Hindutva: A Threat to Being

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The current state of India reflects a departure from Gandhi’s ideals, as those responsible for his assassination now hold power, causing significant internal changes. The shift towards a Hindu-dominated society has disrupted India’s pluralistic fabric, impacting its domestic landscape and potentially influencing the global stage.



Indian wave of chauvinistic racism outcasting nonindigenous faiths has roots in the recent history of the subcontinent. What is now visible to the world was foreseen by Muslim leaders of the subcontinent, as Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literary traditions. They neither intermarry nor eat together, and indeed they belong to two different civilizations based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.”1 Seventy-five years after the division of the subcontinent, the beleaguered minorities in India face the marginalization and brutal prejudice that Pakistan’s founder predicted.2
Hindutva’s ideology defined India and trumpeted secularism as an aberration to gain internal political strength and international acceptance. The situation is so grim that on January 19, 2022, The Wire published an interview with Gregory Stanton, the founding president of Genocide Watch, by Karan Thapar. In the interview, Stanton asked the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution that warns genocide should not be allowed to occur in India. He also said: “[President Joe] Biden should tell [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi that if genocide occurs, it will require us to reassess all our relations with India.3” In an early report on India in August 2019, Genocide Watch highlighted the threat of genocide, “Genocide Watch recognizes the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s state-sponsored attack on the Muslim and Dalit community as Stage 6: Polarization, Stage 7: Preparation, and Stage 8: Persecution. Modi’s statements at Aligarh Muslim University perversely claiming that his new laws are intended to “uplift the Muslim community” demonstrate Stage 10: Denial.”4
The minorities–as they may be called owing to more than 800 million Hindu population–are, however, vast groups of the population comprising 204 million Muslims (third most extensive in the world, more than the individual population of 46 Muslim majority countries) and 34 million Christians (49th largest in the world, more than the individual population of 180 countries and dependent regions of the world). These minorities are denied fundamental rights of representation because the ideologues of Hindutva have outcasted them. The definition of Hindutva given by Savarkar in his book reads, “A Hindu then is he who feels an attachment to the land… of his forefathers–as his Fatherland; who inherits the blood of the great race whose first and discernable source could be traced from the Himalayan altitudes… and who… has inherited and claims as his own the Hindu Sanskriti, the Hindu civilization.”5 The very literature of Hindutva is xenophobic, with anti-Muslim violence being “the primary ingredient of Hindutva ideological apparatus,” and the same is used to incite communal violence.6 The current state of India reflects a departure from Gandhi’s ideals, as those responsible for his assassination now hold power, causing significant internal changes. The shift towards a Hindu-dominated society has disrupted India’s pluralistic fabric, impacting its domestic landscape and potentially influencing the global stage.


The very literature of Hindutva is xenophobic, with anti-Muslim violence being “the primary ingredient of  Hindutva’s ideological apparatus,” and the same is used to incite communal violence.


The landslide victory of the BJP in the 2019 elections has cemented the political power of RSS and through divisive politics set in place a seemingly irreversible safforanization of the Indian state, thereby effectively shelving the secular facade. It is indeed a manifestation of the rising trend of Hindu nationalism/exclusivism based on revisionism of history to create a mirage of a misplaced sense of past grandeur. Violation of Article 25 of the Indian constitution through the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC), abrogation of Article 35A and 370, employment of UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) and FCRA (Financial Contribution Regulation Act) along with anti-conversion law to target minorities and scheduled castes is indicative of a breakdown of democracy through the mass arrogation of minority rights. This has been synchronous to systemic pogroms of communal riots against Muslims, Christians, and Dalits, giving credence to the fact that communal violence in India is political and systemic.7 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom placed India on its list of Countries of Particular Concerns in 2022.8


The Hindutva ideology proposes a radical break from the internationalist credo of Nehruvian idealism to a realist outlook espoused by Kautilyan politics.


Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Vidya Bharati is the largest non-government school system in India, with more than 12,364 schools, 1,46,643 teachers, and 34,52,615 students.9 The curriculum and methodology in Vidya Bharti schools aim to promote Hindutva’s version of history and ideology. Samkalp (established in 1985, an RSS-run organization) is at the forefront of preparing and grooming RSS Swayamsevaks and volunteers who wish to crack the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission). Since 2015, approximately 60.4% of the total candidates selected by Indian Civil Services are graduates of Samkalp. Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad (ABAP) is an RSS-affiliated lawyer’s forum, and BJP governments have been inducting ABAP-affiliated lawyers in the Indian judiciary along with incentivizing judges for pro-Hindutva judgements such as the nomination of former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi to Rajya Sabha by BJP.10 Indian Army could not resist the growing tide of safforanization and by supporting the politicization and safforanization of the Indian Army, former Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat became an ideal choice and was appointed as the first CDS. He deliberately yet subtly allowed the circulation of right-wing social media in the barracks and allowed practicing Hindu rituals within unheard-of units. Today, many retired and serving military men from all ranks are affiliated with Sangh Parivar organizations and attend their gatherings even in uniform. Army operations such as surgical strikes and false flag operations have been concocted or undertaken to give political mileage to the BJP government. Such deviations from the established norms have also ushered a changed perspective towards India’s dealings with the nations worldwide.  
Indian strategic space at the international chessboard has increased mainly due to its steady economic growth and geopolitical significance for the U.S. against China. Conversely, India is transforming within its society; the ideology of Hindutva has gained prominence with a complete rejection of constitutional secularism. The potential impact of Hindu nationalism will not necessarily end at India’s borders; it is fast changing the Indian lens for interstate relations and foreign policy as well. The Hindutva ideology proposes a radical break from the internationalist credo of Nehruvian idealism to a realist outlook espoused by Kautilyan politics. Kautilya proposed a foreign policy strategy of a vijigishu–one desirous of conquest.11 In his book, The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World, S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs of India and a close confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, opines that in the past, Indian idealism undermined its place in the comity of nations, and now a stronger realpolitik has overcome this entrenched dogma.12


Hindutva is a revisionist ideology with expansionist designs because Hindu nationalists believe a proper map of India would include Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.


On the existing trajectory, India is likely to become a regional power in the foreseeable future that will exert its influence beyond the subcontinent. Here the critical question arises whether a powerful India will stabilize the international order or contribute towards instability. To answer this question, one needs to understand the Indian existing worldview, its sense of history, and its conception of the Indian future role amongst its leaders, policymakers, and intelligentsia. Hindutva is a revisionist ideology with expansionist designs because Hindu nationalists believe a proper map of India would include Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.13 The BJP-like-minded intelligentsia has started projecting the idea of the subcontinent as a ‘Sacred Geography’ by quoting Mahabharata and Ramayana.14 In the words of a former Foreign Secretary of India, Shyam Saran, the idea of making the subcontinent whole again is a powerful driver of India’s foreign policy behavior.15
These indicators point towards a future India that will exert itself beyond its borders to realize its ideological aspirations, thus causing instability. In a scenario where the U.S. reaches an accommodation with China and India continues to risk, the U.S. can end up in a self-induced Thucydides trap viz-a-viz India because U.S. policymakers are assuming India is a soft rising power that will remain aligned with the U.S. interests. In the words of the former Indian Secretary of State, Shivshankar Menon, the relationship with the U.S. is transactional in nature.16 Moreover, unlike many previous U.S. allies, history proves India will respect its interests and strategic autonomy. A powerful and self-dependent India with a burgeoning economy, large and skilled population, cogent maritime, cyber, and space capabilities, and above all, an expansionist mindset will pose challenges within the region, but for the U.S. as well. As the Athenian power grew over the fifth century, so too its sense of entitlement.17 The same is true for China, which would also be a natural expectation of India, especially in the shifting geopolitical center of gravity eastwards. The U.S. maintains its primacy through worldwide reach and grasp by controlling the peripheries of Eurasia. As postulated by Brzezinski, the former U.S. National Security Adviser (NSA), the U.S. can maintain its hegemony only if it does not allow a Eurasian challenger to emerge.18 In his book, The New Arthashastra: A Security Strategy for India, Gurmeet Kanwal writes that an increasingly more self-assured India must lead from the front and reassert its primacy in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region.19 Against this backdrop, Hindutva is not only a threat to the country’s internal stability, but a phenomenon with potential for geopolitical upheaval.


Samkalp (established in 1985, an RSS-run organization) is at the forefront of preparing and grooming RSS Swayamsevaks and volunteers who wish to crack the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission). Since 2015, approximately 60.4% of the total candidates selected by Indian Civil Services are graduates of Samkalp.


The idea of Hindu nationalism and Hindu Rashtra, expounded by Golwalkar, is based on rejecting the fundamental universal concept of equal citizens and borrows heavily from Hitler’s Nazi movement. He rejects that India is a secular nation and proclaims it is a Hindu Rashtra. He rejects the territorial-political concept of nationhood and puts forward the concept of cultural nationalism. His idolization of the German Nazi movement is evident from this statement in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined:  “German national pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root to be assimilated into a united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
India’s present situation is an indicator of a probabilistic future under two scenarios:
Scenario 1: Implosion Leading to Economic Disaster. The secular constitution and polity have been the center of gravity of the Indian federation, which is now threatened by growing Hindu radicalization. In the long term, the trend of radicalization as a whole will likely lead to increased polarization, extremism, and violence resulting in implosion. An internally unstable India will be an economic disaster for herself and all stakeholders.
Scenario 2: Stability Leading to Thucydides Trap for West. The present era can be defined as volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous, as the world system and global balance of power are in flux. The rise of Eurasian powers has challenged the U.S.-Europe-led world order. In order to contain and contest the rise of China, the USA has pivoted to Asia Pacific in its strategic orientation. India, which has positioned itself as anti-China, has gained strategic significance in USA’s policy. The Indo-U.S. strategic convergence is manifested through multiple technological and force interoperability agreements, regional alliances, a declaration of India’s status as a regional net security provider, and support for the Indian membership of the UNSC. Indian strategic relevance to the West and USA has provided carte blanche to BJP/RSS to implement their internal strategy of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. A strong India may or may not challenge its geographically contiguous and nuclear-armed neighbor, but will surely be another monster in the Asia Pacific. The present situation is an indicator of a Thucydides Trap for the West in times to come.

Courtesy by Maheen Kasana – Hilal English

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A researcher and author interested in history, geopolitics and international relations

Maheen Kasana

A researcher and author interested in history, geopolitics and international relations

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