Japanese Studies of Hindu Nationalism
Mitsuhiro Kondo

Japanese mass media and non-specialists commonly use the term of hindû shijô-shugi (Hindu supremacism) to indicate Hindutva influences in contemporary India. They previously preferred the use of another term, hindû genri-shugi (Hindu fundamentalism), until coming to appreciate Islamic scholars' admonitions against the imprudent use of the word genri-shugi (fundamentalism). This shift happened just a few years ago, and some people still use the term whether or not they mean to make a strong statement.

        In such a circumstance of terminological jockeying, the concept of hindû nashonarizumu (Hindu nationalism) is only recognized within a small world of South Asian Studies in Japan, to which I myself belong professionally. Hindû minzoku-shugi is another option presented by some South Asian scholars, a term which seems to have more promise of adoption by Japanese people. Minzoku is one Japanese translation of "nation" and, interestingly, "ethnic group" and "tribe" at the same time. ("Tribe" is also translated as buzoku, but it is not at issue here.) Highlighting the sense of ethnocultural unity and ties of blood, minzoku is close to the concept of volk in German. Meanwhile, some scholars introduced the term of hindû-shugi, which is an original Japanese invention similar to islâm-shugi (Islamism). Some writers did prefer this term, but it was not widely favored and is seldom used now.

        It was not too long ago that Japanese South Asia scholars reached a practical agreement on the use of " hindû nashonarizumu" (Hindu nationalism). There are some scholars who still insist on advocating concepts such as hindû komyunarizumu (Hindu communalism) or even hindû fashizumu (Hindu fascism) as well as hindû genri-shugi (Hindu fundamentalism), terminology crafted to express the essence of Hindutva. Including these significant insistences, the variety of stances enriches our understanding of India and South Asia.

        I hasten to add one point, however. Japanese public debate has no pro-Hindutva corner at all. Japanese South Asian scholars are fighting, as it were, a one-sided battle against an enemy that rarely appears. In other words, it is quite improbable that an incident similar to what happened to American and Indian scholarship in association with James Laine, Paul Courtright and, to mention with special emphasis, Wendy Doniger (see websites such as http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/infocusprint.php?num=20&subject=Religion%20on%20the%20Attack;and http://www.beliefnet.com/story/128/story_12899_1.html) will happen in Japan.

        Issues of the field, broadly speaking, relate to violence, power, life and death, sufferings and delights as well as memories and aspirations of the past, present and future. It is a matter of daily life and an indisputable battle for some people but not for most Japanese scholars, specifically, writers and speakers of the Japanese language. Their works secure only small channels of feedback to India or Bharat, such as reports written by Japanese experts for the Indian Ambassador to Japan, information produced by some pro-Hindutva Indians living in Japan, and the like. Works in Japanese are either potentially or already part of the global academic community. However, the emergence of Hindutva influences has given a new twist to South Asian studies. In brief, Japanese research on Hindutva has forced us to reconstruct the discipline and framework of South Asian studies as well as Indology. This is the historical conjunction in which Japanese studies of Hindu nationalism are now placed.

       To date, three books have been published in Japanese on the subject of Hindu nationalism. The first one is Hiroyuki Kotani's Râmu-Shinwa to Me-ushi: Hindû Fukko-shugi to Isulamu (my translation: The Myth of Rama and the Cow: Hindu Revivalism and Islam; Tokyo, November 1993), which focuses on the history of Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan (Rama's Birthplace Movement) and the destruction of the Babri masjid in December 1992. The subtitle contains the word fukko-shugi (which literally means "get-back-to-the-old-ism" but is usually translated as revivalism or reactionism), which was another term preferred by many Japanese scholars at that time. It shows an intellectual correspondence of Japanese and English literature, but I don't think it is necessary to elaborate the point here. As the first Japanese book on the Hindu nationalist movement, it was pivotal for South Asian studies in Japan. Additionally, even if seen in the context of global studies of Hindu nationalism, the book was pioneering in terms of its promptness of publication, methodological reliability and wideness of scope in its arguments. The author is an eminent historian of western India. Though the book has not yet been translated, non-Japanese scholars often refer to Prof. Kotani's other works, such as Western India in Historical Transition (New Delhi: Manohar, 2002) and Caste System, Untouchability and the Depressed (ed., New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1999, English translation, orig. 1997 in Japanese).

       The second book is Tadashi Ogawa's Hindû Nashonarizumu no Taitô: Kishimu Indo (my trans.: The Rise of Hindu Nationalism: India at Jar; Tokyo, 2000). This is an energetic reportage of the issue. The author wrote it when he was heading the Japan Foundation's New Delhi Office. What is most characteristic about this book is that it spares the last chapter for efforts to overcome the threat brought by Hindutva influences on Indian society. Therein he introduces activities of Pipal Tree, an Indian NGO, and Urvashi Butalia's book: The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (2000), which was translated into Japanese by Ms. Emiko Fujioka, Mr. Ogawa's wife, as well as some other activities to facilitate the Indian tradition of Hindu-Muslim coexistence. After three years, he published another book entitled Genri-shugi towa Nanika: Amerika, Chûtô kara Nihon made (my trans.: What is Fundamentalism? From America and the Middle East to Japan; Tokyo, 2003), which won larger popularity among Japanese readers. His publishing career points to a strong anti-fundamentalist or exclusivist current in the grass-root level of Japanese society.

       Takeshi Nakajima's Hindû Nashonarizumu: In-pa Kinchô no Haikei (my trans.: Hindu nationalism: In the Background of Tensions between India and Pakistan; Tokyo, 2002) is the third book worthy of mention. Though a pocket edition, the book is the first comprehensive report in Japanese of the network of Sangh Parivar in contemporary India. It is full of information about the activities and discourses of its members, giving readers a vivid picture of the Hindu nationalist movement. Similar books are not found in other languages. It was a surprise to many Japanese South Asian scholars that the author was a doctoral student in anthropology at Kyoto University. As a young anthropologist, he conducted short-term fieldwork in the urban areas of India in the late 1990s and in the following years, vigorously interviewing activists of Hindu nationalist organizations and eventually publishing his work in book form. The book became quite popular among the general readership in Japan. Calling it the first and best introduction into Hindu nationalism, a number of reviewers rated it highly, and at least one organization awarded a prize (the Iue Asia Pacific Research Prize). On the other hand, South Asian scholars harshly criticized his book. I myself published a critical review in Japanese (see Journal of the Japanese Association for South Asian Studies [JJASAS], No. 15, Oct. 2003). I argue that Dr. Nakajima undervalues the driving factors of emerging Hindu nationalism. His theory of hon'rai no shûkyô (the original religion) and its application to explaining the emergence of Hindutva influences are quite misleading, especially in regard to the historical context of the phenomenon. In short, his argument is too deterministic and essentialist, and it is too unfortified against Hindutva stalwarts' possible employment of his argument. To the best of my knowledge, many of my colleagues share my views.

        Though not specialized in Hindu nationalism, another book may be added to the list. Nobuko Nagasaki recently published Indo: Kokkyô wo Koeru Nashonarizumu (my trans.: India and its Trans-border Nationalisms; Tokyo, 2004) which focuses on the movement of nationalists beyond various national borders. A reputed historian of modern India, the author traces with one rush the trajectories of different nationalist movements of Indians, past and present. Included are the Great Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-59, the politico-cultural sphere for "revolutionaries" in the late 19th century, the emergence of Indian middle classes and their gradual inclination toward nationalism in the colonial era, the profile of the early Indian National Congress (1885-), the birth of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha on the soil of South Africa, the modernist or socialist nationalism of Nehru under the influence of the Mahatma, Non Residential Indians (NRIs) in the globalizing world and their Diaspora nationalism, and Hindu nationalism inside and outside the Indian subcontinent. While the greatest attention is given to Gandhi, the author's serious attention is given to the last topic in the form of the only cover photo, one of a boy swayamsevak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in that famous uniform of black cap, white shirt and khaki shorts with an earnest look on his face and a lathi on his shoulder.

       In the last year (2004), two doctoral theses on Hindu nationalism were written, Takeshi Nakajima's Gendai Indo ni-okeru Hindû Nashonarizumu Undô (my trans.: The Hindu Nationalist Movement in Contemporary India; Kyoto University, March 2004) and my own Shûkyô, Nashonarizumu, Bôryoku: Hindû Nashonarisuto Undô no Ideorogî ni kansuru Kenkyû (trans.: Religion, Nationalism and Violence: A Study on the Ideology of the Hindu Nationalist Movement; Tokyo University, March 2004). Both are written in Japanese. I have not read Dr. Nakajima's dissertation but have been informed by the author that it is an ethnography of Hindu nationalists' daily works and that it makes special references to activities of Sewa Bharati in a slum area of north Delhi and its intercourse with the slum dwellers. My dissertation is a comprehensive analysis of the Hindu nationalist discourse developed by top ideologues of the movement in the 1980s and 90s.

       Two years before these dissertations were completed, Eri Kakuta, a Japanese student, received a Master's degree in Development Studies from Oxford University. Her thesis is entitled "Hindu Nationalist Movement and Rural Development: A Case Study of Deendayal Research Institute: Chitrakoot Project" (Linacre College, April 2002). I have learned that a few master's degrees have been granted in some Japanese universities as well, but, to my regret, I do not know the details. In any event, the interest in the issue has been growing quite rapidly among Japanese students in recent years.

      The list of works above indicates that the field of Hindu nationalist studies is growing in Japan. At the same time, however, it reveals that the volume of Japanese studies of Hindu nationalism is as yet limited. Four books and two doctoral theses amount to a small body of work. It stands in striking contrast to the body of English-language works on the topic, which saw an explosion in quality and quantity after the mid 1990s. Does this mean that Japanese South Asian scholars are less interested in Hindu nationalism? It does not, of course. Scholars are always very eager to discuss the issue at gatherings. Though not in printed or electronic media, views are expressed and exchanged on formal and informal occasions. According to my perception, our works on the Hindutva movement are remarkably well-received. The gap between Japanese and English (as well as other languages') studies of the issue results from the rather small scale of Japanese South Asian studies both in terms of institution and number of scholars. The current state of Japanese South Asian studies is that many are struggling to understand Hindu nationalism through their own research as well as through works in Japanese, English and other languages.

        Some essays on Hindu nationalism were published before Prof. Kotani's book. The scholarship of Masao Naitô is referred to most frequently. Among his works on the Hindutva movement, the most widely read is "Hindû Komyunarizumu to RSS " (my trans.: Hindu Communalism and the RSS; in: H. Satô, M. Naitô and H. Yanagisawa [eds], Motto Shiritai Indo 1 [my trans.: To Know India Better and More Vol. 1], Tokyo, 1989). As a distinguished historian of western India, the author outlines a brief history of Hindu nationalism from the Sangathan movement in the late 19th century and the foundation of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS early in the next century to the launching of the Jana Sangh and the expansion of the Sangh Parivar network in post-Independent India.

       Nobuko Nagasaki (see above) also contributed an essay to this compilation. Her "Hindû -Musurimu Mondai e-no Shikaku" (my trans.: A Viewpoint toward the Hindu-Muslim Problem) covers the modern history of British India in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the next century, looking at the so-called Hindu-Muslim problem from both sides. Her employment of the terms of hindû fukko-shugi (Hindu revivalism) and hindû komyunarizumu (Hindu communalism) in the essay is a point of interest, as she has since, for the most part, come to use the term "hindû nashonarizumu" (Hindu nationalism). Furthermore, it should be mentioned that many students have been inspired by another of Nagasaki's essays: "Seikyô-bunri (Sekyurarizumu) to Kisô-bunka Hindû-izumu" (my trans.: Secularism as the Separation between Religion and Politics and Hinduism as a Foundational Culture; in: S. Hasumi and M. Yamauchi [eds], Ima Naze Minzoku ka [my trans.: Why Minzoku at Present?; editors' English title: The Nation and Ethnic Groups], Tokyo, 1994).

      Having employed the concept of hindû fukko-shugi in the essay mentioned above, Prof. Naitô modified his terminology later. His "Indo no Minshu-shugi to Hindû Genri-shugi" (my trans.: Indian Democracy and Hindu Fundamentalism; in: M. Koga, M. Naitô and H. Nakamura [eds], Gendai Indo no Tenbô [my trans.: Scenes in Contemporary India], Tokyo, 1998) evoked responses from his colleagues in South Asian studies because it uniquely employed the concept of genri-shugi (see above) as a Japanese synonym of "communalism."

      In the opening chapter of the above-mentioned compilation, Heiji Nakamura, the compilation's co-editor, also advocates the same concept in his argument, stating that after the late 1980s, Indian democracy has entered into a new phase of confrontation with opportunistic populism (taishû-geigô) and genri-shugi. On another occasion, at a meeting held in the presence of Indian Ambassador to Japan (!), he made an assertive presentation on Hindu nationalism, later reproduced as "Hindû Fashizumu to Indo-gata Minshu-shugi" (my trans.: Hindu Fascism and Indian Democracy) in Sarubodaya (Sarvodaya; Vol. 44-10-11, Tokyo, October and November 2004). As clearly seen in the title, his circle has made a radical leftist critique against Hindutva in Japanese public debate.

       In the mid-1990's, several influential anthropologists also published articles on Hindu nationalism. Masakazu Tanaka's "Hindû Fandamentarizumu" (trans: Hindu Fundamentalism; in: N. Inoue and K. Ôtsuka [eds], Fandamentarizumu towa Nanika [my trans.: What is Fundamentalism?], Tokyo, 1994) and Yasumasa Sekine's "Gendai Indo Shakai ni-okeru Shûkyô to Seiji: Sekyurarizumu to Komyunarizumu to-iu Nandai" (my trans.: Religion and Politics in Contemporary Indian Society: The Aporia between Secularism and Communalism; in: Y. Kibata et al [eds], <Minami> kara Mita Sekai 02: Tônan Ajia, Minami Ajia [my trans.: Seeing the World from the <South> vol. 2: Southeast Asia and South Asia], Tokyo, 1999) are included among these. Their works created an important foundation for public debate on the issue both in and out of Japanese academia.

       A pioneering work by political scientist Takako Hirose is "Hindû Nashonarizumu no Taitô: Indo Jinmin Tô wo chûshin-ni" (my trans.: The Rise of Hindu Nationalism: With Special Reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party; in: Ajia Keizai, Vol. XXXV, No. 3, 1994). This is the first essay to introduce the methodology of interviewing Hindutva activists and politicians, a way of research that was to be employed by younger students of Hindu nationalism such as Dr. Nakajima, Ms. Kakuta and myself.

       I would like to call attention to an essay which Japanese South Asian scholars have almost entirely overlooked. It is Yoshifumi Saitô's "Dochaku no Shisô (Ge)" (my trans.: Indigenous Thoughts: Part 2), which constitutes one chapter of his book: Indo no Gendai Shichô (my trans.: Currents of thought in Contemporary India; Tokyo, 1980). Displaying his experience as a career journalist, Prof. Saitô generously surveys the history of Hindu nationalist ideology and organizations, extensively referring to the Jana Sangh. He mainly argues the significance of the Sangh Parivar in the context of the political and social sphere of the 1970s in India, consulting earlier English literature on the issue such as Craig Baxter's The Jana Sangh, Jean A. Curran's The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, Mohammed Ali Kishore's Jana Sangh and India's Foreign Policy as well as Deendayal Upadhyaya's Political Diary and M. R. Varshey's Jana Sangh: RSS and Balraj Madhok. His analytical remarks on the concept of hinzû rashutora (Hindu rashtra) might be the first of their kind in Japanese scholarship.

       This article by Prof. Saitô is not mentioned in the first and only comprehensive review of Japanese studies of Hindu nationalism, Hiroshi Satô's "Komyunarizumu e-no Shiten: Ayôdhiyâ Jiken to Indo Seiji Kenkyû" (my trans.: A Viewpoint toward Communalism: The Ayodhya Incident and the Studies of Indian Politics; in: Ajia Keizai, Vol. IVI, No. 10-11, 2000). However, Prof. Satô's perception shown therein is of undeniably great importance. He suggests a theoretical reconsideration of Hindu nationalist studies in Japan, emphasizing the significance of modernist and resource-mobilization approaches. As an eminent scholar of political economy, he strongly influenced the orientation of the field.

      Finally, I will introduce my own works. I have perhaps produced the largest number of essays and presentations on Hindu nationalism in the Japanese language. In the last eight years, I have published more than twenty essays on the issue and spoken about the subject at authorized conferences and meetings more than ten times. I do not know how my works are received, but it may safely be said that they constitute a large part of Japanese studies of Hindu nationalism. The list of works includes:

"Shûkyô Nashonarizumu to Minshu-gikai-seiji" (trans.: Religious Nationalism and Democratic Parliamentary Politics: 'Moderate' and 'Radical' Factors in the Sangh Parivar; in: Tôkyô-daigaku Shûkyô-gaku Nenpô[trans.: Tokyo University Annual Review of Religious Studies], Vol. XIV, Tokyo, 1996);
"RSS to BJP: Hindû Nashonarizumu no Henzai" (trans.: RSS and BJP: The Ubiquity of Hindu Nationalism; in: Kaigai Jijô, 1998/7-8, Tokyo, 1998);
"Hindû Nashonarisuto no 'Isshin-kyô' Hihan" (trans.: Hindu Nationalists and their Critique against 'Monotheism;' in: Shûkyô Kenkyû, Vol. 320, 1999; see also my "Hindu Nationalists and their Critique of Monotheism: The Relationship between Nation, Religion, and Violence" in: Mushirul Hasan and Nariaki Nakazoto [eds], Unfinished Agenda: Nation-Building in South Asia, New Delhi: Manohar Publishing House, 2001);
"'Mahatoma' Ansatsu" (trans.: The Assassination of the Mahatma; in: Nanzan Shûkyô Bunka Kenkyû-jo [trans.: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture; ed.], Shûkyô to Shûkyô no <Aida> [my trans.: In between Religions], Nagoya, 2000);
"Indo Seiji-bunka no Tenkai: Hindû Nashonarizumu to Chûkan-sô" (trans.: The Development of Indian Political Culture: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Middle Classes; in: T. Horimoto and T. Hirose (eds), Kôza Gendai Minami Ajia 3: Minshu-shugi e-no Torikumi [my trans.: Lectures on Contemporary South Asia Vol. 3: Wrestling with Democracy], Tokyo, 2002); and
"Shûkyô to Nashonarizumu: Gendai Indo no Hindû Nashonarizumu no Jirei kara" (trans.: Religion and Nationalism: From the case of Hindu Nationalism in Contemporary India; in: Y. Ikegami et al. [eds], Iwanami Kôza Shûkyô 9: Shyûkyô no Chôsen [my trans.: Iwanami Lectures on Religion Vol. 9: Challenges of Religions], Tokyo, 2004).

       It is unlikely that Japanese studies of Hindu nationalism will sharply grow in number in the near future and distinguish themselves in their content and quality. I am not skeptical about the overall ability of Japanese scholars, yet I am of the opinion that Japanese society and the Japanese government overlook the significance of the South Asian region and only offer weak support for our studies. The problem is structural and institutional. However, Japanese scholars and students of South Asia can and will persevere with their work individually. Within this limitation, we look forward to great developments in Hindu nationalist studies. I am personally working on a research plan to study the (de)secularization process and the religious history of Independent India, in which the phenomenal emergence of Hindu nationalism is to be located and understood. Though its completion is at present set for several years in the future, it is my hope that this study will contribute to Japanese and global studies of the field. To be sure, my colleagues are also endeavoring to further develop their own study and research. Our network in Japan and beyond is endeavoring to expand and enrich itself, and, despite institutional shortcomings, Japanese studies of Hindu nationalism are progressing.

13 February 2005