Hindu nationalism

A very brief note on Hindu nationalism. Important, I think, to understanding contemporary alignments between (supporters of) the BJP and far Right, white supremacists in the US, including but also beyond questions involving geopolitical, military alliances in the Middle East.

Arguably, the foundational text of Hindutva is Essentials of Hindutva. At its most militant, it gave rise to the far Right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925, which campaigned for both independence from the British crown and the segregation of Hindus and Muslims. Unlike other anti-imperial groups which have drawn upon versions of Marxism, liberalism, anti-colonialism or some combination of these, the RSS admired both Hitler and Mussolini for what they saw as an exemplary model of conservative, nationalist revolution (cf Marzia Casolari’s work on the direct links to Italian fascism). The RSS is generally viewed as the ideological precursor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Written in the early 1920s by Veer Damodar Savarkar, the chief argument in Essentials of Hindutva is that “Hindutva is different from Hinduism,” which is to say, that nationality or citizenship are different from ethnonationality. It bases that distinction on utilizing nomenclature as taxa (linking a “common nation,” or rashtra, “a common race,” jati, and “a common culture,” sanskriti); a nexus which it grounds in a primordialist narrative of Aryan migration, ordained settlement and a theory of racial consanguinity and its reproduction (“common blood” and “race-jati,” where jati is defined as production). It also involves an explanation of caste as a system for regulating noble blood lines and ensuring racial purity among the nobility. As various historians have argued, the development of Hindutva from the late nineteenth- to the early twentieth-centuries largely served to “vindicate the world-view of the upper castes” (cf Jaffrelot), and it did so by borrowing heavily from a European epistemological framework of racial essences and property. More important to understanding its current alignments perhaps, that archaic narrative involves references to “White India” (Shvetabharat), a Vedic ‘Golden Age,’ and the explicit repudiation of any original association with blackness. Its contemporaneous narrative in the early twentieth-century worked its way forward from this racial purity origin-story (literally, ‘we were Aryan once upon a time’) into an argument for the restoration of this initial, blood-borne distinction between Hindutva and Hindu, insisting on a redefinition of citizenship in the early twentieth-century along ethno-religious lines (“we would be straining the usage of words too much,” wrote Savarkar, “if we call a Mohammedan a Hindu because of his being a resident of India”).