The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization

The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization

The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization

The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization

Synopsis

Furies of Indian Communalism is a powerful and rigorous analysis of the growing phenomenon of Hindu communalism, which currently threatens to tear India apart. Placing the politics of Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim hatred in a global context, Vanaik explains the specific nature and modernity of communalism, distinguishing it both from fascism and from merely religious extremism. In defending both the reality and the desirability of the secularization of Indian state and society, Vanaik engages in a rich and subtle examination of the relationship between religion and culture, critically appraising the contributions of Emile Durkheim, Charles Taylor and Anthony Giddens to questions of identity and modernity. Whilst rejecting simplistic readings of religion as nothing but ideology, Vanaik is scathing about the postmodernists and cultural essentialists who assert the inescapable centrality of religion to Indian culture and society. Moving beyond purely theoretical considerations, he assesses India's political future, the possible obstacles to the development of communalism, and the forces that exist on the Left that might be brought into alliance to halt the march of chauvinism.

Excerpt

In 1997, India celebrates fifty years of independence. Born in the fires of a communal holocaust (Partition) in which millions died, it was the fervent hope of that generation of freedom fighters that never again would Hindus and Muslims be so bitterly divided. The Indian state's official commitment to secularism was seen as the guarantor of communal amity and national unity, themselves considered the pre- requisites for pursuing the goals -- democracy, prosperity, social justice and cohesion -- of successful modernization. For nigh on two decades the country seemed on course at least in the respect that communal tensions had subsided and riots were rare.

Then matters unravelled. In the last twenty-five years, the communal phoenix has risen from the ashes and spread its wings to cast a growing shadow over India's body politic. The hopes of our founding generation seem to have been belied -- have we learnt nothing over half-a-century? Yes we have, and all is far from lost! We were naive in the ways we thought about modernity and communalism, religion and secularism; we cannot afford to remain so. The new urgency created by the rise of communalism has forced many to think for the first time, others to think anew, so that we may all be better equipped to tackle this ugly beast. This has been the spur to writing this book at this time.

There is no single running argument in the volume, but the essays collected here, written over the last five years and focusing on the constant theme of communalism's effect on Indian society and polity, are strongly interconnected. Except for the first essay (the one following this Introduction), all the remaining four in Parts II and III, while they can be read as self-contained pieces, were from the beginning conceived of as parts fitting together to make up a larger whole, this book.

Six years ago, when I had just completed my overview of contemporary India's economy, polity and society (The Painful Transition, Verso, 1990), I confided to a friend who had helpfully commented on the . . .

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