Hindu nationalism: A roundup of reporting and resources

In August 2022, the township of Edison, New Jersey, celebrated the 75th anniversary of India’s independence with a parade through its central business district. Many in attendance, including local and statewide politicians, wore and waved India’s tricolor flag.

One of the floats in the procession was a bulldozer bearing photos of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath.

The bulldozer’s symbolism was lost on many in attendance.

But, as Reuters reported, for Indian Muslims at the parade, the “baba bulldozer” – a blunt instrument used to demolish Muslim homes in India — was a “symbol of division and discrimination.”

In January 2023, after months in court, the inclusion of the bulldozer in the procession was declared an “act of bias after a joint investigation by the local county prosecutor’s office and police department. But they said there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges against parade organizers.

The incident highlighted the global relevance of Hindu nationalism, a political ideology that views Indian national identity and culture as inseparable from Hinduism.

With origins dating back to the 19th century, Hindu nationalism — or Hindutva — encompasses a broad range of groups in India, but also among the Indian diaspora, from Europe to Edison.

This edition of ReligionLink provides background on what Hindu nationalism is, stories that show how it is influencing politics across the globe and experts to help you better understand its heady mix of ideological politics and national identity. 

What is Hindu nationalism?

Hindu nationalism is a far-right political ideology of Hindu supremacy. Also known as Hindutva (meaning “Hindu-ness”), it was first articulated in India in the 20th century by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The concept has remained stable, especially in its core objective of making India, a constitutionally secular state, into “a Hindu Rashtra [nation] where some Indians will be more equal than others.” According to Hindutva ideology, Hindus are viewed as an ethnic, rather than explicitly religious, category. It has strong parallels with other forms of extremist religious and racial nationalisms, such as white Christian nationalism.

India, a constitutionally secular state (although under the constitution, Muslims and Christians are not eligible for most of the caste-based reservations available to Hindus and others), is 80% Hindu, 14% Muslim and includes Christian (2%-3%), Sikh (<2%), Buddhist (<1%) and Jain (<1%) minorities.

The Hindutva endorsement of violence has proved a threat against many (scholars and journalists included), in India and abroad, as its reach and popularity have evolved over time. First, it went global, expanding beyond Indian borders beginning in the 1940s. Today, Hindu nationalism is a worldwide phenomenon that negatively impacts multiple communities, especially of South Asian descent, across the world.

Second, Hindutva used to be a fringe ideology embraced only by a minority of Indians. Today, Hindu nationalism increasingly defines the Indian political mainstream, and a Hindutva political party (BJP) has governed at the federal level in India, with an increasingly tight grip, since 2014. Many observers no longer consider India a democracy due to state adoption of oppressive Hindu nationalist policies.

For more information and background on Hindu nationalism, what it is, where it comes from, what advocacy organizations and human rights groups are saying about it and what the future might hold for Hindutva, check out the resources below:

General resources

Hindutva in North America

Caste in the Indian diaspora

Hindutva attacks on academic freedom in India and the U.S.

Human rights in India

Related stories






Experts and sources

Hindu nationalists can pose extreme dangers to Indian citizens and residents, especially Muslims; the BJP also tracks noncitizens at times. Reporters should be aware of the risks to themselves as well as their sources and should expect Indian government surveillance. In deference to these realities, the following list skews toward individuals outside of India; many experts have also been targets of Hindu nationalist harassment.

  • Ambedkar International Center

    The Ambedkar International Center (AIC), is a US-based non-profit think tank and advocacy organization that seeks to build a fairer, more egalitarian society based on the principles and philosophy of Bodhisattva Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

  • Manan Ahmed

    Manan Ahmed is an associate professor at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute. Ahmed’s areas of specialization include the intellectual history of Islam in South and Southeast Asia; frontier spaces and the city in medieval South Asia; and colonial and postcolonial North India and Pakistan.

  • Wissam al-Saliby

    Wissam al-Saliby is director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Geneva office, working on issues related to freedom of religion and belief.

  • Amnesty International USA

    Amnesty International USA describes itself as “a global movement of people fighting injustice and promoting human rights.” It works in a wide variety of issues, including LGBTQ rights, education, poverty and prison rights.

  • Rana Ayyub

    Rana Ayyub is an Indian journalist and opinion columnist with The Washington Post and author of  Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up.

  • Mona Bhan

    Mona Bhan is a cultural anthropologist at Syracuse University. Bhan’s areas of specialization include border wars and counterinsurgency; militarism and humanitarianism; race, gender and religion; environmentalism and climate change; occupation and human rights; space and place; water and infrastructure in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

  • Ananya Chakravarti

  • Angana P. Chatterji

    Angana P. Chatterji is an anthropologist and founding co-chair of the Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Initiative at the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley. Chatterji’s recent scholarship is focused on political violence as well as prejudicial citizenship and Hindu nationalism in India. Chatterji has served on human rights commissions and offered expert testimony, including at the United Nations, European Parliament, United Kingdom Parliament and U.S. Congress and commissions.

  • Vinayak Chaturvedi

    Vinayak Chaturvedi is a history professor at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Hindutva and Violence and Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India.

  • Rohit Chopra

    Rohit Chopra is a professor at Santa Clara University whose research and teaching center on global media and cultural identity, new media technologies and postcolonial media. He is the author of Technology and Nationalism in India: Cultural Negotiations From Colonialism to Cyberspace.

  • Amardeep Singh Dhillon

    Amardeep Singh Dhillon is a journalist, trade unionist and co-editor of Red Pepper, writing on race and migration, climate justice, liberation struggles, trade unionism, co-operatives and the Labour Party.

  • Yashica Dutt

    Yashica Dutt is an anti-caste journalist and the author of Coming Out as Dalit. She spent a decade covering arts, culture and fashion in New Delhi. Her work highlights the issue of caste as it exists within the increasingly prominent Indian diaspora. She can be contacted via Julia Masnik.

  • Azad Essa

    Azad Essa is a senior reporter for Middle East Eye based in New York City and author of Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel (2023).

  • Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations

    The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations, or FIACONA, is a coalition of Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, Pentecostal and independent church and civic organizations, primarily of Indian Americans, advocating on behalf of 1 million Indian American Christians from all 50 states and Canada. The media contact is John Prabhudoss.

  • FoRB Women’s Alliance

    FoRB Women’s Alliance is an international community of religious freedom and human rights advocates seeking to advance, facilitate and support solutions for freedom of religion or belief for women.

  • Ilyse R. Morgenstein Fuerst

    Ilyse R. Morgenstein Fuerst is a religion professor and director of the Humanities Center at the University of Vermont. Her work focuses on the history of religion, Islamic practice and history, race and imperialism, and South Asian traditions.

  • Shreena Gandhi

    Shreena Gandhi is a professor in the religious studies department at Michigan State University, where she primarily teaches classes on religion and race in the Americas. Gandhi’s research looks at the intersections between Hindutva and white supremacy, as well as the cultural history of yoga. 

  • Thomas Blom Hansen

    Thomas Blom Hansen is a professor in South Asian studies and anthropology at Stanford University. His fieldwork was done during the 1990s when conflicts between Hindu militants and Muslims defined national agendas and produced frequent violent clashes in the streets. Out of this work came two books: The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India and Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay.

  • Hindus for Human Rights

    Hindus for Human Rights is an advocacy organization providing “a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), racism, and all forms of bigotry and oppression.” Media contacts should go through Nikhil Mandalaparthy and Harita Iswara, communications and outreach coordinator.

  • Rashad Hussain

    Rashad Hussain is ambassador-at-large at the United States Office of International Religious Freedom. Reporters should reach him through Nathan Wineinger.

  • Indian American Muslim Council

    The Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States. The media contact is Ajit Sahi.

  • Christophe Jaffrelot

    Christophe Jaffrelot is a research fellow with the Center for International Studies and France’s National Centre for Scientific Research. His work focuses on such topics as mobilization of the lower castes and untouchables in India, the Hindu nationalist movement and ethnic conflicts in Pakistan.

  • Chinnaiah Jangam

    Chinnaiah Jangam is a history professor at Carleton University. His research focus is on the social and intellectual history of Dalits in modern South Asia. His first book, Dalits and the Making of Modern India, was published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

  • Lucas Koach

    Lucas Koach is director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

  • Vidya Krishnan

    Vidya Krishnan is an investigative and global health reporter based in India. Her first book is Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History (2022). She has written on Hindu nationalism, rape culture and other related issues for Caravan India

  • Prema Kurien

    Prema Kurien is an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University. She wrote the 2007 book A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism and is researching Indian American Christians, as well as Indian American political participation.

  • Deepti Misri

    Deepti Misri is a literary and cultural critic at the University of Colorado whose work focuses on gender, violence and representation. Her areas of interest span South Asian literary and cultural production, transnational feminist studies, and feminist theory and criticism.

  • Raqib Naik

    Raqib Naik is a Kashmiri journalist who runs the website Hindutva Watch.

  • Sadhana

    Sadhana is a progressive Hindu advocacy organization based in New York City.

  • Tanika Sarkar

    Tanika Sarkar is an acclaimed historian of women’s histories and social movements in colonial and post-colonial India. She is also the author of Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion, and Cultural Nationalism and Words to Win: The Making of Amar Jiban,” A Modern Autobiography.

  • Simran Jeet Singh

    Simran Jeet Singh is a Sikh scholar and historian of religion in South Asia. Simran currently serves as Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program. He writes frequently for various outlets, including TIME, CNN and Religion News Service.

  • Erin D. Singshinsuk

    Erin Singshinsuk serves as executive director of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She is responsible for directing the day-to-day operations of the commission and managing its staff.

  • Shana Sippy

    Shana Sippy is a research associate in religion at Carleton College whose work focuses on Hindu publics.

  • Vasundhara Sirnate

    Vasundhara Sirnate is a political scientist and journalist whose research includes counterinsurgency in South Asia, insurgent group dynamics in India, gender justice and societal violence. She was formerly the chief coordinator of research at the Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy and a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.

  • South Asian Americans Leading Together

    South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national movement strategy and advocacy organization committed to racial justice through structural change.

  • South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network

    The South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network (SADAN) is a non-profit organization working for the dalit, adivasi and lower caste ethnic descent communities of South Asia in Canada.

  • Ajantha Subramanian

    Ajantha Subramanian is an anthropology and South Asian studies professor at Harvard University whose research interests include colonialism and postcoloniality, South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. Her book Shorelines: Space and Rights in South India chronicles the struggles for resource rights by Catholic fishers on India’s southwestern coast, with a focus on how they have used spatial imaginaries and practices to constitute themselves as political subjects.

  • Nandini Sundar

    Nandini Sundar is a sociology professor at Delhi University and author of The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar. Sundar’s research focuses on academic freedom, democracy, law and inequality.

  • Dheepa Sundaram

    Dheepa Sundaram is a professor at the University of Denver. Her research examines the formation of Hindu virtual religious publics, online platforms, social media, apps and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

  • Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

    The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus) is a bipartisan caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives. Its stated mission is “to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.” The media contact is Kimberly Stanton.

  • Audrey Truschke

    Audrey Truschke is a professor at Rutgers University with research interests on the cultural, imperial and intellectual history of early modern and modern India, from 1500 to the present. Truschke is the author of  Culture of Encounters; Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King; and The Language of History: Sanskrit Narratives of Indo-Muslim Rule.

  • Suchitra Vijayan

    Suchitra Vijayan is the founder and executive director of the Polis Project, a New York-based hybrid research and journalism organization that works with communities in resistance.

  • Sunita Viswanath

    Sunita Viswanath is co-founder and board member of Hindus for Human Rights, Women for Afghan Women and Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.

  • Suraj Yengde

    Suraj Yengde is a research fellow at Harvard University and author of Caste Matters.

  • Ather Zia

    Ather Zia is an anthropologist, professor and former BBC journalist at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. Her research focuses on the Kashmir region.

  • Mohammed Zubair

    Mohammed Zubair is a journalist and co-founder of Alt News, an Indian nonprofit fact-checking website

Related ReligionLink resources

Contributors and collaborators

This source guide was produced by ReligionLink Editor Ken Chitwood, with writing and contributions from Manan Ahmed (associate professor of history, Columbia University), Ananya Chakravarti (associate professor of history, Georgetown University), Rohit Chopra (associate professor of communication, Santa Clara University), Dheepa Sundaram (assistant professor of religion, University of Denver) and Audrey Truschke (associate professor of history, Rutgers University).