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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Death-Threats, Ms. Dutt? There’s a Multi-Billion Dollar Death-Threat Industry Staring Down At Us and We’ve Had Enough of It

One of the most disturbing aspects of the violent manifesto recorded by the suicide bomber before his murderous attack on the CRPF is his description of his enemies as “cow urine drinkers.” This phrase has grown from a social media dig into a widespread hate-label for Hindus and Bharat in general.


Prominent journalists, academicians, political activists, they all popularized it, some of them compulsively. It seems to be a pet-phrase of Bharatiya journalist Sagarika Ghose in particular, there’s a big drippy bunch of times she threw it out there at people.


And some professors did it too.

Anyway. Now it’s part of a killer’s vocabulary of grievance. Of justification.

Pulwama Terrorist

I don’t believe any of the prominent public figures who normalized this insult have regretted their use of it, though I am sure they know that verbal violence and physical violence are both harmful. They often talk about the abuse they get from online trolls as violence, and cite phrases like “Urban Naxal” and “Anti-National” as examples of intolerance.

Sometimes, they do not even stop to consider if they are somehow not inserting their privilege over the pain of hundreds of grieving widows, children, and family members when they use their pulpits to publicize some online death threats they received far more than the actual deaths of 44 poor servicemen.

I sympathize with Barkha Dutt. To an extent.

And I hope she, and others in the media, and in academia, reciprocate the effort to clear some silence and stillness in our minds to understand the pain of the other, indeed, the terror of the other (I mean “other” like just other human beings, no special identity group).

Even in this age of instant and all-consuming media, it is often our own pain, our own itch at the tip of our nose, or the shadow of a fly on it, that occupies our minds more than the horror of what others sometimes endure.

In the case of the fallen CRPF jawans’ families, this is a horror they are enduring still. Their ceremonies, traditional Hindu ceremonies that run across a fortnight (and then once every month, and then once every year), not even over.

And suddenly, the eyes of Bharat are brought to bear on the intrusion into one person’s phone screen of a “d-k pic.”

Forty solemn flag-draped bodies.

One “d–k pic.”

Suddenly, in the grotesque, nauseating, mournful deluge of that jarring contrast we see, in an instant, all that is wrong in the world today.

It might be callous to brush aside Barkha Dutt’s grievances still, and I will not deny her pain. She communicates her pain effectively. The world as it is today, with its media infrastructure, its codes of media representation and “phobias” and bigotries deemed legitimate and illegitimate (I remember her video delegitimizing the concerns of a Hindu petition too on that note), the world as it exists to serve the pain of some, and to silence the agony of others.

This is where my intervention comes in. Into whose complacences and certitudes these words might dare to make a difference I do not know. But I hope Barkha Dutt will read them. And Sagarika Ghose. And all those who have used words loosely against their opponents, words that have become more than just words thanks to the privilege they have brought to bear to their utterances.

I hope my words reach them. And all the rest who have followed them and their narratives of pain so deeply they have not seen the other thing spreading ominously all around, that other great hurt, that silenced scream, that terror that broke free from backstage and hit your faces for a brief day or two in the form of the dead who came home before our attention faded again.

The real death-threat that we must talk about today is not stuff that came in the form of words on a screen.

The real death-threat comes from an industry, a death-industry, a death-threat-industry, a deception and distraction while you are devoured industry. It is the manufacturing of the Hindu as target, the Bharatiya as target (for each time Hindus fall in this massacre, like brothers, some others do too, and yet even their supposed advocates and defender-protectors don’t seem to care; they just preach about Islamophobia, not a shred of pain when a Muslim dies alongside a Hindu at the doorstep of Hinduphobia either).

This target-making has a clear pattern and history. I am studying it. I am writing about it. The scandalous nature of how vehemently it’s been covered up, in academia, in media, everywhere, is frightening. The truth will come out though. I believe it will, despite all who hunker down to suppress it. I do not know when and how. But for now, I share what I see so far, from my study of media and genocides and past and ongoing.

Hinduphobia: The Death and Death-Threat Industry

There are three themes that every journalist and academic in Bharat or writing about Bharat needs to notice, acknowledge, and address in talking about Hindus and Hindu Dharma. “Cow-urine drinker” may well be only one of the horrors we have seen now. Given the toxicity that the multi-billion dollar media industry has been churning out against the humans of South Asia (some of them, at least), and given the intensity and looseness of morality and professional integrity with which this has been done by some (loose as a deflated balloon on Holi, perhaps), a time of greater tragedies is perhaps not too far away from us.

The idiots who abuse on social media have the karma of causing pain to women journalists on them. What is the karma that falls on those lies have fed the beast that devastates and devours the bodies of grown men, fathers, husbands, your CRPF, subaltern, working-class, South Asian, men?

Your twitter pleasure of typing those words (C-o-w-p-i-s-s…) in one hand, in your safe space privileged life.

Your unknown consequence, in some part, big or small, a small child’s cry at the horror of her father shredded in some cold land.

Who knows what the burden of all that we do is?

Anyway. If you are really human, if you really want the world to care about your pain at online death threats, see now the death threats your industries, your work culture’s systemic silences, your complicities have produced.

These are the themes of Hinduphobia today.

Death Threat #1. Disgust.

The use of the slur “cow urine drinker” is not an innocent or isolated in terms of the specific emotions it is designed to evoke. Think about it. In the 21st century, a specifically cultural, racial, or religious term for the “other” simply does not work in propaganda terms as effectively as a concept designed to evoke the most universal, basic, and visceral of reactions.

The use of disgust as a cover for genocide, or at least systemic discrimination and exclusion is well documented. Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s favorite novel about a shipload of deformed, shit-eating immigrants invading France was all about this. Nazi campaigns at turning Jews into reviled others was also about this. And when you think of the dominant tropes that have come to be used to define Hindus and Bharat, from colonial missionary times to the most recent Cow Urine slur, you can see the dominance of disgust deployed to dehumanize.

The two most popular global productions in cinema set in Bharat- Indiana Jones and Slumdog Millionaire —  both made the effort to associate visceral disgust with Bharatiyas and Bharat. Monkey-brain desserts. Eyeball soups. Snakes. For years after that movie, Bharatiya children in America cried at school in embarrassment when their friends mocked their food as snakes and eyeballs.

Two decades later, Slumdog Millionaire threw in a vivid gratuitous attempt at sewage, permanently associating the name of one of Bharat’s most popular actors (and respectful TV quiz show hosts), with the sight of a boy covered in human shit. Disgust is a deliberately deployed emotion in propaganda.

It is a prelude to open genocide, or a clever cover-up to normalize the brutality of a quietly ongoing one. Hollywood, Lutyens, Rawalpindi (and maybe New York-London too when you think of the Lit Fest Publishing role in this). Purveyors of disgust at a whole swathe of humanity. Unnoticed Death Threat Number one.

Death Threat #2. Dehumanization

One of the smartest blogs on Hindu human rights abuses is the London based Hindu Human Rights site. Think of the irony. No other group seems to require that kind of double assertion today. Any human today can consider himself protected by “human” rights. Not the Hindu it appears. In all the millions of dollars and words expended on human rights around the world, what Hindus face, in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and indeed even in Kashmir and in Bharat, is hardly considered an issue.

In America, the context I am most familiar with outside Bharat, the anxiety among human rights activists to figure out what to do with the “Hindu” in the room is bewildering. They have figured out a weird way to live with it. If you call yourself South Asian, or Brown, or Dayzee or whatever, you are okay. You can take your place as a human alongside other designated human rights-worthy group.

If you point out that there exists, as a subset of racism, xenophobia, bigotry (stuff they claim to fight), a very specific formation of specifically anti-Hindu hatred in religious, secular, and everyday spaces, they call you an extremist or nationalist.

They make whole full-length movies like The Problem With Apu where they fail to once talk about the fact that Apu is a Hindu, and being Hindu is a part of, you know, being “Brown” too.

Whatever happened to identity as a marker of marginalization? It used to be clear in academia that if you were Brown you were “Other,” you were colored. Whites could not talk down or talk over you without deserving to be called racists. And yet, we have “Browns” who normalized a rich, white, capitalist male playing civilizing mission over something called the Brahminical Patriarchs.

Worse, the editor of Mother Jones, White, American, more privileged than most “Browns,” tweeting without a drop of racial awareness or sensitivity about the Brown workers of Silicon Valley, that some of them might be diversity-snucked in Brahmins. Race, Class, Gender, all bogus when it comes to Brown Hindus, Black Hindus, Poor Hindus, Women Hindus. All bogus.

This has to be one of the most convoluted and perverse forms of erasure that the world has seen in recent times. And this dehumanization isn’t just in some postmodern la la land. It’s seeped everywhere. It’s not even about the removal of the name “Hindu” now. It’s the erasure of the human, the body, the subjectivity, the whole life that came with it.

That’s why the Times of India headline (Government Says Those Guys Killed Our Guys etc.) was offensive. It was not just its whininess, or its “anti-national” positioning so easily dismissed as jingoism by the anointed national elites. It was the sheer coldness with which it turned the glaring horror of a mass tragedy into a mere footnote to whatever far frontier of cheapness it had come from.

That is what happens when a whole profession is systematically, from the inside, from its soul or what’s left of it, left devoid of seeing a human as human. Hindus aren’t human. It’s done.

Death Threat #3. Deicide

Deicide is the core of Hinduphobia, even in its supposedly secular contemporary form. Of course, no one can kill God… but God is in the heart! God is Love! God is everywhere! So why should Sabarimala be for Hindus alone? And why should the Priests who oppressed South Asia and stole all the culture from the indigenous South Asians get to decide who gets to pray (they don’t mean the modern Priesthood of the New Holy Book of Bharat, That is South Asia, by the way, they mean just the Brahmins)…

For a thousand years, from the first temples razed out of sheer religious hatred to the “death to idol-worshippers” rant of the Kashmir killer last week, let’s face it, the core of hatred against a whole bunch of human beings and their non-human companions was just that. Irrational, intolerant, uncontrollable violence against our gods.

And even after a thousand years and 44 poor CRPF men, the Hindus, the “privileged” crust of them, simply do not see this as what it is. They delude themselves in a million ways. Or, at best, those who see through it burst out foolishly in inconsequential spaces like the conned-end of consumer media. Either way, truth is what it is regardless of how much people may wish to deny it.

For a thousand years, in a thousand ways, the superstitious and the ignorant have been at war with not just us but at all that we see as the greatest thing in the world that bestows all there is to us. Damn it, if God is Love, then can’t the dimwits who use that as a cop-out for dhimmitude not see that deicide is a war on love? Anyway. The facts are plain. Deicide is not the act of “killing a God” since modern sensibilities hold that God is about “belief” and one might believe God (and I use that word in the general Anglophone Hindu sense) simply cannot be killed.

But deicide is real in other ways too. In the past, it was brutally honest, and obviously material. If you thought someone’s god was “false” or a “devil” you went and broke his temple down and put its pieces under your carpet. Today, deicide is at its most pervasive and permissive peak in the addled, poisoned, compromised mind that belongs not to the Jihadi or the conversion-missionary but the self-sufficient material-consumerist-technocratic modern Hindu (or Indian-descent or South Asian or whatever it is he calls himself).

In just one generation, just thirty or forty years, we have gone from a subjectivity that made us bring our palms together in a pranam at the sight of every single form of our devullu to insisting on having remote mountain top temples we have no intent of even visiting be reduced to soulless environmentally ravaged tourist sites because you want to mentally in your head address some problem that existed in your house your family your life long ago when your grandmother was alive and made snarky comments on the younger ladies and puja room rules.

Deicide is not some inevitable cultural change, some inevitable triumph of reason in the march of mankind from superstition to progress. It’s a choice you make, in the trade-off between the love you got from your elders and how you perceived it, to the love you’ve got in you not to give to those who will live on after you, and how you choose to shape it.

As the culture, the aesthetics, the philosophy, the commitment to both that existed in everyday life disappears rapidly under our new religion of shallow consumerism and narcissistic gratification, the ‘I, Me, Mine’ moment of madness in cosmic time, so does the divine as what we have always seen and felt and known it.

It is not high theory. It is not nonsense mugged up in a class and spewed at exams or offices to get a job and get by in a job. It is who we were and are, and are so quickly forgetting altogether now.

The reason is not too hard to understand. In a few decades, our lives, our sense impressions have been colonized by so many things other than what we once held precious, and sacred. We are now at best Hindus on the side (and Hindu activists perhaps on the side of that side).

The age of volunteerism and hobbyism about Sanatana Dharma is done. We are on the verge of perishing, and even worse, not just perishing in form but in something even more important.

The resistance against deicide is our last stand. And it has only one first step. We must withdraw our attention from anything and everything that deludes us that it is more important somehow than the One that is First and All. There is no “last” there. There is no room to assume the limitations of the limitless one. All second places to Him are now cancelled.

Deicide will never win. Not over our dead or dying bodies. Not in our children’s or grandchildren’s time. A land that has known itself as love for all will not be fooled. Not anymore.

May this madness end, soon. May infinity be our friend, and only friend, once again.

-by VAMSEE JULURI (writer, professor of media studies at USF)

(This article was published on and has been reproduced here in full.)

(Featured Image Source)

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