Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Saffron Republic: Hindu Nationalism and State Power in India

Hansen, Thomas; Srirupa, Roy

The growth, consolidation, and seizure of social and political power by majoritarian and populist tendencies in Indian politics have been variously examined, more so by several recent studies on the changing patterns of communal mobilisation. While on-ground, empirical research informs Nalin Mehta’s influential study (The New BJP: Modi and the Making of the World’s Largest Political Party, 2021), Amrita Basu and Tanika Sarkar’s edited volume, Women, Gender and Religious Nationalism (2022, ICAS-MP, Cambridge University Press), is an important intervention in the discussion on gender in Hindutva politics. Not only does Blom Hansen and Roy’s volume take the conversation forward—to use a cliché—in a decisive manner, it adds significantly to the already rich body of work on Hindu nationalism and its resultant outgrowths that exists. The volume is noteworthy primarily because of its attempt at interrogating the phenomenon of contemporary Hindu nationalism—or New (or neo) Hindutva—which is significantly different from earlier versions in both form and substance. The discourse has moved from one centred on temple politics to aspiration focused on foreign policy and economic achievements. Also critical to the developing phenomenon of neo-Hindutva is the substantial inroads it is making in regions in the south and east of India, far removed from the conventional understanding of the BJP (and Sangh Parivar, in general) as a cow belt-based political formation. The volume under review also brings to the fore crucial new research on the changing caste dynamics of contemporary Hindutva as caste has emerged as vital to intense Hindu nationalist mobilisation, particularly of the kind that translates into significant gains at the hustings. The volume, therefore, focuses on the reshaping of the Hindutva landscape in India, which now competes with more global forms of democratic authoritarianism or authoritarian populism. Since Hindutva is now widely regarded as an electoral strategy par excellence and mainstreamed in popular discourse, the present volume examines several issues of intense concern, particularly the phenomenon of governmental Hindutva, urban zoning on communal lines, the growing politics of segregation, the minority Hindutva project (in the form of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch) and the momentous rhetoric on development.