New Delhi: A faculty member of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi is facing criticism on social media after she questioned the origins of Hinduism and stated that Mahatma Gandhi helped construct the idea of a “false Hindu majority”.
Divya Dwivedi, an assistant professor who teaches philosophy and literature at IIT-Delhi and has co-authored a book on Gandhi, made the comments during a television debate on NDTV last week.
“Hindu Right is the corollary of the idea that India is a Hindu majority population and this is a false majority. The Hindu religion was invented in the early 20th century in order to hide the fact that the lower caste people are the real majority of India…” Dwivedi said on the show that discussed Gandhi and politics.
— NDTV (@ndtv) October 4, 2019
“In fact, religious minorities have been a victim of this false majority and Gandhi has played a very significant role in its construction. He has helped construct a false Hindu majority and a new Hindu identity…” she said.
Dwivedi added, “He (Gandhi) was one of the many upper caste leaders who constructed this origin for this polity but today we must discard it…”
The IIT-Delhi professor instantly became a target on social media after a video of the debate went viral, with many questioning her credentials and her job at the premier technology institute.
In an emailed response to ThePrint, Dwivedi refused to comment on the controversy, but said there are studies to prove the claims she made.
“There are several academic studies on this much discussed matter. One can refer to D.N. Jha (Looking for a Hindu Identity), Vasudha Dalmia and Heinrich von Stietencron (Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious Traditions and National Identity), and the Census of India report of 1921,” she said.
“I jointly made a lengthier statement on these matters in an essay published in the Gandhi special issue of The Indian Express, titled ‘Courage to Begin’.”
‘She was frivolous’
In the last couple of days, social media users have targeted Divya Dwivedi with lessons on the history of Hinduism.
“She should sit down and give her mind a rest… 1700–1100 BCE: Hindu Vedas the Rig Veda was composed. 1500 BCE Vedic Age began in India after Indus Valley Civilisation…Religion in Indian subcontinent tracing back to Indus Valley Civilization. Called “oldest religion” in world…” Amrita Bhinder, spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) Chandigarh, wrote on Twitter.
She should sit down and give her mind a rest 🙂
1700–1100 BCE: Hindu Vedas the Rig Veda was composed.
1500 BCE Vedic Age began in India after Indus Valley Civilisation.
Religion in Indian subcontinent tracing back to Indus Valley Civilization. Called "oldest religion" in world https://t.co/yCtNYwO358
— Amrita Bhinder (@amritabhinder) October 5, 2019
Historian S. Irfan Habib also disagreed with Dwivedi’s comments, calling it frivolous.
“She was really frivolous, had no idea what she is talking about and the context of the debate. Not sure if she has anything to do with the Left though,” he wrote on Twitter.
She was really frivolous, had no idea what she is talking about and the context of the debate. Not sure if she has anything to do with the left though. https://t.co/IFxERrQDLY
— S lrfan Habib (@irfhabib) October 6, 2019
Who is Divya Dwivedi?
Co-author of Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-Politics, Divya Dwivedi is a literature graduate from Lady Shri Ram College. She completed her M.A. and M.Phil from Delhi University and PhD from IIT-Delhi’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.
According to her profile on the institute’s website, Dwivedi’s research areas include narratology and literary theory.
Prior to her IIT-Delhi stint, Dwivedi taught at Delhi University’s Department of English and also at St. Stephen’s College.