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Creating a Nationality: The Ramjanmabhumi Movement and Fear of the Self

Publication Date|2021-04-01

Authors|Ashis Nandy, Shikha Trivedy, Shail Mayaram, Achyut Yagnik




The destruction of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in December 1992 was a watershed in the politics of independent India. It was also an apocalyptic turning point for community life at Ayodhya, and for the highly interdependent cultural lives of Hindus and Muslims living there. This book narrates how Ayodhya's inhabitants experienced the events that led up to and followed the destruction of the mosque. Woven into the narrative is an analysis of the culture of communal conflict, the nature of organized mass violence, and the political psychology of Hindu nationalism. The authors argue that the chain of events which they describe is the end-product of a century's effort to convert Hindus into a 'proper' modern nation and a conventional ethnic majority.
Simultaneously, the effort is equally to turn the followers of other Indian faiths into well-behaved ethnic minorities and nationalities. The American model of a 'melting pot' is being imposed with the expectation that it will dissolve India's primordial identities. A society which has for centuries been a salad bowl of diverse communities, each identifiably different but constituting parts of a whole, is being forced to conform to the pattern of a 'proper' nation-state. In recounting the story of Ayodhya from this perspective, the authors are primarily concerned with the everyday reality of Indian civilization and the fate of its moral vision. They voice the concern of a huge majority of Indians to whom the events at Ayodhya look like an attack on Hinduism itself. They suggest that the underlying battle-lines within Indian civilization are less between religions and ethnic communities than between an ancient order and the hegemonic vision ofan imperial modern West and its indigenous collaborators.


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