The religiously motivated attacks by pan-Islamists on Hindus in UK have relied on a systematic disinformation campaign. The entire episode throws up many questions on security, policing and community relations. It is the disinformation campaign, however, that needs maximum attention because it has successfully introduced the specters of Hindutva and Hindu nationalism into mainstream UK information channels as a really existing force within the UK. Understanding the disinformation strategy is crucial because it has laid down the format of future campaigns.
Though the physical attacks seem to have ceased for the moment, disinformation will continue. Five principle strategies make up the disinformation campaign that aims to create a negative image of Hindus to prepare justificatory grounds for attacks on Hindus. Disinformation leading up to the actual attacks was tailored to evoke feelings of contempt for the Hindu victims in domestic British and global audiences and make the audience side with the aggressors rather than the victims. It has employed both social and establishment media for wide circulation.
The five strategies are as follows:
1.) Identity misrepresentation – The attacks have been justified as preventive action against Hindutva, an ‘exclusionary and authoritarian ideology’ that, according to pan-Islamists and Leftists, can only be a divisive influence in multi-religious and multi-racial Britain. The Hindu protestors who marched in Leicester, moreover, were labelled as Hindu nationalists and Gujaratis (with reference to Narendra Modi’s Gujarati origin).
Later police investigations discovered many marchers were non-political and joined the march for unity against the aggressive build-up of Muslims in the locality. Hindutva-labelling is the most significant element of anti-Hindu disinformation. It has been pegged on an artificial and externally imposed distinction between Hindu Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindutva.
We can now see the practical dimension of the academic ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference that was held in September 2021. The collusion of Indian ideological and political groups is also clearly visible, viz. Rahul Gandhi’s campaign to differentiate Hinduism and Hindutva. The motive of coining this distinction is to demonise Hindus and legitimise attacks on them under the cover of attacking Hindutva while falsely claiming to respect Hinduism.
Defining Hindutva and Hindu nationalism, therefore, is the site of the most important battle in the information
2.) Thought crime – The attacks have been portrayed as resistance to Hindutva, which has been defined as the bedrock of RSS-BJP ideology and the source of violent Islamophobia. Social and establishment media channels have also explicitly linked the attacks to the growing influence of Hindutva ideology in Britain. On 21 September, a masked participant in the violent mob that gathered outside the Birmingham temple stated people who follow Hindutva are not welcome in the UK.
The underlying message is: Hindutva as the Islamophobic RSS-BJP ideology is a thought crime and any individual adhering to it is a thought criminal. To amplify, Hindutva’s supposed connections with Nazism and fascism have been broadcast to sensitive European audiences to establish guilt by association. Europe is sensitive to fascism and Nazism, and Europeans tend to be extremely wary of Nazi presence in their areas.
Even if Europeans do not believe Hindus are like Nazis, the disinformation nonetheless implants an image that is hard to shake off: for example, Channel 4’s correspondent asked a Hindu participant of the 14 September march whether the march was associated with an Indian right-wing ideology. Unless resisted, Hindus in the
West will soon have to spend lot of time clearing their names from the stain of Nazism.
3.) Deed crime – Consider the now-debunked claim that a mosque was attacked by Hindus when they took out the protest march in Leicester. Despite police clarification that no mosque was attacked, this fake news mobilised enraged mobs for attacks on temples in Leicester and Birmingham.
Chronology is key in disinformation: a piece of fake news is first circulated and the targeted party blamed, giving impetus to mobilise aggressive mobs. After the news is debunked as fake, claims are made that the targeted party (‘Hindutva supporters of RSS-BJP’ in this case) is responsible for identical attacks in a previous occasion, providing justification for a similar counter-attack. This technique can be called guilt by precedent or invoking ‘deed crimes’ to establish the guilt of the targeted party by employing its historical record of committing the claimed but debunked action.
To put it very simply, a single event can be held up as precedent for perpetuity and all future attacks. This technique has been used before, most notably by the mobs that set fire to the Sabarmati Express in Godhra in 2002 on the pretext that the targeted persons were responsible for the demolition of the disputed Babri mosque structure in 1992.
4.) Protection from anti-social encroachment – The twitter handle ‘Majstar7’, belonging to Majid Freeman who has taken a leadership role in the anti-Hindu attacks, claimed that the streets of Leicester were cleared of “usual anti-social behaviour. No more music playing loud at 3am or drunken mobs” (tweet on 17 September).
This was in cohesion with earlier accusations levelled at Hindus of abducting Muslim youth and molesting Muslim girls, insinuating that the targeted party are lawless hoodlums who deserve the violent backlash they received. The charges of abduction and molestation have been debunked by the police.
The anti-social encroachment trope enmeshed with accusations of the “foreign” insidious ideology of Hindutva now penetrating UK. Islamists and Leftists both in UK and India are demanding Hindus declare their non-affiliation with BJP-RSS ideology to gain access to UK.
5.) Institutional capture – Disinformation is strengthened when respectable voices support it. In the media field, internationally influential media giants echoed the claims of local Islamists and presented the Hindu victims as aggressive Hindutva criminals.
Britain’s Guardian has been at the forefront with its biased field coverage. On 20 September, the same day when the Birmingham temple was attacked, The Guardian’s South Asia correspondent published a backgrounder on Hindutva and RSS with wholesale factual inaccuracies and filled with pointed suggestions of Hindutva’s criminality while concealing the role and arrests of Muslims in Leicester.
In the civil society field, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) attributed the attacks to “deliberate targeting, intimidation and assault of Muslims and Sikhs” by RSS (the inclusion of Sikhs is a hint of Pakistani involvement in the MCB). Local credibility was also advertised through a widely circulated ‘Muslim-Hindu Unity Statement’ that blamed “outsiders” for the troubles without naming them.
A number of data-points merit much deeper attention. The fact that the Muslim Council of Britain blamed Hindus for attacks on Muslims and Sikhs is a strong hint of Pakistani involvement in the Council. The information campaign to demonise Hindutva and portray India as the world capital of Islamophobia has been a recurring theme of the Pakistani leadership. Majid Freeman’s links with Syria and Turkey have also been discovered.
Furthermore, the incidents in Britain have starkly divided domestic Indian society, as home-grown pan-Islamists and sympathisers are speaking the same language and blaming the attacks on Hindus on the export of Hindutva to the West. Identical disinformation strategies are employed by domestic Indian Islamists, Pakistan, Bangladeshi militants, Turkey, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Sameness in language is a strong suggestion of sameness in thought and identity. In the Age of information, disinformation is a stronger weapon than normally conceded. Events in Britain over the past few weeks underscore its importance to pan-Islam and its cause of global Jihad. Pan-Islamists and their Leftist allies have successfully integrated Hindutva in the West-Zionism alliance. Hindus are now at the centre of their global war.
-By Rajdeep Sarkar (doctoral candidate at the Political Science department in University of Hyderabad)