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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. 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, but has not played a prominent role in Indian politics until the late 1980's. It then attracted many mainstream Hindus following two events. One was the Rajiv Gandhi government's use of a large Parliamentary Majority to overturn a Supreme Court verdict that had angered conservative Muslims (see the Shah Bano case). The second was a dispute over a 16th century Mughal Babri Mosque in Ayodhya that some Hindus claimed to be the birthplace and site of original temple of Rama, whom Hindus considered to be an avatar of God himself. The mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992, touching off rioting across the country.


Definition and etymology

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.

In a 1966 ruling, the Supreme Court of India defined the Hindu faith as follows for legal purposes:

  1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
  2. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many-sided.
  3. Acceptance of great world rhythm vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession by all six systems of Hindu philosophy.
  4. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.
  5. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.
  6. Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there are Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols.
  7. Unlike other religions, or religious creeds, Hindu religion's not being tied down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.

However in popular usage Hindutva has come to be identified with the guiding ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu Nationalist organization. The etymology of the word is peculiar, "Hindu-" coming from a Persian root while "-tva" is a Sanskrit suffix. "Hindutva" is thus usually translated as "Hinduness", describing a nationalist identity based around the Hindu religion. It is in many respects a syncretic ideology; though it draws heavily from Hindu philosophy rhetorically and holds Hindu historical and religious figures up as inspirational examples, it is also centrally informed by Western traditions that have no basis in Hinduism.

Central beliefs

Some central beliefs of this version of Hindutva are:

  • A Hindu state must be established to protect the rights of the Hindus in their homeland and bring about a general cultural revival.

Views on other faiths

The advocates of Hindutva often use the term pseudo-secularism to refer to the Indian Constitution's provisions for minority rights. They point to the different standards for Hindus, Muslims and Christians. They rebel against an attempt to create what they see as a 'separate-but-equal' system; some proponents of Hindutva even 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 Muslims and Christians 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).

Followers contend that in a secular democracy it makes little sense to allow Muslims, for example, to marry more than once, but prosecute Hindus or Christians for doing the same. Muslims are also funded for the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca and subsidies for their relgious schools Madrasa. While Hindus claim they are accorded no similar privilege for their own pilgrimages or relgious schools by the Government of India. Not only are Hindus not accorded any special privilages despite being the majority, they are even made to pay for subsidies to Muslims and Christians pilgrimages and religious education.

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

Many feel that Hindutva speaks for the Hindu majority in India. They also often feel that Secular democracy results in equality for religion, and want UCC passed for the same reason.

Indian fascism?

Indian fascism is a term that has been applied by critics to certain Hindu organisations based on the principle of Hindutva, in particular the Sangh Parivar.

The ideological beginning of this line of political thought in modern India. is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It was formed in 1925 in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The RSS has had close ties with Hindu Mahasabha but never split from it.

Its aim, according to some critics, is to remould the Indian polity into a militarized society. Its motto is 'Sangathit Hindu, Samaratha Bharat' i.e. 'United Hindus, strong India'. The RSS is a strictly regimented cadre-based organisation. Critics call it a secretive, semi para-military organisation. It has widespread support among Indian Hindus. Its head is the sarsanghachalak or supreme dictator whose word is sacrosanct in the parivar (family).

The RSS has established a number of organisations to push its agenda. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council was established to network with Hindus outside India. The Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is the political wing of the RSS and draws its cadre mostly from the RSS.

The RSS worldview looks at India as the fount of civilisation, from where all knowledge spread to the rest of the world. To this end one of its goals is to replace the history currently being taught in Indian universities. RSS has brought up atrocities done on lower caste Hindus by Muslim rulers in the past, calling the receieved history for example of Aurangazeb a construct of leftist historians. Another aim is to distinguish so-called 'foreign religions' like Islam and Christianity from 'pure' Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism).

See also

External links

fr:Hindutva nl:Hindutva sv:Hindutva


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