By Dibyesh Anand – d.anand [at] westminster.ac.uk
India portrays Islamic radicalism, ethnic separatism, and the left-wing Naxalite guerrilla movement as security threats. But it is Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) that generates most hatred and violent conflicts amongst Indian citizens; it is not able to support India as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state.
Security is representation of danger to the “self” and a mobilization of resources including violence to protect that “self.” Hindutva is dangerous because it creates a narrow notion of Indian “self” excluding tens of millions of Indian citizens and encouraging discrimination and violence against them.
Hindutva conjures up the image of a peaceful Hindu “self” against the threatening minority “other.” By taking a defensive position against the threats supposedly posed by Muslims, Christians, and secularists to the security of the individual Hindu, it legitimizes politics of fear and hatred. Hindutva politics is anti-minority, reactionary, violent, and thus anti-democratic.
Hindu nationalists represented by groups such as Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Bajrang Dal, and their political wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deploy violence against minorities. This is seen in the anti-Muslim pogrom in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 and anti-Christian bloodshed in Orissa in 2008.
Hindutva claims to speak in the name of the majority Hindu population of India. Ignoring divisions along caste, class, linguistic, regional, and political lines, it aims to create a homogeneous, politically-unified Hindu community. Progressive ideas of secularism, minority rights, and caste-based justice movements are viewed with suspicion as conspiracies to divide Hindus.
Though the majority of Hindus do not vote for Hindu nationalist parties, prominent Hindutva organizations are active in transforming the world view of Hindus. When they reap the benefits of this socio-cultural transformation in electoral terms, the BJP promotes a form of intolerant majority rule where minority rights and the right to dissent without fear are lost.
If the BJP wins a national election, it is likely they will preside over state-sanctioned violent suppression of religious minorities and dissenters. If India is to remain secular, multi-religious, and pluralist, the non-Hindutva democratic forces have to first recognize Hindutva as a security threat and then mobilize to combat it politically including in elections.
Dibyesh Anand – Associate Professor in International Relations at London’s University of Westminster.
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- Muslims in Hindu Nationalist India, Center Conversations, Ethics and Public Policy Center, April 2004.
- Hindu Nationalism in India and the Politics of Fear, October 2011. (Book by Dibyesh Anand).
- Genocide Gujurat 2002, Communalism Combat, March-April 2002.
- Hindu Nationalism: A Reader, 2007. (Book by Christopher Jaffrelot).
- Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujurat Report, International Initiative for Justice, December 2003.
- Hindu Nationalism – What’s Religion Got to Do With It? Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, March 2003.
- Our other Memos about India