What Is Hindutva, and What Role Has It Played in Indian Identity Politics?

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  • Topic: Hindutva, Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
  • Pages : 6 (1954 words )
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  • Published : May 10, 2011
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Essay: What is Hindutva, and what role has it played in Indian identity politics?

Through the duration of my study, it has become clear to me that Hindutva has many different meanings to many different people. Although there are many differing interpretations of Hindutva, at its core it is simply an ideology. Hindutva literally means Hinduness, which is, as it sounds, a way of life or a state of mind that is based on both a cultural and spiritual ethos. Hindutva is a spiritual philosophy founded and developed from ancient times within Indian history. Its philosophy is based on securing an all round happiness for all individuals irrespective of religion. It is only through researching and understanding Hindutva itself that we are able to answer the second part of this question. Hindutva and its role in Indian identity politics is a complicated story. In order to understand its involvement fully, we must look at Hindutva’s transformation from a common ideology, to the cornerstone policies of Indian political parties. It is through this involvement in politics that Hindutva plays such a vast and complicated role in Indian identity politics. It will be argued that the institutional practice of secularism and the slow process of modernization made religion a political category that was particularly prone to politicization, which in turn, is how; Hindutva became an important and influential part of Indian identity politics.

The Hindutva ideology, has existed since its conception in the early 20th century. However, Hindutva first came to prominence in Indian politics in the late 1980s, when two major events gave Hindutva the necessary media coverage for a large number of mainstream Hindus to join the movement. The first of these events was Rajiv Gandhi’s use of his political party and its parliamentary majority to overturn a Supreme Court verdict granting alimony to an Indian woman who had angered many Indian Muslims. The second was the dispute over the 16th century Mughal Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India. The Mosque became a symbolic dispute between differing ideologies. Hindu’s claim that the Mosque was built on top of an old Hindu temple. With the Supreme Court of India refusing to take up the case in the early 1990s, the refusal became a rallying point for many small minorities, which ultimately lead to large, generalized, public outrage. As tempers across India flared, a substantial number of nationalist Hindus from all parts of India gathered together in late 1992 to destroy the mosque. The destruction of the Mughai Babri mosque and the subsequent conflict that followed, arguably lifted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hindutva to national and international prominence.

It is an umbrella organization, the Sangh Parivar, which embraces the concept of Hindutva. The Sangh group comprises many organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), all of which are Indian political parties united, together under the same ideology of Hindutva. There are four key concepts that make up Hindutva. Understanding these four concepts, is an important step into understanding what Hindutva is to India as a nation, as a political agenda and its importance to individuals that follow its ideology. The ongoing preservation and participation of Hindutva in cultural nationalism, decolonisation, social justice and Hindutva’s unique uniformed civil codes allows this ideology to remain a powerful political tool. It is these four concepts, under which Hindu’s unite. Through the vast spectrum of Hindutva concepts, it can be assumed that Hindutva or Hinduness mean very different things to the many different Indians that unite under this ideology. The diversity with which this ideology is described, according to the individual or institution can be seen when comparing their definitions of Hindutva. The Supreme Court of India stated in a court ruling "no precise meaning...
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