ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Underscoring the Perils of Majoritarianism

Our Hindu Rashtra: What It Is. How We Got Here by Aakar Patel, Westland Books, 2020; pp 368, 799.


I am indebted to Amit Kumar (Youth for Swaraj) for nudging me to read this book and sharing his sharp insights with me. But for his critical comments and provocations, this review would not have materialised.

In the present sociopolitical context, it would be trite to state that the challenge of majoritarianism has raised existential questions about the future of secular democracy in India. This challenge can be explicated by analysing the overtly ethnic functioning of the state institutions and vilification and otherisation of minorities in the socio-cultural sphere (Khosla and Vaishnav 2021; Dhawan and Kohli 2020). While the majoritarian clamour for attaining the “Hindu Rashtra” has been led by the so-called fringe right-wing groups in the past, in recent times, this has become shriller and sophisticated. Academic and legal articulations about a new idea of India, the Hindu Rashtra, the civilisational state have sought to grant legitimacy to the naked “democracy capture” that majoritarian politics has accomplished. Against this backdrop, journalist Aakar Patel’s recent book Our Hindu Rashtra: What It Is. How We Got Here provides a cogent response to this phenomenon. Based on his activism and journalism, Patel aims to help readers understand the meaning of “Hindu Rashtra,” its long political and institutional genealogy, and signal how it can still be prevented.

Divided in 14 chapters, the book surveys historical documents, government committee reports, court judgments, media archives, and records personal anecdotes on a range of issues that denude India’s secular credentials. To the credit of the author, he engages with Sangh and its texts with all seriousness and provides a comprehensive outlook of foundational ideologies. Writings on Sangh have oscillated from outright derision to attempts at mainstreaming (unwittingly at times) to hagiography. The book maintains the proportion very well by not falling into any of the three. At the same time, it juxtaposes the vacuity of Hindu majoritarianism with the experiences of India’s neighbours, namely Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

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Updated On : 12th Sep, 2021
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