Bharat versus India Ideology Essay

Bharat versus India Ideology Essay

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“Bharat” and “India”

Two Ideas of an Independent Indian State

Hindu revivalism has been a part of Indian nationalism almost since the independence movement itself began. However, it has gone through many forms and been embodied in many different organizations, often being ignored in the forum of Indian politics. However, the victory of the Hindu revivalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the elections since 1998 has forced many scholars to reconsider the history of such movements, to analyze the forms they have taken throughout the 20th century. This constant reshaping has allowed organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to survive for decades, though with greater or lesser influence in different periods.

Since Independence, it may be better to speak of a “Bharatiya” movement, rather than a Hindu revivalist or fundamentalist movement. Discussing the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the first incarnation of the later Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party), founded in 1951, Hansen says:

one of the most significant changes in relation to Golwalkar’s [a leader of the RSS] writings was the use of the term ‘Bharatiya’, which Richard Fox has aptly translated ‘Hindian’, a mixture of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’ (Fox 1990: 64). The use of the term ‘Bharatiya’ thus signified an adaptation to the political realities of official secularism, which had made explicit references to ‘Hindu’ impossible and illegitimate outside the religious field. (Hansen, 85)

Thus, almost since the founding of the RSS, it has stood for a complex mixture of religious and secularist ideas. This mixture has carried on to its affiliates, such as the BJP. “BJP leaders, among them Advani, publicly announced that they were irreligious and never went to ...

... middle of paper ...

...ining their political strength. Instead of phrasing their position as a religious one, it has been displayed as a national and social one, allowing them to keep their traditional base of support, while gaining educated and middle-class voters with right-wing leanings.


Andersen, Walter K. and Damle, Shridhar D. “The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism”. Westview Press, Boulder, 1987.

Corbridge, Stuart and Harriss, John. “Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy”. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000.

Engineer, Asghar Ali. “Lifting the Veil: Communal Violence and Communal Harmony in Contemporary India”. Sangam Books, Bombay, 1995.

Hansen, Thomas Blom. “The Saffron Wafe: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India”. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1999.

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