The Hindutva push is in tune with the RSS agenda. But it carries real risks: analysis
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), energized by its second consecutive parliamentary majority in mid-2019, quickly took advantage of its strengthened position to launch a set of policies that met the long-standing ideological proposals of both the party and its father. Hindu nationalist. , the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). While there were scattered protests over some of these initiatives, it is unclear how these policies, such as the abolition of autonomy for the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, will impact the country’s social stability.
These initiatives address key elements
of the Hindutva ideology of RSS, such as national unity and a culture rooted in South Asia. Apparently, Amit Shah, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s closest adviser and confidant for the past 30 years, played an important role in formulating and implementing these policies, who strategically shaped Modi’s rise to power, first in Gujarat two decades ago and then as prime minister in 2014. In addition, he shaped the strategy for the BJP victory in 2019. Now is the
powerful interior minister and the de facto head of the BJP, even though he is no longer the official president.
The first major political initiative, announced in early August 2019, a few months after the BJP’s parliamentary victory, was a bill revoking the constitutional provisions of article 370, which granted limited autonomous powers to Kashmir, a long-standing demand for RSS and BJP aimed at integrating the state more deeply into the Indian Union. Article 35A, aimed at preserving the state’s Muslim majority by excluding non-Kashmiris from owning property and holding public office, was also revoked. Taking advantage of nationalist support for these movements, the bill garnered the support of a wide range of regional parties, so it easily passed a vote in Rajya Sabha, where the BJP and its allies still lack a majority.
To prevent anticipated violence from both within and across the border in Pakistan, stringent security measures were enacted, including sending thousands of additional troops, a media blackout, banning assemblies of more than four people, and arrest of Muslim politics in much of Kashmir leaders Some of these measures have been relaxed. However, as recognized by BJP Secretary General Ram Madhav, who in 2015 formed a coalition government in Kashmir with the participation of the BJP, a stable government in the state requires the eventual restoration of a popularly elected coalition government which somehow results in the cooperation of the great Sunni Muslim valley of Kashmir with the Hindu population of Jammu.
The second project is based on the unanimous decision of the November 2019 five-person panel of the Supreme Court in favor of a Hindu group claiming a site where a five-century-old Muslim religious structure in Ayodhya had been before be demolished by a Hindu mafia in late 1992. The Court ordered the formation of a Hindu trust that would oversee a national center for cultural and religious pilgrimage. The BJP and RSS applauded the decision, although the RSS chief warned its members to avoid public celebrations. However, the broader problem of “redemptive mosques” built several hundred years ago on the sites of major temples could emerge again, as there remains considerable support within the RSS to convert two mosques in Kashi and Mathura into temples Hindus.
The third and probably most controversial issue is the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which amends a previous 1955 Act. The new act provides a path to citizenship for “illegal” non-Muslim refugees (who do not possess entry documents legal), fleeing an alleged religious prosecution of neighboring Muslim-majority states of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Supreme Court is now reviewing the Law to clarify several complex provisions regarding applicability. Further complicating the broader question of who is a legitimate citizen were the announcements to update the National Register of Citizens, a move that many interpret as an attempt to deny citizenship rights to Muslims due to lack of documentation (the government then he said that NRC is not on the agenda.) More than the other actions, these movements were criticized at home and abroad as a blow to the secular foundations of the Indian state. These initiatives, in addition, complicate the possibilities for Muslims to legitimately seek refugee status because they are adherents of groups attacked in neighboring states, such as the Ahmadiyas and Sufis in Pakistan and the Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan. The protests may have delayed plans to create a common civil code, which has considerable support within the BJP and RSS, and considerable opposition within the Muslim community.
Interestingly, the government has been much more cautious about economic reforms, although many in the RSS and BJP see economic well-being and equity as key elements of Hindutva. Populist economic issues have been important elements in RSS chief Vijayadashmi’s recent speeches, occasions for the RSS to inform the public of its national concerns. The relative lack of bold innovative measures on economic issues could be because Modi, a more cautious political leader than Shah, has retained control of economic policy (and foreign policy). With a declining economy domestically and internationally, cultural-nationalistic problems like a Ram temple could represent, at least in part, an effort to divert attention from economic stress. However, survey data suggests that such cultural-nationalistic issues have far less influence in local and state elections than in national parliamentary contests. Recent elections in Delhi (where the Aam Aadmi Party won a large majority), for example, indicate that policy on roads, schools, and water shaped the popular outcome.
The long-term social impact of the rise of recent Hindutva initiatives is not yet clear. If they result in increased social instability, the prospects for economic investment are likely to decline, a development that could have negative political implications for the BJP and lessen India’s attractiveness as a strategic partner to the US. USA And other countries affected by the emergence of an assertive China. An indication of this potential is the riot that suddenly erupted in northeast Delhi (apparently sparked by intemperate public comments from a failed politician on the issue of citizenship) during President Donald Trump’s visit to India, and thus attracted international attention. This may be the time for the government to consider how Hindutva’s initiatives impact the country’s social fabric.
Walter K Andersen is a political scientist and author of two critically acclaimed books on RSS
The opinions expressed are personal.