The Institutional Composition of Hindutva

The Hindutva forces in India is not a monolithic institutional structure. In other words, Hindutva is not embodied only by the most visible aspect - the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP - Indian people Party) but by an entire set of institutional arrangements and structures which all function together, in a reasonably coherent fashion to produce the ideological and material structures of the fascist complex. For any student of Hindutva therefore, it is important that they know the different organizations, its origins and its role. Outlined below is a brief description of each component part of the Hindutva complex - what in India is popularly referred to as the Sangh Parivar.

The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh Family) is constituted by:

Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh(RSS) - National Volunteers Association:
The RSS was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hegdewar is the ideological fountainhead of the modern Hindutva movement. Organized around the concept of Shakas, a local cell formation where young men would gather for physical and ideological training, under the tutelage of a brother or dada, the RSS ideology as espousing the national cause was articulated over the next decade or more. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who was anointed head of the RSS shortly before his death by Hegdewar, clarified the idea of the nation in his treatise "We, or Our Nationhood Defined":

We belive that our notions today about the Nation are erroneous... It is but proper therefore, at this stage, to understand what the Western Scholars state as the Universal Nation idea and correct ourselves (p. 21).

Based on a racial idea of Nation Golwalkar in praise of Hitler says:

To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic Races - the Jews... Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by (p. 35).

The above two quotes are only samples of what is a very clearly articulated twin pronged ideology of exclusion (of other races/religions) and supremacy (of Hindus). The RSS, cell like Shaka formation and the discipline inculcated within are central to its success as a fascist force. The RSS cultural and ideological work has not stayed within the boundaries of India. In the 1980's the RSS itself broached out. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), an organization modeled along RSS lines emerged in the US in the 1980's, openly claiming allegiance to the founding principles of the RSS.

Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) - Indian Peoples party:
This is Hindutva's parliamentary front which constantly makes efforts to breach the secular formation through parliamentary actions - elections, pushing for legislations of various kinds, making visible the ideology in limited and constitutional ways within mainstream political discourse. The BJP came into existence after the collapse of the Janata Party which came to power after Mrs. Gandhi's Emergency in 1979. The erstwhile Hindu parliamentary party - the Jan Sangh - had merged itself into the Janata Party in the wake of Emergency. However to call it a parliamentary party is to ignore its actual working. The party top leadership with few exceptions are all RSS cadre. The party participates in joint meetings with RSS leadership often. The election campaigns of the party are often significantly shaped and helped by RSS cadres of the local region campaigning for the party's candidate. In short, in more than one ways the relation between BJP and other Hindutva organizations is quite clearly visible.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - World Hindu Council:
The VHP was founded on August 29, 1964 in Bombay with the clear aim of being the activist wing, that would undertake aggressive actions in civil society as a whole. The first general secretary of the VHP made its goals clear as follows:

It is therefore necessary in this age of competition and conflict to think of. and organise, the Hindu world to save itself from the evil eyes of all three {all three being Christianity, Islam and Communism).
(From the Organiser, Diwali Special, 1964.)

The VHP has gone on to do just that - spread out as a extra-parliamentary force throughout not just India, but the world. Its primary functions in India are to mobilize forces for agitational and violent purposes. It took part in the Cow Protection Movement though out the 60's and the 70's. The entire Babri Masjid movement was orchestrated by the VHP - steadfastly refusing to enter into any negotiation, rejecting the right of the judicial system in adjudicating on the issue and mobilizing often violent events with the clear intent of polarizing society and creating a political movement within public discourse of Hindutva - the Rath Yatras of the 1980's and the final demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 were orchestrated by the VHP in association with its "youth wing" the Bajrang Dal. Again the strategy of the Hindutva combine as a whole is palpably apparent here. BJP leaders for instance would participate in VHP sponsored events, but when the results of such events came out - such as violence and killings - the BJP would conveniently distance itself temporarily from the VHP.

On the international front, the VHP's success lies in mobilizing migrant Hindus, especially the middle class and lower middle class. The VHP of America and its student wing the Hindu Student Council (which is present on many US and Canadian campuses) is the most obvious example of its international mobilization. The VHP of America and HSC's for instance conducted the the World Vision 2000 conference in Washington D.C in 1993, which became a rallying point for overseas Hindus and a ground for further recruitment in the wake of what many commentators called a "celebration" over the destruction of the mosque in India. The VHP of America and UK primary success can be seen if not in any other way in terms of financial clout - as it is the primary mode of channeling dollars and pounds into Hindutva politics back in India.

In addition to the organizations mentioned above (RSS, BJP, VHP, VHP of America/Europe, HSC, HSS, BD) other formations such as Shiv Sena are part of the Hindutva complex, except that they have been more recently integrated into the family and thus a certain distinct identity still holds.


  1. Basu T. et al (1993) Kakhi Shorts, Saffron Flags, Orient Longman, N. Delhi.
  2. Andersen W. and S.D. Damle (1987) The Brotherhood in Saffron: The RSS and Hindu Revivalism Vistaar, N. Delhi.
  3. Gopal S. (1990)" Anatomy of a Confrontation: The Babri Masjid RJB Issue",Viking, N. Delhi.
  4. Pandey, G. (1993) (ed.) "Hindus and Others: The Question of Identity in India Today" ,Viking, N. Delhi.
  5. Nandy A. et al (1995) Creating a Nationality: The RJB Movement and the Fear of the self , OUP, N. Delhi.
  6. Thapar, R. (1985) "Syndicated Moksha", Seminar, Sept. 1985.
  7. Sanskriti - Two Special Issues on Communalism in India (will be available on this web site shortly).

This page is maintained by Biju Mathew

Back to Hindutva Page

home page