November 03, 2015

India and the Politics of Extremism (Hari Prasad and Samir Kumar)

India and the Politics of Extremism
The diversity of the polity and the BJP’s own political future will limit Hindutva prominence in Indian politics.
By Hari Prasad and Samir Kumar
November 03, 2015

The lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq and his family by Hindu extremists over rumored beef possession is a new symbol of Modi’s India. Instead of the good governance and economic reform that has been promised, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) groups continue to aggressively push their agenda for a “Hindu” India rather than the secular nation envisioned by many of its founders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Between the ghar wapsi (lit. homecoming, reconversions of Christians and Muslims “back” to Hinduism), new draconian anti-beef laws, continued attacks on alleged beef smugglers, and rhetoric from some high-level ministers, it appears that Hindu extremism is becoming more prominent by the day. The lynching has brought further international scrutiny to the actions of Hindu extremists in India and their seemingly growing influence in the country.

These as well as many other actions of Hindutva organizations are worrying. Yet many writers have misinterpreted the fight over beef as primarily a communal problem, a religious issue between Muslims and Hindus. While there is real anti-Muslim sentiment among Hindutva organizations, it is important to remember that beef eating is not viewed as scandalous among large segments of the Hindu population. In addition, the view of beef eating among the country’s different regions and castes also differs greatly from the view that Hindutva groups promote. This illustrates the challenges the Hindutva-rooted ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would face in trying to mobilize politically around the issue.