All nationalism involves some historical sleight of hand, in choosing what to include and what to exclude while constructing a narrative of the nation’s past, and a shape of its essential identity.
Contributors Ananya Vajpeyi
- Gandhi advocated sincere fellow-feeling, the capacity to suffer for and with someone else, without self-congratulation, as the quality that makes anyone a real Hindu.
- October 2016, New Delhi – Milan Ashis Nandy sees vendors of nationalism inflicting damage all over the world, including in his own country, India. In India, the modern ideologies dominant during the liberation struggle against British rule were anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. These then gave way to secular nationalism after Independence in 1947, under the first Prime Minister of free India, Jawaharlal Nehru (d. 1964). But less than seven decades later, what dominates Indian politics today is Hindu nationalism or “Hindutva”, and this is now being aggressively promoted by the ‘strongman’ currently leading the government in Delhi, Narendra Modi. Nandy, 79, a clinical psychologist by training, an analyst of culture and society, an astute political commentator and today India’s most significant living public intellectual, has embraced the view of one of India’s founding fathers, Rabindranath Tagore, who thought that the idea of Indian nationalism was as absurd as Switzerland having a navy. In this interview below, Nandy will explain why.
- Delhi – In the weeks just before and after the new year, when the overall atmosphere of the capital was vitiated on account of the government’s attempts to override Christmas as a Christian observance and an official holiday, replacing it with a so-called “Good Governance Day” and the birth anniversaries of Madan Mohan Malaviya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, brief visits by two eminent philosophers provided some relief. The visitors were the Bengali philosopher, Arindam Chakrabarti, who teaches at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, and the Iranian philosopher, Ramin Jahanbegloo, who teaches at York University in Canada. Both lectured at public fora, met with students and scholars, and brought to the denizens of beleaguered Delhi a much-needed reminder of the importance of philosophy as the core of humanistic intellectual inquiry and democratic dissent.
- Ever since Partition and Independence, Indian political life has privileged the concepts of diversity, pluralism, tolerance and inter-religious harmony. The way to realise these values, according to the ideology dominant thus far, was to have a state that expressed equal ‘love’ for all communities, that is, a state taking it upon itself to safeguard the peculiarities, rights and interests of groups defined along the axes of religion or caste, or as a majority and multiple minorities. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta has explained recently, in the vision of its founders and the architecture of the Constitution, India was conceived of as a ‘federation of communities’ with a paternalistic, secular state presiding over and managing a mosaic of identities. But, the outcome of India’s 2014 general elections, which puts the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power under the leadership of Narendra Modi – sworn in as the new prime minister on Monday 26 May – calls for a widespread debate on the meaning, purpose and definition of secularism in this country.
- As India enters its 2014 general election to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha, the spectacle of prominent commentators adjusting their views towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi unfolds before our eyes with escalating frequency and vivid clarity. These adjustments — to use a term that is more descriptive than judgmental, at least for starters — take a variety of forms, and come from a range of observers, analysts and experts.
- “Swaraj literally means ‘selfrule’: it joins together the idea of the self and the idea of sovereignty, rule, or mastery. Swaraj was used most in the late nineteenth century and throughout the first half of the twentieth century to indicate the major political project that Indians were engaged in, through a number of anticolonial, nationalist movements and other kinds of political responses to the fact of British rule and British empire. Most histories of Indian nationalism or of India during that period tell the story of how India became politically independent and how it succeeded in ending British rule. But I couldn’t find any good narrative about the search for the ‘Self’, which is the “Swa” in the first half of Swaraj.” That is why Ananya Vajpeyi, Kluge Fellow at the The John W. Kluge Center of The Library of Congress in Washington D.C., has selected five key figures of India’s modern thought, politics and culture – Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar and Abanindranath Tagore – to understand how they tried to find values and norms that could be set up as the scaffolding for a future India. We interviewed her during the Venice-Delhi Seminars 2012, held at the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice. Ananya Vajpeyi is the author of Righteous Republic. The Political Foundations of Modern India, Harvard University Press, 2012 Interview by Nicola Missaglia Videomaker: Ruben Lagattolla More about Venice-Delhi Seminars here Discover the September 2013 Issue of Seminar magazine, with contributions from the Venice-Delhi Seminars 2012
- Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations is pleased to present the special September issue of the Indian magazine Seminar, with contributions by leading international scholars who gathered in Venice for the 2012 edition of our Venice-Delhi Seminars.