Massey University Palmerston North Campus. Photo / Supplied
Police say they are aware of concerns that far-right Indian nationalist groups are operating in New Zealand and have put in place a security plan for an academic targeted by online trolls.
The comment comes after a Massey University professor came under fire for his research into Hindu nationalist ideology in Aotearoa.
A police spokesperson said security plans were in place for Dean’s communications professor Mohan Dutta after he filed a complaint earlier this month over offensive social media posts directed at him and university.
READ: Massey University professor hit by trolls
Police believe the trolls are overseas but have supported Dutta and spoken to him at length.
“We are aware of the concerns expressed that Indian nationalist or extreme right-wing groups are operating in New Zealand.”
But there are no entities designated as terrorists in New Zealand, the spokesperson said.
“The police are concerned about all forms of extremism in New Zealand which could manifest in threatening acts of violence.”
In May, Dutta published a two-page white paper on the Islamophobic elements of far-right Hindu nationalist ideology, or Hindutva, calling for careful consideration of its presence in New Zealand.
Hindutva refers to a political ideology that seeks to establish a monolithic Hindu nation in India, a movement that has gained traction since Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata party came to power in 2014.
Dutta and other scholars have pointed out that Hinduism is not Hindutva, an extremist political ideology opposed to the pluralistic and democratic ethics of Hinduism.
“Hindutva extremism is a threat to Hinduism,” he said.
The white paper drew polarized views, with at least two local Hindu community groups lashing out at Dutta and others supporting his work.
The New Zealand Hindu Council and the affiliate Hindu Youth NZ claimed that Dutta and the university were promoting what they called Hinduphobia.
“The academic freedom of Massey University harms the Hindu community,” the Hindu Council said in a statement, saying Dutta painted Hindus “in a very bad light.”
Hindu youth have challenged the use of the word “Hindu” in research on political ideologies.
“Call it for what it is: right-wing Indian nationalism,” said its president Murali Krishna Magesan, saying the white paper “could lead to physical attacks against Hindus,” especially students.
“The last thing Hindu Youth New Zealand wants to do is try to inform … Hindus in New Zealand that Massey University supports Hindu and Hindu and Hindu students should look to it. ‘other institutes of higher education where they will not be marginalized and can feel safe,’ said its president Murali Krishna Magesan.
There are 121,644 Hindus in New Zealand, one of the fastest growing faith groups in the country according to the 2018 census.
Around Dutta gather several Indian minority groups here and over 100 international academics who have written letters of support.
The Alliance of Progressive Indians of Aotearoa (AAPI) has launched a petition calling for public support for the Mahi of Dutta in the defense of academic freedom.
The New Zealand Indian Association of Minorities condemned what it called a “flood of hate, discrimination and boos” against Dutta in a letter to Massey University and the Human Rights Commission .
Hindus for Human Rights Australia and NZ said the attacks on the professor were false accusations.
“We (…) urge the governments of Aotearoa and Australia to examine the rise of religious extremism among Hindustva groups in both countries which we believe poses a serious threat to social cohesion within the Indian diaspora, ”he said in a statement. .
Dutta began receiving online attacks at the end of August after giving a speech ahead of an international online conference on September 10-12 titled “Dismantling the Global Hindutva”.
The professor had told the Herald that he received up to 80 Twitter and tag messages a day calling him by names such as “grade A tw **”, “stinky a ** hole” and “boot licker”.
Conference organizers and participating academics and institutions around the world have also been the target of harassment and even death threats, prompting the media to report a coordinated attack to intimidate and end the critical debate. on Hindutva.
Dutta continues to see offensive messages and posts about him and his work online. He says he and his family are afraid to even go out to the grocery store.
An article posted on Facebook by the Hindu Council in early September contained a comment calling on Hindus to boycott Massey University, and another claiming that Dutta would be “set on fire” if he was in India.
The comment on the fire was deleted last week, with a message from the Hindu Council saying that threats against anyone will be removed. Hindu Youth also condemned the threats against Dutta, his employer and their supporters.
Auckland-based site The Indian News posted a named photo of Dutta in a September 16 article claiming an “anti-Hindu tirade” had reached New Zealand led by a “smelly rat gang.”
“I feel threatened enough to think, how are we going to publish our next work?” Dutta told the Herald.
He says online attacks have a deterrent effect. The Facebook page for his CARE research center at Massey University was taken down due to safety concerns for staff, many of them women.
“The kind of antics (that silences) the voices of academics in India, we’re starting to see similar threats now in other parts of the world, in western democracies,” he said.