One of my friends came from a devout Vaishnava-Vallabha family with whom I have taken a few religious courses. One day while in a casual conversation we came to the topic of Ramayana. To my surprise, my friend started to question, how good of a husband Rama was? I found this question very disturbing coming from someone who wakes up at 4 AM to do daily worship of Shrinathji. I start with this example because I want to show just how Hindu students are brainwashed on a University campus.
In my few years, I have come to see the bias nature at the University of Toronto. The first thing I want to talk about is the courses. The courses on Hinduism are very biased. The following are my experiences in some of the Hinduism related courses:
The Introduction to Hinduism course was the course that made me realize the bias and distortion that plagues Academia. Religion is looked at from a caste angle. For example, “Upper” castes are said to worship Saguna Brahman because they could worship at temples and have brahmins as priests. However, the “Lower” castes worship Nirguna Brahman because they were not allowed into temples.”Lower” caste devotion was understood through select poems of Kabir. The final essay of this Hinduism course was also focused on these select poems by Kabir. Students were also required to purchase this book on the poems by Kabir as one of the central texts of the course. Interesting to see the heavy focus on a figure who openly claimed to be neither Hindu nor Muslim in a course titled ‘Introduction to Hinduism’.
Another South Asian religion course spoke on “Sanskritization” of the Tamil people who worshipped indigenous and nature deities before the Brahmans came from the North and imposed their religion on them.
In a course on Islam in South Asia. The professor said Hindu nationalism had a big part to play in the radicalization of Islam in South Asia. In one lecture talking about Aurangzeb, the professor wanted to show that Aurangzeb was demonized by some and that we cannot always trust these sources. As an example, she spoke about the incident where Aurangzeb banned music and the sources that demonized him, did so because they favored his brother Dara Shikoh. Completely ignoring the real reason why Aurangzeb is disliked by many which are due to his intolerance of other faiths.
Let us look at the History department of Academia analyzing the South Asian History course. The first lecture is focused on the early history of South Asia and Historiography in South Asia. The second and thirds lectures are focused on the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. The lecture on the Delhi Sultanate is titled ‘The Delhi Sultanate: The Emergence of Cosmopolitanism’. The lecture after this is focused on the coming of the East India Company. The course says it focuses on history closer to the modern era. However, it completely removes the Hindu history of South Asia in the course.
Another South Asian religion course spoke on “Sanskritization” of the Tamil people who worshipped indigenous and nature deities before the Brahmans came from the North and imposed their religion on them. The course talked about temple building in South India but completely left out temple building in the North. The professors likely did not want to deal with the conversation around temple destruction by certain alien religions. In one case, however, they defended the Qutub Minar and argued that it was built to showcase the strength of the Sultan and had nothing to do with religion. Students were made to memorize the order of the dynasties of the Delhi sultanates in a course about religion. The only non-Muslim rulers who were mentioned in the course were Ashoka and Ajatashatru in the context of Buddhism. The professor never mentioned the Vijayanagara Empire and conveniently left out the whole Maratha section from the course.
There was also a course on the Ramayana. The critical version of the Valmiki Ramayana used in class was by Arisha Sattar whose doctoral advisor was Wendy Doniger. According to the professor, there is not one original Ramayana, but there are many tellings. The professor covered a few different Ramayana from the past but coming to the modern period, she dedicated a class to Ramayanas by feminists and another class to the Ramayana according to E V Ramasamy. One would wonder what relevance these have to the study of religion. In any other religion course, a non-religious figure of that religion would not be used to understand a scripture of that religion, Hinduism is the exception. Perhaps the Vaishnavas of Toronto should pay more attention to what’s being taught to students about their religion in universities.
The reason why this is alarming is that documentaries like this one are watched by thousands of Hindu and non-Hindu students as part of their curriculum across various universities.
South Asian courses usually require students to attend 1-2 events by the Centre for South Asian Civilization per semester. They Screened the film “Reason” by Anand Patwardhan as one of their events. The film was 4 hours long and spoke about the rising intolerance in India as well as beef lynchings. This film has a portion that hints at terrorist activities by a “Hindu” organization.
Anand Patwardhan is a documentary filmmaker whose films are academic grade material according to the departments at the University of Toronto. He was also on the campus a couple of years ago for the screening of his most recent film ‘Reason’. In summary, the documentary is about Hindu Nationalism’s rise since 2014. It covers, the assassination of certain rationalists, journalists, and politicians, Cow vigilantes, persecution of Muslims, and caste oppression.
Another one of his films is ‘Ram Ke Naam’. Most courses related to South Asian history, religion, and politics include this documentary on the syllabus. The said whole documentary is about the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Incident. Again, from any point of view, this is very biased and shows right-wing organizations instigating riots throughout India. It also brings a caste angle to the Ram Janmabhoomi issue by showing it as a predominantly “upper-caste” movement using the Western created caste fault lines. He makes the whole issue a political one and completely ignores the religious point and base of the movement.
The reason why this is alarming is that documentaries like this one are watched by thousands of Hindu and non-Hindu students as part of their curriculum across various universities. I am positive these are not an isolated incident and similar things take place on campuses across the world and especially in Canadian and American Universities. These documentaries by this biased filmmaker among others are enough to create a negative narrative that the whole world believes blindly.
Based on the above scenarios, it seems that a bigger mechanism is working to brainwash the next generation Hindus in the West. If the present tendency continues, after several years, the support that the Indian Hindus are getting from the Indian diaspora will slowly die or reduce. This also subtly implants hate in the minds of the present Hindu students. This will eventually lead to an identity crisis which in turn will cause conversion of the Hindus to other religions.
We all know that most Canadian and Western Universities are filled with evangelical and Islamic forces. The Hindu religious authorities in the West must pay attention to what is being taught at the universities about their religion. This must happen immediately, or else the future for Hindu looks bleak.