On September 28th, 2015, Mr. Asghar Ali Shad, Research Fellow IPRI, gave a lecture to IPRI scholars on the topic “Growing Hindu Extremism in India: Implications for Neighbouring Countries” at IPRI Conference Hall. He began the lecture by saying that the growing Hindu extremism in India is a very serious issue and it has serious implications for the region. He said that in order to understand the present situation of growing Hindu extremism in India it is important to evaluate the evolutionary process of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu extremist organization founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. It means “National Volunteer Organization” or “National Patriotic Organization” and is based on the principle of selfless service to India. The RSS is the world’s largest voluntary non-governmental organization and is currently headed by Mohan Bhagwat since 2009.
Since Independence, the RSS has an idea to form Akhand Bharat, or undivided Indian subcontinent state which is true representative of Hinduism or RSS Hindutva ideology. It even refused to accept tricoloured Indian national flag and demanded saffron colour flag that was symbol of Hindu religion. In 1951, RSS established its political wing with the name of “Bhartiya Jana Sangh” which later on transformed into Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in 1980. Besides BJP, the RSS also started establishing its non-governmental organizations all across India to increase its influence in all segments of society. Many political organizations, cultural groups and social welfare societies inspired by the RSS ideology have also emerged in India. Although their leadership is different from the RSS but they share similar agenda for establishing a Hindu state in India. These organizations refer themselves as Sangh Family or Sangh Parivar and co-operate with each other to achieve their common goal of promoting Hinduism in India. These affiliated organizations include BJP, Vishwua Hindu Pradesh (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (Indian Farmers’ Association), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (Indian Labour Association), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (All India Students’ Forum), Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (Nativist Awakening Front), Akhil Bharatiya Yuva Morcha (All India Youth Wing), Vidya Bharati (Educational Institutes), Hindu Raksha Simitis (Hindu Defence Council) and many other communication, media, socio-cultural organizations that are involved in spreading the RSS ideology.
Some of the BJPs extremist actions and discriminatory policies can be divided into two phases of their government in India. In their first term, 1998 nuclear explosion, violence against Christians, Gujarat carnage, improving ties with Israel were the few extremist measures. On his visit to the USA in 2000, Vajpayee clearly said that he was the Prime Minister of India later on and a member of the RSS first. Now during the second term in office, BJP government since its election campaign has used anti-Pakistan sentiments as a tool to gain vote bank. Over the issue of Israel’s attack on Gaza in UNHCR, India was absent from voting. Similarly, in September 2014 in Netanyahu and Modi meeting, both the countries agreed to expand their bilateral co-operation with each other. Similarly Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi, Bahu Lao Beti Bachao programmes and compulsory education of Geeta, Maha Bharat and Hindu literature in educational institutes, ban on cow slaughter and beef in Maharashtra, boycott of film PK and other Pakistani movies, demand for resignation of Hamid Ansari, attack on seventy year old Christian Pope in Bengal, ban on Christian missionaries and giving Indian nationality to all non-Muslim Bengalis are the actions intended to promote cultural violence in the all segments of Indian society.
BJP has a plan of ethnic cleansing of all Muslims before 2021 census and has called Hindus to increase birth rates to protect Hindu religion. To ensure zero participation of Muslims in India’s political system, the BJP has demanded abolition of Muslim voting rights. Recent Line of Control/ Working Boundary violations along Pakistan-India borders and harsh statements by Indian side have further strained the relations between the two countries. Such statements like those which are against Modi or its policies should go to Pakistan, open criticism to Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, Indian Army chief’s warning of limited war in the back drop of LOC violations and threat of attack to Pakistan after 9th June attack on Myanmar. During his visit to Dhaka in June, Modi admitted that India played a significant role in Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan. The demand for abrogation of article 370 from the constitution and fuelling Hindu-Muslim riots in Kashmir etc. are clear indications of BJP hawkish and rigid policies towards Pakistan.
All these extremist measures have a spillover effect in the neighboring countries. India’s relations with Pakistan have been strained due to inflammatory statements from the Indian political leadership and LOC violations from time to time. The extremist elements will be influenced, separatist movements will be strengthened to have Greater Punjab, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Sindh on the basis of ethnicity. The Indian relations with Nepal have been affected after its declaration of a secular state against the BJPs pressure for a Hindu state. BJP has been successful in establishing pro-Indian government in Sri-Lanka and to pursue its hegemonic designs it is pressurizing Maldives for accepting greater Indian influence. It has been reported that the RSS has been supporting non-state actors to strengthen extremist elements and to create instability in Pakistan and neighbouring countries. It aims to establish pro-Indian regime in Afghanistan and is supporting insurgency in Balochistan and tribal areas in Pakistan. Such RSS extremist policies have adversely affected the Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the efforts of Pakistan Army to completely eliminate militants and their networks from the region. Many militants have escaped and taken refuge in Afghanistan and are being provided financial/ logistic support by the RSS.
In the light of growing Hindu extremism, the threat of Daesh to have a larger impact in the region has increased. The extremist Muslims against Modi policies can easily fall prey to it and get involved in terrorists attacks in the neighbourhoods. Since BJP is in power, not only the Indian Muslims and Christians but other religious communities are facing serious extremist threats and actions that have made their life miserable. They are deprived of political, economic and social rights. The international community has been alarmed by the growing Hindu nationalism and Hindutva philosophy that is creating violence, extremism and human rights violations in the name of religion in India and abroad. The terrorism has increased and the entire region is endangered with this growing wave of Hindu extremism.
Hence, it is the dire need of the hour that the UN along with the international community should take concrete measures to control BJP’s extremist policies. International pressure should be put on India to ensure secularism and the protection of basic rights of minorities in India. Modi must adopt a balanced, tolerant and non-discriminatory approach towards all sections of society irrespective of religion/caste/sect and control the domestic extremist elements and organizations. India must normalize its relations with other regional states and should shun its hegemonic policies to create peace and stability not only at domestic level but also at regional level. It is predicted that if this growing wave of Hindu nationalism is not checked in time it will be destructive for the entire region and the world.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.