As director of the South Asian Studies Initiative at Ohio State and an Indian-American professor and activist opposed to Hindu fundamentalism (“Hindutva”), I was dismayed to see your reporting on the recent vigil on the deaths of Indian soldiers in Pulwama (Kashmir), organized by Hindu Yuva.
While it is natural to mourn the violent deaths of any human being, whom we choose to mourn is politicized. I ask that The Lantern and the university groups supporting such events find out more about various political formations in India and South Asia, and the contexts in which deadly events like this occur.
It starts with asking what a paramilitary force like the Central Reserve Police Force (CPRF) is doing in Kashmir at all.
Kashmir is a region with a long-standing demand for independence and self-determination — and the Indian military occupation of Kashmir, involving an estimated 1 million troops, is one of the most long-standing and violent occupations in history.
The brunt of the violence in the region is faced by ordinary Kashmiris. Grave human-rights abuses and killings have been committed by Indian military and paramilitary forces against Kashmiri civilians for decades, as the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) have documented.
It is not surprising that Hindu Yuva would organize such a vigil without a mention of these contexts. A student network supportive of right-wing Hindu nationalists like India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hindu Yuva joins many Hindutva supporters in India, the United States, and elsewhere who are using the killings of the soldiers to demonize Kashmiris and Pakistanis as a whole
Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and affiliated groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have long been fighting for an exclusively Hindu nation — in a country with a large Muslim population, among other religious minorities.
While the rhetoric of Hindutva organizations is different depending on their audience, it is important to remember that it was the people associated with the RSS that assassinated Mohandas Gandhi in 1948 for being “too friendly” to Muslims.
Anyone reading Twitter or Facebook can see the anti-Muslim vitriol being fueled by these forces around the Pulwama attack. On the ground, violence against Kashmiris is increasing after the incident.
I urge the Ohio State community to learn more about the occupation, and to think about why the majority who are suffering in Kashmir are largely unheard.
Dr. Pranav Jani
Director, South Asian Studies Initiative at Ohio State
Associate Professor, English