Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Pursuant to the publication of Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 270 (23 July 2014), "A Test For India in Chhattisgarh", the following article is being released to provided background on Hindutva. 

It will also appear in the Melbourne School of Theology Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths (CSIOF) Bulletin, issue 6 (2014)


By Elizabeth Kendal, June 2014
Words 2118

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
As evidenced by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) landslide win in the April-May 2014 polls, India is changing, in more ways than one. Not only did the BJP win 282 of 540 Lok Sabha seats, giving it a simple majority in its own right, but it managed to break out of the Hindu heartland and secure votes from all quarters - geographic and socio-economic.

When the BJP appointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its presidential candidate in September 2013, many scoffed, doubting such a controversial, divisive and sectarian figure could lead the BJP to electoral victory. Most analysts believed the Indian electorate would never embrace Modi, especially not the minorities (who are fearful of him) or the educated middle classes (who should know better).

Modi gained notoriety in 2002, when, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he failed to intervene in Hindu pogroms that left as many as 2000 Muslims dead. Then in 2003, Modi enacted the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act -- one of India's most draconian anti-conversion laws. In February 2006, Modi oversaw an enormous Hindutva campaign in Gujarat's Dang's district, home to the largest concentration of Christians in Gujarat. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus were bussed into Dangs for a non-traditional kumbh mela (Hindu pilgrimage) which was supposed to culminate in an anti-Christian pogrom. The vilification and incitement to violence was pervasive, blatant and shocking. Hindutva ideologues popularised the slogan – "Hindu Jago, Christio Bhagao" (Arise Hindus, throw out the Christians) – while their cadres ensured all Christian homes were physically identified. Christians believe that the only reason a massacre or purge did not ensue was because God intervened "in answer to the prayers of many". (See Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM): 2006, Jan, Feb, March)

To shift attention away from his image as a sectarian figure, Modi exploited Gujarat's economic development to market himself as India's most successful pro-business administrator – an economic saviour who would raise living standards. Rather than blame the systematic racism of the Hindu caste system for the poverty endemic amongst the minorities, Modi blamed the Congress Party while holding out the "Gujarat model" of economic development as the means by which the BJP would raise living standards for all. Running with the slogan, "saab ke saath aur saab ka vikas" (with all, and for everyone's development), Modi was offering the minorities exactly what Congress had failed to deliver: opportunity, as distinct from welfare. [See: RLM post of 2 Oct 2013 – The Modi Operandi of Narendra Modi.]

At a BJP rally in Gujarat on Tuesday 17 Sept 2013, the hugely charismatic Modi managed to persuade some 40,000 Gujarati Muslims to join the party. At a rally in New Delhi on Sunday 29 Sept, the charismatic Modi addressed a crowd of more than 200,000 mostly middle class youths who responded to his lofty promises with "frenzied" excitement. It was, writes political analyst Sanjay Singh, "a public rally, the likes of which it had not seen in many decades". Anil Padmanabhan, another political analyst, remarked (29 Sept 2013) that Modi is connecting with youths and "rapidly becoming a national phenomenon. . . Modi has transcended his party and become a personality".

So what is Hindutva?

Narendra Modi is a self-confessed and proud hinduwadi (supporter of hindutva, i.e. militant Hindu nationalism).

Hindutva is an ideology which maintains that India -- indeed the entire subcontinent -- is the homeland of the Hindu race. Denying that there ever was an Aryan invasion, hindutva does not recognise the mostly animist, tribal adivasis (literally: first inhabitants) as the indigenous people of India. Rather, it labels them vanvasis (literally: forest dwellers) and counts them as Hindus, maintaining that the Hindu race is indigenous to India.

Further to this, Hindutva defines a true Hindu as one who acknowledges that India is both his Motherland and his Holy Land. Hindutva maintains that an Indian (a Hindu) who does not recognise India as his holy land cannot be a loyal citizen, for their loyalties are divided.

The missionaries of Hindutva work tirelessly to persuade the traditionally animist adivasis (tribals) that they and the Hindus really are "one people, one nation, one culture" -- i.e. one race. They work to convince the tribals that they are really Hindus whose religion has become corrupted over time. At the same time they Hinduise the adivasis' animistic practices so they don't need to change their practice, just see it as Hindu and self-identify as Hindu.

As for Christians, who belong mostly to scheduled tribes and scheduled castes (also known as Dalits or Untouchables), the Hindutva missionaries tell them that they too were originally Hindus, only their ancestors were either forcibly or fraudulently converted by foreign-invader Christian missionaries.

To motivate the scheduled tribes (8.6 percent) and scheduled castes (16.6 percent) to identify as Hindus, Hindutva holds out the prospect of elevated status; essentially replacing the racial apartheid of caste with religious apartheid -- paving the way for second-class tribals and dalits to become first-class Hindus, superior to any and every non-Hindu.

As a further motivation, and to dragnet the Hindu vote, Hindutva propagates fear, demonising Muslims and Christians as invaders, occupiers and separatists that threaten both social cohesion and national security. Muslims are stereotyped as prolific breeders and terrorists while Christians are accused of being complicit with foreigners in international conspiracies aimed at weakening India through religious conversions. [See: Preparing the Harvest, a report by V. K. Shashikumar, Tehelka (magazine), January 2004.]

As a pro-independence revolutionary, V.D. Savarkar (1883-1966) -- regarded as the "Father of Hindutva" -- spent many years in prison during British rule. It was in prison, that Savarkar formulated his Hindutva ideology and wrote what is essentially the handbook on Hindutva. Though he despised the Muslims of the Khilafat movement with whom he was imprisoned, I would suggest that Savarkar's Hindutva (first edition, 1923) has actually been deeply influenced by Islam.

To fully appreciate the Hindutva view of Christianity,
watch the Hindutva documentary: 
An Invasion through Conversion  
A video by the Dharma Raksha Samiti, Bangalore (2008) 
available on YouTube - Part 1 and Part 2

Hindutva has turned India into a tinderbox of communal tension such that today it takes very little to ignite a fire of sectarian hatred that quickly rages out of control.

The goal of Hindu nationalists has always been to secure power at the centre and establish India as a Hindu State where the power and privilege of the Hindu elite will be preserved and non-Hindus relegated as second-class citizens to be subjugated, contained and repressed.

The Hindutva family

The umbrella body dedicated to the advancement of Hindutva is known as the Sangh Parivar.

The Sangh Parivar comprises the following:

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, National Volunteer Corps).
The RSS is a truly massive nation-wide paramilitary force. Founded in Nagpur in 1925 with the mission of creating a Hindu state, the RSS has propagated a militant form of Hinduism as the sole basis for Indian identity. The RSS has access to virtually unlimited funds, as well as a vast network of swayamsevaks (volunteers) and pracharaks (agitators) who can be mobilised in a moment. Great for politics and persecution.

The founder of the RSS, Madhav Golwalkar, wrote, "foreign races . . . must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture . . . or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment - not even citizen's rights."

Nathuram Godse, the assassin who shot and killed Mahatma Gandhi in January 1948, was a member of the RSS. In the dock alongside Godse's was his co-accused: V.D. Savarkar, the "Father of Hindutva". While the foot-soldier Godse was executed, the well-connected Savarkar -- believed to be brains behind the assassination -- was acquitted on a technicality.

In February 2003, when the Hindu nationalist BJP were in power, they hung a portrait of V.D. Savarkar in the Central Hall of Parliament House, directly opposite the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

On 28 May 2014, a day after his inauguration as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi paid tribute to V.D. Savarkar on the 131st anniversary of his birth.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Council)
Formed in 1964 to advance Hindutva through cultural means -- i.e. through "safronised" education, media, conferences and festivals -- the VHP is regarded as the Sangh's "cultural wing". The VHP's work includes missionary endeavours, including the truly massive, high pressure and sometimes violent Ghar Vapsi (literally: homecoming) conversion / "reversion" campaign aimed at bringing Christians "back into the Hindu mainstream".

The Bajrang Dal
The Bajrang Dal is an ultra-violent youth militia. It was formed in 1984 specifically to mobilise Hindu youths for the Ayodhya campaign to seize control of the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, on the spurious grounds that it was the birthplace of the Hindu deity, Ram. On 6 December 1992, rioting Hindus affiliated with the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal demolished the mosque. The police did not intervene and thousands were killed in the ensuing violence. The controversy is on-going.

The Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad (VKP)
The VKP an offshoot of the RSS comprising militant hinduised tribals.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
The BJP is the political wing of the Sangh Parivar. Founded in December 1980, by 1991 it was India's main opposition party.

1998: In March 1998, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won the Lok Sabha (federal parliamentary) elections. Running with the slogan, "One People, One Nation, One Culture", and campaigning on a platform that included obtaining nuclear weapons and advancing Hindutva.  Persecution escalated immediately, and between January 1998 and February 1999, police recorded 116 incidents of violent persecution against Christians -- more than in all the previous 50 years of independence combined. The increased persecution went unremarked (outside Christian media) until Feb 1999, when Bajrang Dal militants ambushed and murdered Australian missionary Dr Graham Staines and his two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), burning them alive in their car in a tribal district of Orissa.

2004: The BJP-led NDA's first term in office was marked by significant economic development, so political analysts the world were bewildered in 2004 when the BJP was not returned to power. Described in the media as a "shock loss" and "unexplainable", analysts put the BJP's loss down to a widening of the gap between rich and poor that had left multitudes disillusioned. Others maintained that the BJP had diverged from its Hindutva path, losing many Hindutva supporters in the process (when in reality, the BJP's coalition partners had kept it hamstrung). It must be noted, that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won the May 2004 Lok Sabha elections by the slimmest of margins.

2009: By mid 2008, disillusionment with the Congress-led UPA government was widespread. In July 08 the UPA survived a no-confidence vote by the slimmest of margins. As 2009 approached, the BJP was favoured to regain power at the centre.

Then, in late November 2008, Islamic militants from Pakistan staged a daring terror attack in Mumbai that left more than 160 dead. While Prime Minister Singh responded with a cool, diplomatic head, negotiating with Pakistan to ensure the killers would be brought to justice, the BJP responded with rhetoric so belligerent that it scared off every swing voter and doubtless many supporters as well. The BJP's election loss in April-May 2009 was not a sign that support for Hindutva was waning; it was proof that Indians did not want to risk war with Pakistan.

All the while, the VHP's tireless cultural work has met little resistance from secular forces reluctant to tackle Hindutva for fear of losing Hindu support. As such, despite the BJP's election losses, despite a decade of Congress-led rule and despite the denials of numerous analysts, Hindutva has continued to gain ground. Today Hindutva's ascendency can no longer be disputed.

The 2014 election results will have grave consequences for India's more than 71 million Christians (5.8 percent; although many believe the number is closer to 9 percent) whose persecution will now be sanctioned at the highest levels.
photo: Gospel For Asia
It will have diabolical consequences for some 83,000 Indian missionaries who now face that prospect of draconian anti-conversion laws being enacted at the national level. I do not believe that this would require a change to the Constitution. It would only require a precedent to establish that the Constitution's religious freedom provisions are to be understood as freedom to hold belief, not freedom to change it; a position that already has wide acceptance, even at the UN.


Elizabeth Kendal is a religious liberty analyst and author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012). She is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the CSIOF, and the Director of Advocacy at the Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom.