The Political Economy of Religion and Politics in India



Abstract. The paper will examine the dramatic rise of the right-wing Hindu organisations in India, especially since the 1990s. Most prominent among these organisations are RSS, BJP, VHP, Bajang Dal and Shiv Sena. However, they all work together under the philosophy of Hindutva (i.e. Hindu-ness) and are rabidly anti-minority in their stance. They appear to need an ‘enemy’ in the form of a religious minority to unite Hindus and consolidate their support. This study is important because RSS is too politically significant to be ignored. Since the BJP (BhartiyaJanta Party) came to power in May 2014, its ministers and senior party leaders have been coming out in support of Hindutva. Attacks against Muslims have risen sharply. Cultural issues such as cow slaughter and the building of the Ram temple at Ayodhya have been raised again by the RSS as a means of dividing communities and keeping Muslims in a state of constant fear and insecurity. This study argues that the failure of India’s economic development to remove socio-economic constraints leading to slow and uneven development has intensified rivalry between castes and religious communities. Under such conditions, it became possible for extremist Hindu organisations to target people on the basis of religion.

Keywords. India, Hindus, Muslims, RSS, BJP, Hindutva, Communalism, and Violence.

JEL. N30, N35, N40.


India; Hindus; Muslims; RSS; BJP; Hindutva; Communalism, and Violence.

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