Tag Archives: Ravi Sinha

Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

 

(Webinar – Sunday, July 19, 5 pm)

Shakespeare said, what is past is prologue. A simple-minded rationalist may be contented to assume that past is fixed as it has already gone into the making of the present. Nothing can be done to change it. The truth however is that past is being ‘remade’ every day. Imaginations of ancient glories or of humiliating defeats in the distant past are being deployed in contemporary politics all across the world. This phenomenon has been a key element behind the resurgence of rightwing in many countries. Contemporary India is a calamitous example where a perverse variant of mass-democratic politics has been fashioned through the political ideology of Hindutva resulting in serious damage to democracy and to people’s welfare.

Contemporary politics is driven more pressingly to such ideological re-imaginings in the conditions of vigorously competitive electoral democracies. The phenomenon is far more pronounced in countries with a significant minority (religious, racial, linguistic-cultural etc.) that can be portrayed as a historical villain. The majority can, then, be mobilized through the political process of polarisation in which some historical-civilizational-social tectonic plate is deployed in the service of electoral-political objectives. India is a pre-eminent example of this tragic phenomenon.

Invariably, left and progressive forces find themselves handicapped in these circumstances. Attempts to prove that such polarising strategies based on re-imagining the past are malignant turn out to be politically ineffective. A typical response from such forces has been to counter the emotive with the economic and to challenge cultural nationalism with anti-colonial, anti-imperialist nationalism. These strategies have failed miserably. Other social and resistance movements too have attempted partial re-imagining of India’s past from the standpoint of traditionally oppressed communities (Dalit, feminist, native-ist, etc.). While offering some resources to the respective movements, these efforts have failed equally miserably in challenging the Hindutva’s cultural nationalism. The efforts of some of the liberal bourgeois forces, on the other hand, to gain ground by partly imitating the Hindutva forces (variants of soft hindutva) have been no more than a laughing stock. Continue reading Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

Religion, Modernity and Politics – Some Reflections on ‘Secularism’

I am grateful to Ravi Sinha for his post responding to the question of religion and politics that arises out of the brief exchange between Subhash Gatade and myself on Subhash’s post some time ago. Much has happened since the first draft of this response was written and with the advent of Narendra Modi as prime minister, ‘secularism’ too is back in public debate with renewed vigour.

Meanwhile, with Shiv Visvanathan entering the debate, flogging the long dead secularist horse, sections of the liberal and left intelligentsia seem to have gone into a tizzy. Shiv’s argument merely restates in 2014 what political analysts like Ashis Nandy had been saying at least since the mid-1980s and it does so without its nuance. The long and short of this argument is that secularism is the creed of a deracinated English-speaking, West-oriented elite which cares little about the beliefs and ways of thinking and being of the majority of their compatriots. (See also Visvanathan’s piece in Economic and Political Weekly, May 31, 2014, on ‘Narendra Modi’s Symbolic War’)

Somewhere between the two poles of the fast-dwindling tribe of the Leftist gung-ho secularist and the breast-beating liberal, the possibility of a serious debate dies a quiet death. The 1980s-1990s debate on secularism had raised all the important questions about secularism and its problematic practice that Shiv Visvanathan’s piece raises but which, it seems bypassed a whole generation of Leftists who either still seem to find it scandalous to relate to religion or are suddenly discovering their alienation or worse, the virtues of religiosity. Needless to say, such a rediscovery, in the face of political adversity is not likely to be anything more than instrumental use of religion.

The issues in 2014 invite us to revisit and indeed, go beyond what the earlier debate allowed for. Continue reading Religion, Modernity and Politics – Some Reflections on ‘Secularism’