September 28, 2022 - 4:15pm

The events over the past few weeks in Leicester and, more recently, Smethwick have drawn attention to an under-discussed ideology: Hindutva. This is a system of beliefs that encompasses three elements: 1) Hindu rashtra (nation), 2) Hindu jati (race) and 3) Hindu sanskriti (civilisation), which was crafted in the early 1900s. In essence, it is designed as a way of life for Hindus, devout and non-devout, as well as atheist Hindus.

But it has also been perceived as a threat due to its links to ‘Hindu militantism’ and proximity to fascism with the forming of the paramilitary group the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). This, of course, then raises concerns in regards to the current ruling party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which are directly inspired by the RSS. But while it is clear that the Hindutva ideology plays a role in the persecution of religious minorities in India, does that apply to Britain too?

Certain commentators have argued that Hindutva is now a global threat that has spread to Britain. But because Muslims are the victims, they argue, it is overlooked. Indeed, one piece in the Middle East Eye questioned whether Muslims were ever allowed to be victims in UK media. The writer cited chants of ‘death to Pakistan’ as evidence of the media omitting the identity of the perpetrators. While he doesn’t explicitly say that those making the chants were inspired by the Hindutva ideology, he suggests that the ensuing 200-strong march was.

Even though chants at sports grounds can be quite menacing (earlier this month, Irish football fans were filmed singing ‘Lizzie’s in a box’ after the Queen died), the reporting on the conflict has, if anything, been geared against Hindus. Take the Guardian journalists, Aina J Khan and Mark Brown, who covered the story in some detail. Khan was accompanied by a Muslim radical known as Majid Freeman, who was once part of a number of organisations connected with jihadists. Freeman is also reported to have encouraged Europeans to commit jihad in Syria, as well as posting tributes to al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar Al-Awlkaki. That he was chosen to be interviewed and accompanied is deeply concerning.

What’s more, the arrival of Islamist agitators from outside of Leicester and Smethwick only made the conflict worse. Mohammed Hijab, an Islamist YouTuber, openly made anti-Hindu statements but this doesn’t feature in any coverage from the Guardian. The term Islamist is used once in the 11 articles published by the newspaper, yet the term Hindutva is mentioned over 13 times. In fact, a whole article looks at the Hindutva ideology in significant detail, but there was nothing on Islamism or the role Islamists seemed to play in the conflict. This omission gives life to the Hindutva bogeyman, leaving observers with the impression that this ideology from India is posing a significant threat to the UK, despite no extremists or terrorists belonging to it.

While there is a debate to be had as to the apparent import and rise of the Hindutva ideology in Britain, as well as the impact it is having on social cohesion in multicultural cities such as Leicester and Birmingham, presenting it without any balance is dishonest. Hopefully, the independent review into the conflict will not ignore this.

Wasiq Wasiq is an academic specialising in defence and terrorism.