Lessons From the Past for the Future: The Definition and Mobilisation of Hindu Nationhood by the Hindu Nationalist Movement of India


  • Sammyh S. Khan
  • Ted Svensson
  • Yashpal A. Jogdand
  • James H. Liu


Guided by a self-categorisation and social-identity framework of identity entrepreneurship (Reicher & Hopkins, 2001), and social representations theory of history (Liu & Hilton, 2005), this paper examines how the Hindu nationalist movement of India defines Hindu nationhood by embedding it in an essentialising historical narrative. The heart of the paper consists of a thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) of the ideological manifestos of the Hindu nationalist movement in India, “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?” (1928) and “We, or Our Nationhood Defined” (1939), written by two of its founding leaders – Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, respectively. The texts constitute authoritative attempts to define Hindu nationhood that continue to guide the Hindu nationalist movement today. The derived themes and sub-themes indicate that the definition of Hindu nationhood largely was embedded in a narrative about its historical origins and trajectory, but also its future. More specifically, a ‘golden age’ was invoked to define the origins of Hindu nationhood, whereas a dark age in its historical trajectory was invoked to identify peoples considered to be enemies of Hindu nationhood, and thereby to legitimise their exclusion. Through its selective account of past events and its efforts to utilise this as a cohesive mobilising factor, the emergence and rise of the Hindu nationalist movement elucidate lessons that further our understanding of the rise of right-wing movements around the world today.