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Hindu politics

Major parties

Bharatiya Janata Party
Shiv Sena

Defunct parties

Hindu Mahasabha
Bharatiya Jana Sangh
Ram Rajya Parishad


Integral humanism
Hindu nationalism
Uniform civil code

Major figures

Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar
Syama Prasad Mookerjee
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Lal Krishna Advani
Bal Thackeray
Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya

Related authors

Vishal Agarwal
B.C. Chattopadhyay
Koenraad Elst
Francois Gautier
Sita Ram Goel
K.S. Lal
Harsh Narain
Yvette Rosser
Arun Shourie
Ram Swarup

 v  d  e 


For Veer Savarkar's book, see Hindutva (book).

Hindutva ("Hinduness", a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet entitled Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? ) is used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism.

Grammatically, the term is a compound of the Persian word "Hindu" and the Sanskrit suffix "-tva" which is used to form neuter abstract nouns.[1] Hence, according to Savarkar, Hindutva is meant to denote the Hindu characteristic, or Hinduness.

The former ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is closely associated with a group of organizations that promote Hindutva. They collectively refer to themselves as the "Sangh Parivar" or family of associations, and include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

This right-wing Ideology has existed since the early 20th century, forged by freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar popularly known as Veer Savarkar (Veer means brave), but came to prominence in Indian politics in the late 1980s, when two events attracted a large number of mainstream Hindus to the movement. The first of these events was the Rajiv Gandhi government's use of its large Parliamentary Majority to overturn a Supreme Court verdict that had angered many Muslims (see the Shah Bano case). The second was the dispute over the 16th century Mughal Babri Mosque in Ayodhya — built by Babur after his first major victory in India, allegedly by razing a Hindu temple marking the birthplace of the Hindu God-Emperor Rama, an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. This came to a head with the razing of the mosque by a Hindu mob in 1992 and subsequent Hindu-Muslim riots, especially in the Bombay riots and the 1993 Mumbai bombings perpetrated by the one of the Muslim members of the organized-crime gang D-Company, Dawood Ibrahim. The region is now referred to by Hindus as the Ramjanmabhoomi. The Ramjanmabhoomi situation has been compared to the Temple Mount disputes in Israel.[2]


Main articles: Sangh Parivar and National Democratic Alliance

Most nationalists are organized into political, cultural and social organizations. The first Hindutva organisation formed was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, founded in 1925. A prominent Indian political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is closely associated with a group of organisations that advocate Hindutva. They collectively refer to themselves as the "Sangh Parivar" or family of associations, and include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Other organisations include:

  • Swadeshi Jagran Manch
  • Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh - Worker's Union
  • Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad - A Student's Union
  • Bharatiya Kisan Sangh - A Farmers' organisation
  • Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram- Tribal's welfare organization

The major political wing is the BJP which was in power in India's Central Government for six years from 1998 to 2004 and is now the main opposition party. It is also in power in the five states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. It is an alliance partner in the states of Orissa, Bihar and Karnataka.

Political parties pertaining to the Hindutva ideology are not limited to the Sangh Parivar. Examples of political parties independent from the Sangh's influence include Praful Goradia's Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh[3] and Uma Bharti's Bharatiya Janshakti Party.[4] The influence of these groups is relatively limited.

The Maharashtrian controversial political party, the Shiv Sena, converted its ideology to the Hindutva one in recent times. It has been very influential in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The party is not part of the Sangh Parivar but is associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Similar is the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is a Sikh religious party but maintains ties with Hindutva organizations, as they also represent Sikhism.


In a judgment the Indian Supreme Court ruled that "no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu', 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage."

Hindutva is commonly identified with the guiding ideology of the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu Nationalist organizations, and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in particular. While opponents and critics usually view Hindutva as a nationalist identity based solely on the Hindu religion and ethos, these organizations portray it as a nationalist identity based on the traditions and cultural heritage of the Indian sub-continent, contending that in many respects it is a syncretic ideology, despite drawing freely from Hindu philosophy, quoting Hindu scriptures as a staple of party rhetoric, and holding Hindu historical and religious figures up as inspirational examples.

In general, Hindutvavaadis (followers of Hindutva) believe that they represent the well-being of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and all other Dharmic religions prominent in India, as those religions are native to India. Other prominent religions of India, Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Zoroastrianism, generally are not directly represented by Hindutva groups.

Central concepts

  • The Indian subcontinent (which includes the area south of the Himalaya and the Hindu Kush or Akhand Bharat is the homeland of the Hindus.
  • "Hindus" are those who consider India (Bharat) to be their fatherland (pitribhumi) as well as their holyland (punyabhumi) (definition as proposed by Savarkar).
  • emphasizing historical oppression of Hindus by invading forces like the Muslims (see Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent) and the Christians (see Goa Inquisition) and the call to "reverse" the influence resulting from these intrusions.
  • denunciation of British colonialism and Communism alike for a perceived weakening of Hindus.
  • The irredentist call for the establishment of a "Hindu Rashtra" to protect Hindus and revive Hindu culture
  • denunciation of the Indian government as too passive with regard to the ethnic cleansing Kashmiri Hindus [5][6] by Kashmiri Muslim separatists and advocates of Hindutva wish a harder stance in Jammu and Kashmir.


Hindu nationalists have the stated aim of uniting the Hindu society which is plagued by casteism, regionalism, passive religion. They have a positive outlook towards the Dalit community, which they aim to bring to leadership positions in their organizations.[7] They believe that the way Muslims and Hindus have treated each other in the past is a one-way compromise and they intend on making society more balanced and fair towards the majority Hindu population. The BJP has also invited Muslims to be a part of this new society and work with the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs for a better India.[8] Even more militant parties such as the Shiv Sena have invited Muslims to join and the party leader declared after the Babri Mosque incident,

"We must look after the Muslims and treat them as part of us.[9]"

Outside observers, on the other hand, describe Hindutva philosophy as fundamentalism: Muslims and Christians are seen as foreign elements in the subcontinent, which rightly belongs to Hindus. The RSS leader M. S. Golwalkar, like his contemporary Islamist counterpart Mawdudi, has expressed admiration for the Nazis and their ideas about national purity: in 1939 he wrote that "Germany has shocked the world by purging the country of the semitic race of the Jews, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by".[10]

Ruthven (2007:108) recognizes an element of religious fundamentalism in Swami Dayananda's "elevation of the Vedas to the sum of human knowledge, along with his myth of the Aryavartic kings", but identifies its consequences as nationalistic, since "Hindutva secularizes Hinduism by sacralizing the nation". Mezentseva (1994), however, rejects any necessary connection being made between Dayananda and Hindu nationalism, demonstrating that his interpretation of 'Aryavarta' is not to be identified with the concept of the Indian nation as utilized by Hinduvta groups.[11]

Views on other faiths

The advocates of Hindutva often use the term pseudo-secularism to refer to laws which they believe are very favourable towards the minorities. They point to the different standards for Hindus, Muslims and Christians. They oppose what they see as a 'separate-but-equal' system; some supporters of Hindutva see it as the Indian National Congress party's effort to woo the sizeable minority vote bank at the expense of true equality. The subject of a Uniform Civil Code, which would remove special religion-based provisions for different religions (Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, etc.) from the Indian Constitution, is thus one of the main political planks of Hindutva. The Uniform Civil Code is opposed by Muslims, Christians and parties like the Indian National Congress and The Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Hindutva followers question differential laws in terms of marriage and divorce and ask why in a secular democracy Muslims are allowed polygamy, but Hindus or Christians are prosecuted for doing the same.

Christians are also given separate laws for divorce, which is more difficult for them than for Hindus. The amendment of the Indian constitution by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to overturn a Supreme Court judgment under pressure from the conservative Muslims incensed some Hindus who became Hindutva supporters. The amended laws, more in tune with the Shariat, reduced the rights that divorced Muslim women previously had.[12]

Followers feel that Hindutva speaks for the Hindu majority in India. They also often feel that secular democracy implies equal laws for all religions, and want a Uniform Civil Code passed for the same reason.

One must also differentiate between the word "secularism" as used in the Western and Indian contexts. Secularism in the West implies "separation of church & state" whereas secularism in India means "equal respect for all religions".

Among the goals of the Hindutva organisations in modern India is a reversing of the invasions by conquerors. They include demands to convert disputed historical monuments into temples.[13] This statement comes from the fact that when Pope John Paul II came to India, he called for an entire conversion of Asia in the lines of that carried out in Europe and Africa in the earlier millennia.[14]

Hindutva groups are overwhelmingly supportive of the Jewish State of Israel, including Savarkar himself, who supported Israel during its formation.[15] RSS is the most pro-Israel group in India at present and actively praised the efforts of Ariel Sharon when he visited India.[16][17] R.S.S spokesperson Ram Madhav recently expressed support for Israel (when the far left Marxists and Islamists in India routinely attack Israel and Jews and have, in fact, accused Israel and Zionists of "fascistic" inclinations as well[18][19]) when he said:

The entire world acknowledges that Israel has effectively and ruthlessly countered terror in the Middle East. Since India and Israel are both fighting a proxy war against terrorism, therefore, we should learn a lesson or two from them. We need to have close cooperation with them in this field.[20]

Views on Indian History

The ideological beginning of this line of political thought in modern India is the RSS. Its aim, according to its stated objectives is to instil national pride in every Indian. Its motto is 'Sangathit Hindu, Samartha Bharat' i.e. 'United Hindus, capable India'. The RSS is the largest voluntary organisation in the world. All of its gatherings are held on open grounds, where men, women and children of all ages gather in daily meetings. There are about 50000 such daily gatherings (called shakha, i.e. branch) across the length and breadth of the country. It has widespread support among Indian Hindus. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was established to network with Hindus outside India. The Bajrang Dal [4] is the youth wing of the VHP.

The RSS worldview is that India is the "fount of human civilisation", from where its knowledge spread to the rest of the world. Since this view it challenges many contemporary historic notions such as the Indo-Aryan migration, and the influence of Babylonic cultures and ancient Central Asian civilizations, on the development of the language, culture and religions of India etc., these claims are considered pseudoscience in peer-reviewed academia, but finds defenders such as Belgian writer Koenraad Elst who casts the notion in an academic framework with his "out of India" theory. While largely uncontroversial in academia[21] "Aryan Invasion" debate in India, involving e.g. Sita Ram Goel, Romila Thapar and Arun Shourie, is thus a matter of politics.

Symbolism of Historic Hindu Figures

Because there were many fighters who stood up to outside aggression, Hindu nationalists use these fighters such as Ahilyabai Holkar, Prithviraj, and especially Shivaji Maharaj as defenders of India and Hinduism and further advocate that every Hindu should try to be like them. Some organizations such as the Shiv Sena have been named themselves after and been modelled after the ideology of these kings.

Allegations of "Fascism" in Hindutva

Template:Cleanup-remainder The Hindutva movement, considered to be right-wing by many, has come under considerably opposition by the far left Marxists in India, calling it a form of "Hindu Fascism" or "Indian Fascism".For the most part, those who use such epithets of "Hindu Fascism" in Hindutva have links to the far left.[22][23] More moderate and non-prejudicial critics of Hindutva do not base their criticism on allegations of "Fascism", but raise issues with regards to their sometimes-vacillating attitudes towards non-Hindus and secularism. The epithet of "Fascism" is also used to evoke double standards against Hindus in political and academic discourse. The academia and polity have been accused of engaging in a form of anti-Hindu Mccarthyism against Hindu political expression by levelling the accusation of "Fascism" against anyone who expresses sympathy for Hindus.[24]

Marxist critics,[25] have used the inflammatory political epithets of "Indian fascism" and "Hindu fascism" to describe the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. For example, Marxist social scientist Prabhat Patnaik has written that the Hindutva movement as it has emerged is "classically fascist in class support, methods and programme"[26]

Patniak bases this argument on the following "ingredients" of classical fascism present in Hindutva: the attempt to create a unified homogeonous majority under the concept of 'the Hindus'; a sense of grievance against past injustice; a sense of cultural superiority; an interpretation of history according to this grievance and superiorityl; a rejection of rational arguments against this interpretation; and an appeal to the majority based on race and masculinity.

Views on Hindutva and Fascism include those of the Christian convert to the RSS viewpoint, Anthony Elenjimittan, who based his views on RSS's symbolism of the Bhagva (the banner of lord Shiva), Dharma Chakra [the Wheel of Faith] and Satya Meva Jayte [Truth alone truimphs] (one must note that these symbols are normative in Hinduism and bear no relation to Hindutva and the lattermost is the national motto of a secular democratic India). The claim of fascism in Hindutva is based on the RSS's "discipline, organised centralism and organic collective consciousness" and dismisses the idea of fascism and totalitarianism being evils and parliamentarism and Anglo-Indian types of democracy being holy, as "silly" and "should be got rid of from our minds"[27]

The description of Hindutva as fascist has been condemned by pro-Hindutva authors such as Koenraad Elst who claim that the ideology of Hindutva meets none of the characteristics of other fascist ideologies. Claims that Hindutva social service organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are "fascist" have been disputed by academics such as Vincent Kundukulam.[28][29]

In addition, accusations of "fascism" in the Hindutva movement coming from the left wing parties and western academics such as Christoffe Jaffrelot (who argues that Hindutva draws on the cultural nationalism of Bluntschli, rather than the racial nationalism of the Nazis themselves) have been criticized by former professor of political philosophy.[30] and Times of India commentator Jyotirmaya Sharma as a "simplistic transference has done great injustice to our knowledge of Hindu nationalist politics"[31]

Academics Chetan Bhatt and Parita Mukta reject the identification of Hindutva with fascism, because of Hindutva's embrace of cultural rather than racial nationalism, because of its "distinctively Indian" character, and because of "the RSS’s disavowal of the seizure of state power in preference for long-term cultural labour in civil society". They instead describe Hindutva as a form of "revolutionary conservatism" or "ethnic absolutism".[32]

Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul also rejects these allegations and views the rise of Hindutva as a welcome, broader civilizational resurgence of India.[33]


  1. For use of the suffix -tva to form neuter abstract nouns see p. 145 of A Sanskrit Manual: Part II by R. Antoine (Xavier Publications: Calcutta: 1970)
  2. Daniel Pipes Article
  3. Jana Sangh promises to make India Hindu nation
  4. Uma launches new party
  5. See refs in Kashmiri Pandit
  6. see refs in Wandhama massacre
  7. Organize under Dalit leadership: RSS
  8. Bharatiya Janata Party Official Website Hindutva: The Great Nationalistic Ideology
  9. The Rediff Election Interview/Bal Thackeray,
  10. Ruthven (2007:10ff.)
  11. A World of Vedic Truths: The Life and Teaching of Swami Dayananda O.V. Mezentseva, Soviet Institute of Philosophy (1994)
  12. Shah Bano Case
  13. About Hindu Unity
  14. Pope stirs up India - Pope John Paul II calls for evangelization of Asia
  15. Hindu-Zion
  16. The Hindu
  17. Rediff
  18. Press spotlight on Sharon's India visit,BBC
  19. [1]
  20. RSS slams Left for opposing Sharon's visit,'Rediff
  21. "the great majority of linguists... seek the ancestors of the Indo-Europeans in Asia somewhere to the north of their later historical seats." Mallory, J. P. (1989). In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Thames and Hudson, 65. DOI:{} }}. ISBN 0-500-27616-1. 
  22. eg. Partha Banergee
  23. - Rajesh Tembarai Krishnamachari, South Asia Analysis Group
  24. Puzzling Dimensions and Theoretical Knots in my Graduate School Research, Yvette Rosser
  25. eg. Partha Banergee, Romila Thapar, Himani Bannerji, Prabhat Patnaik
  26. "The Fascism of Our Times" Social Scientist VOl 21 No.3-4, 1993, p.69 [2]
  27. Anthony Elenjimittan, The Philosophy and Action of the RSS for the Hind Swaraj, p. 197, cited in V.C.P. Chaudhury, Secularism Versus Communalism, Patna, 1977, p. 101.
  28. Christian Post
  29. [3]
  30. Profile, Jyotirmaya Sharma
  31. Hindu Nationalist Politics,J. Sharma Times of India
  32. Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 23 Number 3 May 2000 pp. 407–441 ISSN 0141-9870 print/ISSN 1466-4356 online
  33. Naipaul V.S. India, a million Mutinies now, Penguin 1992

Further reading

  • Andersen, Walter K., ‘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)
  • Banerjee, Partha, In the Belly of the Beast: The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India (Delhi: Ajanta, 1998). (ISBN 81-202-0504-2) (ISBN not available)
  • Bhatt Chetan, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Berg Publishers (2001), ISBN 1859733484.
  • Elst, Koenraad: The Saffron Swastika. The Notion of "Hindu Fascism". New Delhi: Voice of India, 2001, 2 Vols., ISBN 81-85990-69-7 [5], [6]
  • Elst, Koenraad: Decolonizing the Hindu Mind. Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism. Rupa, Delhi 2001.
  • Embree, Ainslie T., ‘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)
  • Goel, Sita Ram: Perversion of India's Political Parlance. Voice of India, Delhi 1984. [7]
  • Goel, Sita Ram (editor): Time for Stock Taking. Whither Sangh Parivar? 1996.
  • Gold, Daniel, 'Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truths to Hindu Nation' in: Fundamentalisms Observed The Fundamentalism Project vol. 4, eds. M. E. Marty, R. S. Appleby, University Of Chicago Press (1994), ISBN 978-0226508788, pp. 531–593.
  • Ruthven, Malise, Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, USA (2007), ISBN 978-0199212705.
  • Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar: Hindutva Bharati Sahitya Sadan, Delhi 1989 (1923).
  • Sharma, Jyotirmay, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, Penguin Global (2004), ISBN 0670049905.
  • Shourie, Arun: A Secular Agenda. HarperCollins ISBN 81-7223-258-6
  • Smith, David James, Hinduism and Modernity, Blackwell Publishing ISBN 0-631-20862-3

See also

External links

Hindu reform movements
v  d  e
Brahmo Samaj · Prarthana Samaj  · Arya Samaj · Ramakrishna Mission · Gandhism · Hindutva · Sri Aurobindo Ashram · Parisada Hindu Dharma
Bhakti · Caste · Indian independence movement ·Persecution of Hindus ·Shuddhi ·Women in Hinduism
Important Hindu reformers and Hindu revivalist writers
Sri Aurobindo · Ananda Coomaraswamy · Alain Daniélou · Koenraad Elst · David Frawley · Sita Ram Goel · M. S. Golwalkar · Mahatma Gandhi · Harsh Narain · Gedong Bagus Oka · The Mother · Srila Prabhupada · Raja Ram Mohun Roy · Ramakrishna · Dayananda Saraswati · V. D. Savarkar · Keshub Chandra Sen · Swami Sivananda · Arun Shourie · Ram Swarup · Debendranath Tagore · Rabindranath Tagore · B. G. Tilak · Vivekananda · Yogananda