Messengers of Hindu Nationalism

How the RSS Reshaped India

Walter Andersen


Shridhar D. Damle

Charts the inexorable, long-term political objectives of the world’s largest nationalist organisation, and its desire to re-engineer Indian society.

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Messengers of Hindu Nationalism Hardback
April 2019£25.00

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. It is also the parent of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Prime Minister Modi was himself a career RSS office-holder, or pracharak. This book explores how the RSS and its affiliates have benefitted from India’s economic development and concurrent social dislocation, with rapid modernisation creating a sense of rootlessness, disrupting traditional hierarchies, and attracting many upwardly mobile groups to the organisation.   

India seems more willing than ever to accept the RSS’s narrative of Hindu nationalism––one that seeks to assimilate Hindus into a common identity representing true ‘Indianness’. Yet the RSS has also come to resemble ‘the Congress system’, with a socially diverse membership containing a distinct left, right and centre. The organisation’s most significant dilemma is how to reconcile the assault from its far right on cultural issues like cow protection with condemnations of globalisation from the left flank.

Andersen and Damle offer an essential account of the RSS’s rapid rise in recent decades, tracing how it has evolved in response to economic liberalisation and assessing its long-term impact on Indian politics and society.


Walter Andersen is Professor of South Asia Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He previously served as chief of the US State Department's South Asia Division in the Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia.

Shridhar D. Damle is a scholar of Indian politics based in the USA.


‘This is an important and quite detailed account of how the intellectual super-structure of Modi’s government works, and where one can expect tensions in the future … it will be hard to find a better telling of this story.’ — Survival: Global Politics and Strategy