Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 August 2002
A recent trend in the historiography of north India has involved analyses of ‘Hindu nationalist’ motifs and ideologies within both mainstream nationalist discourses and subaltern politics. A dense corpus of work has attempted to provide historical explanations for the rise of Hindutva in the subcontinent, and a great deal of debate has surrounded the implications of this development for the fate of secularism in India. Some of this research has examined the wider implications of Hindutva for the Indian state, democracy and civil society and in the process has highlighted, to some degree, the relationship between Hindu nationalism and ‘mainstream’ Indian nationalism. Necessarily, this has involved discussion of the ways in which the Congress, as the predominant vehicle of ‘secular nationalism’ in India, has attempted to contest or accommodate the forces of Hindu nationalist revival and Hindutva. By far the most interesting and illuminating aspect of this research has been the suggestion that Hindu nationalism, operating as an ideology, has manifested itself not only in the institutions of the right-wing Sangh Parivar but has been accommodated, often paradoxically, within political parties and civil institutions hitherto associated with the forces of secularism. An investigation of this phenomenon opens up new possibilities for research into the nature of Hindu nationalism itself, and presents new questions about the ambivalent place of religious politics in institutions such as the Indian National Congress.
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