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This Article will examine the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and provide an overview of its already devastating consequences. In February and March 2002, over 2000 people were killed in state-supported violence against Muslims in the western state of Gujarat, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP that also heads a coalition government at the center. The attacks were carried out with impunity by members of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (“RSS,” National Volunteer Corps), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (“VHP,” World Hindu Council), and the Bajrang Dal (the militant youth wing of the VHP). Collectively, these groups are known as the sangh parivar, or family of Hindu nationalist organizations. Police and state officials were directly implicated in many of the attacks. The BJP is the political wing of the sangh parivar.

Violence and other abuses against marginalized groups in India are part of a concerted campaign of these and related organizations—whose leadership is dominated by upper-caste Hindus—to promote and exploit communal tensions in order to retain political and economic power. Nationwide violence against India's Muslim community in 1992 and 1993 and against India's Christian community since 1998, including in the state of Gujarat, has also stemmed from the violent activities and hate propaganda of these groups. Human rights groups have long warned of the destructive potential of the sangh parivar's agenda—an agenda that exerts considerable influence over the nation's educational, social, defense, and anti-terrorism policies. The Indian government continues to exploit rhetoric surrounding the global war on terror to silence political dissent while the sangh parivar invokes the threat of Islamic terrorism in the aftermath of September 11 to justify the persecution of Muslims. Operating under the guise of patriotism, the proponents of Hindu nationalism are achieving mainstream credibility. This Article also discusses the “communalization” of education by the Hindu right: a battle to shape the minds of today's youth and tomorrow's leaders.

The promotion of Hindu nationalism as a legitimate political and cultural force has consequences beyond its impact on the lives of India's lower castes and religious minorities. Attacks on Muslims in India have their corresponding effect on Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Similarly, atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan-supported militancy in Kashmir are often cited as justifications for the persecution of Muslims in India. As the religious right gains significant footholds in electoral politics in Bangladesh and Pakistan, attacks on religious minorities in those countries have also reached alarming proportions.