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

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Fratricidal Violence and Indian Political Thought

Violent Fraternity: Indian Political Thought in the Global Age by Shruti Kapila, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2021; pp 328, $35 (Hardcover).


The ideological and political origins of fratricidal violence—that resulted in one of the bloodiest divisions of people, and that continues to mar much of our contemporary political lives—remain an understudied and under-conceptualised area of scholarship. Shruti Kapila’s Violent Fraternity: Indian Political Thought in the Global Age is an important, thought-provoking study that seeks to fill this gap. Straddling the disciplinary fields of history, political theory and philosophy, Kapila’s ambition is to explore the ideational content and conceptual moorings of this viol­ence. Did the centrality of violence in the ideas of major “ideological innovators”—Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Ghadarites, M K Gandhi, B R Ambe­dkar, V D Savarkar, and Muhammad Iqbal—advertently or inadvertently inscribe violence as an ethic of our political subjectivity, legitimising its use for a just cause? Kapila exp­lores the canvas of 20th century political thought of key political actors to investigate this question.

The book makes three key arguments: First, it argues that political ideas of all major political actors were “fixated by the question of violence, not excluding the apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi” (p 4). Their political consciousness, as also their conceptual repertoire, were mediated by and formed in relation to the question of violence. Gandhi’s ahimsa, Tilak’s invocation of Gita’s “just war,” Ambedkar’s proposal to annihilate caste, Savarkar’s cult of the masculine, virile warrior all addressed and in turn were constituted by questions of violence.

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Updated On : 24th Apr, 2022
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