Hindutva and the Sangh Parivar in Britain

Issue: 177

Barry Pavier

On 17 September 2022, there was an unexpected sectarian confrontation in the English city of Leicester.1 Several hundred young Hindu men, many masked, marched through streets primarily inhabited by Muslims and chanted slogans associated with the chauvinism of a ultra-right network known as the Sangh Parivar (“Brotherhood of Organisations”).2 Contrary to claims by one prominent ideologue of Hindutva, the Hindu nationalist political philosophy, the main slogan chanted on the march, “Jai Shri Ram”, is not a longstanding and routine Hindu greeting.3 Instead, its widespread use dates from the breakthrough campaign launched in India by the Sangh Parivar in 1989-90 during the construction of a temple to the god Rama in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh state.

Leicester contains large Hindu and Muslim communities of roughly equal size and, prior to spring 2022, there had been little evidence of overt tension.4 The September confrontations were initially described in the media as clashes that had followed an India-Pakistan international cricket match on 28 August. In fact, local activists reported that tensions originated in an attack on a young Muslim man by Hindu youths in early May.5 There followed a series of confrontations that involved ad hoc defence groups in Muslim-majority areas. One widely publicised incident saw an individual pull down a flag outside a Hindu temple.

The mainstream left was nonplussed by what it went on to present as utterly unforeseen outbreaks of sectarian confrontations. The Labour Party mayor of Leicester, Peter Soulsby, said he was “baffled”, while others attempted to lay the blame on outsiders from Birmingham and elsewhere who had joined “local lads”.6 One response from the radical left was to view the events as an indication of the growing influence in Britain of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteers Organisation), an Indian mass membership paramilitary organisation. RSS is a core influence on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP; Indian People’s Party), led by prime minister Narendra Modi, and is central to the history of the Sangh Parivar network, of which it is one part.7 This article will assess those various claims, exploring the origins of the different Hindu chauvinist groups, and set out the threat posed by Hindutva chauvinism in Britain.

The question of fascism

It is common for radical and socialist critiques of the RSS, and by extension the Sangh Parivar as a whole, to idly employ “fascist” as a descriptor. I have myself been guilty of this in the past. However, in order to develop an effective response to the danger posed by these groups, it is necessary to elaborate a more effective understanding of the Sangh Parivar, particularly its relationship with fascism.

Even judged according to a stereotypical checklist of fascist features, the RSS does not match up. For instance, it does not have the essential fascist attitude towards the state. Nor have its paramilitary organisations, thus far at least, been fundamentally concerned with crushing workers’ movements. This is partly because, until recently, the RSS and militant Hindutva groups such as the Bajrang Dal lacked the capacity to fulfil this function on an all-India scale.8 Moreover, the Indian capitalist class has never needed such a force; the repressive forces of the state have always been more than adequate for this purpose, both in the colonial era and ever since independence in 1947.9

The RSS’s timeline reinforces this conclusion. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Essentials of Hindutva, which has exercised huge influence on the RSS, was written in 1922, prior to the fascists’ assumption of power in Italy. Despite some of Savarkar’s terminology suggesting that he may have come into contact with German ultra-nationalist “völkisch” ideology during his time in Britain prior to 1914, his ideas actually grew out of a tendency that had already been in existence in India for decades. The RSS itself was formed in 1925, created as a reaction to communal riots in Nagpur in 1923, long before fascism developed as a significant international model. Indeed, at this time, the Nazis were still a small, recently refounded party that was virtually unknown in India. The group’s ideology was derived from Savarkar’s rendering of Hindutva; it was no mere analogue of European fascism. The RSS’s paramilitary was modelled on the colonial police, not Benito Mussolini’s blackshirts or Hitler’s brownshirts.10 Moreover, frequently quoted references to Hitler by the RSS leader Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar in 1939 have been generally misunderstood; far from talking about the Nazis as an organisation to be emulated, he instead congratulated them for following the same route as the RSS.

It is more accurate to see the RSS, and the entire Sangh Parivar, as a far-right, authoritarian and xenophobic movement, representing an alternative for the Indian ruling class to the Indian National Congress, the traditional party of Indian nationalism. Via the BJP, the RSS articulates an Indian version of the contemporary international far-right strategy of “authoritarian” or “majoritarian” democracy. The RSS did develop in parallel to European fascism, but it is not organically derived from it, was not created in similar conditions and does not attempt to emulate it.11 Instead, it argues that the European far right should emulate the Indian model.

There is, however, a familiar movement whose politics and practice does more accurately resemble that of the Sangh Parivar: Ulster loyalism. The sectarian xenophobia, delegitimisation of the minority, use of state and paramilitary forces to suppress dissent, majoritarian democracy (“a Protestant state for a Protestant people”), and even the obsession with symbols and use of parades to terrorise the minority—all this supports the observation that Hindutva can be seen as equivalent to loyalism on steroids.

Continuing to use the term “fascism” presents a barrier to understanding how Hindutva operates and what it seeks to do. Moreover, the characterisation of the RSS as fascist tends to be immediately followed by the conclusion that every other expression of Hindutva politics is a direct result of RSS activity. This methodology helped generate the claims that the Leicester violence was a result of RSS activity. In fact, the video of the masked march through Leicester’s streets resembled the activities of another affiliated Hindutva organisation, the Bajrang Dal, rather than a disciplined paramilitary force. This leads to a complete misunderstanding of Sangh Parivar activity in Britain and thus potentially to serious tactical errors. Indeed, such claims are all too easily undermined by a sophisticated operation such as the Sangh Parivar, as has been demonstrated by their response to the events in Leicester via their sympathisers in the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society.12

It is true that the RSS is at the centre of the Sangh Parivar in India; however, RSS it is not at the heart of the Sangh Parivar’s growth in Britain. What is instead now becoming clear is the extent of a form of organising that is until now almost completely unknown to most of the British left. The Leicester events are a sign of the successful transfer of the Sangh Parivar’s signature method of organising in India into the British context. This method has proven to be spectacularly successful in promoting the core political project of Hindutva over the past three decades of Indian history.

What is Hindutva?

Hindutva is a political theory that argues that Hinduism is the only authentic expression of Indianness. All aspects of India that are not expressions of Hinduism are seen as alien impositions and products of foreign imperialist rule. The final objective of Hindutva is to “erase, especially, Islamic and Christian cultural legacies”.13 It also seeks to negate the legacies of social democracy, promoted by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as the achievements of the socialist left and the Indian working-class movement.

Hindutva originated in the late 19th century as part of the response to the divide and rule policies of the British imperial state. The senior civil servants who devised these policies were never united in their analyses of Indian society, but their impact was to set Muslim against Muslim and Hindu against Hindu.14 This strategy emerged from British officials’ judgment that the primary threats to their rule came from what their modern counterparts would call Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism. The response of these colonial officials was to embark on a policy intended to disintegrate Muslim and Hindu social organisation. In the spirit of the utilitarian methodology adopted by the imperial regime after the 1820s, the primary tool was the decennial census, which attempted to allocate the entire population into thousands of discrete groups. These groups would then be treated individually and separately by legislative and administrative action.

To support this policy, senior members of the core civilian cadre of the British Raj, the Indian Civil Service, produced numerous volumes, entitled “Tribes and Castes of [insert province]”. Crucially, these were not focused on religion, since they aimed to eliminate any collective religious identity. Additionally, they divided surviving elements of the former ruling class into landlord groups, and professionals and bourgeois in urban centres into various occupational categories.

This initiative was not an unqualified success. It was assumed that the intended targets would simply sit back and accept their roles as subjects, but imperial policies continued to generate resistance in the form of rural rebellions. From the 1890s, generalised political opposition coalesced into the Indian National Congress, which became the focus of campaigns for independence from 1905. Much to the dismay of the British, Congress pitched itself as the representative of the entire population. Colonial rule also generated a range of counter-initiatives from within Hindu religious circles, including the work of philosopher and religious figure Swami Vivekananda, who criticised Western materialism and stressed the spiritual superiority of the Vedas, the core texts of Hinduism. Meanwhile, during the formation of a new provincial campaigning group, the Hindu Sabha (“Hindu assembly”), early Congress politicians such as Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab argued that Hindus were a nation because they represented a unique type of civilisation.15

In 1915, the provincial assemblies, or “sabhas”, came together to form the Hindu Mahasabha (“great assembly”), a political grouping that aimed at collective defence of Hindu socio-political interests.16 At the 1923 Hindu Mahasabha conference, one of its leaders, Balakrishna Shivram Moonje, argued for creating unity among the four broad categories of castes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants) and Sudras (everyone else). Moonje advocated for the Hindu Mahasabha becoming a Hindu Sangathan (“organisation of unity”).17 However, this initiative stalled because of disagreements over what to do about the reversion to Hinudism of previously Hindu groups who had converted to other religions.

It was in these circumstances that the definitive formulation of Hindutva was composed by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Savarkar was originally a radical nationalist who was imprisoned several times by the British, but he lost sympathy with the dominant nationalist currents. In 1922, towards the end of his final period in prison, he wrote Essentials of Hindutva, which functions as the foundational text of the Sangh Parivar. Later retitled Hindutva—What is a Hindu?, the book was first published in 1923. Savarkar tended to minimise the religious element, arguing that Hinduism was only one element of Hinduness:

They are not only a nation but also a race—a “jati”. The word jati…means a brotherhood, a race determined by a common origin, possession of a common blood. All Hindus claim to have in their veins the blood of the mighty race…descended from the Vedic fathers.18

Nevertheless, any convert to Hinduism could become a Hindu if they “love our country as a real fatherland, adopt our culture and thus adore our country as the punyabhu”, that is, “sacred land”. Savarkar continued, “Mohammedan and Christian communities possess all the qualities of Hindutva but one… They do not look upon India as their holy land”.19

As well as conflating Hinduness with India as a nation, Savarkar also condemned the inauthenticity of anything other than a brahminical articulation of Hinduness. The Hindu Mahasabha, of which he was president from 1937 to 1942, remained unable to break out of its reliance on the religious intelligentsia and their noble patrons. Its communalism led to its exclusion from Congress in 1937, although some leading figures such as Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, remained significant individual members. Savarkar himself never took a direct role in politics, but he did advocate cooperation with the imperial authorities during the Second World War and voiced opposition to the Quit India movement, which was launched in 1942.

There always remained significant pro-Hindutva elements within Congress, and this was revealed in two crucial decisions of the Constituent Assembly of India, which was formed after independence. The first was about the language of the state. Prior to 1947, Congress had always employed Hindustani as its core language. Hindustani grew out of a fusion between Prakrit, which was a vernacular language derived from Sanskrit, and Farsi, which was the language of aristocratic and literary elites across northern India from the time of the consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate in the mid-13th century.20 By 1900, Hindustani was practically indistinguishable from Urdu, the literary language of the ruling class of the Mughal Empire, which was the dominant state in South Asia between 1525 and 1750, as well as its successor states. Urdu and Farsi also served as the primary languages of the “company rule” practised by the East India Company until the 1820s. Despite all this, the majority of the Constituent Assembly voted to replace Hindustani with Hindi, which had developed as part of the Hindu religious elites’ reaction to British divide and rule policies. The language was created through the removal of all Farsi and Urdu loan words, which were replaced by Sanskrit-derived alternatives. Hindi was also to be written in the Devanagari script, which is derived from the classical Indian languages, rather than the Arabic script used in Farsi and Urdu.

The second decision was to change the state’s name. Before independence, Congress had always used the term Hindustan, the name for South Asia used from the Mughal period onwards, which was employed, for instance, in the slogan “Jai Hind” (“Long live India!”). However, with English retained as a state language in order to mollify those in the south of the country (who speak Dravidian languages such as Tamil and Telegu), “India” was made the name of the new state. In Hindi it was changed to “Bharat”, a Sanskrit word associated with the Puranas, a genre of classical texts, symbolically casting the new state as linked to Hinduism. One consequence of this has been the accelerating marginalisation of Urdu, even in its northern heartland in Uttar Pradesh. Despite the counterclaims of Indian liberals and social democrats, the erasure of Muslims as an integral part of India began at the formation of the state and was instigated by pro-Hindutva elements embedded within Congress.

The Sangh Parivar

The Hindutva elements embedded in Congress are important in understanding the contemporary vehicle for promoting Hindutva ideology, the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh Parivar’s form of organisation, completely unknown to most political activists in Britain, is best understood as an unincorporated network made up of bodies pursuing the same political agenda and drawing inspiration from the same sources. There is overlapping membership and affiliations, but also no formal membership at all in some cases. This allows for the sudden appearance of new campaigning groups, apparently out of thin air, enabling a sophisticated and systematic application of what is currently termed “soft power”.

The core of the Sangh Parivar network are the RSS and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Council of Hindus), which was formed in 1964. The RSS is the most well-known group, but the notion that the RSS is the parent of all other components of Sangh Parivar is only very partially accurate and seriously confuses what is going on in the British context. The RSS was formed in 1925 in Nagpur, now part of Maharashtra state, by Keshav Boliram Hedgewar, a protégé of Moonje. Hedgewar instituted the characteristic methodology of the RSS, which involved a system of local “shakas”, or branches, meeting frequently for drilling and ideological teaching. There was a militarist, authoritarian and hierarchical structure from the outset, with a “sarsanghchalak” (supreme leader) at the top. Again, the obvious temptation to bracket this type of structure with European fascism is a false trail. The position of sarsangchalak was always the bureaucratic expression of a collective leadership, never a charismatic figure in the mould of Mussolini and Hitler. Another key element of the RSS structure was the creation of a cadre of full-time organisers (“pracharaks”) in 1927, who were expected to be austere, celibate and totally devoted to the cause. It was in this capacity that Narendra Modi entered the Sangh Parivar.

The early RSS was dominated by Brahmins, despite Hedgewar’s insistence on common dining, which undermined the ritual superiority of the Brahmins’ priestly status. Later, a pattern was established of both the leadership and membership being dominated by the petty bourgeoisie (merchants, shopkeepers and so on) and professionals. Again, this forms a superficial similarity with fascist movements, but one also shared with lots of other historical organisations that were non-fascist.

Hedgewar’s successor, Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar, perhaps did most to develop the RSS interpretation of Hindutva, especially in his 1939 book We, Or Our Nationhood Defined:

Hindus came into the land from nowhere, but are indigenous sons of the soil from everywhere… The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must entertain no ideas but the glorification of the Hindu race and culture…or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens’ rights.21

The RSS’s objective is totalitarian, aspiring to fill the whole space of society. This is the source of politics of “majoritarian democracy” practised by today’s Bharatiya Janata Party, affording no rights for minorities and attempting to dismantle the supposed “privileges” of positive discrimination for Muslims. However, in a crucial deviation from fascism, Golwalkar, following Savarkar, saw society, rather than the state, as the matrix for the Hindu nation.22 Society here is understood as an organism with a secular spirit, implanted by a socio-cultural system, which is to be regenerated through patient work at the grassroots.23 This outlook explains the proliferation of subsidiary organisations generated by the RSS, which has created groupings for the petty bourgeoisie (Swadeshi Jagaran Manch), students (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), salaried employees (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh) and farmers (Bharatiya Kisan Sangh), to name only the most important.

Golwalkar’s development of RSS ideology can thus be differentiated from fascism because the organisation was not identified with its leader and, crucially, the state was seen only as a secondary agency. The RSS does not aim to create a fascist state.24 Moreover, race was subordinated to the primacy of society for Golwalkar (a break with Savarkar’s approach).

This distinction also suggests some of the problems the RSS would face. First, although their focus was not the state, the state was very much interested in them after independence. This came to the fore when Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated by former RSS members in 1948. The government promptly banned the RSS and rounded up thousands of its members. Although these measures were lifted after a year, the RSS leadership realised that it could not ignore conventional politics. In the run-up to the first general election in 1952, RSS formed a bloc with some disaffected pro-Hindutva elements from Congress to create the Jan Sangh (People’s Party). Over the next 25 years, Congress was dominant, and the Jan Sangh gained only marginal traction. Nonetheless, its activities in this period would provide a template for future development.

Second, the RSS’s emphasis on a secular approach ruled out a wide appeal to the Hindu religious apparatus centred around the temple network. By the 1960s, it was clear to RSS leaders this was a barrier to a huge reservoir of possible sympathisers, leading them to promote the creation of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1964. The VHP was an alliance with significant figures from the religious apparatus, who in earlier times would have typically participated in the Hindu Mahasabha, but it also involved RSS pracharaks who gave it organisational strength. The VHP aimed to “provide Hinduism with a multinational ecclesiastical body”.25 Furthermore:

A major objective of the VHP is to forge a national and international unity among all those it defines as Hindus. Hindus, they felt, have been fragmented and divided into groups and castes in conflict with each other. This weakness has allowed foreigners to invade and rule India, and the minority communities to become defiant. In order to reassert their power, the Hindus have to become conscious of their underlying common identity and rediscover a force in the unity that is submerged.26

In the 1970s and 1980s, the collapse of the post-war boom, in India as elsewhere, generated a period of crisis.27 This led to a long-term decomposition of Congress, and the parliamentarianism of the country’s two large Communist Parties meant they were unable to provide an effective alternative that could fill the gap. Instead, the opportunity was ultimately seized by the Jan Sangh, which was reconstituted as the Bharatiya Janata Party after temporary liquidation into an anti-Congress coalition government in 1977-9. However, it took until the late 1980s for an issue to emerge that provided the RSS and VHP with an outstanding opportunity to make a breakthrough.

Following the assassination of Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, Congress temporarily and opportunistically tilted towards Hindutva politics. In 1987-8, against this political backdrop, state television station Doordarshan broadcast Ramayan, a 78-episode production of the Ramayana, the Hindu epic about the god Rama. The series was a massive, and somewhat unexpected, popular hit, achieving huge weekly audiences. The broadcaster followed this with a 91-episode dramatisation of another Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. The standardised form of television epic emerging from this unintentionally played “a leading role in creating a national Hindu identity, a form of group consciousness that had not previously existed”.28

The RSS and VHP could barely believe their luck. During the 1989 general election, BJP posters portrayed Rama as a symbol of strength and power. In the context of economic and political crisis and the accelerating decomposition of Congress, the BJP’s number of parliamentary seats leapt from two to 85 seats, and the party never looked back. The Sangh Parivar also realised that they had the perfect issue with which to exploit the strengthening of Hindu chauvinism: the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. This mosque, built in the reign of the Mughal emperor Babur, was also the reputed birthplace of Rama. A case to return it to Hindu use had been ongoing since 1949 but had become mired in the legal system. Now the Sangh Parivar a launched a campaign for the reconstruction of a Hindu temple on the site.

In 1990, the then president of the BJP, Lal Krishna Advani, took part in a month-long “Ram Rath Yatra”, a chariot tour (though the “chariot” was actually a modified Toyota pickup truck) that traversed the country to build support for the temple’s construction. In an echo of the loyalist marching season in Northern Ireland, this was accompanied by sectarian riots everywhere it went, culminating in a major confrontation in Ayodhya. Sectarian violence brought with it political success, and the BJP won 120 seats in the 1991 general election, becoming the clear alternative to Congress, particularly among leading sections of Indian capital. The campaign against the Babri Mosque was underpinned by a classic example of Sangh Parivar sophistication: every Hindu temple in India and abroad was asked to sponsor a brick for the new temple at Ayodhya. This simple initiative was a supremely effective means with which the Sangh Parivar could penetrate temple congregations, associating them with the Hindutva strategy.

The culmination of the Ayodhya campaign was a mass protest in December 1992, ending with demonstrators demolishing the Babri Mosque, despite a massive police presence. This was a clear display of the Sangh Parivar’s power. It also highlighted a shift away from the popular image of the Sangh Parivar as an RSS-dominated combine. Non-RSS elements of the VHP were never going to meekly accept being absorbed and marginalised, and some non-RSS figures within the VHP established their own militia, the Bajrang Dal, in 1984. The name, derived from an attribute of the god Hanuman, defies formal translation into English, but a good working understanding is “the tough lads”. This gives an accurate idea of the membership, contrasting with the paramilitary discipline of the RSS. Since the 1990s, Bajrang Dal militants have been prominent in sectarian violence against Muslims and Christians. They also serve as a tool for non-RSS elements to leverage more influence in the BJP and Sangh Parivar by outflanking the RSS from the right. The demolition of the Babri Mosque, which was not planned by the RSS, was the first sign of the extensive influence of non-RSS elements inside the Sangh Parivar.

The Babri Mosque campaign projected the Sangh Parivar internationally as well as across India, in particular into Britain. However, the recent explosion of its influence is organically linked to the emergence for the first time of a single figurehead: Narendra Modi, who has been prime minister of India since 2014.

The rise of Narendra Modi

Modi comes from a family of grocers in the north western state of Gujarat. He joined the RSS as a boy and became a full-timer in 1971. In 1985, the RSS assigned him to the Gujarat BJP, where he rapidly gained a reputation as an effective political organiser, assisting Advani’s chariot tour in 1990. He obtained further credibility after planning the BJP’s victory in the 1995 state elections before transferring to New Delhi as BJP national secretary.

In October 2001, Modi was sent back to Gujarat as a replacement for the chief minister in order to deal with a crisis in the BJP state government. On 27 February 2002, a train containing several hundred Sangh Parivar volunteers, returning from working on the Ayodhya temple, was involved in a fire at Godhra Junction station, with 59 deaths.29 Immediately, Sangh Parivar organisations blamed local Muslims, and Modi made a statement that described the incident as an Islamic terrorist attack, intending to use the state machine to make a repressive sweep against Muslims. However, the local VHP stole his thunder, calling for a state-wide “bandh” (shutdown). Widespread attacks on Muslims began, led by the local Bajrang Dal groups.30 The RSS felt compelled to follow suit, and Modi allowed the attacks to go on for two days before ordering the police to close them down.31 Total deaths stood at around 2,000, overwhelmingly made up of Muslims.

Modi evaded all personal responsibility, successfully seeing off international efforts to sanction him. The episode illustrates one principal way in which Modi diverges from RSS orthodoxy; he sees the state as a primary agency for achieving the aims of Hindutva. The experience of being upstaged by the VHP drove him to ensure that he gained total control over all Sangh Parivar elements in Gujarat before he finally returned to national government in New Delhi in 2014.

Another way in which he is an unorthodox former RSS full-timer is his enthusiasm for corporate capitalism. From the start of his rule in Gujarat, Modi went out of his way to cultivate Indian and international corporate capital, making this central to his political pitch for economic development. GDP growth in Gujarat annually averaged 10 percent during his 2002-14 period of office, although Gujarat was already registering high growth rates throughout the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, this superficial neoliberal success was accompanied by increasing social inequalities and no improvement in public education.32 Modi’s success in promoting his neoliberal model for Gujarat secured his landslide election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2012. This posed a dilemma for the RSS national leadership; put bluntly, they did not trust him to follow the official line. Nonetheless, they found themselves under increasing pressure. The BJP had led a national coalition government between 1999 and 2004, and it confidently expected to win re-election under the “India Shining” slogan, based on the first flowering of the information technology-led economic expansion. However, to the party’s dismay, they lost to a Congress-led coalition. Congress then enacted a last gasp of significant social democrat reforms, on the back of which they won re-election in 2009. In that election, the RSS leadership had been compelled to roll out the 82 year old Advani as their prime ministerial candidate because they were so desperate to keep Modi out of the top job.

By 2014, they had run out of alternatives and were compelled to run Modi. He walked over a divided and exhausted Congress, which had nothing to offer in the wake of the 2008-10 economic crisis. He ran an unprecedentedly personality-based campaign, promising economic development and a return to national greatness.

Hindutva under Modi

Despite his tilt towards corporate capital, Modi has not abandoned his Hindutva objectives. This was seen early on when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, in Hindi, in 2014. He began with the idea of India’s ancient civilisation: “Nowhere in his remarks did Modi use the word ‘Hindu’, but precisely because of the settled association between antiquity and upper-caste Hinduism outside India, he didn’t have to”.33 Modi departed from RSS orthodoxy again by picking up on an existing campaign for the UN to declare an International Yoga Day. Historically, the RSS had not favoured yoga, seeing it as insufficiently muscular. Typically, however, the astute Modi recognised an opportunity. He saw the day as a form of national branding that could reach much further into societies internationally than conventional political campaigns: “Invoking ancient wisdom through yoga is an attempt to place India on a par with other national brands: ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ as a US brand identity and ‘civilisation’ as a European trope”.34

Modi’s period in national office has also seen an upsurge in anti-Muslim campaigns. Since 2014, several BJP-led state governments have enacted legislation against the slaughter of cows, a core Hindutva demand. On the back of these, local cow protection militias have carried out a series of lynchings of Muslims accused of smuggling cows or consuming beef. The local police usually look the other way.35 Another phenomenon has been an increasing campaign against the supposed “love jihad” being waged by Muslims. The Sangh Parivar claim that young Hindu women are being forcibly converted to Islam following seduction and marriage by Muslim men as part of an Islamic conspiracy to undermine the Hindu community. BJP state governments have passed anti-conversion laws (also aimed against Christians), and local Sangh Parivar campaigns have taken place against specific individuals, typically involving charges of kidnapping against Muslim husbands.36

The strengthening of Islamophobic campaigning has been aided by the decomposition of the left-wing parties, particularly Congress and the two main Communist Parties. This enabled the BJP to win a series of major state election victories, most notably in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, in 2017 (and once more in 2022).

After this victory, the BJP installed Yogi Adityanath, a leading religious functionary and VHP (though not RSS) member, as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. Although Adityanath was not Modi’s choice, he rapidly became the second most prominent national figure in the BJP, and his political approach shows what the party is capable of in office. He built his own power base on the back of a local militia that he formed in 2002 and from his domination of a powerful local temple. He has promoted an aggressive Hindutva agenda, closing many slaughterhouses and setting up “anti-Romeo” squads, a local variation on the campaign against the “love jihad”. In 2020, he enacted an ordinance against “unlawful religious conversion”. Meanwhile, he has enthusiastically embraced Modi’s development strategy and his alliance with corporate capital.

The BJP’s electoral hegemony and the political dominance of the Sangh Parivar has come out of decades-long campaigning as well as the more recent conflagration of nationalism and Hindutva. Their portrayal of a globally powerful India, with a civilisation on an equal footing with any other and purged of class conflict, reflects the aspirations and interests of a section of the expanding Indian capitalist class.

As part of this process, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student organisation has become central to the Sangh Parivar operation. It has an annually registered membership of over three million. The ABVP occasionally provides muscle for breaking up left-wing student groups, including at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi in January 2020. However, its central long-term aim is to provide Hindutva cadres.37 Simply by following routine career paths, these cadres penetrate managerial levels in public sector bodies and capitalist enterprises. The sheer number of people passing through the ABVP over several decades suggests the extent of diffusion of Hindutva ideas into managerial and professional ranks in India. This model is also central to current Sangh Parivar strategy in Britain.

The Sangh Parivar in Britain

The Sangh Parivar began its operations in Britain as early as 1972, when the VHP began systematic organising.38 The aim was to draw Hindu organisations with memberships made up of migrants with different Indian regional and cultural backgrounds into common platforms so that unified action could be taken.39 The VHP rarely takes a lead in any specific initiative; rather, its sympathisers in other organisations look up to it as an “umbrella” that helps them solve and manage problems.40

The VHP began to make decisive progress in Britain with the Babri Mosque campaign. The 1989 Virat Hindu Sammelan rally in Milton Keynes attracted 55,000 attendees.41 Another early initiative was publishing Hindutva-friendly school syllabuses on Hinduism aimed at National Curriculum programmes in religious education. This did not gain much traction at the time, but it is now being revisited in much more favourable circumstances. The management committees of most British temples with congregations of Gujarati heritage included at least one VHP member by 1996.42 A more public role is taken by a range of other organisations such as the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), the Hindu Council UK (HCUK), the National Council of Hindu Temples UK (NCHT) and the National Hindu Students Federation (NHSF). Generally, their superficially flashy websites are extremely opaque on exactly who their leading members are. This anonymity makes it much easier for apparently spontaneous initiatives to suddenly materialise.

As in India, the Sangh Parivar pay specific attention to students. Although the NHSF is careful to avoid direct organisational connections with other Sangh Parivar affiliates, its alignment with their politics has repeatedly emerged into the light. In June 2022, the NHSF promoted its national “committee day” conference, describing its aim as “to provide future leaders of the Hindu community”. Three months later, the NHSF ran a series of nine posts on its Facebook page, entitled “Nine Hindu queens—What can we as Hindu students today learn from the Ranis”. Each post was written by a female member of a university Hindu society. Reflecting the Sangh Parivar’s post-1990 emphasis on Hindu martial values, each was illustrated by pictures of the historical queens armed with weapons, and all were described as facing foreign invaders. As far back as 2010, the Manchester branch of the NHSF organised “Welcome to Manchester dinners” jointly with the VHP.43 NHSF events were also promoted at regular Saturday VHP lectures, where an observer noted:

The vision of Hindu emasculation was frequently overlaid…with the problematic quality of Muslim communities in Britain and the danger of appeasement in an atmosphere of multiculturalism… Stereotypical representations of Muslims as extremists, drug dealers and/or excessive, lustful breeders are deployed in order to accentuate differences from a lawful, quietist, professionally oriented and economically successful representation of the Hindu identity.44

All of these themes reappear in the Sangh Parivar’s response to the 2022 Leicester events. They were not new in 2010.

In 2007, the HFB and NHSF participated in a Hindu Security Conference, attended by the then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Ian Blair. Feeding into state Islamophobia, the conference emphasised the threat of Muslim student organisations converting female Hindu and Sikh students. This was an early roll out of the Sangh Parivar’s “love jihad” initiative and also reflected its obsessive hatred of religious conversion. In 2007, the HCUK made a brief presentation to the Ministry of Justice’s Faith Forum, writing: “Favouring any faith above another is unjust and anti-spiritual. Religious conversion amounts to insulting other faiths”.45

Recent social media posts from pro-Sangh Parivar accounts reveal an obsession with the idea of a Christian assault upon Hinduism.46 The idea of a Christian plot was also prominent in the campaign against formal recognition of caste-based discrimination under the Equality Act. Proposals to list caste as “protected characteristic” in the law was portrayed as an evangelical Christian campaign to divide the Hindu community, a latter-day extension of the British colonial strategy of the late 19th century. This forced the Sangh Parivar into a much more public stance; had the proposal to include caste as a protected characteristic been successful, it could have led to a series of high profile cases undermining the Hindutva view of Hinduism as a unique, inclusive and benign theology. A concerted lobbying campaign was instituted, with the initial case set out in a 2008 HFB report, Caste in the UK: A Summary of the Consultation with the Hindu Community in Britain. The document contained the standard Sangh Parivar argument that the demand emanated from a Christian-based “caste discrimination lobby”. It deployed a quote from Swami Vivekananda—“in religion there is no caste”—before attempting a clinching academic reference: “Scholars such as Bernard Cohn, Ronald Inden and Nicholas Dirks have argued that caste is a product of colonial imperial designs to strengthen their power over native Indians”.47 In fact, most academic work describes caste as a pre-existing phenomenon that was then impacted by imperial policy (sometimes consciously and cynically, sometimes unintentionally).

The Sangh Parivar organisations were much better able to influence the British state than those of the poorly organised Dalit (lower caste) community. They also had the added advantage of being able to draw Sikh organisations onside, since the wealthy Sikh community leaderships were extremely anxious to avoid fracturing the illusion of a casteless community of believers.48

In April 2017, the NCHT held a launch meeting for the centre-piece of its campaign, a publication called Caste, Conversion and a “Thoroughly Colonial Conspiracy”. The event was introduced by the general secretary of the NCHT, Satish K Sharma, a prolific YouTuber and Twitter user. Introducing the guest speaker, the prominent and controversial (though non-RSS) BJP member of parliament Subramanian Swamy, Sharma described some of the arguments of the report:

Hindu odium, an atmosphere of hated against Hindus, was created in Britain… The ideology of caste was nurtured as an anti-Hindu “hate brand” by the Anglican church… The Dalits were created by the British Criminal Tribes Act of 1871… Above all…the lie that “to be an Indian was to belong to a caste” was reported until it became an assumed fact.49

The Sangh Parivar’s attempts to deny its presence in Britain have redoubled after the events in Leicester. Yet, if platforming such a prominent figure as Swamy was not blatant enough, Sharma also let slip his alignment with the Sangh Parivar with his comment that “the times are changing and Dharma is rising” while he celebrated the appointment of Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister.50

The campaign over the Equality Act peaked in September 2018 with an HFB meeting in the House of Commons, entitled “Dissolving Caste Consciousness: Moving Forward”. Its most notable attendee was Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a pro-Israeli organisation that stridently campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn and denounces pro-Palestinian left wingers as antisemitic. This involvement signalled a realisation by the Sangh Parivar that the anti-Corbyn campaign headed by the Campaign Against Antisemitism provided an excellent template. Keying into contemporary discourse, “Hindu odium” became “Hinduphobia”. Similarly, the legitimation of the Hindutva narrative of Indian history since 1200 was represented “decolonising education”.

The campaign over the Equality Act was a comprehensive success. In September 2018, Theresa May’s government decided to drop the proposal. This victory prompted the Sangh Parivar to try their luck further, and the 1990s campaign to take control of the teaching of Hinduism in the religious education lessons was revived. This new push was headed by another new formation that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, INSIGHT UK, whose website claims that it is “a social movement of British Hindus”. This group produced A Report into the State of Hinduism in Religious Education in UK Schools. In a rare admission by a Sangh Parivar organisation of systematic relationships with other such groups, the introduction stated that the report was “supported and guided by the NCHT, HFB, HCUK, VHP and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh”. The project, it continued, “had led to the establishment of a Hindu Education Board intended to become the formal partner for public bodies involved in religious education”. Central to the report was a survey of 2,063 Hindu parents and recent school students. It was presented in a standard academic format, intending to carry the impression of being serious research. Buried in page 13 of report, however, was the acknowledgement that the survey had been carried out via social media and INSIGHT UK’s own website, that is, among their existing sympathisers.51 Unsurprisingly, “It was found that many social issues such as the caste system are taught exclusively as part of Hinduism. The caste system is a social issue, not a religious issue and is not limited to any one community”.52 This avoids the mountain of evidence that caste was imported into Muslim and Christian communities in India by converts.53 Yet, since this evidence fatally undermines the Sangh Parivar argument, the authors chose to throw up a smokescreen of unsupported assertions.

The Sangh Parivar operation went into overdrive following the Leicester events. On 20 September 2022, Sharma appeared as a guest on an Indian YouTube channel associated with the Sangh Parivar. Ignoring the months-long series of confrontations preceding the disturbances, he focused on the tearing down of the flag outside a Hindu temple. He blamed it on “a community that shall not be named”, calling it a hate crime and saying those responsible had not been arrested, then accused the BBC of being institutionally anti-Hindu and anti-India. He also deployed one of the Sangh Parivar’s current talking points by speaking about the religious affiliations of prisoners in British jails, emphasising that 18 percent are Muslims and less than 1 percent are Hindus. Sharma’s interviewer concluded with the punchline, “Hindus are the Jews of the 21st century”.54 Similar arguments appeared in an open letter to Liz Truss, sent on 14 October during her brief spell as prime minister. The letter was organised by INSIGHT UK and signed by over 180 Hindu community organisations:

Hatred towards the Hindu community is at an all-time high… The Hindu community is one of the most law-abiding, as evidenced by the imprisonment statistics… A small, but highly organised band of radical Islamists took full advantage of the community tensions that existed between the marginalised Hindu community and their Muslim neighbours… As a consequence of this vicious campaign numerous Hindus were physically assaulted, and Hindu homes were targeted and…vandalised.

The letter ended with a series of demands, most notably, “To commission an independent enquiry into anti-Hindu hatred and its causes, which will go a long way in raising awareness of the problem among the key institutions of our society.” Another demand reads, “To recognise the threat of British home-grown extremism and how certain parts of Britain have become hubs of radicalisation.” It ended with an offer that meant more than it might seem: “We are prepared to work shoulder to shoulder with you to make our country a leading light in the world”.55

Unfortunately for INSIGHT UK, Truss and the rest of the British political class were otherwise engaged on 14 October, and the initiative vanished into the mist, temporarily at least. Undaunted, on 28 October, the organisation published another open letter, this time to the BBC. The screed accused the broadcaster of reporting that is “anti-Hindu in its sentiment”:

It has only served to further incite hatred and division between communities who have otherwise been living relatively peacefully side by side in these cities… The misinformation on social media…has been instituted by the actual offenders, Islamists, who wish to destabilise the peaceful coexistence of diverse religions and…increase the incidence of Hinduphobia in our communities… Hindus make less than 0.5 percent of the prison population… British Indians and Hindus…continue to be one of the most economically successful minority groups, with 654 Indian diaspora-owned companies collectively investing around £2 billion in the British economy through capital expenditure.56

The Sangh Parivar returned to the attack when Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby proposed Chris Allen, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Leicester, to chair an investigation of the events. On 27 October, Leicester Hindu and Jain temple leaders sent a letter to Soulsby stating their decision to boycott Allen’s investigation. After criticising Allen for making earlier statements mentioning Hindutva involvement, they picked up on his previous work on Islamophobia, accusing him of having already ruled out Islamic extremism as a contributory factor.57 After the widespread distribution of a video clip attacking Allen from Sangh Parivar-supporting Twitter accounts, he felt compelled to withdraw—another victory for the Sangh Parivar.58

Sangh Parivar strategy in Britain

Understanding the non-fascist but ultra-right nature of the Sangh Parivar threat is crucial, especially because its core operation in Britain is built around groups that are not inspired by the RSS. Indeed, the RSS in Britain is a marginal operation, currently focusing on building a middle-class cadre via voluntary projects, rather than on shakas based on paramilitary drilling. The VHP usually keeps a low profile, leaving public facing operations to groups such as the HFB, NCHT and, more recently, INSIGHT UK.

These groups celebrate the Modi government and the achievements of the BJP in restoring Indian prestige. However, as I have argued, Modi is not an orthodox RSS figure, despite his long career as a pracharak, and he has an appeal that goes far beyond the organisational periphery of the RSS. Modi realised early on that the composition of the Indian ruling class was changing due to the expansion of dynamic sectors of the economy (most famously computing and pharmaceuticals, but now also other industries). His politics, and increasingly that of the Sangh Parivar as a whole, reflects the interests of these new sections of the ruling class. This means an embrace of big capital in India’s internal politics as well as the projection of the Indian state as an aspirant great power abroad. These great power aspirations involve a combination of hard power (militarism against Pakistan and China) and soft power (the advancement of Hindu culture as a unique Indian contribution to the world, for instance, through the promotion of yoga and “Dharmic values”).

In this light, it is easy to see how the Sangh Parivar has been able to rapidly expand its influence in Britain. The Indian-heritage community is dominated by a wealthy capitalist layer whose composition is more or less equivalent to the expanding capitalist class in India, and Modi’s politics fit perfectly with the interests of this group. The British strategy for the Sangh Parivar is, as it is in India, for its supporters to insert themselves into the core of the British ruling class. The response to events in Leicester exemplifies this. It built on the Sangh Parivar’s existing pitch: the notion of law-abiding Hindus, perfectly aligned with “British values”, in contrast to a Muslim community supposedly infested with criminals and Islamist terrorists. As a contemporary flourish, the issue of child abuse gangs is linked with the “love jihad” campaign in India. The attempt to promote the idea of “Hinduphobia” as a central social issue is an obvious imitation of the cynical manipulation of antisemitism claims to undermine Corbynism. It is also built on a denial of the actual racism faced by Asian people in Britain, which obscures how the very people the Sangh Parivar purport to represent were, for decades, the targets of this racism. The powerful anti-racist struggles of the 1960s and onwards, the Indian Workers Associations, and the anti-racist youth movements are airbrushed from this history. This denies any sense of solidarity both with other targets of racism and with working-class struggle. The only solidarity it seeks is with the British ruling class.

A potential stumbling block here is that emphasising alignment with British values does not fit well with Sangh Parivar arguments about caste and Hinduphobia, and this may well get them into trouble at some stage. These arguments are a core element of promoting the supposed “decoloniality” of Sangh Parivar ideas, which is essential to working within student and intellectual milieus, where legitimacy is being sought for the notion of Hinduphobia. Of course, all this overlooks the fact that these ideas use the imperialist division of Indian history into Hindu, Muslim and British periods—a contradiction that they hope will be overlooked.59

The aim of fusing with the British ruling class has met with some success. The strategically aware sections of the Conservative Party realised the advantages of this as far back as the early years of the David Cameron leadership. This resulted in the “A-List” devised by Conservative Central Office in 2005, designed to broaden the composition of Tory MPs and councillors.60 The selection of Rishi Sunak as Conservative leader and his accession as prime minister have come as an outstanding stroke of luck for Hindutva ideologues, even if Sunak himself is nothing more than opportunist in his attitude to Modi and the Sangh Parivar. His success gives the Sangh Parivar (or rather their bourgeois leadership) a golden opportunity to advance the argument that wealthy Hindus comprise an integral part of the contemporary British ruling class. Sunak embodies many of the attributes that the Parivar wishes to highlight: education, family values, patriotism and economic success. Of course, the attempt to piggyback on the success of Sunak could come unstuck if his government proves to be a failure. However, there are plenty of other figures emerging in the Conservative Party who the Sangh Parivar will use if the opportunity arises. Nor is it just the Conservatives who the Sangh Parivar aspires to use in this regard. During a speech at London’s India Gardens in October 2022, Labour leader Keir Starmer pledged opposition to “Hinduphobia”, marking a clear move towards endorsing this kind of position. Indeed, this echoed similar, more long-standing positions adopted by some local Labour figures in Leicester and north west London.

The summer Conservative Party leadership election demonstrated that the leading organs of the British ruling class see the unreconstructed version of racism favoured by a section of the Tory membership as a serious problem that needs to be marginalised. The same can be said for far-right fragments that have not yet realised that Islamophobia is the issue of choice. Any emergence of a far-right party in Britain that mirrors the success of the European far right and the Trumpite Republican model will certainly have Islamophobia as a core plank and may seek to appeal to the Sangh Parivar and Indian-heritage capitalists.

The threat to the socialist and working-class movement is clear. The Sangh Parivar can disrupt workers’ struggles in places like Leicester and north west London by organising a section of the working class behind reactionary ruling-class politics. Any success in legitimising Hinduphobia as a concept will disrupt anti-racist campaigns by posing Muslims and socialists as the main threat. Moreover, this applies not only to anti-racist campaigns. Disruption can seep into every area of political life, including trade union branches, the movement against climate change, women’s rights campaigns, LGBT+ organisations and so on. Ignoring the danger is not a viable option.

What is the best way to combat this? The class element is a key point of weakness for the Sangh Parivar, which subordinates the working-class interests to capitalist ones, not least in areas such as Leicester. Well-conceived and effective interventions, based on an accurate understanding of what is really going on, is a route towards dissolving the allegiance of workers to the Hindu chauvinist leaderships.

On a wider scale, it is important to fashion an alternative narrative about the nature of British imperialism in South Asia. The standard interpretation adopted by the left goes little further than partial formulations, noting, for example, British divide and rule strategies and the reactionary role of Winston Churchill’s policies towards India.61 This cannot successfully challenge the ideas put forward by such a sophisticated operation as the Sangh Parivar, and the lack of a clearer understanding of this history risks immense problems when intervening among the Hindu student milieu. Socialists in Britain and elsewhere have failed to pay close enough attention to the class struggle in India for some decades. The emergence of Indian capitalism and its state as major forces in world politics, and the impact of this on the domestic politics of both India and other countries, demands that this now changes.

Barry Pavier is a long-standing member of the SWP and a retired further education lecturer from Bradford.


1 Thanks to Joseph Choonara, Jacqui Freeman, Sheila McGregor and Camilla Royle for their comments on an earlier draft.

2 Prasad, 2022a.

3 BBC News, 2022.

4 Prasad, 2022b.

5 Lowbridge, Lynn and Martin, 2022.

6 Lowbridge, Lynn and Martin, 2022.

7 South Asia Solidarity Group, 2022.

8 The one far-right group that has occasionally achieved this is Shiv Sena (Shivaji’s Army), a Mumbai-based group. Despite its anti-Muslim xenophobia, it is not usually categorised as part of the Sangh Parivar because it advocates a reconstituted Maratha legitimism, looking for inspiration to the Maratha Confederacy, the last significant competitor to the British East India Company. Thus, it has no interest in creating an all-India Hindu society.

9 In some rural areas, caste-based militias of small capitalists have been used to violently suppress radical movements of landless peasants and rural workers. However, these groups are always local and have never aspired to replace the state at any level.

10 The RSS’s paramilitary uniform of white shirts and khaki shorts (abandoned in favour of trousers in 2014) was the subject of much derision in intellectual circles. Both the uniform and the practice of drilling with “lathis” (long staves) were copied from the colonial police, reflecting the militarism of the RSS.

11 Socialists and radicals who argue the RSS is fascist often reference historian Marzia Casolari. In fact, she states: “It is hard to assert whether fascism had any part to play in the birth of militant organisations such as the RSS.”—Casolari, 2020, p33. Her account of the dalliance of Hindu chauvinist leader Balakrishna Shivram Moonje with fascists in the 1930s references an important comment he made when discussing the meaning of fascism (although she fails to recognise its significance): “Our institution, the RSS of Nagpur under Dr Keshav Boliram Hedgewar, is of this kind, although quite independently conceived.”— Casolari, 2020, quoted at p42.

12 See Littlewood, 2022.

13 Puri, 2019, p329.

14 Thus, British officials supported groupings within Hinduism and Islam to further colonial interests, for example, backing Sayyid Ahmed Khan’s Aligarh movement against the Deobandi school of orthodox Islamic scholars. They also supported various anti-Brahmin movements in western India and the southern region of Tamil Nadu. See Sarkar, 1983; Irshick, 1969.

15 Jaffrelot, 1996, p18.

16 Jaffrelot, 1996, p19.

17 Jaffrelot, 1996 p20.

18 Jaffrelot, 1996, p28.

19 Jaffrelot, 1996, p31.

20 Sanskrit is the literary language of classical Hindu texts. Despite promotional measures after 1947, it remains confined to use in Hindu rituals, some classical music traditions, and a narrow range of modern literature and drama.

21 Jaffrelot, 1996, pp33-47.

22 Jaffrelot, 1996, pp55-56; see also Golwalkar, 1939, p62.

23 Jaffrelot, 1996, p59.

24 Jaffrelot, 1996, p63.

25 Jaffrelot, 1996, p197.

26 Bhattacharya, 1990.

27 For an early discussion of the political fragmentation within the Indian ruling class, see Pavier, 1983.

28 Jaffrelot, 1996, p389.

29 The Sangh Parivar’s narrative, eventually adopted by the state, was that the train was set on fire by radical Islamists. In fact, the most likely explanation is that Sangh Parivar activists were harassing a Muslim vendor who was selling snacks on the platform, not realising that they were next to a Muslim-majority slum. When locals chased them away, the attackers rushed back to the train, which then set off prematurely. In the confusion, a kerosene stove, which was being used (illegally but not unusually) to heat passengers’ food, overturned. This set fire to flammable fixtures, clothing and luggage.

30 Setalvad, 2002, pp177-211.

31 Sundar, 2002, pp75-134.

32 Jaffrelot, 2015.

33 Puri, 2019, p323.

34 Puri, 2019, p330.

35 Jaffrelot, 2019, p59. Typical of these organisations is the Cow Protection Association of Punjab, which has as its logo a cow’s head flanked by two AK-47 rifles.

36 See, for instance, the “Hadiya case” in Kerala—Devika, 2017.

37 See The Wire, 2020.

38 Katju, 2010, p155.

39 Katju, 2010, p11.

40 Katju, 2010, p157.

41 Palshinkar, 2019, p105.

42 Katju, 2010, p158.

43 Zavos, 2010, p12.

44 Zavos, 2010, pp12-13.

45 Zavos, 2010, p16.

46 A favourite target is the US academic historian Audrey Truschke, frequently attacked as a Christian extremist.

47 Hindu Forum of Britain, 2008.

48 The notorious Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala was involved in organisations aimed at suppressing movements of Sikh Dalits from the late 1970s—see Pavier, 1984.

49 Sharma, 2017.

50 Sharma, 2017.

51 INSIGHT UK, 2021, p13.

52 INSIGHT UK, 2021 p18.

53 For instance, on Christian communities, see Gidla, 2017. For Muslims, see Mujeeb, 1967.

55 See INSIGHT UK Twitter thread at https://tinyurl.com/muu4hn8x

58 Patel, 2022.

59 Indeed, this is how my undergraduate degree in South Asian History at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London was organised in 1967.

60 There was also a parallel alignment with conservative elements of the West African-heritage section of the capitalist class.

61 As indicated earlier, divide and rule was a more complex strategy than usually presented. Moreover, Churchill’s most important intervention on India was arguably not during the 1943-4 Bengal Famine, when he insisted on the implementation of a strategy drawn up by John Maynard Keynes as long ago as 1914. Rather, it may have been his ultra-imperialist opposition to the modest concessions eventually enacted in the 1935 Government of India Act. The cult of Churchill has successfully expunged this episode from the popular narrative, but it is the principal reason why he was out of office from 1931 to 1939.


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