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Contestations over Indian Nationalism


Harish Khare

HINDU NATIONALISM: A READER
Edited by Christophe Jaffrelot
Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 391, Rs. 695.00

HINDU NATIONALISTS OF MODERN INDIA: A CRITICAL STUDY OF THE INTELLECTUAL GENEALOGY OF HINDUTAVA
By J. Kuruvachira
Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2006, pp. 283, Rs. 595.00

RELIGION, POWER AND VIOLENCE: EXPRESSION OF POLITICS IN CONTEMPORARY TIMES
Edited by Ram Puniyani
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 332, Rs. 380.00

RELIGION, CASTE AND STATE
By P. Radhakrishnan
Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2007, pp. 300, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

The Sangh Parivar has rather shrewdly tapped the ‘nationalist’ Indian middle class’s itch for authoritarian culture and authori- tative figures, and has in recent years successfully ensnared retired senior officials—from bureaucracy, police or armed forces—into becoming ‘chief guests’ at its periodic demonstrations of ‘cadres’. The experiment began with Joginder Singh, that amiable official who by chance became the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, and who managed to create an entirely bogus hype that he was prevented from going after the corrupt at the highest echelons of the Indian political establishment. Since then quite a few retired directors-general of para-military organizations have been inveigled into attending such meetings and these gentlemen come back massively impressed with the drill, precision and discipline on display, and almost mesmerized by the devotion commanded and authority wielded by the sarsanghchalak. The presence of such ‘respected’ officials at the RSS is, in turn, used to garner respectability for the organization and its divisive agenda of redefining Indian nationalism in a Hindutva framework.   In June 2007 the Sangh came a cropper when it invited Air Chief Marshal (retd), A.Y. Tipnis, a former chief of the Indian air force, to be the chief guest at one of those dos in Nagpur. In what must have been sounded as blasphemy to his host’s ears, the Air Marshal lauded the Indian Constitution, its promise of freedom of religion and faith and asked: ‘how is it that places of worship have been attacked and desecrated? How is that the family of a foreign missionary engaged in laudable humanitarian work was attacked with murderous violence?’ The chief guest urged ‘the RSS to take note of Indian realities and find ways to respond constructively to them without causing alarm or apprehension in any section of the society.’   Nothing doing. Rather curtly the host, K.S.Sudershan rubbished the Constitution and declared it to be out of sync with ‘Indian realities.’ The RSS boss asserted there was no alternative to the Hindus becoming strong and organized.   This June 2007 duel between Sudershan and Tipnis showcases the unresolved contestation over Indian nationalism. These four volumes draw our attention to various aspects of this stand-off between the secular, liberal, territorial and constitutional nationalism, on the one hand and a Hinduite insistence on defining nationalism, patriotism, and even citizenship in terms of religion. Christophe Jaffrelot’s Hindu Nationalism: A Reader puts together ...


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