Hindutva Horizons: Navigating India’s Future through the BJP-RSS Perspective

By Saima Afzal

Hindutva is coined as a prominent doctrine in Indian politics that has challenged the secular fabric of Indian society. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has dominated Indian politics through its right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by spreading the culture of divisiveness in India. It once took pride in its celebration of unity in diversity. The RSS promotes the concept of a Hindu religious nation by implementing the cultural ideology of Hindutva. The BJP and Vidya Bharati (VB) stand as prominent organizations among several others through which the RSS promotes the concept of a Hindu Rashtra (nation). However, the RSS and BJP nexus represents a captivating, intricate, and often challenging facet of Indian politics and society. Therefore, their influence on India and the broader region’s stability and security is an important topic of discussion among scholars, policymakers, writers, and academicians of South Asian political dynamics.

            RSS was created by Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 and its headquarters is in Nagpur. His main ideology was the revival of Hindu supremacy in India which was lost due to foreign occupation for thousand years. The two allied organizations of RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal are practical manifestations of Dr. Hedgewar’s ideology. Overall, the RSS’s rise can be divided into three phases. In the first phase from 1925-1948, the organization mainly focused on the training of Hindu youth. In the second phase, 1948 to 1980 the RSS faced a nationwide ban by the Congress government because former RSS member, Nathruram Godes assassinated Gandhi. During this time frame, RSS faced difficulty in fundraising. In the third phase from 1980 till now, the RSS witnessed the popularity among masses, growing fundraising, and extended political presence in the Indian parliament. In 1989-1991, BJP with the support of RSS and its allied organization VHP achieved electoral success. RSS is much stronger today as it has the presence of its active members in Indian bureaucracy and civil services. Despite this, a larger number of RSS are present in the Indian-educated diaspora and in worldwide well-known think tanks that are actively contributing to the projection of Hindutva.

            Since its inception, Hindutva has remained the core ideology of RSS continuously propagating the supremacy of the Hindu religion in India. Not only Muslims but the believers of other religions and nationalities are targeted by the exclusivist Ideology of RSS. The RSS has grown into the world’s largest non-governmental organization. It has an estimated 1.5-2 million regular participants and 36, 293 nationwide offices. RSS has also established thirty-six originations, that look after various sections of Indian society besides the perception management in favor of RSS and BJP. There is no doubt that RSS is the most influential nongovernmental organization in the Indian decision-making circle. The RSS’s idea of Hindu Rashtra is not only to expel all minorities from India but also to revert the minorities to Hinduism. Article 370 and 35A abrogation, Ram Mandir Bhoomi puja, and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are a few examples of altering secular India into a Hindu state. Subsequently, the BJP’s expected actions to modify the Indian Constitution and remove clauses that define India as a democratic and secular nation heighten apprehensions.

For the last decade, RSS’s allied the BJP party under the leadership of Modi BJP is ruling the country and it has shaken the secular fabric of Indian society through its anti-minority policies, particularly against Muslims. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has orchestrated a notable transformation in India’s political landscape, guiding the country away from purportedly secular and democratic principles toward a more sectarian and authoritarian path. A defining moment in this shift occurred on January 22, 2024, when Modi led the grand inauguration ceremony for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, erected after the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992. This significant event, combined with the earlier revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, raises crucial questions about India’s commitment to secularism, democracy, and political diversity. Various analysts view that in the 2024 general elections, the BJP aims to get a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha and a similar majority in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP seeks to formally declare India a Hindu state through constitutional means.

It is pertinent to mention that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asserted while addressing the election campaign rally that the ongoing Lok Sabha election is geared towards safeguarding the nation’s Constitution, alleging that the BJP and RSS harbor intentions of altering it. Therefore, over two dozen opposition parties in India have united to collectively contest the 2024 national elections against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to thwart the ruling Hindu nationalist (BJP’s bid for a third consecutive victory. Forming a coalition known as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), the 28-party bloc has declared its intent to strategize seat-sharing arrangements across various states to prevent the fragmentation of votes in favor of Modi’s party. However, the Indian nationalists disapprove of the brand of Hindu nationalism that manifests as extremism and animosity towards Muslims. Shashi Tharoor, an Indian intellectual and politician has also publicly denounced Hindutva for its distortion of the principles of the peaceful religion of Hinduism. Tharoor argues that Hinduism has historically asserted itself without posing a threat to other faiths and individuals.

In a nutshell, the BJP and its associates, including Shiv Sena, RSS, and Bajrang Dal, have deeply infiltrated state institutions and Indian society. Despite India’s robust economy, there’s an opportunity for the opposition to strategically maneuver and potentially oust the BJP from power in the 2024 general elections. Despite challenges like the erosion of secularism and the perceived bias of state institutions towards Hindu nationalists, India remains a democracy. The ongoing 2024 general elections represent a crucial opportunity to restore India’s unity by ensuring the electoral defeat of the BJP and RSS.

Saima Afzal
Saima Afzal

The author is a Research Scholar and Analyst; M. Phil in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University Islamabad, Pakistan. Email: sarahamidkhan21@gmail.com

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