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Right Wing Politics in India

 Note from the Editor of Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective:
The world is awash in nationalism and India, the world's largest democracy, is no exception. Sometimes pundits have called this politics "populist," others have called it racially or ethnically driven. In India, as historian Archana Venkatesh explains, the roots of nationalists’ politics are religious, and those roots run deep. This month she explains the long history of the Hindu nationalism we see triumphant in Indian politics today.

In April and May 2019, the world’s largest democracy held elections. More than 540 million voters, out of 900 million registered, cast ballots. The global press portrayed the election as a contest between the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress, though India is a multi-party parliamentary democracy. The BJP won an overwhelming majority and returned to power in Parliament.
The results of the election have sparked a wide-ranging discussion about the rise of right-wing, religiously rooted nationalism in India. 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. 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. An anti-Muslim stance was central to this process. Recent events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have made it clear that Hindutva is premised on the belief that Muslims are not inherently citizens of India.
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Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective is a joint initiative of the history departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University. It connects history with today, providing historical insight on current events that matter to the United States and to the world.