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Hindutva (which can be literally translated into English as "Hinduness"[note 1]) is a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet entitled Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? It forms the basis of the Hindu nationalist movement in India. Hindu nationalism is an ethno-religious nationalist movement that aims to eliminate the secular foundation of India's constitution and turn India into a Hindu State (Hindu Rashtra).
The Hindu nationalist movement, though primarily concentrated in India, has global presence and a section of the Indian diaspora living in the Europe and North America fund Hindutva groups in those countries, as well as in India.
- 1 What is Hindutva?
- 2 Hindutva in practice
- 3 What Hindu nationalists say about genocide and eugenics
- 4 Manipulating public education
- 5 Pseudoscholarship
- 6 Hindu nationalist phraseology
- 7 Hindutva movement worldwide
- 8 External links
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
What is Hindutva?
“”Surely Hitler knows better than Pandit Nehru (refers to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India) does what suits Germany best. The very fact that Germany or Italy has so wonderfully recovered and grown so powerful as never before at the touch of Nazi or Fascist magical wand is enough to prove that those political ‘isms’ were the most congenial tonics their health demanded.
As per Savarkar, who defined Hindutva or Hinduness as an ethnic and political identity, a Hindu is a person whose ancestors lived in a land he called Akhand Bharat or Greater India (literally translated into English as Undivided India, which consists of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). To him, it was the land where their religion originated. Here religion means all religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent, i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
The three essentials of Hindutva ideology are common nation (rashtra in Hindi), common race (jati in Hindi) and common culture/civilisation (sanskriti in Hindi). So Hindutva is similar to ideologies like pan-Islamism and is antithetical to multiculturalism. Some academics have described Hindutva as a far-right-wing ideology.
There are contradictory statements and views among people associated with the Hindu nationalist movement regarding the question of irreligion and atheism. Y. Sudershan Rao, who was appointed the head of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed government in 2014, tries to explain the meaning of "Hindu" arguing, "Hindu in ancient times was a name given to people who were living to the east of the Indus river up to Kanyakumari. Hindus were religious, nonreligious and irreligious. As a historian, I look at it that way." This argument includes irreligious people as Hindu, if Hindu is defined as an ethnic identity. On the other hand, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the largest Hindu nationalist organization in India, constructs the idea of an "ideal Hindu family". According to a leader of the organization, "We also want people to see to it that their households look like proper Hindu homes: a tulsi plant, images of Hindu gods, the gayatri mantra, etc. should ideally be physically there." This idea of an "ideal Hindu family" obviously excludes atheists, contradicting the view that irreligion comes within the Hindutva fold.
Hindutva in practice
Hindutva advocates are accused of suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of expression by banning books, films and other cultural media which they don't like, rejecting the idea of freedom of choice and instigating mob violence. In India, an umbrella organization called the Sangh Parivar champions the ideology of Hindutva. The Sangh comprises organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and others.
What Hindu nationalists say about genocide and eugenics
In 2015, the vice-president of the Hindutva organization All India Hindu Assembly (Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha or ABHM in Hindi) Sadhvi Deva Thakur said that the population growth of Muslims and Christians in India need to be controlled by forcibly sterilizing them.
|—Sadhvi Deva Thakur|
In 2015, Sadhvi Deva Thakur also urged Hindus to have more children to increase their population. BJP MP (member of parliament) Sakshi Maharaj said that every Hindu woman must have four children.
“”The time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion.
|—Sakshi Maharaj, BJP MP|
After this remark, another BJP politician suggested that Hindu women should have five children.
Manipulating public education
Hindutva writer Dinanath Batra, who runs an organization euphemistically named Shiksha Bachao Andolan (Save Education Movement)[note 2], believes religious education should be an integral part of school curriculum.
“”What we need in India is value-based education, education that will build character. We can’t do that without religion, so religious studies[note 3] must become a part of school curriculum.
Batra has written some school textbooks which are taught in the Indian state of Gujarat, where the Hindu nationalist BJP forms government. If one explores these in depth, what is written in his books are bound to give laughs as well as shock to any educated sane person. An example of blatant racism and horrible misinformation is given below:
“”Once Dr Radhakrishnan[note 4] went for a dinner. There was a Briton at the event who said, "We are very dear to God." Radhakrishnan laughed and told the gathering, "Friends, one day God felt like making rotis[note 5]. When he was cooking the rotis, the first one was cooked less and the English were born. The second one stayed longer on the fire and the Negroes were born. Alert after His first two mistakes, when God went on to cook the third roti, it came out just right and as a result Indians were born."
|—schoolbook written by Dinanath Batra|
The above passage endorses classification of people based on skin color. It claims that Indian people are "just right" while people with lighter or darker skin color are the result of something going wrong.
Another blatant example of racism from his book is where people with darker skin color are depicted as violent criminals:
“”The aircraft was flying thousands of feet high in the sky. A very strongly built negro reached the rear door and tried to open it. The air-hostesses tried to stop him but the strongly built negro pushed the soft-bodied hostesses to the floor and shouted, 'Nobody dare move a step ahead'. An Indian grabbed the negro and he could not escape. The pilot and the Indian together thrashed the negro and tied him up with a rope. Like a tied buffalo, he frantically tried to escape but could not. The plane landed safely in Chicago. The negro was a serious criminal in the Chicago records and this brave Indian was an employee of Air India.
|—schoolbook written by Dinanath Batra|
The Sangh Parivar and Hindutva advocates in general also indulge in a lot of pseudoscientific claims. For example, it is not uncommon to find Hindutva proponents claiming that the discoveries of modern science are actually re-discoveries of what had been found ages ago by the ancient Hindu saints. Also, they tend to justify things like Ayurveda using pseudoscientific blabber.
Vedic Science is a concept used by Hindutva advocates to denote to the scientific tradition of ancient India.[note 6] Astrologer Gayatri Devi Vasudev writing for The Organiser, a publication of the Hindutva organization the RSS, claimed that the distinction of science and pseudoscience (or protoscience) is Eurocentric and inapplicable to Vedic Science:
“”Western scientific thought draws on the traditions of Greek rationalist thinking according to which only what is within the purview of the five senses is taken cognisance of. Scientific methods follow some kind of closed scientific reasoning which insulates itself against facts that its methods cannot account for. How else can they [scientists] dare dismiss Jyotisha (astrology) which sees a level of existence beyond the purview of the five senses?
“”The idea of 'contradiction' is an imported one from the West in recent times by the Western-educated, since 'Modern Science' arbitrarily imagines that it only has the true knowledge and its methods are the only methods to gain knowledge, smacking of Semitic dogmatism in religion.
Pseudohistory and pseudoarcheology
Even before the advent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there was a pseudoscientific historian named PN Oak, who made numerous ridiculous claims. Among them, was the allegation that the Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, and that the Patriarch Abraham, was a Brahman (Abraham, Brahman). He also alleged that the Vatican originated as a Vedic priesthood (Vatican, Vatika), when it has been clearly documented that it was a successor to the Papal States, itself a successor to Western Imperium Romanum. (Just because a bunch of words are similar, that does NOT imply common origin. Hell, the fact that Japanese fisherman chant 'Yahweh', does NOT mean that they descended from the lost tribes of Israel). In 2014, after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, it appointed Y. Sudershan Rao, a history professor associated with a RSS-affiliated organization, as the head of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Rao believes that material evidence is not necessary to write the history of India. He said during an interview with the Outlook magazine,
“”Western schools of thought look at material evidence of history. We can’t produce material evidence for everything. India is a continuing civilisation. To look for evidence would mean digging right though the hearts of villages and displacing people. We only have to look at the people to figure out the similarities in their lives and the depiction in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. For instance, the Ramayana mentions that Rama had travelled to Bhadrachalam (in Andhra Pradesh). A look at the people and the fact that his having lived there for a while is in the collective memory of the people cannot be discounted in the search for material evidence. In continuing civilisations such as ours, the writing of history cannot depend only on archaeological evidence. We have to depend on folklore too.
|—Y. Sudershan Rao, head of the Indian Council of Historical Researh|
However, this statement is fallacious and in good old RationalWiki fashion, we have dissected and responded to it:
|Western schools of thought look at material evidence of history.||Historians actually use a method called oral history to record non-material evidence. It deals with collective memory and individual construction of history, so Rao is straw manning here. The difference between oral history and Rao's "method" (if you can call it that) is that the former has a critical approach, whereas Rao simply takes folklore at face value. Rao also sets up a false East/West dilemma, a technique used by fundamentalists in Asia to attack the supposed Euro- and Americentric scientism of "Western" academia and replace it with their preferred brand of pseudoscience.|
|We can’t produce material evidence for everything. India is a continuing civilisation.||See my hands waving! Sorry Rao, as Christopher Hitchens so pithily put it: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." Rao also forgets to explain what "a continuing civilisation" is and why it means we should ditch normal criteria for conducting historical enquiries. Rao seems to be taking a page from the book of paranormal woo peddlers who make all kinds of excuses for why their branch of woo doesn't work when subjected to controlled experiments. Try imagining a Dane, making this same argument and insisting that the tales of Thor and the Jörmungandr has to be taken as fact(oids), because Denmark is part of "a continuing Norse civilisation". Try again.|
|To look for evidence would mean digging right though the hearts of villages and displacing people.||Argument from adverse consequences. It's also a red herring or possibly an escape hatch bordering on an emotional appeal ("Oh, the poor farmers!" - as if anyone suggests that it's necessary to move in with bulldozers and demolition crews and raze the houses of villagers. Contrast with how we've acquired knowledge of other ancient, but still inhabited, sites, such as Rome, Jerusalem, Jericho or Istanbul).|
|We only have to look at the people to figure out the similarities in their lives and the depiction in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.||If this seems familiar, it's because it's a Hindu version of the old biblical literalist nugget of "these events were real, hence the entire Bible must be correct!" Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, Rao. Rao is also begging the question, because he uses the fact that folklore occasionally matches written epics which were originally oral epics as evidence that the written version is correct. This is patently absurd because it amounts to using the correspondence between the depiction of Spider-Man in the movies and in the comics as "evidence" that Spider-Man must be real and that the movies are essentially documentaries. It's what we call circular evidence.|
|For instance, the Ramayana mentions that Rama had travelled to Bhadrachalam (in Andhra Pradesh). A look at the people and the fact that his having lived there for a while is in the collective memory of the people cannot be discounted in the search for material evidence.||Here Rao combines the appeal to tradition with an argumentum ad populum. Why would the fact that countless people have believed something for a long time mean it's real? Loads of people believed in the pantheon of the Greco-Roman or ancient Egyptian religions, but practically no one do so now. Why should we accept Rao's myths?|
|In continuing civilisations such as ours, the writing of history cannot depend only on archaeological evidence. We have to depend on folklore too.||And so we return to the hand waving, ad hoc'ing and argument by assertion. Yeah, Rao, keep repeating it and it will magically become a good argument...|
Revisionism of science and technology
Y. Sudershan Rao claimed that Indians used to fly aircraft, conduct stem cell research and use cosmic weapons 5000 years ago, and believes that the Indian epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which were written two millennia ago, are not fiction, but essentially history books.[note 7] He argues humans did not develop the art of fiction writing until a few centuries ago; hence, the events and things described in these epics must be real.
In the school textbook Tejomay Bharat written by Hindutva writer Dinanath Batra, it is claimed that television was invented in the age of Mahabharata ca. two millennia ago:
Batra's textbook also claimed that the automobile was first invented in ancient India:
Hindu nationalist phraseology
- The phrase "Indian culture" is used to oppose personal choice and justify homophobia.
- By referring to secular as "sickular", Hindu nationalists don't hide their hostility towards secularism.
Hindutva movement worldwide
The Hindutva movement is not an Indian-only phenomenon. It is present worldwide, in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. A number of organizations, mostly in the form of non-profits, constitute the movement and a section of the Hindu Indian diaspora in different countries support these organizations. An average supporter of an Hindutva organization may not adhere to the extremist beliefs of these organizations, but they join or support these organizations out of a perceived sense of alienation in a country where Hindus constitute a religious minority.
In the United States, Hindu nationalists take the benefit of the liberal secular atmosphere of the pluralist American society and draw on multiculturalist discourse for their presence, while at the same time they fund cultural and political organizations in India that spread hatred and commit acts of violence against India's religious minorities. In Australia, Hindu nationalist organizations legitimise their activities through the rhetoric of liberal multiculturalism. At the same time, just like the American Hindutva organizations, they promote hatred against religious minorities in India.
Replies to criticism from a Hindu nationalist point of view
- Videos by Hindu nationalist writer Rajiv Malhotra and his book "Academic Hinduphobia", ISBN 978-8-191-06737-8 
- Articles by author Arun Shourie and his book "Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud", ISBN 81-900199-8-8 
- Articles by Koenraad Elst in his website and his book "The Saffron Swastika: The Notion of "Hindu Fascism", ISBN 81-85990-69-7 . Elst has himself been accused of being a "far-right Catholic & BJP fellow traveller".
Exposing Hindu nationalists
- Hindu nationalists are gaining power in India - and silencing enemies along the way, The Independent
- Hindu nationalists flex muscles in Narendra Modi’s India, Financial Times
- The Triumph of the Hindu Right Foreign Affairs
- Hitler’s Hindus: The Rise and Rise of India’s Nazi-loving Nationalists, Haaretz
Hindu nationalist propaganda in education
- Delete and control - the Parivar's mantra, article about manipulation of school textbooks
Hindu nationalist pseudo-scholarship
- Peddler of myths, article examining manipulation of History
- Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism and `Vedic science'
Hindu nationalism in Europe and North America
- The foreign hand, article shows how Hindutva groups collect money in America and then send it back to extremist organizations in India
- In god's name, article explaining how the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America grew
- The Parivar in America, an article about Hindu nationalist activities in the United States
- Trans-atlantic thrust, another article about Hindu nationalist activities in North America
- Western Hindutva: Hindu nationalism in the United Kingdom and North America
- Hindutva Abroad, The California Textbook Controversy
- National mysticism
- Nationalist pseudohistory
- Nationalism in history textbooks
- 969 Movement
- Christian Identity
- Sanskrit -tva is a neuter abstract suffix, hence Hindu-ness in English.
- Shiksha (Hindi) means education, Bachao (Hindi) means save, Andolan (Hindi) means movement.
- By using the term "religious studies", he does not refer to the secular academic discipline religious studies which analyzes religion from a non-religious point of view. He refers to theology when he uses the term.
- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first vice-president of India.
- Flat bread made from wholemeal flour and consumed in the Indian subcontinent.
- Quite similar to the Hare Krishnas use of the term "Vedic creationism" to give their brand of creationism some ancient Indian patina.
- Similar to how some people read the Bible.
- Aanashva is a name of a kind of rath, rath is a Hindi word which means chariot.
- Yantra is a Hindi word which means machine, hence yeantra-rath means a machine chariot.
- Sharma, Arvind (2002). "On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva". Numen 49 (1).
- Les Back and John Solomos (2000), Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader, p.591, ISBN 9780415156714. "It is important to note the marriage between far-right-wing Hindutva ideology and western New Ageism in the works of writers like David Frawley (1994, 1995a, 1995b) who is both a key apologist for the Hindutva movement and the author of various New Age books on Vedic astrology, oracles and yoga."
- Ramayan, Mahabharat historical sources, West dubs them myth: Y Sudershan Rao Economic Times
- RSS focuses on Hindu family values to unify community Hindustan Times
- Muslims, Christians should be forcibly sterilised: Sadhvi Deva Thakur, India Today
- Hindu Mahasabha Leader Sadhvi Deva Thakur Says Muslims, Christians Should Be Forcibly Sterilised, Huffington Post India
- Every Hindu woman must produce at least 4 kids: Sakshi Maharaj Times of India
- India MP Sakshi Maharaj: Hindus must have more babies BBC
- After Sakshi Maharaj’s ‘4 kids’ remark, a BJP leader now asks Hindu women to bear five children Indian Express
- India’s new school textbooks favor Hindu nationalist themes, making minorities uneasy Washington Post
- What the government of Gujarat is encouraging children to read is dismaying Quartz
- Top Indian educationalist accused of racism over portrayal of criminal 'negroes' The Telegraph
- Vasudev, Gayatri Devi. 2001. Vedic astrology and pseudo-scientific criticism, The Organiser (an English-language publication of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), reprinted in The Astrological Magazine, cited after Sokal (2006:38)
- Mukhyananda, Swami. 1997. Vedanta in the Context of Modern Science: A (Comparative Study. Mumbai [Bombay]: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
- Ancient India had aeroplanes, nuclear weapons, says chief of India's premier history body India Today
- ‘Ramayana, Mahabharata Are True Accounts Of The Period...Not Myths’ Outlook
- Fears grow in India about Hindu 'Modi-fication' of education, Reuters
- Science lesson from Gujarat: Stem cells in Mahabharata, cars in Veda Indian Express
- 'Mota maal' to 'Sickular': 10 ridiculously viral terms that drive Indian social media CNN IBN
- Hindutva Bigotry in America
- Kamat, Sangeetha and Biju Matthews (2003), 'Mapping political violence in a globalized world: The case of Hindu nationalism', Social Justice, 30:3, pp. 4–16.
- Goldie Osuri (2011), 'Transnational Bio/Necropolitics: Hindutva and its Avatars (Australia/India)', Somatechnics. Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 138-160