Linda Elder

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Lawrence Ziring

Second Advisor

Dr. William Ritchie

Third Advisor

Libby Dalton

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The Hindu nationalist movement, known as "Hindutva," which originated during the British colonial period in India, manifests itself in Indian politics today in the form of the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.). Its affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, V.H.P. consisting of Hindu priests and sadhus, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, R. S.S., a paramilitary organization, form the core of this party. As the organized militant arm of Hindutva, the R.S.S. is compared to other religious fundamentalist organizations worldwide, based on characteristics provided by Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby in the Fundamentalist Research Project at the University of Chicago.

Since 1977 the B.J.P. has entered the mainstream of Indian politics appealing to Hindu businessmen and there has been a rise in the number of communal riots in northern India during religious festivals and election campaigns. Confidence in the government, especially on the part of minorities, has been eroded by inconsistent responses to such episodes of violence. The costs of maintaining law and order have been an added strain on India's already overburdened economy. Nevertheless, economic gains have been made and democratic institutions have prevailed despite such anti-secular forces.