A professor of Indian origin in New Zealand has been receiving abusive messages on social media for criticising “Hindutva extremism” through his work, prompting the police to put in place plans for his safety, The New Zealand Herald reported on Monday.
Mohan Dutta, the dean’s chair of communication at the Massey University, had in May published a paper on “Islamophobic elements” in the Hindutva ideology, according to the newspaper.
Dutta and other academics have sought to differentiate the ideology from the “pluralist and democratic ethos” of Hinduism, The New Zealand Herald reported. “Hindutva extremism is the threat to Hinduism,” Dutta said.
Hindutva is a Hindu nationalist ideology, which in India, is endorsed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Dutta, through his work, has called for a careful inspection of the presence of Hindutva in New Zealand, according to the newspaper.
The professor started receiving offensive messages in August after he delivered an online lecture ahead of an international conference titled, “Dismantling Global Hindutva”, The New Zealand Herald reported.
He received abusive messages from Twitter accounts apparently supportive of the Hindutva ideology. “And not just from one or two, but a set of different people and what seem like organisations,” Dutta told the newspaper.
One Facebook post allegedly said that Dutta would have been “set on fire” had he been in India.
“I am feeling threatened enough to think, how are we going to publish our next pieces of work?” Dutta said. “The kind of antics [that are] silencing voices of academics in India, we’re starting to see similar threats now in other parts of the world, in Western democracies.”
Dutta had filed a complaint about the harassment earlier this month. “We are aware of concerns being raised that far-right nationalist or extremist Indian groups are operating in New Zealand,” a police spokesperson told The New Zealand Herald.
The spokesperson added that plans were in place to protect Dutta. “Police are concerned about all forms of extremism in NZ that has the potential to manifest in threatening acts of violence,” the spokesperson added.
Indian groups in New Zealand have spoken out in support of Dutta. The NZ Indian Association of Minorities has written a letter to the Human Rights Commission as well as the Massey University, denouncing the “flood of hate and discrimination” against the professor, The New Zealand Herald reported.
Hindus for Human Rights Australia and the NZ Indian Association of Minorities called on the governments of both the countries to examine the “rise in extremism among the Hindutva groups”, which they said was a threat to “cohesion within the Indian diaspora”.
Others have objected to his work. The New Zealand Hindu Council alleged that Dutta showed Hindus in a “very poor light” through his work.