Mohan J Dutta

Mohan Dutta is Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication at Massey University. He is the Founder and Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centered, community-based projects of social change, advocacy, and activism that articulate health as a human right. He is IIT-Kharagpur alumi having done his BTech (Agricultural Engineering) in 1995. He has also served as the Head of Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, Associate Dean of Research in the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University, a Service Learning Fellow, and a fellow of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy. Also at Purdue, he served as the Founding Director of the Center for Poverty and Health Inequities (COPHI).

In August 2021, Dutta published a white paper series “Cultural Hindutva and Islamophobia” where he accused Chinamaya Mission NZ and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) of being terrorist organisations who teach Hindu children to hate Muslims. When Hindus asked for evidence Dutta resorted to ad-hominem attacks and shut down any contrary Hindu voices, even going as far to calling them ‘Hindu extremists’. Whenever he is asked to clarify if he is spreading hate against Hindus and Hinduism, Dutta has maintained the oft-repeated Ultra-left-Islamist lie that Hinduism is different from Hindutva and that Hindutva is a hateful political ideology of RSS-BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal.

Prof. Dutta’s Cultural Hindutva and Islamophobia

Dutta is a self-proclaimed leftist. He has been appearing in New Zealand as a Hindu. While appearing for a show with Radio NZ, the host of the show called Dutta a Hindu and Dutta didn’t bother correcting her. He has accepted to being a leftist in his own blog post. He writes “As a three-year-old, I asked my uncle, a trade union leader in my hometown, if I could help him paint hammer and sickle on the red flags that were arranged in a long line on the roof of our house.”

Along with accusing Hindus of being Islamophobic, Dutta has time and again equated Hindutva with white supremacy. A blog post on Mohan Dutta by a local New Zelander has accused Dutta of reverse racism and intolerance towards White students. According to the blog author, many Kiwi students have raised concerns on Dutta’s anti-White biasedness and that he deliberately favours minority students. The blog author also says many staff of Massey University have accused Dutta of misappropriation of University funds.

In his personal blog post, Dutta wrote an article Hindutva, hate, and rape culture: The communicative inversions that whitewash linking the rape threat given to Indian cricketer Virat Kohli’s daughter to Hindutva and Hinduism. On the 5th of September 2021, Dutta wrote a blog linking White supremacy and Hindutva, The violence of whiteness and Hindutva: Colonial formations

The whiteness of colonialism in British India drew on and catalyzed Brahminical forms of power and control and Islamic fundamentalism to seed hate. The 1905 partition of Bengal epitomized this infrastructure of hate, imposing the geographic division of Bengal along colonial lines with the goal of quelling the anticolonial resistance.

Both the political formation of Hindutva as ethno-nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism organised toward a monolithic nation state emerged out of this colonial formation. Hindutva, the articulation of a Hindu nation organised on the principles of religion, is a modern project, mired in whiteness and its colonial ambitions.

In its ambitions, as a colonial project, Hindutva is fundamentally antithetical to the diverse, plural, often contested forms of Hinduisms that make up the cultural fabric of India. The Hindu nation it imagines must colonize the diverse forms of Hinduisms to impose a monolithic Brahminical structure from the North. The violence propelled by Hindutva is integral to this colonizing structure.

The violence of whiteness and Hindutva: Colonial formations, Prof. Mohan J Dutta, Massey University, 5th September 2021

In the same blog Dutta writes, “The paper depicts the cultural pedagogy of International Chinmaya Mission as rooted in the ideology of Hindutva. The observation that Swami Chinmayananda, the founder of the International Chinmaya Mission, was also involved in the creation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a militant religious organisation that has been linked to violence, the paper calls for closer examination of cultural elements of Hindutva in New Zealand.” Dutta claims VHP and RSS are millitant organisations listed by the CIA. A quick look at CIA database clearly shows neither VHP, RSS nor Bajrang Dal are listed as terror groups. In 2018 CIA did list VHP and Bajrang Dal as a ‘militant organisation’ and not terrorist and RSS as a nationalist organisation. Their names were removed in June 2018. Dutta then goes into an elaborate rant mentioning our tweet.

The white paper then gets picked up by Stop Hindu Hate Advocacy Network (SHHAN),

“@MasseyUni professors have written white paper accusing @ChinmayaMission of spreading hate against Muslims without any evidence. @EducationGovtNZ baseless targeting of Hindu students is unacceptable. Indian students pay fees to study in NZ, pls do not sully your reputation.”

Note here the rhetorical fallacy constructed by X that gets picked up by the Stop Hindu Hate Advocacy Network. The production of the concern for Hindu students turns the critique of Hindutva into a question of safety for Hindu students. Moreover, Hindu students are then turned into Indian students. This rhetorical move is at the heart of the colonizing forces of Hindutva that seek to obliterate the diversities within India, and by extension among Indian students, by incorporating them into a monolithic category organized under Hindutva. Note here the colonial erasure performed on Hindus. Under this ideology, the only Hindus are the ones that identify under the ideology of Hindutva. The production of the Indian student as being targeted because of the particular critique of Hindutva as an ethnoreligious ideology renders visible the colonizing ideology of Hindutva. 

The tweet by SHHAN is then shared by X, “Surprise surprise. Chinmaya has finally found out about the white paper. This is called academic freedom, when you give all sides the opportunity to speak. If you take a look at the evidence for this report, don’t go bashing the Professor on his wall. Take it to Massey.”

Worth noting here are the interplays of the strategies of harassment. Urging protestors to write to the University is the tactic of harassment of the networks of Hindutva to silence academic freedom. 

The violence of whiteness and Hindutva: Colonial formations, Prof. Mohan J Dutta, Massey University, 5th September 2021

Just before 2019 elections, Dutta wrote an artcile for TheCitizen.in titled Saffron Mainstreamed Through Political and Media Discourse wherein he writes “For a strand of the diaspora, negotiating the everyday onslaughts of marginalization, the saffron turn offered a new basis for identity. This identity, founded on the image of a strong India, was also now palatable for the middle classes in the Indian mainstream. The saffron turn, with its promise of “Make in India” would deliver economic growth, coupled with cultural revitalization. The Indian (read Hindu Indian) would now feel a sense of glory at home and abroad, attaching with brand saffron.”

In a recent social media post linking White supremacy and Hindutva, Dutta white washed the sufferings of Hindus during 1946 Direct Action Day and Noakhali genocide. He is a genocide denier and enabler. Citing the example of Britishers Divide and Rule policy, Dutta claims during Indian freedom struggle when the British were dividing Hindus and Muslims, both communities came together to safeguard ‘cultural syncretism’. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore started a movement to tie rakhis by both communities to each other. Then rakhi became a symbol of ‘syncretism’ against forces of whiteness and colonisation. And that Hindutva is colonial project that mirrors the strategy of whiteness.

Dutta is also a part of an anti-Hindu, ultra-left NZ groups called Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians. It is led by one India-origin GP Dr. Sapna Samant. Both Dutta and Samant have penned few articles together like Shut the border, open the dialogue. In an opinion piece for Massey University titled Why does an oath in Sanskrit in Aotearoa New Zealand’s parliament raise questions? attacking Indian-origin Labour Party MP, Gaurav Sharma, for taking oath in Sanskrit, Dutta writes

This politics of hate that underlies the governing structure of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India is built on the revitalisation of Sanskrit, the turn to Hindu knowledge claims, the erasure of diverse cultural claims, and the active attacks on India’s oppressed caste and minority communities.

Sanskrit is largely a scriptural language that is used by caste Brahmins in India, reflective of and imbricated in India’s caste structure. Used historically by Brahmins to perform sacred rituals, Sanskrit was held up by a politics of caste-based gatekeeping.

Taking an oath in Sanskrit, attending a ceremony at a Hindu temple, wearing a tika (a red mark on the forehead) or wearing a saffron shawl can all appear as markers of multicultural openness. They can, in a specific context, signal inclusiveness. In other contexts, these same symbols and cultural resources can work to signal a politics of violence and erasure.

Why does an oath in Sanskrit in Aotearoa New Zealand’s parliament raise questions?, Professor Mohan J Dutta, Massey.ac.nz

In the same opinion piece, Dutta shared Samant’s rant which she posted on Facebook where she called taking oath in Sanskrit as “perpetuating Hindu upper caste privilege”.

Despite repeated requests, emails and complaints to Massey University highlighting Mohan Dutta’s Hinduphobic slant, Massey University refused to act. Instead Dutta was recognised for his ‘Outstanding Contributions To Promote Equity and Inclusions‘ and was awarded with a Distinguished Scholarship by National Communication Association (NCA).

Below are some social media posts of Mohan Dutta.