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Encountering Hindutva in the Diasporas: The Case in the Netherlands
04 Jun 2024

The Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme (SRP) held a webinar on 4 June 2024 titled “Encountering Hindutva in the Diasporas: The Case in the Netherlands”. The webinar featured Dr Priya Swamy, a curator of Globalisation and South Asia at the National Museum of World Cultures (The Netherlands), and an affiliated lecturer with the Leiden Institute for Area Studies.

Dr Swamy began the session by describing Hindu Nationalism, or Hindutva as it is commonly called. Revolving around an essentialised and assertive Hindu identity, Hindutva has always been constituted by a sense of territorial belonging, cultural pride, and superiority; often at the expense of minority groups who are seen as outsiders in India.

How, then, can such ideas gain resonance in diaspora contexts where Hindu communities are minorities in a multicultural setting like the Netherlands? While the co-optation of anti-racist discourse has been crucial, Dr Swamy emphasised the importance of emotional labour and affect. In particular, she singled out the collective emotion of pride as consequential.

Illustrating this, Dr Swamy linked the example of the Dutch Hindu community campaigning to build temples for their community with that of the controversial building of the Ram Mandir recently. According to her, favourable responses to such a contentious development came from a shared sense of pride. Members of the Hindu community in the Netherlands liken finally having a sacred space to call their own with Ram Mandir’s construction. Such emotional resonance over developments like that often occur without familiarity with the violent history associated with the Hindutva movement. Arguably, it is through this affective dimension that Hindutva discourse get effectively mobilised and normalised.

Dr Swamy’s insightful sharing was followed by a lively Q&A session that was moderated by RSIS senior analyst, Antara Chakraborthy. In trying to find a path forward, Dr Swamy urged members of the Hindu diaspora to figure out different ways of feeling proud about their unique diasporic histories. In pushing back against Hindutva-aligned discourses, she hoped members engage with their communities directly and not overly rely on the government because as minorities, they know their communities best.

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