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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Has Hindu nationalism united or divided modern India?

Perhaps the biggest change in India's political landscape in recent years has been the rise to power of Hindu nationalist parties.

South Asia
Their opponents say the secular fabric of Indian democracy is being stretched to its limit. The Government is facing criticism for failing to control the activities of hardline Hindu groups like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Have these organisations become a liability for the Government and the nation? Are they posing a law and order problem? Or are they the genuine voice of India?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

As long as religion is used to batter people into political submission, the poor and uneducated masses will remain in their shackles

Jim Mather, USA
I lived for Pakistan for 5 years and have grown to love the peoples of South Asia as a whole. As long as religion is used to batter people into political submission, the poor and uneducated masses will remain in their shackles. True religion cares for the poor and acts as the servant of a God who needs no defenders with knives, guns and hatred. God is love.
Jim Mather, USA

The rise of Hindu nationalism in a country with a very significant number of minorities (the numbers are even larger than the whole population of some large countries around the world) only means that India, for a very long time to come, will be embroiled in yet another crisis like the many it faces now. This will impede the positive growth and development of its existing shaky economy. Fanaticism and the chaos it brings, whether in India or across the border, is not healthy for the growth and prosperity of any of these poor nations.
Syed Shaukat, USA/ Pakistan

In a democratic system, there is only one real criterion that needs be used to evaluate a political movement: does it infringe on the rights and liberties of other people within the democratic society? If it does, then it has transgressed beyond what a democracy should allow. In a democracy, the people have a right to choose their way of life. But the majority must always provide constitutional guarantees that the minority will not be trampled. Let Hindus in India choose their way of life freely. But if they were to impose it upon any other groups, then they would clearly be in the wrong. The concept of liberty must always come hand in hand with responsibility, but most importantly, justice. Let no-one's freedom become someone else's torment.
Samy El Semman, Egypt

This is to all those who feel "threatened" and warn of civil war. India was divided into a Hindu homeland and a Muslim homeland. If you feel threatened, as the Hindus in present day Pakistan did, do what they did - leave. There will be no civil war - only the establishment of a Hindu-Sikh nation, as it was meant to be.
Navin, India

So many Muslims are lecturing Indians on how to be secular. How many constitutions and laws of Muslim-majority countries in this world compare to the secular Indian constitution which was democratically voted for and has been upheld by the Hindu majority for the past 53 years.
Tushar Gupta, Canada/ India

Coming from a very religious Muslim family in Bombay, I must say that India has a big advantage due to its diverse religious composition

Hashim Effendi, India
Coming from a very religious Muslim family in Bombay, I must say that India has a big advantage due to its diverse religious composition. It is what makes our society strong. Nationalism and religion shouldn't be considered together, at least not in India where secularism, though imperfectly defined, is nevertheless practised by law. As an Indian, I treat Hinduism as a way of life, not a religion, hence the actions of a few fundamentalists (whether Hindu or other) doesn't make India more cohesive nationally.
Hashim Effendi, India

Hindu nationalism is a positive and patriotic force that instils a sense of nationalism in all Indians.
Manish, India

If India and Pakistan plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust, Britain will be the one to blame. The legacy they have left every country they have been forced out of, is the division of a united people - Ireland, Fiji, Sri Lanka and India.
Julio Faura, Peru

For the first time in over 50 years, we have a working government but anti-India people want to destabilise it with all this false propaganda. I am not advocating violence but India is the only country where the majority is the victim of the minority.
Pradeep, USA

India is similar to Europe with several cultures and ways of life held together by a single constitution. Hindus and other minorities identify themselves first with the region they come from. Religion always comes second. Compared to today's polarised societies, Hindu nationalism, as a movement, is in its infancy and will always remain a regional movement.
Rajiv, USA/India

I visualise the break-up of India along ethnic lines rather than religious

Rahul Rao, India/ USA
Why blame Hindus and Muslims, when Tamils, Assamese, Kashmiris and many others want an independent state? I visualise the break-up of India along ethnic lines rather than religious.
Rahul Rao, India/ USA

Hinduism is nothing to do with nationalism in India. It divides people in the name of caste. The developments in India are a result of Western science, free education and above all the secular fabric of Indian society.
Raj, UK

As India is a democratic nation, there will be policy changes as and when the government changes. Religious organisations should be kept under the tight watchful eye of government
Vidhyanand, India

Looking at it from an Indian Muslim's perspective, these fundamentalist Hindu groups are a threat to our (Muslims') existence. No-one lives under threat for too long - this could lead to civil war.
Amjad Ali-Khan, USA/ India

Hindu nationalism has risen due to successive Indian governments giving too many concessions to Indian Moslems in order to win their votes at elections. Even Pakistan does not allow them some of the privileges they receive in India, such as the right to have four wives and no entitlement to pay maintenance after divorce.
Sanjay Khosla, UK

In school, we studied India's special feature as "Unity in Diversity". However, in real life, it's very sad to see that there is no unity but disharmony.
Mohamed Ismail, Dubai

The only thing that has ever divided modern India is British colonialism

Amal de Silva, Sri Lanka
The only thing that has ever divided modern India is British colonialism. Unlike English nationalism, Hindu nationalism can be benign, not divisive. Unlike Christian fundamentalism, Hinduism is not a vehicle for colonialism and exploitation.
Amal de Silva, Sri Lanka

Let the people who talk about "Hindu Nationalism" first speak about "Hindus". Do they even know what HINDU means? There is NOTHING wrong in loving one's country more than oneself.
Duncan Idaho, India

I think that Hindu nationalists have time and again shattered India's image as a country tolerant to all religions. The major issue is that these religious tensions are created by political leaders to get votes from people and keep the people busy with some or other kind of religious issues. The only people to gain from all this are the politicians.
Nbai Dhanoya, Canada

India is an extremely secular and diverse country. Only a few rotten apples (regardless of their religion) spoil the integrity of the country. Unfortunately one and all magnify these apples! It is time this negative publicity stopped. India as a country will move forward if people look beyond communal problems and focus more on our cultural wealth.
Nikhil Menon, India/ USA

I think the rise of Hindu nationalist parties is good not only for the Hindu community, but for the nation too. In the present day circumstances where you and your nation are threatened by the rise of terrorist organisations around the world in the name of Jihad, there's nothing wrong in supporting the rise of Hindu nationalist parties and the so-called hard line or militant Hindu organisations. Everyone should realise that India is a multi-cultural and multi-ethical country and nobody can change it. But when some people are not satisfied with this and want to break the country up on the basis of religion by resorting to militant activities, even Hindus can fight for the national integrity and Hindu religion.
Ram, USA

Contrary to popular belief, India was never a united country

Ahmed, Canada
Contrary to popular belief, India was never a united country. Even during the British days, it had 516 different rajas and nawabs, some with their own armies and currencies. Due to the Hindu nationalism in vogue nowadays, the country called India is destined to become a collection of regions, with free movement of goods and services, the way it used to be. The country is too diverse with too many interest groups to stay united.
Ahmed, Canada

I think India cannot be India without its religions. National pride is not identifying each other by the religion we practice. If India is to foster in the new century, it will have to pull together and advance in technology and humanity.
Maulin Mehta, USA

I think these Hindu nationalists should realise the importance of secular India and should not repeat the same mistakes which led to Pakistan.
Saad Satti, Pakistan

Hindu nationalism is destroying what is left of this beautiful country

Sonali, India
All my school life I have read about this wonderfully diverse yet united country and then I grow up. Guess what? They feed us utter nonsense in school. There is no unity, no great love for the motherland. Hindu nationalism is destroying what is left of this beautiful country. In a country that can boast of a hundred different cultures, languages and religions, mixing religion and politics just does not work.
Sonali, India

Hindu nationalism has been increasing steadily, but during the last few years it has growing at an alarming rate. Minorities like Sikhs, Christians and Muslims do not feel safe and are being killed by Hindu fundamentalists who are aligned with the present political party running the Indian government. It is sad that the two-nation theory is now becoming true, but now it is becoming a four-nation theory, namely one for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Muslims.
A.D. Keen, USA

Hindu nationalism is a necessity for the Hindu population in India today. For centuries, Hindus and Sikhs have lived together in peace with other religious groups. Yes, India does belong to all of us, but there is great injustice towards Hindus and Sikhs today. It is okay for Christians to convert tribal people to Christianity, it is okay for Muslims to open a religious school and turn kids into fanatics, but it is not okay for Hindus and Sikhs to talk about their religion and unite their people. This is an injustice, which has to be corrected, and it will be.
Shiv Singh, USA/ India

India is a secular country and wishes to pursue democracy and good relations with both the West and the East

Rahul Mahajan, UK
I believe that what we should be discussing is Indian nationalism, not Hindu nationalism. Bear in mind that there are many patriotic Indian Sikhs and Muslims who have put their lives on the line in the defence of India against state-sponsored cross-border terrorism. Moreover, the architect of India's nuclear capability is a Muslim scientist. India is a secular country and wishes to pursue democracy and good relations with both the West and the East. The people currently running India are achieving fantastic success. They are not Hindu nationalists, they are Indian nationalists.
Rahul Mahajan, UK

India/ Indians is/ are a secular country. If it were not, then the majority Hindus would drive out the Muslims to Pakistan and Bangladesh. Instead we have had millions of Muslim refugees pouring in from Bangladesh. The rise of Hindu nationalism stems from the spread of the Islamic fundamentalist influence in the region. From Kashmir to Hyderabad and Calcutta, the combination of drug and oil money, with no democratically elected government, has created an environment of rough Islamic governments around India. Hindus have for centuries been a non-expansive religion, unlike Islam and Christianity.
Shailesh, India

What is all the talk about Hindu fundamentalism? Hindus have been oppressed and persecuted for thousands of years by outsiders. Even the Muslims within India do not want to live peacefully with Hindus. Muslims and Christians are the fundamentalists, not Hindus.
Subash Gurung, CA/ USA

All Indians should realise that their roots lie in HINDUISM and no one should denigrate any religion as is done by some preachers of religion but they should mobilise their energies to unite the country
Ushadatta, India

The problem with India is that it continues to keep religion and the state intertwined. In a country that has many religions, the government must realise that religion and the state has to be separate. Mixing the two has never worked and never will.
Reena, USA

India is a diverse nation. United we stand, divided we fall. The so-called Hindu fanatic groups do not in general represent Hindus in India. They are pretending to be so. A normal Hindu lives peacefully with Muslims, sends his/her children to institutions run by Christians even today. Any attempt to change the secular structure of India will be detrimental to peaceful coexistence.
Andrew, USA

Any sort of extremism, fascism or fundamentalism is not good for any country let alone a diverse cultural entity like India

C George, India
Any sort of extremism, fascism or fundamentalism is not good for any country let alone a diverse cultural entity like India. History has proved that over and over. Citizens should be allowed to live fearless in any free country. Fanaticism which turns to the extent of killing and looting their own country men because they hold and teach a different faith is neither Hinduism nor Nationalism.
Those who instigate and implement such acts do not truly represent a very precious culture that has evolved over thousands of years. That's religious intolerance which is vertically opposite to the Real spirit of Hinduism. Politicians have found it an easy way to get to power by supporting such anti social elements
C George, India

It is very rich of Pakistanis to turn around and say that India should be secular and treat all minorities equally. Although I agree with the secular ideal in principle, it is difficult to sell it wholly when an antagonistic, hardline Muslim state was carved out of your nation solely on the basis of religion. It is hardly surprising that fundamentalist elements on both sides have grown.
Peter Muthuswamy, UK

Give them a chance, they are the most popular government since Congress

Rahul Dhir, United Kingdom
Indian Government is leading the nation by the law. Atrocities against minorities are still at the same level but only the concern for them is heightened since this government has come to power, hence incidents are reported more frequently now. This is good news because now this government will bring these atrocities to an end in order to improve its image. Give them a chance, they are the most popular government since Congress.
Rahul Dhir, United Kingdom

Like any other extremist groups, the Hindu nationalists also believe in their supremacy over people of other faiths. This in turn refuels the supremo-feeling of other sects and so forth. In my opinion, this same philosophy has been nurtured and 'flourished' among the Nazi Germany, and we are all too aware of the outcome.
Hopefully, as pointed out by Haru of USA, the present young generation are really indifferent to these doctrines. The unfortunate part is, are these young and educated Indians have 'full' control of the politics? My answer to that is NO.
Reazul Hasan, UK

Illiteracy and mis-communication worsened by poverty are the root of present problems in India

M D Jhaveri, UK
I am an Indian citizen studying in UK. I think Hindu nationalism has united India because Hinduism is most tolerant to other religions and culture than any other religion or culture. History shows that Hindus accepted Moghuls, Zoarastrians ('parsis'), Portuguese, French, Italians and lastly English. Still India is secular and all minorities have equal rights and in fact there are special provisions made for minorities to thrive.
The present government though blamed to be pro-Hindu, has given a political and economic stability and protected its borders from intruders without being impulsive and thus preventing literal war (Kargil incident). Hinduism has generated great people like Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vevakanand. Therefore, it is not wise to equate Hinduism with politics. Illiteracy and mis-communication worsened by poverty are the root of present problems in India.
M D Jhaveri, UK

The rise of nationalism will lead to the break up of the Indian Union. Indians must realise that their union is not based on one single ideology of Hinduism. Its power lies in its many different ideologies based around a set of common South Asian values.
Tariq Ullah, UK

A lot of Hindus say that in Pakistan there is no equality for non-Muslims, strange that they allow Hindu Nationalists to come to power. Do they not realise that these Nationalists will do the same to non-Hindus in India? Then we will have two fundamentalist nations of different religions against each other which could lead to a great religious war in the subcontinent.
Ali Chaudrey, United States

Nationalism has always strengthened the country. India is the only one big country of Hindus, why can't they be proud of them? Fighting in the name of Islam is not bad, spreading Christianity is not bad, then why Hinduism? Hinduism is not against any religion, then if now we feel its' greatness, a great contribution comes by these nationalist groups.

The basic tenets of the Hindu religion - tolerance and respect, have been misinterpreted and manipulated

Ruchi Bhanot, India/ USA
The current state of political and social conditions in India is a gross example of how uneducated and unemployed individuals have been misled by politicians claiming to be the defenders of Hinduism. The basic tenets of the Hindu religion - tolerance and respect, have been misinterpreted and manipulated by individuals to maximize their economic and political power, by propagating violence against humans and nature.
Ruchi Bhanot, India/ USA

How can Hindu nationalism possibly be a uniting force in a country with large Muslim and Sikh minorities?
Gareth Wilson, UK

Hindu nationalism never existed in India - it cannot exist now. History has shown how the land is made to live in diversity. The majority Hindu population provides the warmth, and base for people of various faiths to grow. If we talk about nationalism, we cannot talk about Hinduism, and if we talk about Hinduism, we cannot talk about nationalism
Chanchal Chakraborty, India

Growing up in an orthodox Muslim family, I have observed the nonsense and useless religious rhetoric in and around me. I am just forty and do not feel embarrassed to say that I have seen more cruelty than good carried out in the name of religion in and around the Indian sub-continent. Religion on its own is probably not bad if one does not use it in politics. What one needs in this century is openness and accountability. NOT cliché and hatred.
Reazul Hasan, UK

It is the 21st century, we need to let go of petty difference and live and let live together

Farida, Pakistan
India is Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Tamils and what not living together. That is the way it should be, people living together in spite of different cultures and faiths. I hope that Indians realise they always have been an exemplary nation when it comes to tolerance and they should keep it up. It is the 21st century, we need to let go of petty differences and live together.
Farida, Pakistan

It is a myth that India is a secular country. The most serious incidents against minorities have occurred under so-called secular Congress governments. These being the pograms against Sikhs in 1984, the attack on the Golden Temple, The demolition of the Muslims Babri Masjid to name a few. Today's Hindu nationalists are just a continuation of what has happened before. The answer to the problem is to let minority groups have their own independent lands where they can live without fear.
Gurdip Singh Dhillon, USA

In my opinion the activities of these hard-line Hindu groups are very essential to counter and check the constant threat to national security posed by Muslim fundamentalists who are waging an "unholy" war against secular India in the name of religion.
Ajit Balakrishnan, Canada

The stance the Indian Government is taking is very disgraceful and the world as a whole should stop what is happening. Hindu nationalists are as extreme, if not more so than Nazi Germany before WW2. For many years Muslims were being persecuted, then the Christians. Who will be next? The Sikhs? When will it stop?
Maaz Gazdar, UK

Hindu nationalism is an insidious entity indeed. However, unless foreign Islamic powers precipitate some horror that polarises the Hindus of India, I do not believe the Hindu Nationalism can do any more damage. That it exists is sad but inevitable. However, it will grow no further. The vast majority of Indian Hindus are not driven by religion, and value peace and harmony more than a Ram Rajya. Besides, India's exploding technology industry is shifting the political and economic power base from religious zealots to educated youth, who, on average, don't care much about the religious structure of the country.
Haru, USA

With about 140 million Muslims in India, it's not going to be so easy to establish a complete Hindu identity. These hardline Hindu groups don't want to see another Pakistan, that's for sure. Although their tactics to undermine the minorities might have improved, it's almost impossible. Muslims, the biggest minority in India have lived there for about 900 years. Regardless of who came to power in recent years, the land belongs to its minorities, as much as it does to Hindus. The true identity of India is secular, and nothing else. These fundamentalist organisations can only deteriorate India's image and culture.
Amjad Ali-Khan, USA/India

Hindu nationalism is not good for India simply because India is not just one country but it is a collection of many countries. Spread through these countries are many nations, religions, and races, members of which often transcend the traditional regional boundaries.
The rise of one nation over the others will alienate the smaller nations. If India wishes to be one country, as the Hindu nationalists aspire, then it must be secular and democratic and not just Hindu. Being Indian is not always being Hindu and being Hindu does not make you an Indian.
Alvipervaiz, USA

It seems India is heading towards two nation theory which created Pakistan 53 years ago and Indians never accepted this theory, instead blamed UK for creating Pakistan to divide and rule. Only this time it's not two nation theory but seven nation theory.
With this nationalism there will be nationalism of Sikhs, Muslims in Kashmir, Christians and so on. I hope if it can will stay secular and protect all religions.
Anis Aqeel, USA

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