HINDUTVA The concept of Hindutva-greater Hindustan-which would extend Hinduism to its “natural geographic frontiers”-was put forward by Hindu nationalists in the 1930s as a slogan Its original proponent was V D Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha, whose slogan “Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan” envisaged a sacred geography of India that would extend from western Iran to the eastern Malayan peninsula, from northern Tibet to the southernmost Sri Lanka It would thus encompass all of today’s India, Burma, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Kashmir, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and parts of Afghanistan and China Various Hindu organizations were established to pursue this expansionist and exclusionist political philosophy Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-mostly known by its acronym RSS-was founded in 1925 by D K B Hedgewar, followed by the establishment of Rashtra Sevika Samti in 1936, by Rashtra Sevika Samiti to mobilize Hindu women

An attempt to convert students to the Hindutva philosophy was made in 1948 with the creation of Akhil Bahartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), while in 1955 the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) was founded to work with the laboring classes In 1951, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) was formed as an alliance between the Hindu Mahasabha, another Hindu organization, and the RSS To encourage these organizations to work toward a common goal, Hindu activists established the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1964 The VHP in turn founded a number of educational institutions in which Hindu boys were taught not only the Hindu philosophy but were also given training in martial artsWith the creation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Khrishna Advani, the Hindu organization acquired a political arm The BJP was effectively the political wing of the RSS In 1990, Advani went on his Rath Yatra, “this rightful journey,” from Somnath on the west coast of India to Ayodhya in the country’s north Advani’s journey was meant to underscore his view that Hindu India had been ravaged, plundered, and desecrated by Muslims for centuries and that the time had come to take the country back from the invaders, many of whom had stayed on In 1992, a large crowd of Advani’s supporters tore down Babir mosque and demanded that a temple dedicated to Rama should be erected in its place The Muslims, horrified by this act of vandalism, rioted in Mumbai and other major cities More than 2,000 people lost their lives

The BJP under A B Vajpayee won three national elections and was in power for almost a decade at the head of a coalition government that included a number of other Hindu nationalist parties It was during the BJP’s term that India tested nuclear bombs (in May 1998), General Pervez Musharraf was invited to visit Agra to hold a summit with Prime Minister Vajpayee (July 2001), India almost went to war with neighboring Pakistan (December 2001-January 2002), the Indian prime minister offered the hand of peace to Pakistan and to President Musharraf (April 2003) and signed the Islamabad Declaration pledging to create the South Asia Free Trade Area and resolve all outstanding issues with Pakistan through dialogue and not by the use of force (January 2004)

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