Hindu Students Council & Hindu YUVA

At present, two major Hindu supremacist student groups operate in the United States, each with dozens of chapters on discrete campuses: the Hindu Students Council (a VHPA project, founded in 1987) and the Hindu Youth for Unity, Virtues and Action (YUVA, a HSS project, founded in 2007). The Sangh Parivar has long perceived college campuses as a key arena for promoting Hindutva. The ABVP—the sister Hindu supremacist student organization in India—was one of the earliest offshoot groups established by the RSS in 1948. In India, ABVP members are frequently violent, and, accordingly, they have often met with resistance in direct outreach efforts to the United States, such as at Georgetown in 2019.  The Hindu Students Council (HSC) and Hindu YUVA are better positioned to achieve the layered goals of the Hindu supremacists on American college campuses. Both groups advocate basic Hindutva ideas, especially concerning Hindu identity in what is sometimes described as soft Hindutva. As Vijay Prashad has put it, the HSC promotes a “syndicated Brahmanical Hinduism” that is interlaced with casteism, patriarchy, and intolerance for other religious traditions. Exposure to such ideas helps to normalize Hindu supremacist propaganda within the Indian diaspora, even among those who might not identify with Hindutva ideology. That said, some chapters of these student groups have experienced internal dissent, especially concerning misogyny and hate speech against Muslims.

In addition to its broader outreach efforts, the HSC also serves as a feeder group, cultivating the next generation of Hindu supremacist leaders in America. Many former HSC members have leadership roles in other U.S.-based Hindu supremacist organizations. In some cases, affiliates of the HSC have even gone on to receive training from the RSS in India. A 2008 report, titled “Unmistakably Sangh,” laid bare the extensive links between the HSC and other Sangh Parivar groups. The report also noted that many college students experience a more casual affiliation with the HSC, perhaps celebrating Diwali or Holi with a local chapter and remaining unaware of the group’s extremist links. Part of the strategy of the U.S.-based Hindu supremacists is making its organizations appear harmless to many in the Indian American community and then using the cover that goodwill provides to advance Hindutva goals. As Vinayak Chaturvedi recently noted, “Nearly every major university in the United States has a student organization connected to the Sangh Parivar,” and these groups play varying roles in Hindutva intimidation, blacklisting, ad hominem attacks and threats, and monitoring of students and professors.