The ideology of Hindutva, which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) defines as Hindu cultural nationalism, was developed at the beginning of nineteenth-century. The present Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has come to power on the basis of a deceptive narrative that Hinduism is under potential danger in a country where Hindus account for over 80% of the population—and that Hinduism will only thrive if they encourage the Hindutva or the ideology of Hindu nationalism. Now Indian society has accepted the alteration of glorifying Hindu extremism. The most prominent instance is two times election victories of the current Indian Prime Minister Modi, who was the driving force behind the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom.
Hindu nationalism has erupted as a dominant power in India and this power has been executed by right-wing forces to implement the agenda of ideology based on Hindutva. In 1923, V.D. Savarkar used this term to accentuate that ‘Hindutva’ is not synonymous with Hinduism. Hindutva is a racial and extremist ideology to establish Hindu identity while disposing of Indian nationalism in favor of Hindu nationalism. Hindutva’s aspiration is not only restricted to the ballot box, but it is creating fissures in the Indian population which is highly polarized.
Understanding the matter better
Through its offensive means, the so-called “Hindu Renaissance” has made inroads into schooling, developmental initiatives, business activities, community, and virtually every other area of public life. What has transpired is that Hindutva has been growing and expanding well beyond the traditional sphere to explicitly or partially linked the organizational networks of its militant wings like RSS.
The aim of Hindutva is to create Hindu political dominance over non-Hindus through violent means while reducing demographic aspects of minorities to second-class citizens. Hindu extremists with effective support of the BJP government are using hate speech to instigate violence against minorities. Last year, several far-right Indian leaders in a ‘hate speech conclave’, organized by Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand, have called for the ethnic cleansing of the country’s religious minorities, particularly the substantive 200 million Muslim population. Swami Prabodhanand Giri, president of the Hindu Raksha Sena said in the event that “like Myanmar, our police, our politicians, our army and every Hindu must pick up weapons and conduct a Safayi Abhiyan (ethnic cleansing), there is no other option left.”
Nowadays, Hindutva has been embodied in the financial, social and cultural realms of India and its most influential incarnation is the sphere of radicalism and militancy. Signature activities of militant Hindutva include violence such as deliberate anarchy; the brutal death of India’s revolutionary leader Gandhi; thousands of deaths during the anti-Sikh pogrom in 1984; the anti-Muslim genocide in Gujarat 2002; the bomb blast of Samjhauta express in 2007; Ajmer Dargah attack in 2007; Malegaon bomb blasts in 2008; the closure of 100 churches in 2018; vicious assaults on lower caste Dalits and most recently the enforcement of Hijab bans in India.
Whereas, The false flag operations, Hement Karkare’s assassination and the death of Advocate Shahid Azmi are other major instances of Hindutva terrorist activities. Despite having strong evidence in most instances, victims of such crimes mostly avoided the repercussions of their acts.
The initiatives of PM Narendra Modi have imposed tyranny, seized organizations and fostered religious hate. Methodically, the persistence of Modi’s policies is producing a toxic Hindu extremist environment. BJP government has appointed most heads of the major universities and cultural institutions from factions of extremist Hindu nationalist allies. Place names have been modified – even in the curriculum – to play down the connection of Muslims to India and to give Hindutva ideology most prominent position. Several Muslim Indians have already claimed that they never feel so oppressed.
The official policy is skewed toward Indian Muslims and the whole society is at a crossroads
Terrorist activities and Muslims are often associated with each other because that is the natural understanding propagated by Hindu nationalists. BJP’s leadership has openly categorized Muslims as terrorists and suggested: “to feed them bullets, not biryani.” There are numerous, profound and long-term implications of this witch hunt for Muslims. Hindutva outfits act in secrecy to carry out their dark plans with a veil of tradition.
In a nation where Hindus account for 84 percent of the population and Muslims for only 14 percent, Modi’s BJP has succeeded in instilling a profound sense of misplaced Hindu superiority, rekindling Muslim alienation and Islamophobia through disinformation, fake news, hate speech, reigniting old political and religious contentions, attempting to manipulate state-sponsored media, quashing liberal thoughts, and arming Hindu extremist factions. As a consequence, large numbers of Hindus are now convinced that India’s key target is its minorities, especially Muslims.
As India aims to reach the global community and prove its international superiority, the world must be mindful of the transformation of India from a democratic and thriving society into a suffocating repressive religious ideology. In India, Muslims are being murdered and the majority of the world is too sluggish to denounce these atrocities. Increased regional radicalization and terror threats would be motivated by the Modi regime’s ability to carry on with its ideology of Hindutva. The international community must start paying more emphasis on countering Hindutva and saffron terrorism instead of keeping quiet due to their geopolitical and economic interests.
Hasan Ehtisham is Senior Research Officer at the Center for International Strategic Studies (Islamabad). The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.