Hindu Nationalism: A Reader

Hindu Nationalism: A Reader

Hindu Nationalism: A Reader

Hindu Nationalism: A Reader

Synopsis

Hindu nationalism came to world attention in 1998, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won national elections in India. Although the BJP was defeated nationally in 2004, it continues to govern large Indian states, and the movement it represents remains a major force in the world's largest democracy. This book presents the thought of the founding fathers and key intellectual leaders of Hindu nationalism from the time of the British Raj, through the independence period, to the present. Spanning more than 130 years of Indian history and including the writings of both famous and unknown ideologues, this reader reveals how the "Hindutuva" movement approaches key issues of Indian politics. Covering such important topics as secularism, religious conversion, relations with Muslims, education, and Hindu identity in the growing diaspora, this reader will be indispensable for anyone wishing to understand contemporary Indian politics, society, culture, or history.

Excerpt

The Hindu nationalist movement started to monopolize the front pages of Indian newspapers in the 1990s when the political party that represented it in the political arena, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP—which translates roughly as Indian People's Party), rose to power. From 2 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament, the BJP increased its tally to 88 in 1989, 120 in 1991, 161 in 1996—at which time it became the largest party in that assembly—and to 178 in 1998. At that point it was in a position to form a coalition government, an achievement it repeated after the 1999 mid-term elections. For the first time in Indian history, Hindu nationalism had managed to take over power. The BJP and its allies remained in office for five full years, until 2004.

The general public discovered Hindu nationalism in operation over these years. But it had of course already been active in Indian politics and society for decades; in fact, this ism is one of the oldest ideological streams in India. It took concrete shape in the 1920s and even harks back to more nascent shapes in the nineteenth century. As a movement, too, Hindu nationalism is heir to a long tradition. Its main incarnation today, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS—or the National Volunteer Corps), was founded in 1925, soon after the first Indian communist party, and before the first Indian socialist party. In fact, Hindu nationalism runs parallel to the dominant Indian political tradition of the Congress Party, which Gandhi transformed into a mass organization in the 1920s. Indeed, Hindu nationalism crystallized as an ideology and as a movement exactly at the time when the Congress . . .

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