Hindu nationalism

Hindu nationalism

Hindu nationalism is a nationalist ideology that sees the modern state of the Republic of India as a Hindu polity [the proper english translation of 'Hindu rashtra' would be 'Hindu polity' and not 'Hindu nation'. as retrieved from para 1, page vi, editors note, The Hindu Phenomenon by Girilal Jain, ISBN no. 81-86112-32-4 ] ("Hindu Rashtra"), and seeks to preserve the Hindu heritage and opposes preferential treatment for Muslims and Christians. Although the concept of "Hindu Rashtra" has been used in slogans and pamphlets of the Bharatiya Janata PartyFact|date=September 2008, the main group that promotes this ideology, it has not been clearly and unambiguously defined in any of their literature. The notion of "Hindu principles" (Hindutva) promoted by this group is intended to be inclusive of the multiple indigenous traditions of India, including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. However these religions do not consider themselves to be Hindu. Hindu nationalism has played a crucial role in the recent history of India and that of Hinduism.


Hindu reform movements

Various Hindu reform movements, led by Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda and others, originated as a reaction to what was perceived as offensive propaganda of Christian missionaries and forcible conversion to Islam and ChristianityFact|date=September 2008.

The Arya Samaj was founded by Dayananda Saraswati in the later 19th century to revive Hindu society, which was entrenched deeply in the social schisms of untouchability and sati. The Samaj prescribed a "return to the Vedas"; they were monotheistic in their approach. Another 19th century revivalist was Swami Vivekananda, a follower of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. The Ramakrishna Mission he founded has grown into one of India's most important community organizations.

, was another prominent figure of the time.


The term "Hindutva" and the associated ideology were propounded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a freedom fighter and one of the earliest Hindu nationalists. In his 1923 book "Hindutva" he defines a Hindu as: cquote|He who considers India as both his Fatherland and HolylandHe thus defined Hindutva ("Hindu-ness") or Hindu nationalism as different from Hinduism in that it defines a Hindu nation, rather than a religion. The "Hindu nation" is conceived as including Indians belonging to religions like Sikhism and Buddhism (whose sacred sites associated with the founders lie in India), but whether Indian Muslims and Christians also are included, is a point of debate within the Hindu nationalists, as they expect each citizen to express his or her loyalty to the nation. For Savarkar at least, they cannot be Hindus as long as the origins and sacred sites of their religions lie in West Asia. [cite book |last= Elst|first=Koenraad |authorlink=Koenraad Elst |title=Decolonizing the Hindu mind |year=2005 |publisher=Rupa |location=India |id=ISBN 81-7167-519-0 |pages=21 ] Savarkar identified India as a "Hindu Rāshtra" ("Hindu nation") in terms of culture and heritage. It asserted that all of its people had in history adhered to Hindu religious values, and thus should be identified as "Hindus" not only as a religion but also as a nationality.

Independence movement and Partition of India

While the Indian National Congress was recognized by a majority of Indians as their representative in the struggle for freedom from the British Raj, Hindu nationalist movements not only desired freedom from European colonialism, but also wanted to avoid a return of the Muslim rule.

National leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak instilled Hindu history, heritage and culture into Indian nationalism and politics during the Indian Independence Movement.

The Partition of India outraged many majority Hindu nationalist politicians and social groups.
Savarkar and members of the Hindu Mahasabha were extremely critical of Gandhi's leadershipFact|date=July 2008. They accused him of appeasing the Muslims to preserve a unity that in their opinion, did not exist; Savarkar endorsed the concept of the Two-nation theory while disagreeing with it in practice. Some Hindu nationalists also blamed Gandhi for conceding Pakistan to the Muslim League via appeasement. And they were further inflamed when Gandhi conducted a fast-unto-death for the Indian government to give Rs. 55 crores which were due to the Pakistan government, but were being held back due to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.

After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, the Sangh Parivar was plunged into distress when the RSS was accused of involvement in his murder. Along with the conspirators and the assassin, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was also arrested. The Court acquitted Savarkar, and the RSS was found be to completely unlinked with the conspiratorsFact|date=July 2008. The Hindu Mahasabha, of which Godse was a member, lost membership and popularity. The effects of public outrage had a permanent effect on the Hindu Mahasabha, which is now a defunct Hindutva party.


"Hindu Rāshtra"

The meaning of the "Hindu Rāshtra" (literally, "Hindu polity") [para 1, page vi, editors note, The Hindu Phenomenon by Girilal Jain, ISBN no. 81-86112-32-4 ] , often mentioned in texts on the Bharatiya Janata Party ("Indian Peoples' Party", part of the Sangh Parivar) has been summed up by one of its top leaders, Lal Krishna Advani, as follows. He starts by correctly pointing out that: cquote|The term "Hindu Rāshtra" was never used during the Jana Sangh days, neither had it ever been mentioned in any manifesto of the BJP [cite news | title =Advani wants Muslims to identify with 'Hindutva'|publisher = Times of India| date =2006-01-30| language =English ] The BJP has never used the term "Hindu Rāshtra". [cite book |last= Elst|first=Koenraad |authorlink=Koenraad Elst |title=Decolonizing the Hindu mind |year=2005 |publisher=Rupa |location=India |id=ISBN 81-7167-519-0 |pages=480 ] In contrast with the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ("National Volunteer Organisation", also known as the RSS, which forms the main arm of the Sangh Parivar) openly espouses the concept of "Hindu Rāshtra", but RSS statements about this central concept are not much more forthright than Advani's. For example, in a book by H.V. Sheshadri, a senior leader of the RSS writes: cquote|As Hindu Rashtra is not a religious concept, it is also not a political concept. It is generally misinterpreted as a theocratic state or a religious Hindu state. Nation (Rashtra) and State (Rajya) are entirely different and should never be mixed up. State is purely a political concept. ... The State changes as the political authority shifts from person to person or party to party. But the people in the Nation remain the same.|40px|40px|K.S. Rao in H. V. Seshadri, ed.:"Why Hindu Rashtra?", p.24 The Hindu nation is suggested as something that has always been there and always will exist in the future. It has not been discussed in Hindu nationalist circles as a revolutionary ideal. Hindu nationalists, however, assure the world that the concept of Hindu Rashtra does not contradict the principles of secularism and democracy. [cite book |last= Elst|first=Koenraad |authorlink=Koenraad Elst |title=Decolonizing the Hindu mind |year=2005 |publisher=Rupa |location=India |id=ISBN 81-7167-519-0|pages=480-486 ]

In this somewhat vague definition of a Hindu nation, a Hindu is connoted beyond just as an adherent of Hinduism. For some, the term Hindu is set to encompass the adherents to a culture, that is, the unique Indian culture. For others, however, the definition of Hindu is extended to all Indians as long as they have an ancestral connection to the Hindu Rashtra (ie. the Indian subcontinent). Those proponents have argued that even Muslim and Christian Indians are Hindus, as their ancestors were Hindu, and despite their religion, their culture and heritage is the same as that of India's natural Hindu majority. Many Hindu nationalists also prescribe to a vision of "Akhand Bharat" ("Complete India"), wherein the partition of India is reversed to found a nation based on what they consider as India's natural territorial extent in terms of the bonds of history, culture, economy and people.

Advocates of Hindu Rashtra contend that Hinduism's strong legacy of tolerance for diverse philosophies and reform movements, and the root idea of universal human brotherhood is the reason for the country's vibrant fabric of diversity, and thus every person, community and institution is perennially Hindu. In that sense, it is contended that the term Hindu in this case is a synecdoche for all indigenous Indian religions and philosophies. In that vein, some advocates of the "Hindu Rashtra" prefer to think of the concept as inclusive of religions that evolved in India (such as Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism), and thus are believed to be compatible with Indian social ethos. The adherents of the Hindu Rashtra philosophy claim that the English term "nation" is only a crude translation of the Sanskrit term "rāshtra". Their term "rashtra" does not mean a European-type nation with one ethnicity, one common history, one language and one religion. In fact, the proper English translation of 'Hindu rashtra' would be 'Hindu polity' and not 'Hindu nation'. [para 1, page vi, editors note, The Hindu Phenomenon by Girilal Jain, ISBN no. 81-86112-32-4 ]

The Sangh Parivar

The "Sangh Parivar" is an umbrella organization of social, religious and political organizations that make up or support directly or indirectly the Hindu nationalist ideology in character and purpose, most who are exponents of Hindutva and other forms of Hindu expression. Today, its is the largest organization of Hindu nationalist expression and activity in India and the world at large. The Sangh Parivar consists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and numerous other organisations in India and across the world.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was founded in Nagpur, Maharashtra in 1925 by K.B. Hedgewar, a physician who felt that Hindu social unity was a deeply important foundation for a free India. The RSS stayed out of the freedom struggle as suchFact|date=September 2008, but promoted a brotherhood amongst its membership, working to erase caste distinctions, and for the upliftment of backward Hindu communities. To this day, the RSS claims to stand for the "Hindu nation" in terms of culture and social heritage, which it believes Muslims and Christians are naturally a part of, despite their religion, as their ancestors were Hindus and their basic culture and lifestyle is Hindu.

During the 1947 riots and population exchange the RSS organized relief camps for Sikhs and Hindus coming to India from Pakistan. The RSS under its second leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar developed a reputation as a socio-cultural organization whose selfless volunteers were always at the forefront of several patriotic endeavors in India.The RSS holds that Christians and Muslims are basically converts from Hinduism and should be reintegrated into the mainstream of Indian Hindu culture other wise leave India. Christianity has had a toehold in India since the middle of the first centuryFact|date=September 2008-far longer than in many parts of Europe-but Christians still represent less than 2 percent of the population. Muslims, although(13-14%), number somewhere between 138 million [Islam in India] , however, which makes India the third biggest Muslim country in the world after Indonesia. Pakistan, which was partitioned from India by in 1947, 161 million people mostly muslim.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh renounces the Indian caste system and the practice of Untouchability and works to emancipate the lower castes from persecution and discrimination in India. They have also engaged in numerous relief efforts in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been plagued by terrorism [http://news.oneindia.in/2006/06/25/jk-rss-adopts-militancy-hit-muslim-children.html] .

Vishwa Hindu Parishad

The RSS also sponsored the creation of independent organizations to open different avenues in forwarding its main mission. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad was organized in 1967 by Hindu religious leaders and RSS members to focus exclusively on reviving the Hindu religion, religious tradition and expanding community unity. The VHP has adopted the Ram Janmabhoomi issue as its own, while preaching against religious conversions and advocating a ban on cow slaughter. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is one of India's major student organizations, while some labor and farmer unions have also been formed.

Bharatiya Janata Party

The Bharatiya Janata Party and its predecessor the Bharatiya Jana Sangh are considered by observers and critics as the political wing of the RSS. Founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951, the Jana Singh transformed into the BJP in 1980, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, both proteges of Mookerjee have led to become one of the largest political parties in India.

The BJP adopted came into power federally within India 1996, but had to give up power after 13 days because of a transfer of the majority. In 1998, the BJP formed the forefront of the National Democratic Alliance and came to power once again. It led India to victory in the Kargil War and was re-elected for a five year term in 1999. The BJP government lost the 2004 Indian General Elections to the now ruling Indian National Congress, nevertheless it continues to have great support under the leadership of Rajnath Singh.

International presence

The RSS and associated Hindu nationalist bodies founded the "Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh" in the 1980s, to foster a sense of common heritage and community discipline amongst expatriate Hindus living in North America and Western Europe. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad also maintains major branch organizations in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France.

The activities of these bodies mainly work to bring Hindu communities together by sponsoring temple programs, pujas and festivals, and conducting camp programs for young Hindus to learn religious literature, Indian languages and history, to cultivate a sense of identity.


On December 6, 1992, a large procession of VHP activists destroyed the Babri Mosque, which has been claimed to have been built over Ram Janmabhoomi, in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama. The VHP and the BJP have been blamed for organizing the mob violence and mass murder attacks on Muslim civilians across the state of Gujarat in 2002 following the burning alive of Hindu pilgrims in the Godhra train burning. The sequence of events leading to the violence in Godhra, the Muslim attack on the passenger train in Godhra, and the Hindu retalliation is well documented. While the Indian government estimated 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died in the violence, it is claimed by human rights groups that upwards estimates of 1,000 people and possibly over 2,000 were killed by mobs during this Gujarat riot with tens of thousands of Muslim Gujaratis displaced. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4536199.stm Gujarat riot death toll revealed, BBC report] , [http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=46626 BJP cites govt statistics to defend Modi, "Indian Express"] , [http://news.indiainfo.com/2005/05/11/1105godhra-rs.html 254 Hindus, 790 Muslims killed in post-Godhra riots,Indiainfo.com] , [http://hir.harvard.edu/articles/1183/ "Talibanization" and "Saffronization" in India, "Harvard International Review"] , [http://www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/0,,1020835,00.html Why is Narendra Modi in Wembley?, "The Guardian"] ]


*cite book |last= Elst|first=Koenraad |authorlink=Koenraad Elst |title=Decolonizing the Hindu mind |year=2005 |publisher=Rupa |location=India |id=ISBN 81-7167-519-0
*cite book |last=Blank |first=Jonah |authorlink=Jonah Blank |title= Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God
*cite book |last=Savarkar |first=Vinayak Damodar |authorlink=Vinayak Damodar Savarkar |title=Hindutva |year=1923 |publisher=Bharati Sahitya Sadan |location=Delhi, India
*cite book |last=Gandhi |first=Rajmohan |authorlink=Rajmohan Gandhi |title=Patel: A Life
* Ainslie T. Embree, ‘The Function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation’, in Accounting for Fundamentalisms, The Fundamentalism Project 4, ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 617–652. (ISBN 0-226-50885-4)
* Partha Banerjee, In the Belly of the Beast: The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India (Delhi: Ajanta, 1998). OCLC|43318775
* Walter K. Andersen. ‘Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching for the Hindu Nationalist Face’, In The New Politics of the Right: Neo–Populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies, ed. Hans–Georg Betz and Stefan Immerfall (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), pp. 219–232. (ISBN 0-312-21134-1 or ISBN 0-312-21338-7)


External links

* [http://www.hindubooks.org/HinduPhe/index.htm The Hindu phenomenon] - Girilal Jain
* [http://www.hindubooks.org/whr/index.htm Why Hindu Rashtra]
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1013666219441914390 Video documentary showcasing the social service works of the RSS]
* [http://www.hindujagruti.org/hinduism/books/kshtradharma-sadhana/ Hindu Janajagruti Samiti]
* [http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books.html Voice of Dharma]

ee also

*Hindu nationalist parties
*Cow protection movement

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