More than 120 students from over a dozen universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and UCLA, staged a demonstration across campuses March 5 to protest against “the divisive political ideology of Hindutva and discriminatory policies like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The demonstration christened “A Holi Against Hindutva,” was organized by a student-run, progressive activist group called Students Against Hindutva. It aimed at raising awareness on the difference between the faith of Hinduism and the violent political ideology of Hindutva.
The organizers said they also hoped to draw attention to Holi's casteist origins, which involved the burning of Holika, a Bahujan woman, thereby reifying Brahmanical patriarchy. “We are not protesting the celebration of Holi itself, but rather drawing attention to the injustices of Hindutva, while not ceding ground of Hindu culture to the Hindutva agenda,” the organizers said in a press release.
It noted that two weeks ago when President Trump visited Delhi for the first time, right wing mobs rampaged across Northeast Delhi, destroying property, beating up innocent people, and burning homes and mosques, disproportionately targeting Muslims.
While Students Against Hindutva and its members have faced extensive online harassment or “trolling” since launching this campaign, as well as briefly seeing SAH’s social media accounts withheld in India “in response to a legal demand,” the demonstrations occurred nationally without counter-protests.
“Despite the level of online harassment and opposition we have faced, we were incredibly proud to have watched the March 5th demonstrations successfully bring together South Asian Americans and their allies across over 20 campuses,” said Shreeya Singh, founder of the organization.
She said Students Against Hindutva will continue to work on making the distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva clear, while standing behind those bravely resisting fascism on the frontlines.
Earlier in a letter to the U.S. Congress in December 2019, Singh, who is also the Yale South Asian Society Political Chair, condemned the Hindutva ideology and the Modi government’s “fascist and exclusionary treatment” of Indian Muslims, vowing to stand in solidarity with the “brave civil disobedience” movement in India while at the same time condemning the horrific police brutality against protesters.
“We believe the fight for equal treatment for India’s Muslims is also fundamentally a fight for India’s foundational values of secularism and democracy. This is a fight for the future, which must be led by those who will inherit the future,” the letter written by Singh, said.
Singh told this correspondent earlier that they came out with the idea of Holy Against Hindutva because Holi symbolizes the colors of India and its diversity and on March 5, they would be protesting the Modi government’s treatment of minorities.
After the protests last week, Vishwa Padigepati, Legislative Coordinator of SAH said, it is important for the diaspora to understand that distance from India only necessitates greater responsibility. “If we don’t stand up for a tolerant India, our omission will be read as acceptance of policies which are inherently inequitable for Indians.”