regular-article-logo Wednesday, 06 December 2023

Spreading tentacles

Diasporic politi­cal interactions among transnational Hindu nationalists have witnessed a shift since the arrival of the internet. Digital media has revolutionised that interaction

Arani Basu And Amrita Datta Published 08.08.23, 08:34 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

The structural signific­an­ce of a diaspora man­ifests in several ways, often informing the cultural and political landscapes of the home country. The transnational network bet­ween the home and the host countries relies heavily on the way political ideologies are propagated across borders. The appropriation of cultural narratives by the political extreme within a diaspora thus takes place through various media.

This piece rests on two concerns: how is digital media exacerbating diasporic Hindutva through the intervention of long-distance nationalism? And how is transnational Hindu nationalism catalysed by Facebook and WhatsApp groups?


The transnational Hindu nationalist framework had, so far, relied on physical and onsite interfaces like the overseas wing of the Ra­s­h­t­riya Swayamsevak San­gh, Hin­du temples in the host country and philan­th­ro­pic organisations run by Hin­du communit­ies abroad. Scho­l­ars like Benedict Ander­son, Chris­tophe Jaffre­lot and Ar­vind Ra­jagopal have captured this phenomenon through the intervention of “imagined comm­unities” or “long-distance na­tionalism” as conceptual frameworks.

However, diasporic politi­cal interactions among transnational Hindu nationalists have witnessed a shift since the arrival of the internet. Digital media and social media have revolutionised that interaction. From that standpoint, long-distance nationalism serves as a more suitable framework today, especially for examining the relevance of digital media in the exacerbation of Hindu nationalism beyond India.

Most of the academic at­ten­tion on Hindu nationalism as a diasporic project articu­l­at­es through the transnatio­n­al Hindu networks oper­a­t­ing in the United States of America. While the US is a crucial reference point for drawing attention to such networks in other countries, the presen­ce of certain conditions mak­es the proliferation of the Hin­du nationalist network in the diaspora possible. Ra­ci­sm and Islamophobia in the host country are qui­ntessential preconditions for the Hindus to def­end the es­tablishment of net­works pro­tecting their mi­nority sta­tus there. Islamophobia in the host country also serves as the common factor between the Hindu-dominated organisations and the local political climate.

While the first wing of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the diasporic unit of the RSS, was formed in 1947, what started as a nationalist longing in the Indian diaspora on a boat to Kenya has now expanded in scale and in form — drawing our attention to the established Hindu nationalist frameworks across the world with onsite and an increasing online presence. However, it is crucial that the focus now expands to countries with newly-emerging Indian diaspora. Germany has emerged as a new but significant site for investigating the expansion of the Hindu nationalist network. Germany exhibits the existence of the preconditions of racism and Islamophobia. Additionally, much like the US, these first-generation tech migrants are connected to political and religious practices in the home country.

Germany has some 170,000 Indian migrants, with a growing population of tech migrants and students enrolled in tech-based programmes in German uni­versities. This is coupled with two parallel expansions — of onsite activities of the HSS and Hindu temp­les and the emergence of online groups declaring them­selves as pro-nationalist digital groups. Their digital media engagements manifest through the amplification of Hindu nationalism and Islamophobia, often coupled with threat, violence and the deliberate silencing of the diaspora’s dissenting voices. Islamophobia spreads through the Othering of Indian Muslims within online and onsite communities while the critics of the current regime are treated with intimidation.

Transnational digital hate is the central premise of such media engagements and propaganda at the diasporic level. The Indian diaspora in Germany mimics the trends established in the Indian diaspora in the US.

Arani Basu is a sociologist based in Berlin. Amrita Datta is a Marie Curie Fellow at University of Siegen

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