The Hindu - Is Hindu nationalism a viable project? This is not an idle question, for the Prime Minister calls himself a Hindu ... Mukul transforms his historical chronicle of a single religious press into a magisterial account of the socio-cultural, economic and human forces at play in the politics of Hindutva...
This raises an obvious question: what if secularism as an alternative political platform to Hindutva has run its course, as it indisputably has, for instance, in Gujarat?
In such a scenario, the way forward for anyone hoping to save India’s tattered secular fabric from being torn to shreds by Hindu majoritarianism would be to make the non-dvijas — the OBCs and Dalits, who together constitute 60 per cent of the population — impervious to a supremacist ideology that seeks to foster a synthetic Hindu pride by positing select religious minorities as inferior to the lowest of the Hindus in the social order of the varna system.
But this is only possible through social empowerment and visible economic advancement of a great number of Dalits and OBCs, so that there is no basis left for a sense of caste-based superiority. Of course, it is easier said than done.
What is politically rational could seem socially quixotic as a project, despite the fact that secularism has no dearth of upper caste flag-bearers. History is yet to provide a single instance of a dominant social group that voluntarily ceded its power or privileges. If kshatriya-brahmin hegemony characterised the subcontinent’s social order till the advent of British colonialism, then bania-brahmin hegemony is equally a marker of contemporary India. But thanks to democracy, however flawed, and a socially progressive Constitution, this hegemony, compared to those of the past, is more vulnerable to being challenged, and therefore weaker.
The pages of Gita Press make it abundantly clear that no accommodation is possible between Hindutva and democracy, or between Hindutva and equality. But the battle for secularism cannot be won without first addressing the reality of caste, for it is the virus behind the pathology of Hindutva. To what extent democracy can unhinge caste hegemonies is, of course, one of the more intriguing narratives of modern India.