Religious Nationalism in South Asia (Neelima Shukla-Bhatt, Fall 2004)

Compiled by Neelima Shukla-Bhatt


Articles by Lochtefeld, Smith and Juergensmeyer in vol. 26 (1996) of the Journal – Religion. They give a perspective on the scholarly debate over how to interpret Hindutva.

David Ludden, Contesting the Nation (alternately titled Making India Hindu) Uni. of Pennsylvania, 1996.

Amrita Basu and Atul Kohli, Community Conflicts and the State in India, Delhi: OUP, 1998.

Sunil Kumar, The Present in Delhi’s Pasts, (Three Essays, Delhi, 2003). The book shows how places, archeological sites, and neighborhoods in Delhi have been affected and effaced by various forces associated with religious communalism, and in turn how history associated with places has been rewritten to suit a Hindu nationalist perspective.

Sumit Sarkar et al, Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags.

Pandey, Gyanendra. “In Defense of the Fragment: Writing about Hindu-Muslim Riots in India Today,” Representations, Winter 1992, 37: 27-55. Also in Subaltern Studies Reader, 1986-1995. Ranajit Guha, editor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Besides describing a particularly chilling and brutal “riot” in Bhagalpur, Bihar, Pandey asks as a historian “How do we write histories of violence?” and questions the sources used for history. A member of an investgating team that went to Bhagalpur not long after the events, he shows how records were systematically expunged and stories of different groups formulated quickly to exculpate everyone concerned. He uses poetry written during the attacks as a source.

On the Ayodhya – Ramjanmabhumi – Babri Masjid episode, two excellent and accessible articles that focus on the manipulation of religious symbols:

Anuradha Kapur. “Deity to Crusader: The Changing Iconography of Ram,” in Hindus and Others: The Question of Identity in India Today, ed. Gyandndra Pandey. New Delhi: Viking/Penguin India, 1993.

– Richard Davis. “The Iconography of Ram’s Chariot.” In Contesting the nation : religion, community, and the politics of democracy in India / edited by David Ludden. Imprint: Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Brief primary sources:

On the Hindu side,

– Savarkar, Hindutva, 1923

– Swami Shraddhananda (an Arya Samaj leader), “Hindu Sangathan, Saviour of the Dying Race”. More important than Savarkars Hindutva because more down-to-earth, more representative for the Hindu psychology which led to the various Hindu nationalist movements, yet also more social-reformist, is the contemporaneous booklet by. Most of its positions can still be found repeated verbatim on Hindu nationalist weblists. It may well be out of print, though, but if they sense a demand from Western institutions they’ll hurry to reprint it.

– Deendayal Upadhyaya, “Integral Humanism” (1965) Central text in the training of all RSS volunteers and official ideology of the BJP, and hence also required reading for every scholar who aspires to understand the Sangh Parivar movement (though somehow unnoticed in most secondary literature).

– Abhas Kumar Chatterjee, (a non-Sangh author), “Concept of Hindu Nation” (1995). Very informative for the broader Hindu nationalist motivation.

– Girilal Jain, “The Hindu Phenomenon” by, 1994. Posthumously compiled by his daughters Meenakshi and Sandhya Jain. A trail-blazer in the “Clash of Civilizations” approach, floated in India well before the term gained currency in the West. Easily obtainable through the Delhi book exporters.

– Shrikant Talageri’s contribution, Voice of India’s “Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume”. The best-informed Hindu critique of the Sangh Parivar’s performance, particularly of the BJP governments. Due out in February 2005.

– Shrikant Talageris and Shreerang Godboles contributions to Time for Stocktaking: Whither Sangh Parivar? edited by S.R. Goel, 1997. Earlier inside criticism of the Sangh. In those papers, you can see the failures of the BJP governments predicted, a feat not managed by most of the outside Hindutva-watchers.


S.V.R. Nasr, Islam, the State and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy in Pakistan, in Pakistan: Nationalism Without a Nation, ed. Christoffe Jaffrelot, 85-114. This article discusses the rise of Islamic sectarian movements in Pakistan since the late 1970s, paying particular attention to the role of the state and the international context in fostering them.


Enayetur Rahim, Bengali Muslims and Islamic Fundamentalism: the Jama’t-i-Islami in Bangladesh, in Understanding the Bengal Muslims: Interpretative Essays, ed., Rafiuddin Ahmad. This is an excellent essay on the role of the Jama’t in Bangladesh’s freedom movement, and its subsequent rise to prominence.

Sri Lanka

Ananda Abeysekara, “The Saffron Army, Violence and Terror(ism)” addresses notions of nationalism,religion, and violence. It is a bit longer than 20 pages (42 pages excluding the endnotes).

Women and Religious Nationalism (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka)

Patricia Jeffery / Amrita Basu (eds.), Resisting the Sacred and the Secular. Women’s Activism and Politicized Religion in South Asia, Delhi: Kali for Women, 1999.