How Right-Wing Politics and Hindu Nationalism Became Triumphant in IndiaBreaking News
tags: India, Hinduism, hindu nationalism, right wing politics
Archana Venkatesh is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at The Ohio State University
Since its creation in 1947, India has been a Hindu-majority country. The 2011 census revealed that nearly 80% of the country’s population are Hindus (more than 1 billion people), with Muslims comprising the next most populous group at 15%.
This demographic breakdown is important. Critics of the BJP have noted that the party based its campaign around a rhetoric of “Hindutva” or Hindu nationalism. The BJP popularized an ethnically divisive discourse in order to gain Hindu votes and create a culture of majoritarianism that would exclude minority communities in India.
This is not the first time the BJP has won an election on a campaign emphasizing Hindu nationalist feeling. But it is the first time it has obtained an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha (“House of the People,” the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament), enabling it to govern without forming a multi-party coalition.
The term “Hindutva” has come to describe a political ideology that insists India is a Hindu nation (rather than a secular one, as the Indian Constitution defines it). While the party has come to embody this ideology, the roots of Hindutva lie in the late colonial period.
Although occupying a marginal place on India’s political spectrum for most of the 20th century, the discourse of Hindutva emerged at the forefront of Indian politics through a series of incidents. Over more than a century, Hindutva adapted to the anti-colonial national movement and post-independence secularist governance in India.