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Martha C. Nussbaum
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    While America is focused on religious militancy and terrorism in the Middle East, democracy has been under siege from religious extremism in another critical part of the world. As Nussbaum reveals in this penetrating look at India today, the forces of the Hindu right pose a disturbing threat to its democratic traditions and secular state. Nussbaum's long-standing professional relationship with India makes her an excellent guide to its recent history.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04156-1
    Subjects: History, Religion, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XV-XIX)
  5. Map of India
    (pp. XX-XX)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    While Americans have focused on the war on terror, Iraq, and the Middle East, democracy has been under siege in another part of the world. India—the most populous of all democracies, and a country whose Constitution protects human rights even more comprehensively than our own—has been in crisis. Until the spring of 2004, its parliamentary government was increasingly controlled by right-wing Hindu extremists who condone and in some cases actively support violence against minorities, especially the Muslim minority. Many seek fundamental changes in India’s pluralistic democracy. Despite their electoral loss, these political groups and the social organizations allied...

  7. 1 Genocide in Gujarat
    (pp. 17-51)

    On February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati express train arrived in the station at Godhra, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, packed with Hindu pilgrims(kar sevaks)who were returning from Ayodhya. Ayodhya, as the alleged birthplace of the god Rama (also called Ram), has been a focal point of Hindu anti-Muslim feeling for several decades. In 1992 a mob of Hindu zealots destroyed the sixteenth-century Babri Mosque there, claiming that it covered the remains of a Hindu temple. This pilgrimage, like many others in recent times, aimed at forcibly constructing a temple upon the disputed site, and the mood...

  8. 2 The Human Face of the Hindu Right
    (pp. 52-79)

    It is relatively easy for the moral imagination to put a human face on the suffering of Gujarat’s victims. It is much more difficult to see the human face of the people who aided or condoned the violence. The Hindu right has many faces. Some of its spokespeople, like Pravin Togadia, openly call for violence and speak approvingly of ethnic cleansing. Togadia, however, is widely regarded as an extremist and something of an embarrassment, whether because of the content of his views or the openness with which he states them. More common is a complicated dance around the issue of...

  9. 3 Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru
    (pp. 80-121)

    The crimes of Gujarat were the work of individual human beings and a contemporary political movement. Both the crimes and the resilient democracy’s eventual repudiation of them grew, however, out of a longer history that involves both the ideas of the founders and the structure of the institutions they designed.

    Indians often tell their nation’s story through the stories of three great men. All were champions of independence from Britain; all played a major role in crafting a self-sufficient democracy. Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) took little part in the politics of the independence struggle,¹ but as an artist and public...

  10. 4 A Democracy of Pluralism, Respect, Equality
    (pp. 122-151)

    Nehru’s vision of India emphasized democracy, religious neutrality (equal political standing for all citizens, regardless of religion), and economic justice. But ideals need institutions to sustain them. Now, therefore, we must turn to more abstract matters of legal and constitutional structure.

    What happened in the streets of Gujarat seems far removed from issues of constitutional design. Laws and institutions, however, establish the basic terms on which people live together, often with a large influence on attitudes and behavior. India’s democracy has proven resilient and relatively stable in large part because of the way in which Nehru, Law Minister B. R....

  11. 5 The Rise of the Hindu Right
    (pp. 152-185)

    It is 1992 in Nagpur, a city in the western state of Maharashtra. We see a group of very appealing little boys—high-energy, full of mischief, surprisingly polite. They meet on a playing field for games and instruction, supervised by three young men in their twenties, instructors of the local RSSshakha, or “branch.” All the boys agree that they like coming to theshakha. “It’s fun,” says one of the older boys, age around eleven. “They teach you manners and to play games, and they teach you to respect your parents.” A little boy, around six, says, “I also...

  12. 6 Fantasies of Purity and Domination
    (pp. 186-210)

    The leaders of the Hindu right did not want India’s men to “sin” by “remain[ing] weak,” passive against the affronts of history. As a linchpin of their program for youth education, they fashioned an image of Indian masculinity as aggressive and warlike, and they refashioned even the images of the gods to support the ideology of domination. A refashioned masculinity cannot fail to reshape a group’s image of the male-female relationship, and so it has happened here. Domination over Hindu women and violence against Muslim women lie deep in the Hindu right’s political consciousness.

    One of the most horrific aspects...

  13. 7 The Assault on History
    (pp. 211-263)

    Once, the story goes, there lived in the Indus Valley a pure and peaceful people. They spoke Vedic Sanskrit, a language revealed as that of the gods when the immortal Vedas were given to humanity. They had a rich material culture, well suited to sustain their prosperous life. Despite their peaceful temper, they were also well prepared for war: they had chariots, and even horses. Their realm was vast, stretching from Kashmir in the north to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in the south. And yet they saw unity and solidarity in their shared ways of life, calling themselves Hindus and their...

  14. 8 The Education Wars
    (pp. 264-301)

    Nothing is more crucial to democracy than education. Through primary and secondary education, young citizens form, at a crucial age, habits of mind that will be with them all through their lives. They learn to ask questions or not to ask them; to take what they hear at face value or to probe more deeply; to imagine the situation of a person different from themselves or to see such a person as a looming threat to their own projects; to think of themselves as members of a homogeneous group or as citizens of a nation, and a world, made up...

  15. 9 The Diaspora Community
    (pp. 302-329)

    On a dark, rainy August day, my research assistants and I visit the dazzling Swaminarayan temple in Bartlett, Illinois, about an hour northwest of Chicago, a primary enclave of the Gujarati community in the United States. For the time being one of my assistants, Shaheen Haji, a Gujarati Muslim from California, has assumed the Hindu name of Meenakshi Mehta so that we can hear opinions about Muslims frankly expressed. When I introduce her under this name, the face of our guide, a young man recently arrived from Gujarat, lights up with sympathy and recognition. With the beatific smile and the...

  16. 10 The Clash Within
    (pp. 330-338)

    What subverts democracy, and what preserves it?

    In May 2004 Indians went to the polls in large numbers and repudiated the politics of Hindu homogeneity. Many issues played a role in the electoral defeat of the BJP; its cynical proclamation that “India” was “Shining,” while the lives of the rural poor remained untouched, was one major cause of the revolt. In some regions, though, the aftermath of Gujarat was clearly a major factor. The BJP went down to defeat in Gujarat itself, and the most conspicuously RSS-linked of the government’s ministers, Education Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, lost his seat in...

  17. Chronology
    (pp. 339-344)
  18. Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations
    (pp. 345-346)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 347-382)
  20. Index
    (pp. 383-403)