Hindu nationalist ideologue Sadhvi Ritambara, whose fundraising event at the Old Paramus Reformed Church in the United States (New Jersey) was canceled a few days ago, had a similar experience in the United Kingdom earlier this week.
The Param Shakti Peeth of the United Kingdom, of which Rithambara is apparently the founder, had organised a tour for her from 20-24 September. The events were supposed to be held in Birmingham, Nottingham, Coventry, Ilford, and London.
After a collective effort by academics and activists, her whole tour got cancelled. In an interview with news agency ANI, Rithambara said, "There were some people who could not see India's development and tried to fuel fear within the Hindu community. They try to create a situation, run the campaign, and even assert pressure on the political leader."
"The vigorous campaign to expose her was led by two Members of Parliament, Sam Tarry and Yasmin Qureshi, who called for her to be banned from the UK, clearly unnerving her," Amrit Wilson, a writer, journalist, and activist who covers issues of race, gender, and South Asian life in Britain, told The Quint.
"As a result, she decided to cancel her trip claiming that she was ill. A variety of people had been involved in the campaign. A number of groups such as the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), together with smaller community-based organisations, were involved and had urged people to write to their MPs to take action," he added.
'Did Not Wish to Face Similar Humiliation'
Wilson, who has won the Martin Luther King Award for her book Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain, told The Quint that Sadhvi Rithambara is a "rabid hate-monger," who along with the other senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, was allegedly involved in instigating violence and is responsible for the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid.
"This is why progressive people in the UK were deeply disturbed that she had been invited to speak in this country. She was due to speak in temples in Birmingham, Bolton, Coventry, and Nottingham, in a trip which had been organised by a charity set up by her. However just prior to her planned visit to the UK, she was disinvited from speaking in a church in the US, thanks to the campaigning by progressive groups in America. She obviously did not wish to face a similarly humiliating situation in the UK."Amrit Wilson
The church event that Wilson refers to was scheduled to be held on 10 September at the Old Paramus Reformed Church in New Jersey. It got canceled after the head of the church, Reverend Robert Miller, reportedly received a flood of messages opposing Rithambara's appearance, including more than 1,000 emails and 100 phone calls from across the United States.
The Campaign to Censor Rithambara
When asked about the collective efforts that had been taken to get her event canceled, Wilson told The Quint that "a variety of people were involved, of all classes and religions, although Muslim organisations had taken the lead."
Some of these groups are:
Muslim Association of Britain (MAB)
Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND)
South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG)
MEND also urged concerned citizens to write to their MPs.
In their online campaign, MEND explained how citizens should identify the MPs whose constituencies Rithambara’s would be visiting, that is:
Black Country – MP John Spellar
Nottingham East – MP Nadia Whittome
Coventry Northeast – MP Colleen Fletcher
Ilford South – MP Sam Tarry
Camberwell and Peckham – MP Harriet Harman
A part of the template letter that the people could use to write to their MPs read, "Sadhvi Rithambara is a Hindutva leader who promotes an ideology of hatred and violence. Religious minorities face significant levels of prejudice and persecution at the hands of India's BJP government, and she has endorsed such actions by publicly calling for the massacre of Indian Christians and Muslims on several occasions."
"We are deeply concerned that her presence will jeopardize the present harmony in the UK between Hindu and other communities... Considering the above, we urge you to write to the home office to block Sadhvi Rithambara’s visit to the UK. We also ask you to contact the organisers of the event and encourage them to cancel this problematic activity," the letter added.
Eventually, MEND announced on 16 September that their campaign had been successful, and the tour had been cancelled.
Resistance to Hindutva in Britain
"There has always been resistance to Hindutva in Britain," asserts Wilson.
"In 2020, South Asia Solidarity Group, together with Dalit organisations, Muslim groups, and the Indian Workers Association, organised a 5000 strong protest march against the CAA and NRC. And 5000 is very large for the UK. Again this year similar numbers came out to protest against the 'bulldozer genocide'. And there has been a variety of other activities to expose and fight the Hindutva forces."Amrit Wilson
Wilson argues that the the source of Hindutva in the United Kingom is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) itself, and that its strategy is changing, that is, Hindutva forces are now trying to provoke riots in order to intensify their favourite tropes – that Hindus are under threat and Mulsims are a danger to them.
"The RSS had set up its first office in London in 1966. In the 1980s and 1990s it grew much bigger with money and resources. But with the RSS or rather its overseas wing, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK (HSS) instigating physical violence, the numbers of people resisting them will increase."