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Event Series Event Series: Asia in Review Election Monitor 2024

Hindutva Rising: Political Hinduism and its Impact on India’s Future

May 20 from 15:00 - 16:30 BMT

Asia in Review Event Series on Elections in 2024

May 20, 2024, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. (GMT+7), online via Zoom video teleconferencing

organized in collaboration with the Asian Governance Foundation

Synopsis

India´s ongoing election is shedding light to a political transformation of the subcontinent that sees a rampant shift towards political Hinduism over the last decade, that will receive another boost with the likely election victory of incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose ideology is centered around Hindutva a religiously and culturally underpinned political ideology emphasizing India as a Hindu nation, based on the historical and cultural dominance of Hindu civilization on the Indian subcontinent.

The ongoing rise of Hindutva is so significant as it is deeply intertwined with the political project of BJP under Prime Minister Modi´s leadership shaping the very fabric of India´s political, social, legal, and constitutional structure.

The webinar seeks to provide a basic understanding of Hindutva as BJP´s ideology and its multifaceted current and prospective impact on India.

Background

In January of this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over the inauguration of the Ram Mandir, a grand new temple dedicated to Ram, one of Hinduism’s revered deities. Situated in Ayodhya, a city believed by many Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, the temple’s opening ceremony held significant symbolic importance. 

However, erected at the location where a 16th-century mosque was demolished in 1992 by Hindu extremists, the temple’s unveiling went beyond mere religious symbolism. Coming ahead of general elections, currently ongoing until June 1, the event served as an unofficial launch of Prime Minister Modi’s campaign for a third term in office. As 2024 commenced, Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), historically associated with Hindu nationalism, endeavored to portray prime minister Modi as a “Hindu Hriday Samrat,” or a “monarch of Hindu hearts,” emphasizing his commitment to fulfilling promises – given that the construction of the temple had been a central part of the BJP’s political agenda since the 1980s. 

As such, the temple’s inauguration was the exclamation point in a series of milestones that illustrated the symbiotic relationship between Modi, the BJP, and India’s Hindu nationalist movement, intricately linked to the ideology of Hindutva – a framework within which ‘Hindu-ness’ is not determined by religious affiliation but by nationality, culture, and race – whether one’s ancestors, even very distantly, originated from the Indian subcontinent. 

Modi has been an advocate of Hindutva throughout his political career – he played various roles within the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist that advocates for the concept of Hindutva – before entering mainstream politics. Before leading the BJP to its first-ever parliamentary majority in 2014, Modi was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat (2001–14), with a reputation for taking hardline positions towards the region’s Muslims.  

After the BJP’s 2019 landslide victory, critics wondered whether Modi would double down on the Hindu nationalism and illiberalism that characterized his first term in office, or rein it in. Over the course of the subsequent five years, it has become evident that the former has been embraced. This period has witnessed significant developments, including the enactment of amendments to the national citizenship law, perceived as discriminatory against Muslims; the revocation of autonomy provisions previously granted to Jammu and Kashmir, India’s lone Muslim-majority state (excluding the small Lakshadweep islands); incidents of vigilante violence targeting Muslims involved in the sale or consumption of beef, a practice banned in much of India; and the implementation of regulations complicating marriages between Hindus and Muslims. 

Formally, India maintains its status as a secular state and a diverse democracy. Religious minorities constitute approximately 20 percent of the nation’s vast population of 1.4 billion, encompassing around 200 million Muslims and 28 million Christians. However, the rising tide of Hindu nationalism throughout Prime Minister Modi’s ten-year tenure has arguably eroded the traditional constraints governing Indian politics, fostering a culture where the pursuit of the Hindu nationalist agenda takes precedence over established norms of moderation. This shift towards an “ends justify the means” approach has left many members of the country’s religious minorities, as well as secular-minded individuals within the Hindu majority, concerned about the irreversible damage inflicted upon India’s secular and inclusive principles. 

Against this backdrop, the seminar seeks to illuminate the historical context, the trajectory of Modi’s political career, and the key policy measures implemented during his tenure to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the forces shaping the nation’s future trajectory.

Speakers (in alphabetical order)

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, an international security and geopolitics analyst, currently serves as the Executive Director of the South Asia Foresight Network (SAFN) based in Washington D.C., United States, under the Millennium Project. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Millennium Project and Technical Advisor to the International Monetary Fund.

With nearly two decades of advisory experience in the government sector and roles in foreign policy and defense think tanks, Asanga has held prominent positions such as Founding Director General of the National Security Think Tank, the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSS), and Executive Director at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI).

He also serves as a senior advisor to China’s OSS (Overseas Safety and Security) International Collaboration Center at Zhejiang University and holds positions as a Senior Research Fellow at NIICE in Nepal and the German-Southeast Asian Centre of Excellence for Public Policy & Good Governance (CPG) in Thailand.

 

Dr. Mohammad Faheem

Dr. Mohammad Faheem is an Assistant Professor in Indian Studies, at Pridi Banomyong International College, Thammasat University, Thailand. He holds Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Geography from Aligarh Muslim University, India. Dr. Faheem’s research areas include India’s relations with ASEAN, Diaspora Diplomacy, Social and Economic Demography, Global Geopolitics and Geoeconomics, Geography of Tourism, and Regional Geography. He used to work as a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University. He has also taught as a guest lecturer at Srinakhrinwirot University and Bangkok Thonburi University. He has published several articles in internationally referred journals and presented papers at conferences and seminars. Dr. Faheem served as a resource person in numerous conferences. He has also published book chapters in reputed publishers. He has two edited books on India-ASEAN Engagements: Economic and Social Dimensions published by New Century Publications and Evolving Narratives in Humanities and Management published by New Delhi Publishers. He has given his opinions and interviews on India in Thai newspapers and magazines. He is also a member of the Thailand and Malaysia Think Tank Scholars Network and Scholars Network for Peace. He used to be an International Advisor for FICCI Global Youth Entrepreneurship and Industry Connect (GYEIC).

Moderator

Lucas Meier

Senior Program Officer & Asia in Review South Asia Regional Editor, CPG

Agenda

Post-Event

Many thanks to Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Executive Director (South Asian Foresight Network) and Senior Fellow at The Millennium Project, United States; CPG Senior Research Fellow, and Dr. Mohammad Faheem, Assistant Professor and Head of the Indian Studies Program at PBIC International College, Thammasat University, Thailand, for their invaluable insights at today’s online panel discussion titled “Hindutva Rising: Political Hinduism and its Impact on India’s Future,” hosted by CPG in cooperation with the Asia Governance Foundation (AGF).

Their excellent discussion provided a great basis for a highly informative and interesting event.

Also, a big thank you to our participants for their active engagement, questions, and input during the open forum session. Among them, we were delighted to welcome AGF Advisory Board Member and former Commander of the Thai Border Patrol Police, Pol. Lt-Gen. Suthin Khiewratana, as well as all AiR and EiR contributors and distinguished guests.

The event is part of the Asia in Review event series on elections in 2024.

Stay tuned for more CPG events.

Contact Information

Contact Mr. Lucas Meier at lucas.meier@cpg-online.de for program content.

Contact Ms. Venus Phuangkom at events@cpg-online.de for administrative matters.

Details

Date:
May 20
Time:
15:00 - 16:30 BMT
Series:
Event Category:

Organizer

CPG

Other

Event Type
Panel Discussion / Roundtable
Location
Online
Registration
Required