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Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics

India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism

Jan Breman, Ghanshyam Shah

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Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics

While Hindutva is marching along its scheduled trajectory, the essays in this volume critically discuss why and how the ambition proclaimed for majoritarian hegemony found an early and congenial berth in Gujarat. Acting as a laboratory for turning ideological fervour to political ends, a caucus of upper-caste vintage designated a calibrated strategy to canvass votes of intermediate and low castes-cum-classes. Having gained ruling authority in this prominent state of western India before pushing its agenda nationwide, the party’s directorate adopted in the 1990s an economic policy promoting and privileging corporate business of both home and outside origin. Rooted in a heritage of mercantile capitalism, the course set was hailed as a Hindutva model of neo-liberal growth. Its impact has hugely widened the gap between the top and bottom ranks of the population.

Addressed from the vantage point of the marginalized classes and communities of society, the articles presented in the volume, written over six decades, focus on communal rupture in society and politics. Before zooming in on this, the first part re-examines the historical process of social knowledge creation and power balance since the formation of the modern state during the late colonial era. Though communal clashes have historical roots, their nature, modus operandi and scale have changed since the 1960s. They have been engineered for mobilizing marginalized communities by invoking insecurity, communal consciousness and patriotism. In an enmeshment of politics and governance, people considered to fall short of the meritorious qualities required for joining the Hindutva fold, either due to adhering as a minority to a different creed or because of failing ability to provide for themselves, are threatened to become declassified from the rights of citizenship. In this dichotomous divide between inclusion versus exclusion, nationhood is defined in religious terms. The final part discusses the shifting ground of the communitarian gospel and its authoritarian practice from the state in which it was coined to the all-India level.

Ghanshyam Shah

Ghanshyam Shah is retired professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and former Director, Centre for Social Studies, Surat.

Jan Breman

Jan Breman is Professor Emeritus at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam and Honorary Fellow at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.