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Is India Becoming the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ Sought by Hindu Nationalists? (SWP 60)

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Over the past 30 years, Hindu nationalism has risen to a position of dominance in Indian politics. Although the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party political wing of the ‘family’ of Hindu nationalist organisations, does not win electoral majorities all over the country, Hindu nationalist ideas – what we term ‘banal Hindutva’ – are now firmly part of everyday politics. This chapter traces the growth since the early twentieth century of organizations and movements that reject liberalism and secular understandings of the nation, through to the establishment of political dominance by the BJP under Narendra Modi. Thanks largely to Modi’s inspiration, the BJP has effectively projected the idea of a ‘new India’ that is a land of hope and opportunity, downplaying the welfare state upon which most people’s well-being depends. Our examination of the relationship between Hindutva, demonstrative religiosity and incidents of communal violence, mainly against Muslims, finds that there are many local reasons for the occurrence of inter-community tensions that can give rise to violence but whether they do or not depends heavily upon how governments act. The chapter both opens and concludes with accounts of majoritarian action under BJP governments since 2014, and argues that Narendra Modi’s regime may be described as an instance of authoritarian populism.
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ISSN 1922-5725
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Harriss, John, Craig Jeffrey and Stuart Corbridge, Is India Becoming the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ Sought by Hindu Nationalists? Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 60/2017, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, December 2017.
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