‘Neo-Hindutva’: the Asia House M. F. Husain campaign and the mainstreaming of Hindu nationalist rhetoric in Britain

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This paper re-evaluates certain core understandings of Hindu nationalism in Britain through the analysis of a disputed 2006 art exhibition in London. It considers the two main protagonists objecting to the M. F. Husain show: the representative umbrella organisation, the Hindu Forum of Britain, and the web- and protest-based group, Hindu Human Rights. In particular, the paper considers the relationship between these groups, the government, and the Hindu nationalist movement in India. The central role played by performative tropes of outrage and offence in the public representation of Hinduism is explored. It is argued that a reconceptualisation of diasporic Hindutva is required. Firstly, whilst still connected to India in various ways, Hindu nationalism in Britain has outgrown the institutional and ideological boundaries of the Sangh Parivar. It is proposed that these idiosyncratic inflections of transnational Hindutva might be termed ‘neo-Hindutva’. Secondly, it is suggested that the M. F. Husain protests, and subsequent activities of the Hindu Forum, indicate that Hindutva has become mainstreamed and normalised in the UK. Whilst elements of this narrative are distinctly domestic, we must also understand the transnational context which is intrinsically linked, discursively and practically, to India.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-66
JournalContemporary South Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


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