In a historically rich, detailed account of the Hindu nationalist movement in India since the s, Christophe Jaffrelot explores how rapid changes in the political, social, and economic climate have made India fertile soil for the growth of the primary arm of Hindu nationalism, a paramilitary-style group known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh RSS , together with its political offshoots. Jaffrelot argues that political uneasiness, created by real and imagined threats of colonialism and the presence of minority groups, paved the way for militant Hinduism on the Indian subcontinent. He shows how the Hindu movement uses religion to enter the political sphere, and argues that the ideology they speak for has less to do with Hindu philosophy than with ethnic nationalism, borrowing from modern European models. Using techniques similar to those of nationalist groups in other nations, Jaffrelot contends, the Hindu movement polarizes Indian society by stigmatizing minorities - chiefly Muslims and Christians - and by promoting a sectarian Hindu identity.

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Request Inspection Copy Description After Independence the Nehruvian approach to socialism in India rested upon three pillars: secularism and democracy in the political domain; state intervention in the economy; and diplomatic Non-Alignment mitigated by pro-Soviet leanings after the s.

From this starting point Christophe Jaffrelot explores the manner in which India has been transformed, more especially since the —90s. But the simultaneous—and related—rise of Hindu nationalism has put the minorities—and secularism—on the defensive, and in many ways the rule of law is on trial too. The liberalisation of the economy has resulted in growth but not necessarily in development.

India has also acquired a new global status, that of an emerging power seeking new political and economic partnerships in Asia and in the West, where the United States remains the first choice of the Indian middle class. The traditional Nehruvian system is giving way to a less cohesive but more active India, a country which has already become what it is against all the odds.

Hurst has published nine of his books, most recently the co-edited Majoritarian State. For two decades and more, Jaffrelot has displayed a shrewd ability to sense trends before they fully manifest themselves and to analyze their bases-he was one of the very first to produce empirically—grounded studies on the rise of Hindu nationalism and on the upsurge of lower caste politics—which remain touchstones in the field.

A fascinating and illuminating collection to be welcomed by all scholars and students of contemporary India. With its wealth of information, meticulous scholarship, and deep sense of history, this impressive volume will be invaluable to anyone interested in South Asia. In one volume one can find general as well as specific chapters on various aspects of religion, caste and politics in India.

Undoubtedly, it will remain as one of the main reference works for scholars working on modern India for years to come.


Religion, Caste and Politics in India

Ambedkar, chairperson of the drafting committee of the Indian constitution after presenting the constitution to the first president Dr Rajendra Prasad. Credit: Wikimedia Commons At times, it seems that Ambedkar looked at democracy as a western creation that he had learnt from outside and imported. Certainly, he has read most of the European and American political philosophers of democracy and drew most of his inspiration from outside for drafting the Indian Constitution. His intellectual affinities with the Western developed during his stays in the United States and in England. A good part of his ideas ensued from them. He also waited from the westerners an actual support.


Christophe Jaffrelot



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