Hinduphobia in India is mostly imaginary

Let’s talk about Hinduphobia. Let me make clear at the outset that I am not arguing that it doesn’t exist. But it does need to be seen in the context it is employed. Hindus who are an ethnic minority in a Western country may very well be victims of it. This is because they are a marginalised community there. Their religion, coupled with their skin colour and the languages they speak, may indeed make them the target of majoritarian bigotry in those countries.

However, seen from the Western perspective, upper-caste Hindus are pretty much the White people of India.

They dominate culturally, financially, and enjoy tremendous privilege in all spheres, including media representation. But as “Hinduphobia” became a buzzword among Hindus living abroad (for valid reasons because racism is real), it also got appropriated by many Hindus here in India, who started using it as a defence against legitimate criticism of upper caste Hindu society. People these days club any opposition to majoritarian privilege in India as Hinduphobia and try to put it in the same folder as the issues faced by Hindus as minorities in other countries.

This is obviously patently dishonest. Such appropriation helps bigots in India pretend to be victims of racism while engaging in actual racist (read Casteist or Islamophobic) behaviour on a regular basis. It also helps Indian Hindus residing in Western countries to feed discriminatory behaviour back home by lending their lens – their condition – to Hindus here in India. This “lending” has gone on for a long time now. Much of the intellectual support for Hindu nationalism in India comes from NRIs (non-resident Indians). These are Indians who claim to be victims of racism in the countries (often rightly) that have adopted them while continuing to support racist practices and policies against the minorities of India.

We need to disassociate these two conditions. Minorities suffer under majoritarian influence everywhere. But the description of these sufferings shouldn’t be allowed to be used willy-nilly by anyone anywhere. These definitions are deeply context-dependent. Ignoring this will only strengthen the deception we find ourselves surrounded by. Use words the way they are supposed to be used.