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Shobna Nijhawan, Associate Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Shraddha Chatterjee, PhD Candidate, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Dr. Himani Bannerji, Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Khyati Nagar, PhD Candidate, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Prasad Bidaye, Professor, Humber College (Toronto, ON)Dr. Sheila Batacharya, Faculty Associate, University of Toronto (Mississauga, ON)Dr. Anindo Hazra, Faculty Associate, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Ena Dua, Associate Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Akshaya Tankha, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Dr. Ritika Shrimali, Faculty Associate, Western University (London, ON)Dr. Tina Virmani, Independent Scholar (Toronto, ON)Dr. Priyadarshani Raju, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Dr. Sonia Sikka, Professor, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)Dr. Naisargi Dave, Associate Professor, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Dr. Arun Kumar Chaudhuri, Instructor, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Tania Das Gupta, Professor, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Srilata Raman, Associate Professor, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Karuna Chandrashekar, PhD candidate, York University (Toronto, ON)Dr. Smita Pakhale, Scientist, Assistant Professor, Univ. of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)Chandrashri Pal, Jamhoor media (Toronto, ON)Dr. Sukeshi Kamra, Professor, Carleton University, (Ottawa, ON)Dr. Ashwani Peetush, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, ON)Dr. Mythili Rajiva, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)
Media sources: attacks against Dalit and Muslim minorities in India
The Wire: https://thewire.in/women/muslim-women-activists-election-manifesto
the National Herald: https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/opinion/the-politics-of-lynchings-and-the-two-faced-nature-of-the-hindutva-hate-brigades
New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/on-religion/the-violent-toll-of-hindu-nationalism-in-india