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

By Achin Vanaik | Go to book overview

2
Reflections on Communalism and Nationalism in India

The spectre of growing communalism haunts India today. In the battle for the soul of Indian nationalism three positions have been staked out. First are those who insist that Indian nationalism must rest on cultural and psychological foundations of an impeccably Hindu provenance. Second are those who insist that Indian nationalism must derive from secular principles. Notwithstanding the problems of precise definition, the term 'secular' does possess an agreed meaning: state neutrality with regard to religion. In multi-religious India, this can mean either a fundamental separation of the state from religious activity and affiliation, or impartial state involvement on issues relating to the religious interests of different communities. In practice, 'Indian secularism' has been a mixture of the two: an unsatisfactory attempt to reconcile essentially incompatible approaches.

The third position has, to date, a narrower field of operation, confined mostly to academic rather than activist or popular debate. Nevertheless, it has been claiming an increasing number of adherents, especially among NGO activists, and its influence on the public debate is growing. It holds that because secularism is in origin a profoundly Western, or at least un-Indian, concept, it is at odds with the reality of non-Western/non-Christian existence in general, and with the Indian genius in particular. What is needed is not secularism, nor Hindu nationalism, but an anti-secularism which opposes factitious attempts at separating religion from politics/state and instead encourages the use of the 'authentic' resources of faith to sustain a socio-political culture with a deeper tolerance of diversity and pluralism than 'Western secularism' can ever generate.

Religion itself is the key resource in the struggle against communalism. State-centred theories of how to engineer the social good (the modern secular state) are themselves the problem, the stimulus behind communalism. To these must be counterposed the resources of a

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Part I 1
  • 1: Introduction 3
  • 2 - Reflections on Communalism and Nationalism in India 29
  • Notes 59
  • Part II 63
  • 3: Religion, Modernity, Secularization 65
  • 4: Communalism, Hindutva, Anti-Secularists 130
  • Part III 235
  • Situating the Threat of Hindu Communalism: Problems with the Fascist Paradigm 237
  • 6: The Communalization of the Indian Polity 296
  • Index 361
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