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Banal Hindutva

Vijay Prashad

Edited by Daniela Berti , Nicolas Jaoul and Pralay Kanungo
Routledge, New Delhi, 2011, pp.344, price not stated


The image remains fresh to this day. Two young men in freshly starched kurta pyjamas enter the Balmiki colony. They know people there. I am sitting in a corner with a few young boys and girls, chatting with them about what was important in the early 1990s. I can't remember what we were talking about, a film perhaps or a song. The men walk deliberately to the center of the things and are quickly surrounded by the people out to enjoy the evening air. The day of work is now over. This is a municipal colony, and most of the adults work in the munici-pality, largely as street sweepers and drain cleaners. It is nasty work. One day I followed a few of those who work the drains. It was hard to watch what they were doing, particu-larly when I was aware from my own research that modern technology was available to pre-vent such humiliation to their bodies. The men in their starched outfits began to talk about how dirty the colony was, and that this neglect came because the residents were Bal-mikis. One man put a stick into the blocked drain, stirring the dark effluent around. They were from one of the RSS offshoot groups. It was their purpose to come into the colony every once in a while and deliver this jeremiad. Then they would gather in a corner with a few of their regulars and talk quietly. They did not seem well disposed toward me. We ignored one another. We were the only outsiders to enter the colony: the Left-wing researcher with his own agenda, and the two men from the RSS world with theirs. I was here to uncover the history of the Balmikis, and to learn why so many of the young men had seemingly hitched their dreams to the Hindutva yatra. What struck me about the RSS men was that they were in no hurry. They seemed to believe that history was on their side. Frequent visits, an occasional speech, conversations with the youth and perhaps a donation here and there were enough to sow the seeds of their agenda. In time, plants would grow. They had begun their cultural entrenchment. Reading the essays in Cultural Entrenchment of Hindutva reminded me of these men. Ordinary in their way, they came with the full force of an ideological and institutional appa-ratus that had begun to ...

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