Religious nationalism in modern Gujarat: an entangled relationship between Hindutva and Gandhism

Eijiro Hazama

The aim of this research is to elucidate a paradoxical continuity between the rise of Hindu nationalism (later called “Hindutva”) and the ideology of Gandhi(ans) in colonial and post-colonial Gujarat. Generally, it is acknowledged that Gandhi and his followers were anti-communalists who railed against the discourse of Hindu nationalism (Madan 1987; Yagnik and Sheth 2005; Suhrud 2008, etc.). Contrary to this presupposition, however, this research intends to demonstrate that the widespread notion of Gandhi’s “anti-materialism” - indubitably an idea inspired by Western romanticists in the Metropole (van der Veer 2001) - had contributed to produce the following three new historical perceptions among Gandhi’s contemporary intellectuals: (1) the decrease of the sense of pride towards mercantile and commercial cultures in Gujarat, which used to be a dominant feature of historical narratives by the literati in the pre-Gandhian era (i.e., Narmad, M. N. Dvivedi, G. Tripathi, etc.); (2) the gradual loss of this perception eventually pushed aside positive historical evaluations concerning the past Islamic rulers of Gujarat (particularly, Ahmad Shah and his successors, Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan) who had conceivably brought a ‘benedictional’ economic prosperity; (3) because of these, only the negative and antagonistic conception of the Muslim ‘invasion’ had come to be emphasized in intellectuals’ historical narratives (this can be mostly explicitly seen, though somewhat ambiguously, in K. M. Munshi’s writings). For all of the conscious efforts to prevent communal disintegration, this lesser-explored ideology of Gandhian anti-materialism, though insensibly, had proffered a subterranean route for the later development of Hindu nationalism.

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