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The RSS and Hindu Militancy in the 1980's

This document is part of the Festschrift in Honor of Charles Speel, edited by Thomas J. Sienkewicz and James E. Betts and published by Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois in 1997. The Table of Contents for this volume can be accessed here. If you have any questions, you may contact Tom Sienkewicz at toms@monm.edu.

 

Douglas Spitz, Sr.

Introduction

Well into the 1970's the dominant academic theories in the West, whether capitalist or Marxist, equated modernity with the secularization of political, social and economic life. Most of these theories assumed that the dynamics of modernization entailed the creation of a secular assimilative nation-state polity in which the basic identity of all citizens would be a shared sense of nationality. In such a modern rationalized polity, it was thought, religion would be relegated to the private voluntary sphere of life, and parochial ethnic identities would become increasingly unimportant as they were supplanted by citizens' sense of common nationality.

These theories which equated political modernity with the nationally homogenous secular state have been rudely jolted in recent years. For surely one of the more notable developments of the past decade has been the virtual explosion of politicized cultural pluralities based on differences of religion and ethnicity. The popular media daily attests to the frequently virulent character of these movements, most notably in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and various "third world" countries. At a more scholarly level, Crawford Young (1993:1), in noting the saliency of these movements, observes that ". . . a transforming relationship between cultural pluralism and the nation-state is a central drama of our times."

In few areas of the world has this drama been played out with such intensity and over so long a period as in India, with its rich endowment of pluralities based on religion, language, region and caste. Of these pluralities, those rooted in religion have been the most difficult to resolve. The Hindu-Muslim polarization that led to the traumatic partition of 1947, as well as the festering Sikh and Kashmiri separatist movements, and the escalating Hindu-Muslim communal tensions of the past decade, suggest that the management of antagonistic religious pluralities has posed the most intractable challenge to Indian leaders' efforts to maintain a nationally integrated polity.

Under Jawaharlal Nehru and his Congress Party successors the western-derived concept of a secular assimilative nation-state was officially adopted as India's path to political modernity and a national integration that would accommodate and transcend India's religious pluralities. According to this model a modern Indian nation-state in which all Indian would share as their primary political identity a common sense of Indianness, and in which one's religious identity and activities would be relegated to the private voluntary sphere and as such protected by the secular state, was the hoped-for ideal.

The Nehruvian assumption that secularization is an essential component of political modernization has been widely shared in western academic circles. For example, Donald Smith argued in 1963 that, "the forces of westernization and modernization at work in India are all on the side of the secular state" (Smith 1963:45).1 And Paul Brass in 1990 asserted that the secular state ideology has become entrenched in India (Brass 1990:169-170; 202-203).

The present writer finds more plausible the view that the Nehruvian vision, inspired as it was by western-derived concepts of secularism and science, has never been the faith of more than a small English-educated elite, and that the vast majority of Indians continue to define their primary identity in terms of religion, caste, and ethnicity (see Madan 1987). Moreover, it is plausible to suggest that the past decade has witnessed a precipitous decline of faith in the Nehruvian vision of a secular polity. It is in the context of this waning faith in the Nehruvian ideal and of the growing politicization of India's cultural pluralities that the revival of Hindu consciousness and militancy must be viewed. This revival has been spearheaded by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates--the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Akhil-Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP--a student organization), the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS--a labor organization), and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

 

RSS Ideology

Like the Nehruvian-Congress ideology, that of the RSS and its affiliates maintains that an assimilative nation-state model is the path to India's political modernity. However, it profoundly opposes the Nehruvian view that this can be achieved by copying what RSS thinkers see as an alien western model of a secular state. As the present writer has stated elsewhere (Spitz 1993:253), RSS thinkers assert that the Congress-Nehruvian vision falsely conceives of India as a "composite nation"--a patchwork of pluralities having no internal moral unity.5 As a consequence, so runs their argument, Congress, as well as other secularist parties, gives Muslims and Christians special privileges which entrench them in their un-Indian cultures and prevent their integration into the mainstream of national life. In the name of the false "pseudo-secular" concepts, Congress politicians build up minority vote banks by exploiting religious and caste rivalries. In short, RSS thinkers maintain, Congress and all the secularist parties, in the name of their fundamentally false and alien concept of a secular, composite state, have a stake in preventing true national integration by perpetuating "minorityism" for electoral advantage and in effect discriminating against the Hindu majority as if it were the minority.

According to RSS ideology Hindu nationalism provides the antidote to false Nehruvian secularism. RSS thinkers maintain that Hindu (Bharatiya) culture is the only indigenous culture of India, and that India cannot be nationally integrated until all Indians share this culture and recognize it as the foundation of their collective national identity. They assert that to achieve this goal of national integration based on a shared Bharatiya culture, two basic conditions must be met. First, Hindus must transcend their divisions of caste, sect, class, region and language, and realize that they form a mighty organic Hindu nation. Secondly, non-Hindus, particularly Muslims and Christians whose religious and cultural inspiration originated in foreign lands, must adopt as theirs Hindu culture and its historical heroes. Only by merging into the national Bharatiya cultural mainstream can Muslims and Christians become truly patriotic Indians. In matters purely religious, assert RSS thinkers, non-Hindus can worship the Divine in any way they choose, but culturally they must be Hinduized. In the view of the RSS and its affiliates, a Hindu state would be a truly secular state because Hinduism is both non-theocratic and inherently tolerationist since it respects all religions as valid approaches to the Divine. And it would be a truly democratic state because it would reflect the majority's Hindu culture and do away with special "privileges" and legal codes for non-Hindus ("one nation, one law and equal rights for all").

 

RSS Organization

To implement this ideology, the RSS has since its beginning in 1925 developed an organization which sees its fundamental task as that of moulding a new type of Hindu man whose character will be modeled on the virtues of the past Hindu heroes. Such men will see themselves as cells of the vast Hindu nation, and will strive selflessly for its consolidation, social uplift, and defense against external and internal enemies. Their moral example and selfless activism will act as a leaven to regenerate all aspects of Hindu society and create an organically united Hindu nation.

The RSS organization sees itself as a hierarchical family. Its basic unit is the local shaka (branch). The shaka meets daily and consists of 50-100 members (swayamsevaks--volunteers). Although the typical shaka includes all age groups from young boys to men over forty, the majority of participants are usually 15-25 years of age. A shakameeting lasts for one hour, during which RSS ideology and values are inculcated by means of Sanskrit prayers of devotion to the Motherland (Bharat Mata), traditional Indian group games, traditional Hindu physical and martial arts drills, and group discussions of ideal moral qualities as well as ways to serve the Motherland. Participation in the highly-structured shaka meeting and its rituals has the character of an act of religious devotional service (bhakti) to holy, all nurturing Bharat Mata and the great Hindu family. Shaka participation also develops close personal bonds between swayamsevaks as well as ties of loyalty to RSS ideals and leaders. In accordance with the overriding concepts of Hindu brotherhood and unity, caste distinctions are not recognized in RSS activities, and the caste system as it is today is frowned upon as an institution whose inequities divide the Hindu community. While most RSS swayamsevaks are from the higher and middle castes, untouchables are encouraged to join.

The RSS organizational structure is hierarchical and centralized. At the apex of the pyramid is the Sarsangchalak (Supreme Guide), who is presumed to have "guru-like" charismatic powers. In public matters he speaks, usually after consultation with senior RSS members, for the whole organization. Central RSS headquarters are in Nagpur, Maharashtra, with regional, state, and local divisions reaching down to the shaka base. The key link is the structure and the core cadre of the RSS organization are the pracharaks (missionaries). Usually recruited in their twenties and unmarried, they are full-time workers who have undergone a rigorous selection process. Normally highly-educated, they live austerely and can be shifted around within the organization or loaned out to the various RSS-affiliated organizations. Within the RSS organization there is constant feedback between the lower and higher levels. State and all-India festivals and other public events regularly bring swayamsevaks and pracharaks from different localities together with upper leadership levels. This reinforces the feeling that the RSS is a great, all-Indian family.

Although the membership attrition rate is high, the RSS socializing methods seem to have a powerful formative effect on most who participate in the organization. Many outside observers, including some hostile to the RSS ideology, have been impressed by the disciplined efficiency of its organization and activities, the level of commitment it expects from its members, and its high degree of organizational cohesiveness. For example, one ardently-nationalist Roman Catholic apologist for the RSS praised it as:

Ye anti-communal, anti-secular, caste-creed-sex-free, steel-nerved, iron-willed, all-renouncing Patriots of New Bharat; . . . Ye members, friends and sympathizers of the RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH, the vanguard battalion for national Unity and Solidarity, the auto-charging dynamo of Power and Light, the well-knit, solid, disciplined, National Army in renascent and reflorescent Vedantic India; . . . (Elenjimittam 1951: in dedication).2

 

 

 

RSS Expansion and Possible Factors in Hindu Resurgence

Until the 1970s the social base of the RSS was mainly among the economically vulnerable and socially-insecure Hindu urban salaried middle classes and small businessmen of north and central India. Its labor and student affiliates provided a significant following among Hindu students and urban workers. Since the late 1970s it has attracted growing support among rural Hindus and in South India.

RSS membership has increased rapidly since 1975, when the number of its shakas was between 7500 and 8500. By 1985 there were approximately 20,000 shakas, and in 1993 India Today estimated the number at 30,000.3 The most rapid relative growth since 1977 has been in the four southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnatika, Kerala, and Tamilnadu. By 1982 there were approximately 5600 shakas in these states.4 On the basis of written sources and of personal interviews conducted in Tamilnadu and Karnatika in 1991, the present writer is persuaded that there are now well over 6000 RSS shakas in the four southern states and that the number is growing.5

The RSS sees its rapid growth since 1975 as proof that it is the vanguard of a great Hindu revival. Few observers would deny that there has been a resurgence of Hindu nationalism in the past decade. Some causes of this resurgence can only be tentatively suggested. First, there is the growing disillusionment, especially among younger educated Indians, with the Nehruvian vision of a secular polity. There are several reasons for this erosion of faith in this western-derived ideal: the perceived ineptitude and corruption of Congress Party rule in the 1980s; the failure of Congress to fulfill its promises of distributive justice; the willingness of Congress, itself a self-avowed champion of the secular ideal, to resort to communal appeals; and the collapse of Socialist regimes in the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, which has left many leftist intellectuals in a state of ideological shock.

Secondly, there is the general disenchantment with the political system and the widespread popular feeling that government at all levels is increasingly unable to govern because of pervasive self-serving factionalism and corruption. Connected with this is the feeling that the escalating political instability, if unchecked, will result in chaotic political and social violence becoming the normal order of things.

Thirdly, there is the growth of overtly-communal movements. In significant measure this is the consequence of the growing cynicism about politics that has caused many to question the legitimacy of the existing political order. In this ideological vacuum many who formerly at least acquiesced in the official secular state ideology are turning to their religious traditions in search of morally-coherent and politically meaningful models of behavior. This is reflected in a growing popular receptivity to the idea of expressing communal identities in terms of political action.

Finally, there is the effectiveness of the organizational and ideological activities of the RSS and its affiliates. The organizational cohesiveness of the RSS enabled it to play a significant role in resisting Indira Gandhi's 1975-1977 dictatorial "Emergency" regime in the name of saving Indian democracy. This gave the RSS a new degree of visibility and respectability on the Indian scene. Its astute use of emotionally-charged Hindu symbols to articulate and propagate its ideology of Hindu rashtra (nation) and Bharatiya nationalism enables it to offer an allegedly authentic indigenous nationalist alternative to Western-derived Nehruvian and Marxist secularist concepts. Moreover, several of its ideological themes find ready resonance among many Hindus who still consider themselves secularist in political orientation, but who feel that Indian culture is historically rooted in that of the Hindu majority, and that Hinduism has for too long been the object of neglect or derision by secularist politicians and intellectuals (Kishwar 1990).6 Among these people RSS assertions that Hindu interests have suffered from secularist parties' excessive indulgence of non-Hindu minorities strike a responsive chord. And charges that Muslim and Christian proselytizing activities enjoy foreign financial support and therefore serve to bring into India undesirable divisive foreign influences, have an air of plausibility.

 

Post-1980 Communal Tensions: The South

The conversion to Islam of several hundred harijans (untouchables) of the Tamilnadu village Meenakshipuram in February, 1981, widely reported in the national press, marked a new state in the escalation of communal competition.7 Other conversions to Islam by Hindu and some Christian Tamilnadu village harijans followed. To some observers these events signified a new trend among the economically stronger and politically more assertive sections of harijans to escape the social indignities of untouchability by joining the more socially equalitarian Muslim community.

To the RSS and its affiliates, as well as other Hindu groups, these conversions were profoundly disturbing. They were seen as a warning that Hinduism was an imminent danger because of its divisive caste inequities and neglect of tribals, which made Hindu society vulnerable to allegedly foreign-financed Muslim and Christian proselytization activities. These activities it was felt, were supported by Marxists and other "pseudo-secularists" who wanted to maintain their own power by keeping Hindu society weak and divided both by not opposing proselytization and by using "casteist" appeals to inflame the discontent of Hindu lower castes.8Subsequent conversions, and Christian, Muslim and Marxist clashes with Hindus in South Indian States were denounced as evidence of:

. . . a deep-laid joint conspiracy aimed at disruption of Hindu society. Coming closely on the heels of the strategy involving Christian, Muslim and communist agencies---both foreign and Indian--. . . to engineer rebellions of Dalits[harijans] against the other Hindus and the Government with the cry of independent Dalitstan, the Tamilnadu carnage points to a pattern likely to unfold itself in vulnerable areas all over the country. And all this is being carried on through 'minority conferences' under the smoke-screen of 'minority rights.' The insidious way in which Harijans, . . . and other neglected sections of our society are sought to be clubbed together with Muslims and Christians as 'minorities,' can indicate but one thing--their design to slice off big chunks of Hindu society with a view to gradually sucking them into their fold and dragging the entire country into the Islamic and Christian orbits.

It is a travesty of the constitution and perversion of secularism that the so-called [Christian and Muslim] minorities should enjoy rights so as to be in a position to subvert the security of the nation itself. It is high time this dangerous distortion and discrimination is set right. And towards this end the ABKM [Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha--the RSS Central Assembly] urges our countrymen to raise their voice of protest and insist upon the Government to rectify matters without delay.9

Meenakshipuram and its aftermath caused a vigorous reaction among wide sections of the Hindu community. RSS cadres took the lead by forming the Hindu Munnani (Hindu Progressive Movement) to "build the Hindu morale and steer the movement of Hindu resurgence" (Seshadri 1988:99).10 A host of Tamilnadu Hindu social and religious organizations formed the Hindu Ottrumai Maiyam (HOM--Center for Hindu Unity) to take coordinated action to ward off the threat of further conversions, win converts back to Hinduism, and defend Hindu rights. A RSS study team investigated the Tamilnadu situation. Its report became the basis for a statewide campaign to achieve HOM objectives. New RSS shakas mushroomed in areas of Tamilnadu that previously had seen little or no RSS activity because they had been considered to be safely Hindu by tradition. The RSS took a leading role in organizing massive Hindu unity conferences in the Tamilnadu city of Nagercoil in 1982 and 1983. Similar conferences, processions, and demonstrations were held in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh.

During 1981-1984 communal hostilities escalated in the four southern states and resulted in major clashes. In the heavily Christian Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu earlier Roman Catholic-Hindu tensions, which had been relatively dormant for several years, erupted anew near Nagercoil when in March, 1982 armed Catholic fishermen tried to prevent Hindu women devotees from continuing their long-time practice of using a strip of beach near a Catholic church and shrine for ritual bathing in connection with their devotions at the nearby Mandaikaadu Temple. Police fired, killing six Christians. Hindu-Christian riots ensued in which the RSS, which claimed to be protecting the Hindus, was bitterly accused by Christians and others of escalating the violence.11

In Kerala in 1983 a state-wide Christian-Hindu controversy flared up because of the erection of a Christian cross and then a church at Nilackal, a wilderness area sacred to Hindus. As in Tamilnadu, the RSS took a leading part in mobilizing Hindu organizations for protest demonstrations, and the RSS organ Organiser thundered that in Kerala, "Hindus shall no longer be on the receiving end," and "Nilackal has turned the communal tide."12 Since then the RSS has been concerned that due to Christian and Muslim proselytizing the percentage of the Kerala Hindu population from 1911 to 1991 fell from 66.63 to 58.15, while the percentage of Christians has risen from 15.41 to 20.56, and that of the Muslims from 12.68 to 21.25. Commenting on these statistics an RSS writer warns that, "In the next decade Hindus will be a minority, it appears."13

In Hyderabad City, Andhra Pradesh, Hindu-Muslim clashes of increasing severity occurred almost every year during 1979-1984, following the introduction from Maharashta by the Hindus in 1978 of a new Hindu consciousness-raising Ganesha immersion festival. These clashes culminated in two massive communal riots in September, 1983 and July, 1984. Both Muslim and Hindu communal organizations had a hand in instigating these disturbances, especially during periods of both communities' religious festivals, as well as during election campaigns in which the Congress, Muslim Majlis-e-Ittihadul Mulimin, and BJP parties openly used communal appeals. From the Hindu side the RSS, VHP, and BJP beginning in 1979 increased their organizational activities among Hyderabad Hindus, and utilized the annual Ganesha festival for purposes of anti-Muslim propaganda. According to Ashgar Ali Engineer, who is negatively disposed toward the RSS, during the celebration of the Ganesha festival prior to the riot in 1983 banners were displayed with the inscription: "Implement Nagercoil Resolution. Declare India a Hindu Republic," and a huge Hindu gathering featured numerous inflammatory anti-Muslim speeches on the theme of protecting Hindu rights and establishing a "Hindu raj" in India (Engineer 1984).14

Finally, Hindu-Muslim riots flared in Karnataka in February and May, 1983. The May disturbance appears to have been triggered by an incident in which a Muslim college boy was accused of molesting a Hindu female student acquaintance. According to S.K. Ghosh, who is unfriendly toward the RSS, the incident was smoothed over by the two families involved, "But for the Hindu militants the incident provided a stick to beat the Muslims with." Ghosh (1987:118-125) charges that the RSS called a meeting of Hindus and with inflammatory rhetoric demanded retaliatory action against the Muslims. This, he says, resulted in several hundred Hindu youths going on a "rampage" of looting and arson against Muslim property.

The RSS was adept in interpreting the signs of growing communal tension and low caste Hindu disaffection in the South in terms of its basic ideological themes that Hinduism is in danger from external forces and internal divisions; that Hindu society must unify and mobilize itself to meet these dangers; and that Bharatiya nationalism is the only true path to national integration. The RSS-VHP-BJP propaganda themes regarding events in the South were articulated with increasing vehemence in the 1980s, and may be briefly summarized.

First, the RSS maintained that in Tamilnadu and Kerala Muslim and Christian proselytizing activities, aggressive seizure of Hindu sacred places, and acts of violence against Hindus have as their goal the creation of Muslim and Christian majority districts which will become the nuclei of "mini-Pakistans" and (to coin a term) "mini-Christianstans."15

Secondly, the RSS stridently accused the "pseudo-secular" parties of supporting these Muslim and Christian goals as part of their strategy for maintaining their power by keeping the Hindu community weak. This sort of fear explains the RSS insistence that evils of caste discrimination and untouchability are a Hindu problem, to be solved by reform and social uplift work by the Hindu community.16

Thirdly, the RSS alleged that Tamilnadu secularist politicians have regularly made Hindu religion and deities objects of public ridicule. When in power, it was charged, the secularists restricted the growth of Hindu educational institutions; prevented the teaching about Hindu religion in tax-supported schools; and placed state-managed temple funds in the hands of non-believing politicians who diverted the funds from their intended religious purposes. While implementing these anti-Hindu measures, it was claimed, DMK governments allowed tax-supported Muslim and Christian schools to expand without regulation; permitted in these schools the teaching of Muslim and Christian religious doctrines; and allowed the Christians and Muslims to manage their own religious funds and properties without government interference. In short, charged the RSS and its sympathizers, the Tamilnadu government, like the Indian central government, treated the Hindu majority like a despised minority, while the Muslim and Christian minorities are treated like a privileged majority.17 Similar charges of discriminatory practices against Hindus and in favor of the Christian and Muslim minorities were made by the RSS against the governments of the other three South Indian states.18

These charges struck a responsive chord among many Hindus. RSS and BJP organizers have told the present writer that issues related to temple mismanagement and public insulting of deities are especially effective in raising the Hindu consciousness in rural areas. As they explained it, most Hindu villagers harbor deep feelings of veneration for their local temples and shrines, and the deities that they house. Since traditional oral recitations of the ancient Hindu stories (puranas) are still part of rural Hindu culture, most have a sense of personal familiarity with the deeds of Hindu deities. Consequently, even the most ignorant villager easily can be stirred to anger by the thought of a temple anywhere being exploited for secular purposes, or a Hindu deity anywhere being insulted.19

These consciousness-raising RSS-BJP-VHP propaganda themes constantly emphasized the links between Hindu concerns in the South and those in other parts of India. In consequence, during the 1980s stirrings of a Hindu "awakening" in the South, already underway due to communal disputes within the region, merged with those in other parts of India. The result was that during the past decade Hindu nationalists in the South increasingly saw themselves as part of an all-Indian Hindu resurgence sharing common aspirations and facing common dangers.

 

Post-1980 Communal Tensions: The North

Three events originating in the North have had a significant all-Indian impact on Hindu consciousness.

The first was the month-long Ekatmata Yatra/Yajna (Chariot Procession/Religious Sacrifice for National Unity) during November-December, 1983. Organized by the VHP with the help of RSS cadres, this massive pilgrimage (yatra) had a twofold purpose. First, it was to be a dramatic demonstation of all-Indian Hindu solidarity, with the message that this and Bharatiya culture are the key to India's national integration. Secondly, it was to raise funds throughout India for VHP-sponsored missionary work among harijans and tribal peoples to keep these weaker sections within the Hindu fold, and to win back those who had converted to Islam or Christianity.

The Yajna was actually composed of three main yatras. Two crossed India from North to South, from Nepal and the Ganges River at Haridwar respectively to the sacred spots of Kanyakumari and Rameshwaran in Tamilnadu. The third crossed India from East to West, from Gangasagar on the Bay of Bengal to the holy place at Somnath on the coast of the Arabian Sea. En route these yatras were joined by the subsidiary local processions--an estimated 2,000 in all (Seshadri 1984:185).

The centerpieces of each of the three yatras were two motorized rathas (chariots). One carried a large portrait of Bharat Mata (Mother India). The other bore two huge bronze urns--one filled with water from the holy Ganges river, and the other for collecting water en route from all the sacred rivers, lakes, tanks, and wells of India. Each yatra travelled about sixty miles a day, with stops approxiamately every fifteen miles for programs in which people from surrounding towns and villages brought sacred water from their localities, and in return took Ganges water for their local temple deities (Seshadri 1984:162-163; Van Der Meer 1987:292). The heavily religious symbolism of the yatras underscored the nature of the Motherland as a punyabhoomi (holy land). In the words of an RSS writer:

During these Yatras, the whole country from the Himalayas to the Seas echoed with joyous cries of 'Victory to Ganga [Ganges] mata' and 'Victory to Hindu Dharma'. (Seshadri1988:279).

The month-long Yatra/Yajna raised a reported 30 million rupees for VHP missionary work (Andersen and Damle 1987:154, note 98).20 It was widely reported at every stage in the Indian press. Although some sharply criticized it as exploiting religion for communal purposes, it seemed generally agreed that it was a powerful demonstration of Hindu solidarity and nationalistic fervor (Seshadri 1984:179-206; Sudershan 1984:5, 24). The yatras covered an estimated 50,000-85,000 kilometers in all the states and most of the districts of India, and involved an estimated 60-100 million participants from cities, towns, and villages (Andersen and Damle 1987: 135, 154 note 99).21

The second event in the North that served to raise Hindu consciousness was the 1985 Indian Supreme Court decision which, by awarding alimony to an elderly divorced Muslim woman (Shahbano Begum), overrrode Muslim Shari'a personal law. The Court's decision soon became a communal issue. Most Muslims saw it as an attack on their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion which in their view includes the right to their own code of personal law based on the Shari'a.

For Hindus the Court's decision re-opened the issue of implementing, after a delay of over three decades, the Indian Constitution's directive principle committing the country to a common civil law code. The Nehru government's Hindu Code legislation of the 1950s, which had reformed Hindu personal law, had been seen as a step toward a more modern secular uniform civil law code. Many Hindus--both secularists and Hindu nationalists--feel that the time is long overdue for the Muslims to move in the same direction. The RSS and the BJP have consistently demanded a uniform legal code for all Indians.

In 1986 Rajiv Gandhi's government yielded to orthodox Muslim pressure and pushed through the Parliament a bill which in effect nullified the Supreme Court decision. To the RSS, BJP, and many other Hindus this was another example of the self-proclaimed secularist Congress playing communal politics by "appeasement of minorities." The RSS and BJP took the lead in denouncing Gandhi's action as a particularly egregious example of government weakness in the face of "Muslim bullying." Moreover, they raised the specter that the Muslims, because they can legally practice polygamy and allegedly resist family planning, will eventually outnumber the Hindus.22 RSS and BJP people have told the present writer that the theme of the danger of "Muslim bullying" and government "appeasement" of minorities, demonstrated so vividly by the Shahbano case, strikes a responsive chord, even among illiterate Hindu villagers.23

The third dramatic event in the North that served to raise Hindu consciousness has been the revival of the long-standing Ramjanmabhoomi-Babari Masjid (Ram birthplace--Babar Mosque) controversy over the control of the Babar mosque in the Hindu pilgrimage center of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The mosque had been constructed in 1528 by the Moghul conqueror Babar over a razed Hindu mandir (temple) which many Hindus believe to be the site of Lord Ram's birthplace (Van Der Meer 1987; Lodha 1990). In 1947 an idol of Lord Ram was surreptitiously placed in the mosque. Muslim-Hindu riots resulted. To restore communal peace the government closed the mosque to both communities, who then took their claims to court. Long drawn-out legal proceedings led to no clear resolution. In 1950 a Hindu Ram Janmabhooomi Seva Committee was formed. It obtained permission to have limited access to the mosque once a year to worship the idol. The Committee also organized regular devotional singing in front of the mosque, to continue until the "liberation" of Lord Ram's birthplace.

Encouraged by the success of their consciousness-raising Ekatmata Yatra/Yajnacampaign of 1983, VHP leaders decided to "pick up the gauntlet" (Seshadri 1988:277) by forcing the issue of control over the Babari Masjid site. Playing on the themes of undoing the "1000 years old" alleged "Hindu slavery" during the era of Muslim rule, and of ending the alleged post-Independence second-class citizenship of Hindus symbolized by the denial to them of access to their most-sacred places, the VHP inaugurated a campaign to recover control over the site of Ram's birthplace, and replace the Babari Masjid with a reconstructed Ram Mandir. It also resolved to remove mosques built on the site of Lord Krishna's birthplace in the pilgrimage center of Mathura, and on the site of the Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi (Seshadri 1988:277; Van Der Meer 1987:292-293). The Bajrang Dal, a youth front was also formed, ostensibly to awaken the masses and, according to anti-RSS writers, to recruit "lumpen" elements to intimidate the Muslim community, whose leaders and press reportedly branded the VHP program as "a mischief, a calamity, a disturbance."24

Beginning October 6, 1984 there was launched in North India, in support of the VHP program, an increasingly intense Hindu nationalist campaign of Ratha Yatras (chariot processions), mass meetings, and protest demonstrations demanding "justice" from the Government. The basic theme was endlessly reiterated that it was essential for Hindu self-respect to redress the wrongs done to Hindu holy places by Muslim conquerors. The slogan "Babar or Ram" and pictures of Lord Ram confined in a barred cell seemed to be especially effective in stirring popular emotions.

Under this mounting pressure a district judge in February, 1986 granted Hindus free access to the Babari Masjid for public worship (puja) of Lord Ram. The VHP set up a trust to collect 250 million rupees to rebuild the Ram Mandir on the site of the mosque (Andersen and Damle 1987:135). Communal tensions escalated. The Muslim Babari Masjid Action Committee was formed to mobilize the Muslim community. In March, 1987 a massive Muslim demonstration was organized in Delhi to pressure the government to give Muslims complete control over the disputed mosque site. Meanwhile, North India was rocked by Hindu-Muslim riots. In at least some of these the Muslims seem pretty clearly to have been the victims of Hindu aggression aided and abetted by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (Kishwar 1990).

In 1989 the VHP campaign entered a new mass contact phase to focus national attention on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. Brushing aside government assertions that the resolution of the dispute should be left to the courts, VHP leaders announced that the foundation of the Ram Mandir would be laid on November 9-10. All districts in India were asked to make bricks for the construction of the temple with "Sri Ram" inscribed on them. The bricks (600,000 in all) were to be distributed to all the half-million Indian villages and urban districts. On September 30 they were consecrated in each locality in a nation-wide Ram Shila Pujan (Ram brick worship) in which the inhabitants of each household were asked to make a minimum offering of 1.25 rupees towards the construction of the Ram Mandir. The bricks were then in October taken to 6600 block centers, in over 100 of which Sri Ram Shila Yajnas (sacrifice rites) were performed. From these centers the bricks were hauled, with celebrations en route involving crowds of devotees, to the proposed temple site in Ayodhya. Despite government efforts to prevent it, the foundation-laying ceremony took place on the disputed site on November 10 in the presence of thousands of Bajrang Dal volunteers, sadhus, and devotees. According to the Organiser report, the Secretary-General of the VHP at the beginning of the ceremonies on November 9 spoke to the effect that:

. . . the laying of the foundation stone for the proposed temple to be magnificently rebuilt at the sacred spot of the birth of Lord Sri Rama had indeed marked a moment of nation's invincible resolve to do away with 450 years of stigma of foreign domination over one of the most hallowed symbols of national honor and freedom.

He added that "It is a great leap forward in the onward march of all round Hindu renaissance. . . . It was a powerful expression of the eternal Hindu spirit that Bharat shall once again resurrect herself as a glorious Hindu Rashtra shedding her benign cultural and spiritual fragrance all over the world."25

The VHP set February 14, 1990 as the date for the construction of the temple to begin in earnest.26 At the request of the Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, the date was postponed to June 8 to allow negotiations between all concerned parties. Nothing was decided by that date. Convinced that both the central government and the Uttar Pradesh state government were stalling the issue, the BJP leader L.K. Advani openly joined the campaign by leading a massiveRath Yatra procession from Somnath Temple in Gujurat to Ayodhya. The call went out for voluntary workers (Kar Sevaks) from all over the country to descend on Ayodhya by October 30 to occupy the Babari Masjid site and commence construction of the Ram Mandir.27

The result was an escalating confrontation between the Uttar Pradesh and Central governments on the one hand, and on the other hand the BJP, RSS, and VHP along with their army of Kar Seva volunteers converging on Ayodhya. On October 23 Advani was arrested in Bihar, and his Rath impounded. RSS and VHP offices were closed down, and thousands of Kar Sevaks were arrested or turned back from their "pilgrimage" to Ayodhya. The RSS General Secretary H.V. Seshadri issued a sharply worded statement to the Government condemning the "Brutal Repression of Hindu Forces," and warning of dire consequences if the Government persisted in this course. Organiser carried the front-page headline, "Lakhs of Kar Sevaks Converging on Ayodhya," and described the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav as "Mad Mullah Mulayam" preparing a "holocaust" for the Hindu forces.28 The confrontation reached a crescendo on October 30-November 2 with police firings in Ayodhya in which, according to the RSS, over 50 unarmed Kar Sevaks lost their lives. Despite this, some Kar Sevaks were able to break through the police barricade around the disputed site and inflict damage on the Babar Mosque.

Advani's arrest and the subsequent "martyrdom" of the Kar Sevaks at Ayodhya triggered Hindu protest demonstrations in various parts of India in which the RSS played a leading role. In addition to organizing protests, the RSS mounted a propaganda campaign to publicize nationally the Ayodhya "holocaust" against the allegedly unarmed Hindu forces. RSS writers adeptly manipulated emotionally charged symbols linking the Government's actions to Muslim fanaticism, and to the famous 1919 massacre perpetrated by the hated British General Dyer on unarmed Indian Nationalist demonstrators at Jallianwalla Bagh in the Punjab. Under the banner headline "Jallianwalla Re-Enacted at Ayodhya," Organiser dubbed the Uttar Pradesh Chief minister "Mullah Mulayam Singh Dyer." The accompanying cartoon portrayed Singh as dressed in a British colonial-style uniform holding in one hand a rifle and in the other a drinking mug with the inscription, "Blood From the Victims of Ayodhya."29 Videocassettes showing the dramatic climax at Ayodhya were distributed to RSS offices throughout India, and could be purchased. Audio cassettes of the virulently vengeful and anti-Muslim exhortations in Hindi of Uma Bharati, a BJP member of the Indian Parliament, were widely sold commercially (Kishwar 1990:4-6). Inexpensive pictures of the projected Ram Mandir Temple are also prominently displayed in RSS offices.

Coming as it did as a climax to the Ekatmata Yatra/Yajna campaign and the Shahbano controversy, the Ramjanmabhoomi movement gave new momentum to Hindu nationalist feelings. Under the slogan "Ram and Roti" the BJP made the Ramjanmabhoomi recovery a major issue in the 1991 election campaign. Having won control of the Uttar Pradesh state government in that election, the BJP was committed to the construction of the Ram Mandir on the Babari Masjid site.30

In the present writer's judgment, from this point on the sort of confrontation which resulted in the Hindu destruction of the Babari Masjid on December 6, 1992 and the resulting escalation of communal mayhem was almost inevitable, given the weakness of Congress at the Center, the increased BJP strength at the Center, and the understandable "siege mentality" of Muslim protagonists in the conflict, which from their viewpoint made settlement on the hardline Hindu nationalists' terms impossible. What strikes the observer is that, despite all the hand-wringing and denunciation of the events of December 6 and their violent aftermath,31there seems to be widespread acquiescence in the results. This appears to be undergirded by a widespread undercurrent of feeling among Hindus that, however regrettable the violence, it is understandable; and that at last a resurgent Hinduism asserted its self-respect by rectifying a 465-year-old injustice perpetrated by Muslim aggression.

Meanwhile communal tensions remain at a high pitch. A sensational episode was the bombing in 1993 of RSS headquarters in Madras that was portrayed in Organiser as part of a wider "Jihad against RSS."32 From one viewpoint, the bombing is an indicator of the expansion of RSS strength in the South in the past decade, and the fear and hatred this has generated.

 

Conclusion, Communalism and Indian Integration

Given the exhausted Congress charisma and the doubtful near-term prospects of the revitalization of the Nehruvian ideology of a secular state as the unifying symbol for Indian national identity, the RSS ideology of Hindu Rashtra is likely to continue attracting a growing following among Hindus. To the extent that this happens, Indian non-Hindus are likely to continue responding to the perceived threat of resurgent Hindu communalism with their own brand of communalism.

Is there any way out of this seemingly intractable dilemma of growing communal polarization? Two that have been suggested merit mention. They are not incompatible with each other. The first calls for a return to an ideology of Indian political integration based on the universalistic, religiously pluralistic and politically decentralized vision of M.K. Gandhi. Unlike Nehru's western-derived vision of a unitary secular nation-state, Gandhi's can plausibly lay claim to being rooted in the indigenous tolerationist traditions of Hinduism which enjoined positive respect for all religions as valid paths to the Divine.

Secondly, there is the suggestion, persuasively articulated by Paul Brass, that India should abandon the centralized nation-state model of political integration, which calls for the assimilation of all citizens to a common national culture, whether it is defined in terms of a dominant Hindu or a composite culture. In this view the appropriate model for India is that of a culturally pluralistic developing multi-national state in which ". . . the problem is not to bring about an identity between state and nation, but to learn to recognize the existence and to cope with the development of regional-national sentiments while simultaneously promoting and developing patriotic ties among diverse nationalities to a common political and territorial unit" (Brass 1974:15).33

Brass (1990:321) argues, contrary to official rhetoric that India is a unitary nation-state in which all citizens share a composite national culture, post-Independence India has in fact been a developing multi-national state in which, "The predominant tendencies. . . have been towards pluralism, regionalism, decentralization, and interdependence between the Center and the states." He suggests that if these trends successfully could be continued, and if the Government of India could simultaneously promote all-Indian symbols of territorial (rather than cultural) nationality, then the Indian Union could become a politically integrated state whose members would have a dual nationality in that they would ". . . see themselves as Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims or as Bengalis and Tamils in relation to one another but as loyal and devoted Indians in relation to the rest of the world" (Brass 1974:431). At the level of practical politics this system normally would entail government by party coalitions--a process which has been underway since the ending of Congress dominance in the 1989 elections.

Such a vision of India as a multi-national but politically and territorially integrated state is, of course, anathema to both Hindu nationalists and secularist "composite culture" Indian nationalists. Both of these are still entranced by the culturally assimilationist unitary nation-state model. But the alternative to the model suggested by Brass may well be escalating movements towards political separatism, countered with increasingly harsh military coercion by the Center. In this event the already alarming erosion of India's democratic institutions surely would be accelerated.

 

Works Cited

 

Ali Khan, Mumtaz. 1981. "A Brief Summary of the Study on 'Mass Conversions of Meenakshipuram: A Sociological Inquiry.'" Religion and Society. Bangalore, Vol. 28, No. 4:37-57.

Andersen, Walter K., and Shridar D. Damle. The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Augustine, P.A. 1981. "Conversion as Social Protest." Religion and Society. Bangalore, Vol. 28, No. 4:51-57.

Brass, Paul R. 1974. Language, Religion and Politics in North India. London: Cambridge University Press.

__________. 1990. The Politics of India Since Independence, The New Cambridge History of India, IV, 1. New York: Cambridge University Press.

D'Cruz, Emil. 1988. Indian Secularism: A Fragile Myth. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute.

Deoras, M. D. 1974. Social Equality and Hindu Consolidation. Bangalore: Jagarana Prakashana.

Devdutt. 1984. "Hindu-Christian Relations: The Case of Kerala." Religion and Society, Vol. 31, No. 4 (December), 54-77.

Elenjimittam, Anthony. 1951. Philosophy and Action of the R.S.S. for the Hind Swaraj.Bombay: The Laxmi Publications.

Engineer, Ashgar Ali. 1984. "Hyderabad Riots--An Analytical Report." In Communal Riots in Post-Independence India, edited by Ashgar Ali Engineer. Bombay: Sangam Books. Pp. 291-294.

Ghosh, S. K. 1987. Communal Riots in India. New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House.

Kishwar, Madhu. 1990. "In Defence of Our Dharma." Manushi 60 (September-October):2-15.

__________. 1993. "Religion at the Service of Nationalism: An Analysis of Sangh Parivar Politics." Manushi 76 (May-June):2-20.

Lodha, Gumanmal. 1990. How Long Shri Ram will be Insulted in Ayodhya?, pamphlet published by the VHP, apparently in 1990.

Madan, T. N. 1987. "Secularism in its Place." The Journal of Asian Studies. 46:748-754.

Mathew, George. 1983a. "Hindu-Christian Communalism: An Analysis of the Kanyakumari Riots." Social Action 33 (October 4-December):407-419.

__________. 1983b. "Hindu-Christian Communalism: An Analysis of the Kanyakumari Riots." Social Action 33 (October-December), 17.

Raj, S. Albones. 1981. "Mass Religions as Protest Movement: A Framework." Religion and Society, Bangalore, Vol. 28, No. 4:58-66.

Sabha, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi (A.B.P.S.). 1983. RSS Resolves. . . .Full Text of Resolutions from 1950 to 1983. Bangalore: Prakashan Vibhag.

Seshardri, H.V. 1984. Hindu Renaissance Underway. Bangalore : Jagarana Prakashana.

__________. 1988. R.S.S.: A Vision in Action. Bangalore: Jagarana Prakashana.

Smith, Donald. 1963. India as a Secular State. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Spitz, Douglas. 1993. "Cultural Pluralism and Modernity in South Asia: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh." In The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism: The Nation-State at Bay?, edited by Crawford Young. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Van Der Meer, Peter. 1987. "'God Must Be Liberated!' A Hindu Liberation Movement in Ayodhya." Modern Asian Studies 21:285-294

Wardhwa, K. K. 1989. "Population Statistics of Religious communities in India." Organiser (July 23): 9-10,

Wingate, Andrew. 1981. "A Study of Conversion from Christianity to Islam in Two Tamil Villages." Religion and Society, Bangalore, Vol. 28, No. 4:3-36

Young, Crawford 1993. "The Dialectics of Cultural Pluralism: Concept and Reality." In The Rising Tide of Cultural Pluralism: The Nation-State at Bay, edited by Crawford Young. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

1. Smith (1963:500-501) did not deny the possibility that India might become a Hindu state. He noted that a major obstacle to the realization of the Nehruvian vision was that to the Indian masses it was an abstract ideal lacking emotional appeal. But the weight of Smith's thesis was that this lack of popular emotional commitment to secularism would be remedied as the masses became involved in the modernization process.

2. Most Indian Christians are hostile to the RSS which they see as dangerously communal, divisive, and threatening to Indian Christians.

3. India Today, New Delhi, June 30, 1993, 30. RSS: Spearheading National Renaissance(Bangalore: Prakashan Vibhag, 1985), 61; Andersen and Damle 1987:213-215.

4. Organiser, New Delhi, February 14, 1982, 4.

5. RSS figures for the number of shakas in Kerala since 1982 are not clear. The RSS organ Organiser, December 23, 1984, 3, claims that at the time Kerala had over 4,000 shakas with over 200,000 members. RSS General Secretary Seshadri (1988:96) states that in 1988 there were 3,000 shaka in Kerala. The general theme of Seshadri's book is the accelerating growth of the RSS and its affiliates throughout India, especially in the South. India Today, May 11, 1986, 34 asserts, "Nearly all the 5,000 villages in Kerala now have shakas." D'Cruz (1988:48) follows Mathew (1983a) in saying that in the Tamilnadu district of Kanyakumari alone there were in 1983 110 shakas. In an interview with a Muslim journalist in Kanyakumari on February 16, 1991 the present writer was told that the RSS, BJP, and Hindu Munnani (a Hindu rights protection organization) since 1985 have been expanding rapidly in Kanyakumari district as well as in Tamilnadu generally. In travelling by bus from Kanyakumari City to Nagercoil one was struck by the large number of BJP village wall posters--a reflection of the intense RSS activity in the villages. Interviews during February and March, 1991 with state level RSS and BJP officials, Christians, Muslims, educators, and business people all confirmed the rapid growth of the RSS in the four southern states since the mid-1980s.

I would like to express special thanks to Dr. Rajkumar Ambrose of Monmouth College, and to J. Augustine and R. Arulanandam of S. Vellaichamy Nadar College, Madurai for their generous assistance and numerous kindnesses to me in arranging interviews and translating oral statements and written documents from Tamil.

6. Although anti-RSS, Kishwar asserts that the British-derived Indian system of higher education perpetuated contempt for indigenous Hindu traditions and culture.

7. Material on the Meenakshipuram and Tamilnadu conversions and their aftermath is based on personal interviews in Tamilnadu; Seshadri 1984:52-61, 74-77, 144-146; Seshadri 1988:58-59, 99-103; Sabha 1983:104-106, 112-114; Wingate 1981; Ali Khan 1981; Augustine 1981; Raj 1981.

8. Personal interviews, February 19 and 23, 1991, with an RSS Pracharak (missionary), Madurai. He reflected the widely held RSS conviction that the "pseudo-secularists" (Congress, Marxists and DMK) are in league with Christians and Muslims to divide the Hindu community. To paraphrase his analysis, 'If the pseudo-secularist parties can get the support of the Hindu low castes and combine this with the backing of the Muslims, Christians and tribal peoples, they will have a support base in over 50% of the population, and reduce the present 85% majority Hindu population to a permanent minority.'

9. 1982 July: A.B.P.S. resolve #91, "Anti-Hindu Conspiracy," in RSS Resolves, 112.

10. Organiser, August 22, 1993, 15.

11. Personal interviews with RSS and anti-RSS people, February 16, 1991, Kanyakumari District; 1982 March: A.B.K.M. resolve #87, "Assault on Hindus in Kanyakumari District," in RSS Resolves, 1983, 106-108; Mathew 1983b.

12. Organiser, July 31, 1983, 5, 14; 1983 July: A.B.K.M. Resolve #96, "Violation of Hindu Sanctity in Kerala," RSS Resolves, 1983, 120-122; Devdutt 1984.

13. Organiser, March 24, 1991, 15.

14. The account of the riot in Organiser, October 2-8, 1983, 1, 4, omits mention of the "Hindu Raj" banners and anti-Muslim speeches, and focuses on alleged Muslim provocative behavior. See also Ghosh 1987:118-125.

15. Personal interview with RSS pracharak, February 19 and 23, 1991, Madurai. He insisted that the presence of Muslim merchants in Tamilnadu, along with Arab petrodollars, is part of a Muslim strategy to weaken the Hindu community. He said that these merchants make profits in order to finance proselytization activities. The same theme of nefarious Muslim expansionist conspiracies in Tamilnadu--a "cultural invasion" spearheaded by an economic takeover by Muslim businessmen--is reiterated in the article "Jihad against RSS," in Organiser, August 22, 1993, 15. To counteract this alleged economic takeover the RSS has implemented a campaign to urge Hindus to boycott non-Hindu shops. In personal interviews on February 12 and 24, 1991 in Madurai Christian informants told the present writer that in Madurai the RSS-sponsored "If you are Hindu, buy from Hindus" poster campaign was being ignored by most Hindus.

16. As noted above, the RSS has never recognized caste distinctions in its shaka and other activities. It has consistently maintained that inequities of caste discrimination and untouchability are the chief stumbling blocks to Hindu consolidation and unity, as well as a major source of Hindu society's vulnerability to Muslim and Christian proselytization activities and secularist parties' divide-and-rule "casteist" tactics. RSS people insist that it is the responsibility of Hindus (and emphatically not of Muslim and Christian missionaries) to remove this stain from Hindu society, as well as to implement remedial measures for the social and educational uplift of disadvantaged castes. Personal interview with a RSS pracharak, February 23, 1991, Madurai. See also, denunciation of caste inequities by the present RSS leader, Deoras 1974:11-30; and "The Call for Hindu Consolidation: Extracts from the Speech of Sri Balasaheb Deoras, Sarsangchalak of RSS, January 3, 1982," RSS Karnataka Hindu Sangaman:1,2,3 January, 1982 (Bangalore, RSS Karnataka Prakashan Vibhag, 1982, 14-15.

17. This account of RSS charges of anti-Hindu practices by the Tamilnadu government is based on a personal interview with an RSS pracahrak on February 16, 1991, Nagercoil; personal interviews with a pracharak and RSS members on February 19 and 22, 1991, Madurai; personal interviews with a BJP state leader and RSS organizers, March 6, 1991, Madras; "Karunanidhi's Vain Bid to Browbeat the RSS," Organiser, April 30, 1989, 5; "Lakhs of rupees from Temple funds spent on Atheist Annadurai's 'Sraddha'," ibid., June 4, 1989, 15-16; "Tamilnadu Education Management's Call: End Discrimination in Constitution Against Hindus," ibid., July 23, 1989, 11; "Tamilnadu Newsletter," ibid., October 8, 1989, 13-14; Seshadri 1984:52-56.

18. "BJP-Hindu Munnani Third Front to Smash Communal Politics," Organiser, December 23, 1984, 3; "Attack on RSS Shaka at Kalvoor: CPI-M violated two-month truce," Organiser, July 30, 1989, 13; "Kerala High Court raps Devaswom Boards for squandering lakhs of Temple funds," ibid., 5; "Partisan use of police in Marxist ruled Kerala," Organiser, January 14, 1990, 11;"Kerala High Court orders Probe into Irregularities of Temple Boards," Organiser, June 3, 1990, 6, 14; "Friday Massacres of Hindus in Hyderabad," Organiser, January 20, 1991, 5.

19. Personal interviews March 6, 1991, Madras.

20. Andersen and Damle cite as their source, India Today, November 30, 1989, 34.

21. Andersen and Damle's source for the figures of 85,000 km and 60 million participants is Sangh Sandesh, April 8, 1984. This is the official organ of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh in England. Seshadri (1988:279) gives 50,000 km. as the distance covered by all the yatras. In his Hindu Renaissance Underway, 185, Seshadri says that there were 100 million participants. On page 173 he claims that the main and subsidiary Yatras embraced over 300,000 villages--more than half the villages in India.

22. Personal interview with a VHP leader, March 6, 1991. The rather paranoid fear that Hindus are in danger of losing their majority because of Muslim and Christian proselytizing activities, Muslim infiltration from Bangladesh into Assam and West Bengal, the Muslim practice of polygamy, and alleged Muslim resistance to family planning, is frequently expressed in RSS and other Hindu nationalist writings. Seshadri (1984:183) cites a January, 1984 Organiser article as stating that, "An agitated reader writes in The Hindu, Madras, that the Hindu population has slumped from 88%. . . in 1947, to just 78% in the 1981 census. A Muslim gentleman went further, made algebraic calculation and stated that Bharat would have a Muslim majority before the close of the 23rd century." See also "Muslim population will overtake Hindu majority in 50 years," Organiser, April 30, 1989, 5. Wardhwa (1989) cites census figures to show that during 1951-1981 the percentage of Hindus in the total population declined from 84.98 to 82.64, while that of Muslims increased from 9.91 to 11.35, and Christains from 2.35 to 2.43. The same author in Organiser, September 17, 1989, 9-10, gives census figures showing that during 1951-1981 the total minorities percentage of the population has increased from 15.02 to 17.36. See also M.W. Onker, "Disproportionate Growth of Muslim Population," Organiser, November 18, 1990, 5. The widely believed notion that the Muslim practice of polygamy enables Muslims to produce many more children than Hindus appears erroneous for two reasons. First, relatively few Muslim males practiced polygamy. Second, it has been pointed out that the female fertility rate if anything is likely to be smaller when polygamy is practiced. This is because four women married to one husband are likely to produce fewer offspring than if they were married to four husbands.

23. Personal interviews with RSS pracharak and urban professional RSS sympathizers, February 16 and 22, 1991, Madurai, and with a BJP Karnatika State leader, February 28, 1991, Bangalore.

24. "R.C. Batura, Muslim Press Adamant Against 'Ram Janma Bhoomi' Claims," Organiser, October 25, 1984, 1,16. Other militant Hindu youth groups in which "lumpen" elements were allegedly significant emerged in the mid-1980s. See India Today, May 31, 1986, 30-39.

25. Organiser, November 19, 1989, 16. The above account of the campaign is based mainly on Organiser, July 23, 1989, 6; October 8, 1989, 1, 15; November 19, 1989, 1,16; and December 17, 1989, 9-10. From June , 1989 almost every Organiser issue reported on the progress of the campaign in the various parts of the country.

26. "Countdown to Ayodhya," Organiser, February 11, 1990, 1, 15; Organiser, May 20, 1990, 15-16.

27. For the organization and instruction of kar seva volunteers see the RSS office document in Tamil, translated by Dr. Rajkumar Ambrose of Monmouth College, Illinois, entitled Sri Rama Kar Seva Sanuthi, Tamilnadu. President: Worshipful Santalinga Ramasamy Adigal. Peroor Atheenam. Important Parts to the Attention of Rama Kar Sevas.

28. Organiser, November 4, 1990, 6.

29. Organiser, November 11, 1990, 1. In addition to the specific articles cited, all Organiser issues from September 2, 1990 to January 30, 1991 carry reports and articles on the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.

30. "UP Cabinet's thanksgiving at Ayodhya," Organiser, July 7, 1991, 1. This report states that, "Quite in tune with the people's mandate in Uttar Pradesh, returning to power the forces which supported the construction of Ramjanmabhoomi temple at Ayodha, it was Ram who dominated the swearing-in ceremony of the first BJP minstry in the state in Lucknow on June 25." The article continues that, "When Shri Kalyam Singh was sworn in as chief minister he was greeted with a loud 'Jai Sri Ram'. So were the other 17 ministers[.] Shri Aizaz Rizvi, the only Muslim Minister, took the oath in the name of 'Ishwar' [God] and was greeted with 'Jai Sri Ram'. He responded by himself repeating 'Jai Sri Ram'. The communal Muslim lobby is very upset about it." According to the report, those witnessing the ceremony wore saffron-colored Sri Ram scarves and provided throughout a fitting background of 'Jai Sri Ram' chants. See also, "I am Committed to Allow the Temple at Ayodha--Kalyn Singh," Organiser, July 14, 1991, 3, 14, 15. On July 4, 1991 Shri Singh ordered the canopy to be restored over the shilanas site where on November 10, 1989 the Ram Mandir foundation-laying ceremony had been performed. The canopy earlier had been removed by his predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav.

31. Of these, one of the most passionate is that of Kishwar 1993.

32. Organiser, August 22, 1993, 1, 15, 2, 3, 14.

33. See also Brass (1974:10-11) for his distinction between the centralized "integrative," culturally assimilative "national integration" model of state organization, and the "pluralistic" model which, while accepting cultural pluralities, aims only for political and territorial integration.