Honors Theses

Unity and Struggle Beyond Borders: An Examination of Anti-Hindutva Activism in the United States

Author Full Name
Poojit Hegde
2023

Faculty Advisor: 

Partha Pratim Shil, Assistant Professor, History

Secondary Reader: 

Thomas Blom Hansen

Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor, Anthropology 

Abstract: 

This thesis is an endeavor to study the organized resistance against Hindutva in the United States, exploring the development of contradictions between Hindutva and anti-Hindutva movements, as well as explaining current contentions within the anti-Hindutva movement. I start by tracing the historical development of global Hindutva, from its origins in India towards its current manifestations in the United States. Then, through a combination of analysis of semi-structured interviews from representatives from three anti-Hindutva organizations (Ambedkar King Study Circle, Hindus for Human Rights, and Indian American Muslim Council), as well as the examination of digital documents and reports, I explore the current landscape of anti-Hindutva activism in the United States. In particular, I consider how the issues of Hindu majoritarianism and caste discrimination have mobilized South Asian American and Indian American communities to oppose Hindutva both in India as well as within the United States. I specifically argue that the current anti-Hindutva movement has increasingly resisted against the expression of Hindutva politics within the United States through analyzing two key incidents - the protests against the appearance of a bulldozer at an Indian Independence Day rally in August 2022 at Edison, NJ, and the February 2023 passing of an ordinance against caste discrimination in Seattle. I also explore contentions within the anti-Hindutva movement in the United States, explaining how the relationship between caste and Hindutva has led some anti-Hindutva organizations to emphasize the distinction Hindutva from Hinduism, while others have offered a deeper critique of caste violence that opposed Hindutva, but also investigates the Brahmanical origins of caste and its relationship to Hinduism. Despite certain disagreements about the relationship of caste, Hindutva, and Hinduism, I maintain that critical unities between organizations have featured prominently in the successful actions against Hindutva in the United States. I also note how these solidarities have extended beyond just the issues of Hindutva, arguing that the fight against Hindutva in the United States has become increasingly connected to other struggles for liberation, from anti-capitalist struggles to the battle against racism.

Read final paper here.