We are writing to you on behalf of Hindu on Campus, a student-led organization that shares the Hindu student experience and raises awareness about Hinduphobia on campuses across the US, UK, and Canada. We provide a platform for Hindu students to share their personal stories of Hinduphobia to build awareness and educate allies. Today, we would like to extend our unequivocal solidarity with the Hindu community at UC Davis, who have been facing extended discrimination and hostility on campus.
In March 2020, UC Davis students hosted a “Holi Against Hindutva” protest, spearheaded by a group called Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI). Holi is a sacred Hindu spring festival of color, where the color powders we play with symbolize unity, diversity, and happiness. During that time, we outlined the ways in which SAHI targeted, hijacked, and politicized Hindu religious festivals such as Holi to advance political agendas. This includes reported incidences of intimidation and harassment of Hindu students on campuses where these reports were made.
In February 2021, the Association of Students at UC Davis (ASUCD) Senate passed a resolution “to recognize the 2,500 years and counting of oppression and violence due to caste apartheid towards marginalized South Asian Communities.” The resolution falsely asserts that the concept of “caste” is attributed to, and sustained by, Hinduism. The resolution cites Equality Labs’ caste survey, which Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found to be methodologically flawed, claiming “This study [Equality Labs Caste Survey] relied on a nonrepresentative snowball sampling method to recruit respondents. Furthermore, respondents who did not disclose a caste identity were dropped from the data set. Therefore, it is likely that the sample does not fully represent the South Asian American population and could skew in favor of those who have strong views about caste.” Members of Equality Labs have made disturbing statements about Hinduism, including calling for its complete eradication. Many sources have claimed the group is “Grounded in Hate.”
In July 2021, UCD’s Indian Student Association (ISA) posted in honor of July as Hindu Persecution Awareness Month, only to be bullied and pressured to remove the post from their Instagram feed. ISA used their platform to acknowledge the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, as well as Hinduphobia on college campuses. A day later, the students were pressured into removing the post. They posted an apology which claimed that their initial post encouraged religious favoritism in an Indian political context, rejected the phenomenon of Hinduphobia, and shared material from Equality Labs in place. Later on in August 2021, after Hindu students and the Hindu on Campus team engaged with ISA to understand their struggles, they posted another public apology to the Hindu community for unintentionally neglecting and gaslighting their voices. This particular situation exposes a wider issue at hand: Hindu students are repeatedly silenced on campus for speaking out on issues that affect us and our community, with Indian politics and caste used as a slander and excuse.
Most recently, in November 2021, a student-led magazine at UC Davis called Other Collective posted an inflammatory infographic on Instagram titled Say no to Diwali. Diwali is our Hindu festival of lights — our most universally celebrated Hindu tradition in which light symbolizes unity, knowledge, and prosperity. The writers instead linked Diwali with oppression, violence, and caste discrimination — inferring that celebrating Diwali meant violence against all other non-Hindu communities. The infographic cited Kancha Ilaiha Shepherd, who called to destroy Hinduism at a University of Michigan event in 2019, where he stated “Annihilation of caste….is not possible without dismantling or destroying Hinduism as a religion … Hinduism does not reform, does not change because of the structural problems in the religion.”
In the face of persistent negativity towards our Hindu tradition and faith, we must stand with UC Davis’s Hindu student community and embrace the message of Diwali — that light triumphs over darkness, and that knowledge stands over ignorance. We call on administrators at UC Davis, UC Davis alumni, Hindu students, and allies to stand in solidarity with the UC Davis Hindu community. We ask you to stand firmly against the words of hate directed at Hindu students and our beautiful Hindu traditions.
Hindu on Campus Team