Hindutva and Ethno-Nationalism

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Mr Narendra Damodardas Modi, serving as the 14th Prime Minister of India, has successfully completed two terms in office and is now seeking re-election for a third term in the ensuing 18th Lok Sabha elections. Widely recognised as a prominent figure in Hindutva politics, Modi is often viewed as the face of a political ideology marked by division and animosity. Throughout his tenure, Modi has been disseminating misleading information to sway public opinion in his favour. One of the most contentious aspects of his leadership has been his portrayal of Indian Muslims as outsiders or "intruders." This rhetoric not only underscores his divisive approach but also exacerbates religious tensions, leading to increased polarisation and communal strife in the country.

Modi's strategy of marginalising minorities, lower castes, and toilers has created a state of fear psychosis across the country. This marginali-sation can be traced back to the core ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is deeply influenced by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organisation espousing a racist Eurocentric ideology. The RSS's emphasis on cultural nationalism and its hierarchical view of society have shaped the BJP's approach, leading to policies that often neglect the rights and welfare of marginalised communities.

In essence, Mr Modi's remarks reflect a broader Hindutva challenge to India's foundational values and principles. The Hindutva ideology is a foreign import that has intruded into the fabric of Indian politics, society, and culture. While claiming to represent authentic Indian values, its ethno-nationalistic tendencies and focus on religious and ethnic identity have more in common with European ideologies than with India's rich and diverse history, society, and culture. Rather than drawing from India's pluralistic traditions and composite culture, Hindutva's roots can be traced back to European concepts of ethno-nationalism, religious nationalism and racialised democracy. This imported ideology of Hindutva politics has sought to redefine Indian pluralistic identity in narrow, exclusionary terms, often at the expense of religious and cultural minorities.

Historically, there are parallels between Hindutva and the ideologies that emerged in Europe during the early 20th century. One of the most striking comparisons can be drawn with Nazi Germany, where ethno-nationalism and religious intolerance were central tenets of the regime. The ideology of Adolf Hitler, with its emphasis on racial purity, scapegoating of minorities, and use of fear and hatred to mobilise the masses, seems to provide a blueprint for Hindutva political practices in India. In both cases, fear and hatred are employed as powerful tools to manipulate public opinion and garner electoral support. The Hindutva ideology can be seen as a true intruder in Indian politics, society, and culture, drawing inspiration from European ethno-nationalism rather than India's own rich traditions. Its reliance on fear, hatred, and divisive tactics undermines the principles of secularism, pluralism, and unity that are integral to India's democratic ethos.

Mr Modi's bid for a third term is a continuation of his divisive Hindutva politics, characterised by misinformation, religious polarisation, and marginalisation of vulnerable groups. His leadership style and policies reflect the broader ideological framework of the BJP, influenced by the RSS's racist Eurocentric worldview, which prioritises certain segments of society at the expense of others.

The 18th Lok Sabha elections in India present an opportunity to mend the fractured republic led by the Hindutva figurehead, Modi. The crisis facing Indian democracy under Hindutva politics highlights the urgent need for political transformation to uphold the principles of secularism and inclusivity that are fundamental to India's democratic values. Instead of employing divisive tactics that marginalise communities based on religion or ethnicity, it's crucial to nurture unity. It is time to defeat Modi, BJP, and RSS to steer India away from a destructive path politically, socially, culturally, religiously, and economically.

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Vol 56, No. 46, May 12 - 18, 2024