Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
This paper revolves around a critical period of up-scaling in the career of Hindu nationalist groups in India—from the late 1960s when a new populist phase began in the life of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and its party affiliate the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (forerunner of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP) commenced—to the mid and late 1970s when a state of national emergency was imposed and lifted. This was a period when formations like RSS and BJS began positioning themselves as representatives of ordinary populace engaged in questions of welfare and well-being of the underclasses, when their members participated in street protests and mass mobilizations against a flailing economy and corrupt leaders and were also incarcerated in large numbers during twenty-one months of national emergency.
At the same time, charges that Hindu nationalist groups were fascist in their make-up, ideology, historical leanings and practice intensified. My paper examines writings of Hindu right-wing leaders who sought to defend themselves against the charge of fascism and claim the identity of democrats seeking to simply cohere the majority community. I examine the arguments they mounted alongside mobilization strategies that have since led to the Hindu right-wing’s emergence as a powerful force in Indian democracy. I thus unpack the politics of scale contained in majoritarianism and its relationship to principles and practices of representative democracy. Fascism emerges in my analysis not as an extraneous force but as an always already present possibility contained in republican democracies.