INDIA'S MAIN HINDU NATIONALIST GROUPS

Bharatiya Janata Party: The BJP, or Indian People's Party, became the principal opposition group in Parliament in 1991 elections, winning 119 of 545 seats. In 1984, the party held just two seats.

The BJP's traditional supporters are small-scale urban businessmen, but the party has broadened its appeal through promises of clean government, economic reform and liberalization, and a more aggressive international posture. Party support boomed after it took up the cause of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: The RSS, or National Volunteer Corps, was formed in 1925 to promote and protect Hindu culture. The group maintained a non-political role during the struggle for independence, but it now forms the backbone of the Hindu-nationalist movement.

The RSS wants a state guided by Hindu principles and beliefs to emerge in South Asia. This ideology and the RSS's system of disciplined, community-based organizing have led to charges that the organization has a fascist, chauvinist character.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad: Created in the 1950s to aid Hindus outside of India, the VHP or World Hindu Council has become one of the leading forces in the campaign to build the Ram temple at Ayodhya.

It has attracted a number of Hindu holy men and women and the leaders of major temples to its ranks, giving its activities at least the sheen of Hindu orthodoxy. The VHP also wants to remove Islamic structures from at least two other places holy to Hindus: the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna in Mathura and a pilgrimage site for worshipers of the god Shiva in Varanasi.

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