27 October 2017

Hindutva: Hindu Fundamentalism or Nationalism?

Encyclopedia Britannica on 'Hindu fundamentalism':

"What is usually called 'Hindu fundamentalism' in India has been influenced more by nationalism than by religion, in part because Hinduism does not have a specific sacred text to which conformity can be demanded. Moreover, conformity to a religious code has never been of particular importance to Hindu groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For the members of such groups, Hinduism is above all a symbol of national identity rather than a set of rules to be obeyed.

"The nationalistic orientation of the RSS is reflected in its name, which means 'National Volunteer Corps'. Similarly, the name of the BJP means 'Party of the Indian People'. Neither the RSS nor the BJP advocates the creation of a Hindu state. The principal concern of both groups is the danger posed to the Hindu nation by Christian and Islamic proselytisation among the Scheduled Castes (formerly untouchables) and lower-caste Hindus. In RSS tracts, there is little reference to specific Hindu beliefs, and its members acknowledge that they are not themselves religious.

"The nationalism of the RSS and the BJP is also reflected in their religious and moral demands; in this respect they differ significantly from Christian fundamentalist groups in the United States. In a notorious incident in 1992, the Babri Masjid (Mosque of Babur) at Ayodhya was demolished by a mob of Hindu nationalists; the subsequent rioting led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people. Although there was real religious fervour associated with the belief that the site of the mosque was the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama and the location of an ancient Hindu temple, the attack was above all a reflection of the Hindu nationalists' belief in the essentially Hindu character of India. The fact that Hindu nationalism is sometimes called 'Hindu fundamentalism' illustrates how indiscriminately the term 'fundamentalism' has been used outside its original American Christian context."

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