Hindu nationalism, far from a uniting force, has spawned a powerfulmovement that is divisive, intolerant and violently suspicious of Indian
Muslims and Christians. The movement behind the ruling Hindu-nationalist party has many traits in common with Europe’s historic fascist movements.
Leaders are adulated at orchestrated mass crowd events, schoolbooks are subjected to historical revisionism and minorities are scapegoated and at times murdered in pogroms. This is backed up with masculinity cults and a paramilitary style of organisation.
This article examines the fascistic impulses and historical origins of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva. The central, founding cause of the movement has been the disputed claim that a mosque has been built on a sacred Hindu site, considered the birthplace of king-god Rama. This perceived historic injustice shows the centrality of religious symbols and shrines in nationalism, in this case crafted from the vast theological repertoires ofHindu traditions.
But unlike Europe’s totalising fascists, the ruling Hindu-nationalist party BJP operates within domestic and, more importantly, international
limits. The BJP, unlike its historical rival the Congress Party, is wedded to Western neoliberal economic and foreign policy. This requires a degree
of self-constraint, especially over the movement’s extremist followers.
The Indian situation shows that to truly understand the nature of today’s nationalist movements their theological baggage must take centre stage.