Although historically dominated by upper caste Hindus
, the Hindutva
movement requires creation of a Hindu identity above caste identities. The Sangh Parivar
has historically feared conversion of Dalits to other religions and adopted various strategies to bring Dalits into the movement: via education (e.g. Vidya Bharati
schools); by manipulating Dalit myths and legends
; by rewarding some with power
; and so forth.
An important ingredient of identity building is violence itself. Although the extent of their role is disputed
, Dalits played a significant part in violence against Muslims during the Gujarat pogroms of 2002
. One Dalit social worker put it: "they wanted to go to war for Hindutva because for the first time they were being treated like Hindus instead of Dalits".
Nevertheless, the efforts to "saffronise" Dalit communities have had only partial success. This reflects the strength of Dalit social movements
, but saffronisation is also sabotaged by the open contempt for Dalits expressed by many in the Sangh Parivar
. For example, the Gujarat VHP
wrote: "Hindutva is the ideology of true Hindus and it never accepts the ... offspring of the untouchable Ambedkar
"; and Narendra Modi
expressed the belief that Dalits do manual scavenging work because it is a spiritual experience
• Co-opting Dalits into the Hindutva Fold
, EPW, 42(2), 2007.
• Compounding injustice: the government's failure to redress massacres in Gujarat
, Human Rights Watch Report, 2003.
• Why Dalits are moving towards BJP
(Swarajya Magazine, July 2015).
• Hindu Nationalism: A Reader
Edited by Christophe Jaffrelot, Princeton, 2007.