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Gandhi's Hinduism and Savarkar's Hindutva

The present national crisis of violently conflicting communal identities represents a choice between the inclusiveness of Gandhi and the exclusions of Savarkar. Gandhi did not separate religion from politics. He brought a religious ethic to politics rather than political militancy into religious communities. Meanwhile, Savarkar's Hindutva ideology was narrow and exclusivist in its conflation of janma bhoomi (motherland) and punya bhoomi (holy land). In spite of its pretensions to be nationalist and modern, its militant chauvinism and authoritarian fundamentalism make Savarkar's Hindutva the antithesis of Gandhi's Hinduism. Hindutva defines India as Hindu and wants all Indians to be Hindus. In contrast, Gandhi's Hinduism gives space to all. This paper argues that the future of our multicultural, pluri-religious people can only be even bloodier with the preclusions of Savarkar's Hindutva. Only Gandhi's sarva-dharmasamabhava can possibly be an effective basis for a tolerance on which to premise a just inter-religious peace and harmony.

Nehru's Faith

When religion is being held up as a unique source of faith, we need to remind ourselves that there are other firm foundations upon which we can build moral and ethical projects, in both private and public life. If secularism, as we have recently been told, has multiple meanings, so too does faith. In our own recent history, there is perhaps no better practical instance of the effort to find a non-religious bedrock for morality than that of Nehru himself. Today, as we survey the shattered nationalisms of the Balkans, as we feel collapsing about us the ruins of Arab nationalism, as we see the precipice on which nations like Indonesia balance, it is more important than ever to see the force of what Nehru understood. It is exactly religion's persistence, its fulsome presence as we stumble into the new century that, far from undermining or disproving the force of Nehru's views on the subject, exactly underline their relevance and resonance for us today. On this particular point, he just was right.

Limits of Tolerance

A modern democracy cannot tolerate matters of faith trumping over matters of citizenship rights. There can be no question of tolerance when citizens are denied their status as equal citizens. With an intolerant secularism that insists on the inalienable rights of citizens and on the due process of the law, it is easier to mount public pressure against minority hunters and sectarian killers. Here we cannot make exemptions, or look for mitigating circumstances, on grounds of being a minority or impoverished and unemployed.

Pluralism vs Universalism

Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment , Gerald James Larson (ed); Social Science Press, New Delhi, 2001; pp viii+362, index, bibliography, hb, Rs 525.

The Vacuity of Secularism

The rise of Hindutva has often been interpreted as a threat to the secular state. Similarly, the recent outbursts of Hindu-Muslim conflict are said to be related to the decay of secularism. The author argues that the concept of secularism is fundamentally obscure, since it is founded upon an arbitrary distinction between the religious and the secular. The belief that religion should be separated from politics is a normative dogma that precedes all theoretical analysis of the Indian situation. Therefore, this concept of secularism prevents us from understanding the problems of pluralism in contemporary India, instead of helping us to solve them.

Secularism in the Constituent Assembly Debates, 1946-1950

Secularism, it has been argued, failed to stem the spread of communalism in India, because its marginalising and contempt of religion bred a backlash on which communalism thrived. This article contends that this 'contempt for religion' was marginalised in the course of the secularism debates in the Constituent Assembly. The dominant position on secularism that a 'democratic' Constitution find place for religion as a way of life for most Indians triumphed over those who wished for the Assembly to grant only a narrow right to religious freedom, or to make the uniform civil code a fundamental right. These early discussions on religious freedom also highlight a paradox - it is precisely some of the advocates of a broad right to religious freedom who were also the most vociferous opponents of any political rights for religious minorities.

India, Myron Weiner and the Political Science of Development

The argument here, in brief, is that the political science of development has itself been implicated in the developmentalist framework of India's elites. Further, despite the rhetoric of socialism that accompanied that framework under Nehru, both the practice in India and the development theory that justified it were fundamentally conservative. The conservative elements in the developmentalist framework comprised an ideology of state-exaltation arising out of a 'fear of disorder' or an orientation towards the elimination of 'the cause of unrest'. So implicated were political scientists in the developmentalist goals of India's elites that they failed to provide an independent basis for critique that has become increasingly necessary as it has become more and more obvious that those goals have failed to transform India into the modern, industrial state of its elite's imaginings, have failed at the same time to provide for the basic minimum needs of its people, have failed to eliminate 'the causes of unrest' and have instead drawn the country into the ugly morass of state terrorism in the north-east, Punjab and Kashmir and have failed to provide a basis for accommodation between the Hindu and Muslim populations of the country.

In the Name of Secularism

The Left's obsession with anti-BJPism has been taken to absurd lengths in Tamil Nadu. It has invested what is a fight for power between the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, in which the BJP is virtually uninvolved, with secular/communal connotations and, on those false premises, chosen to join the AIADMK-led front, turning a blind eye to the proven charges of corruption against Jayalalitha. Worse, the Left has actively opposed the formation of a third front, even though in the long run the Left in Tamil Nadu will gain only by expanding its base and aligning with parties such as the TMC, thereby loosening the duopoly of power of DMK and AIADMK.

Who Is the Third that Walks Behind You?

I read Aditya Nigam’s observations on an epistemology of the dalit critique of modernity with great interest. His formulations are both fascinating and suggestive, therefore, I would like to complicate them. Firstly, while I accept that dalit politics and ideologies represent the “problematic ‘third term’ that continuously challenges the common sense of the secular modern”, I am not sure that these exist as an ‘absent presence’; or that they advance a notion of citizenship that is premised on the notion of the community as a rights-bearing subject. It seems to me that the non-brahmin, lower caste engagement with the ‘secular modern’ does two things: it contends with the contradictions of modernity, as Nigam so ably demonstrates, but it also dips beyond and across the wide arc of the secular-modern to articulate an expressive ideology and world view that is still recognisably modern. I would like to illustrate this with reference to the thought of Periyar Ramasamy.

Is the Hindu Goddess a Feminist

The question of the Hindu goddess's feminism is embedded within the larger question of the instrumentality of religion in the post-colonial nation both for a 'secular' politics and for women's struggles in mass movements and thus, moves far afield of a de-contextualised if more focused consideration of an answer. This article attempts to problematise some of the connections between the Hindu goddess and feminism, between religion and women and the locations, theoretical and political, from where disagreement is articulated.

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