The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India

By Thomas Blom Hansen | Go to book overview

1
Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in India

THROUGH ALL the richness and diversity of public life in contemporary India there traverses one remarkably coherent narrative: declining standards in the realm of politics and public administration. Corruption, declining quality of leadership, shameless display of self-interest by groups and individuals, violence, and lethargy in administration and the judiciary are phenomena routinely explained by the invasion of politics into all spheres of life. The national press debates how the independence of the judiciary and the administrative capacity of the state are threatened by “political interference” in court cases and in administrative routines. In urban neighborhoods, mob violence or demands for ever new “donations” to school boards and building societies are explained as the effect of “someone playing politics.” In villages, the routine selection of some farmers rather than others as eligible for new credits, or the stalled construction of an irrigation scheme, is attributed to the machinations of local political entrepreneurs.

Bemoaning the “signs of the times” has probably always been a way of coping with a changing world, just as blaming politicians for virtually any social problem seems to be a regular feature of the very form of democratic representation. Yet we need to note that this critique of “politics” and “the political” in contemporary Indian public life hardly means that political life is ignored. On the contrary, political scandals, conspiracy theories, rumors, and gossip about political leaders constitute an inexhaustible reservoir of fascination and discussion. More importantly, notions of rights and entitlements of groups and individuals vis-à-vis the state proliferate in ever more assertive forms. This is true of the fuzzy zone of clientelist practices and informal organizations through which large numbers of rural poor and slum dwellers are linked with formal institutions of the state, as well as in the realm of more organized “civic,” cultural, and political activism. Older notionsof “civility,” of adherence to procedures and “proper conduct” in electoral politics and in everyday routines of institutions and associations seem to have given way to what appears as a cruder, more direct, and often embarrassingly shameless desire for power, office, money, and recognition.

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The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • The Saffron Wave *
  • Introduction - Hindu Nationalism and Democracy in India 3
  • 1 - Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in India 16
  • 2 - Imagining the Hindu Nation 60
  • 3 - Organizing the Hindu Nation 90
  • 4 - Democracy, Populism, and Governance in India in the 1980s 134
  • 5 - The Saffron Wave 154
  • 6 - Communal Identities at the Heart of the Nation 200
  • 7 - Hindu Nationalism, Democracy, and Globalization 218
  • Notes 239
  • Glossary 269
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 289
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