The Politics of Hindutva and Popular Resistance
On January 22, 2024, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, prominently participated in the inauguration of the controversial Ram Mandir in Ayodhya–built upon the ruins of the Babri Masjid which was demolished by Hindu fascists in 1992. The issue of the Ram Mandir has been a touchstone of Hindutva fascism for decades and its establishment demonstrates the RSS-BJP’s steady progression towards manifesting this objective. The imagery of Modi’s personal participation in the rituals and inauguration of the mandir was used to portray Modi’s role as something transcending a simple Prime Minister. Alongside the steady centralization of the Indian state’s executive authority within the Prime Minister’s Office, the political choreography of the inauguration now placed Modi at the political-cultural helm of a mythical Ram Raj.
As observers continue to grapple with the evolution and development of Hindu nationalism in the subcontinent, we are sharing this conversation with Suchitra Vijayan from March 2021, during the Kisaan Morcha (Farmers’ Protest) in Delhi. In the conversation, Suchitra provides a textured analysis not only of the RSS-BJP vision of a “Hindu Rashtr” but also within the context of recent political developments in India from the Citizenship Amendment laws and dismantling of Jammu and Kashmir to the increasing economic centralization of the Indian state and the role of the Ram Mandir within the Hindutva imagination. She skillfully traces the development of Hindu nationalism and authoritarianism within the very fibre of the Indian state project since its inception and critically places all of these developments before and after the BJP’s 2014 election within this trajectory.
While India attempts to portray itself as the “Mother of Democracy” or vishwaguru on the world stage, it is simultaneously taking an increasingly aggressive stance towards resistance movements across the subcontinent as it sharpens its tools of repression.
Suchitra Vijayan was born and raised in Madras, India. A Barrister by training, she previously worked for the United Nations war crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda before co-founding the Resettlement Legal Aid Project in Cairo, which gives legal aid to Iraqi refugees. She is an award-winning photographer, the founder and executive director of the Polis Project, a hybrid research and journalism organization. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, GQ, The Boston Review, The Hindu, and Foreign Policy. She is the author of Midnight’s Borders and How Long Can the Moon Be Caged.