Top Banner Culture & Psychology The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1354067X09337869 2009 15: 299 Culture Psychology Ragini Sen and Wolfgang Wagner Identities and Violence in Post-Gandhi India Cultural Mechanics of Fundamentalism: Religion as Ideology, Divided Published by: can be found at: Culture & Psychology Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations: What is This? - Aug 17, 2009 Version of Record >> at Airlangga University on April 14, 2014 Downloaded from at Airlangga University on April 14, 2014 Downloaded from

Cultural Mechanics of Fundamentalism Religion as Ideology, Divided Identities and Violence in Post-gandhi India

Oct 02, 2015



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  • & Psychology online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/1354067X09337869 2009 15: 299Culture Psychology

    Ragini Sen and Wolfgang WagnerIdentities and Violence in Post-Gandhi India

    Cultural Mechanics of Fundamentalism: Religion as Ideology, Divided

    Published by:

    can be found at:Culture & PsychologyAdditional services and information for Alerts:

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  • Abstract This study analyses the history of Hindufundamentalism up to the present time, as it developed since

    Indias independence. In the course of its rise, Hindutva destroyedthe Gandhian symbolism of non-violence, reinterpreted cultural

    symbols to become political signs and prepared the ground forcommunal violence. Secularists and the religious out-group,

    Muslims, became targeted as enemies. During the resulting Hinduethnic dominance, religion was converted from a faith into an

    ideology. The sequence of events in the development of thismovement repeats the common scheme of a religious

    fundamentalist movement that serves the nationalist goals ofpolitical leaders. It is argued that such groups cannot reasonably

    be conceptualized in terms of an individual psychology orpersonality, that is, a trait, but as a cultural movement that unites

    people sharing membership of a social class, that is, asociocultural state. Such movements, in contrast to Abrahamic

    religious fundamentalisms, do not form well-established stablegroups over time, but are more like a waxing and waning political

    movement where membership is determined by social class andethnic identity. Their politics trigger a heightened awareness of

    ethnic identity, prime a religiously ideological mindset and, as aconsequence, release communal violence.

    Key Words culture change, ethnic identity, fundamentalism,Gandhi, Hindu religion, symbolism, violence

    Ragini SenLogistics, Mumbai, IndiaWolfgang WagnerJohannes Kepler Universitt Linz, Austria, and;University of the Basque Country, San Sebastin, Spain

    Cultural Mechanics ofFundamentalism: Religion as

    Ideology, Divided Identities andViolence in Post-Gandhi India


    The rise of religious fundamentalism appears to be inversely related tomodernity and secularism. Even if something like religious orthodoxy

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    Vol. 15(3): 299326 [DOI: 10.1177/1354067X09337869]


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  • and fundamentalism has always existed in the past, its presence, whenin contrast to secular world views, becomes particularly apparent(Berger, 1992; Fox, 2007; Rock, 2004). These shades of religious beliefsand ways of living are conspicuously resistant to scientific advance-ment, economic change and development, and periodically erupt intobouts of individual and collective violence against people, groups and symbolically charged objects. None of the big religions is exemptfrom such tendencies, be it the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism,Christianity and Islam, or Hinduism, Confucianism and, to a certainextent, even Buddhism (Almond, Appleby, & Sivan, 2003; Bermanis,Canetti-Nisim, & Pedahzur, 2004; Bhatt & Mukta, 2000; Ellens & Ellens,2004; Keyes & Wellman, 2007). This topic, hence, is without doubt acentral issue in modern times and a source of increasing worry incontemporary societies. In this study we focus on Hindutva funda-mentalism in contemporary India, how it developed in recent historyand how it depends on rejecting the symbolism of Gandhis non-violence, which is widely esteemed as a landmark achievement in thecourse of Indias struggle for independence from the British Empire.

    Fundamentalism is an iridescent concept; everybody understands itin everyday and academic talk, but being a contextual phenomenon, itescapes easy definition. May it suffice to call religious fundamentalismthe activity of a group that is directed against the dissolution oftraditional order in the course of modernization (Riesebrodt, 1993) andthat is characterized by a discernible pattern of religious militancy(Almond, Appleby, & Sivan, 2003, p. 17). This mindset draws on adistinct religious and ethnic identity, erects strict borders towards othergroups and justifies violence against them by their mere otherness.Emerson and Hartman (2006) name some ideological and organiz-ational characteristics. For these authors, fundamentalism is a reactionto the marginalization of religion in contemporary society; it has adualistic world view whereby everything is either good or evil; funda-mentalists believe absolutely in the divine origin of their sacred texts;and some share a belief in millennialism and messianism, which willleave true believers victorious at the end.

    Not all fundamentalist movements fulfil all these criteria simul-taneously and indeed there are differences between the group ofAbrahamic religions and those of Middle and East Asian origin(Billings & Scott, 1994; Munson, 1995). In the former religions, mostly,fundamentalist groups exist as a stable phenomenon where memberssocialize their children through the family and special schools tobecome members themselves (Altemeyer, 2003; Bermanis, Canetti-Nisim, & Pedahzur, 2004; Beyerlein, 2004; Godwin, Godwin, &

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  • Martinez-Ebers, 2004). The latter versions of fundamentalism appearas more transitory states, a waxing and waning of religiously justifiedethnocentrism that is a highly relevant factor in the political life of acountry for some decades, but may lose their importance thereafter.These fundamentalisms are organized along the lines of social classand are often instrumentalized in political campaigns (Rogers et al.,2007; A. Sen, 2006). Despite these differences, however, we consider themore ethnocentrically orientated fundamentalisms such as Hindutvaand Abrahamic versions as large enough to subsume them under onelabel (Riesebrodt, 2000).

    According to some authors, religious fundamentalism is to beconceived as a psychological phenomenon of the personality or a formof psychopathology (Ellens, 2006; Hood, Hill, & Williamson, 2005;Rock, 2004). While a psychological analysis may be helpful for under-standing the membership dynamics of sects and relatively stablefundamentalist groups (Altemeyer, 2003; Altemeyer & Hunsberger,1992; Ellens & Ellens, 2004; Rowatt & Franklin, 2004), as well as forunderstanding why individuals commit terrorist acts (Rogers et al.,2007), this is less clear with fundamentalism as a dynamic phenom-enon. Membership in fundamentalist movements that show cycles ofactivity and silence largely exhibits a pattern of distinct class culture(Coreno, 2002) and is organized in terms of cultural and institutionalconstellations (Thomas, 1996). Its dynamics are much more focused onethnic identity politics (Bhatt & Mukta, 2000) by constructing un-ambiguous symbolic boundaries that firmly exclude the Other asdemonic and it shows an active engagement against secularists whorelativize the good and bad in the world (Nagata, 2001). Because ofthese characteristics of cyclic fundamentalist movements, our focus ismore on societal states than on individual traits; that is, on the mediumscale of cultural dynamics.

    In the present research we take up the Hindu case and investigatethe cultural consequences of the resurgence of a militant and politicallyinspired fundamentalism. This movement faced the task of changing aseries of semiotic mediators (Valsiner, 2003) that were inherited fromthe times of the Indian struggle for independence and of reinterpret-ing historical events to fit the fundamentalist ideological agenda. In anearlier publication focusing on the Indian situation, we showed howpopular representations of history are being reframed and interrelatedto convey justification of, and to endow them with the emotional forcenecessary for, mass action. Historical events, as represented in groups,form a narrative network that informs the actions, cognitions andaffects of their holders. In the case of antagonistic groups, such as

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  • Hindus and Muslims in India, historical events and the derivativeinterpretations following from their narratives are more often than nothetero-referential in the sense that each groups representation is vali-dated by, and indeed depends on, the respective antagonistic represen-tation of the other group (R. Sen & Wagner, 2005).

    Symbolic change on the temporal scale of approximately 60 years iswell beyond the usual toolbox of psychological methodology. Hence,we rely on historical and political accounts to cover the backgroundand prehistory of the recent events that are reflected in the qualitativeinterviews. Given this unusual procedure, the report is not a straight-forward account of the interviews semantic analysis, but depends onthe cross-references that we can draw from our respondents stories tothe wider societal field. We think that the theoretical approach of socialrepresentations provides a fitting framework for this task (for example,Jovchelovitch, 2007; Moscovici, 1988, 2000; Wagner & Hayes, 2005).

    A central task for fundamentalist groups is to justify the strictdivision between ethnic identities (that is, Hindu and Muslim in thepresent case; Bhatt & Mukta, 2000). Ethnic identity depends on thebrace of historical fate being imagined as inevitable and goal-directed.Anything less than a coherent tale of the foundation of a groups exist-ence, its charter, would not do (Liu & Hilton, 2005). Hence, adaptinghistorical accounts to fit current identities is one consequence of funda-mentalist politics (cf. Liu & Laszlo, 2007). The success of concocting afitting historical account depends to a large extent on taking up a seriesof culturally rooted representations and symbols and either givingthem a new meaning or rejecting their present day value altogether. Inthe present case, it is the religious symbolism of the saffron colour, thecultural meaning of the swastik and of Om that were given new, or atleast added, meanings by the movement. The prevailing social repre-sentation of Gandhi and his politics of non-violencewhich appearedacceptable during the struggle against the colonizers, but had lost itspositive connotation for Hindus after independence to a large degreehad to be condemned as secularist, anti-Hindu and as an obstacle toviolent politics.

    In this text we focus more on the mechanics of using cultural resourcesand less on the psychological underpinnings of these processes. Wemaintain that for analyzing socially meaningful phenomena, it isnecessary to depart from the habitually close confines of psychologysargumentation and to include historical, social representational andcollective activity in analysis and theorizing (Valsiner, 2001). Just as anindividual draws on cultural resources to serve in individual meaningmaking (Zittoun, Gillespie, Cornish, & Aveling, 2008), so do collectives

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  • by being engulfed in a web of representational systems that endowmeaning on the social objects and events, and that are polyphasicenough to allow orientation in the multitude of situations, small orlarge scale, that one may face (Moscovici, 1976; Wagner, 1998; Wagner,Duveen, Verma, & Themel, 2000). The collective character of theprocesses makes them a prime illustration of how representationalsystems come into being and are transformed by concerted action andinteraction that is often instigated by powerful individuals (Marx,1919); indeed, collective co-action is the source of the force that repre-sentational systems exert in societies. Despite the specificity of theIndian case, we think that the cultural events recounted and analysedhere do not preclude their cultural mechanics being generalized toother societies.

    Gandhis Symbolism, British India and Orientalism

    In pre-independent India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhis sharpunderstanding of the Indian psyche helped him to create a powerfulrepertoire of symbolic representations associated with non-violence,which took the form of a sociopolitical movement. This legacy of non-violence, which was both spiritual and political, played an importantrole in the world.

    Gandhis appeal to symbols arousing the collective imagination tookBritish imperialists completely by surprise. They were ill-equipped tocontrol the unusual forms of protests developed by Gandhi. Gandhirepresented insignificant events and daily objects, endowed them withmeaning and ultimately these symbols condensed into unusual formsof protests gained mass support and became socially accepted. Notsurprisingly, the British were stupefied by Gandhis civil disobediencemovement, which became one of the major forces during Indiasindependence movement. Gandhis ways were not Brahminic, butstruck a chord within the ordinary person and were immediatelyaccepted by the masses since they were tuned to the philosophia plebia.Below are some typical examples that were used to create a represen-tation in word as well as in deed.

    In Indian culture, salt is perceived as the lifeline of a person andwhen a tax was imposed by the imperial powers on this commodity,Gandhi used this opportunity to create a civil disobedience movementcalled the great salt march. Tax on salt was represented as slavery andthe symbol of exploitation. Thus, by sensitively exploiting the culturalmeaning of an insignificant object, Gandhi captured the highest formof national spirit ever witnessed in the country. Through the salt march,

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  • Gandhi represented resistance as peaceful; a new representation initself (Weber, 1997).

    Similarly, Gandhi made Khadi (homespun) a widely acceptedsymbol, a common bond uniting people from diverse backgrounds. Itwas a representation that made abstract political ideas, such as thestruggle against colonialism, concrete. The spirit of the people, wearyof domination, was turned into action through the use of Khadi. Towear or not to wear Khadi was a personal decision, which anyone couldtake and thereby be involved in the task of attaining an independentIndia. Gandhi, with his astute perception and psychological insight,imbued a seemingly mundane sphere of life with political and moralsignificance. Thus, the sting of supposed western superiority, whichhad eroded the spirit of mid- and late Victorian India, boomerangedon the British. Through the agency of Gandhis non-violence, thecommon Indian took position on the high horse of moral superiority(Thapar, 1990b). Their perceived image began to differ from the imagecreated of them by the colonizers. This ushered in a collective changein identity.

    In contrast to the western concept of secularism, Gandhi suggestedSarvadharma Sambhav (peaceful co-existence of all religions) to preventconflicts caused by religious bigotry. The concept was introduced byGandhi to counter the British policy of divide and rule and thereby tounify the various factions into which the institutional politic had beendivided.

    Internationally, Mahatma Gandhi became the iconic representationof non-violence. Not surprisingly, after Gandhi, there is a widelyaccepted myth in the West that non-violence is a cardinal principle ofHinduism and that it is widely practised. This perspective is a spin-offfrom the view popularized by a small section of European scholars andin particular German Romanticism, which had discovered Indiathrough its ancient philosophy and literature in Sanskrit (Thapar,1990a). For Romanticists, in contrast to the materialistic West, Indiasymbolized spiritualism and peace. This image also received supportfrom a section of Indian thinkers during the last 100 years and wasenhanced by the orientalization of India (Ludden, 1996; Said, 1993).European imperialism coupled with Romanticism thus invented areligious traditionalist image of India.

    But this is, indeed, a misrepresentation that Gandhi himself recog-nized by pointing out that both the Mahabharatha and Ramayana (themajor Indian epics) were replete with instances of violence (Vidal,Tarabout, & Meyer, 2003). The Bhagvad Gita shows that the space forviolence is not new in India. Violence has been a much debated subject

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  • here and open to various interpretations since ancient times. In ancientIndia, violence, if justifiable, was regarded as a religious duty (dharma)and war was often sanctioned if it was used to correct the dharmic(religious) balance.

    In pre-independent India, Gandhi faced stiff resistance and muchcriticism, but had ultimately been successful in operationalizing theconcept of non-violence in the Indian subcontinent. Against hugehurdles, Gandhi practised non-violence and when he failed, he recog-nized his errors and made efforts to correct them. This, however, doesnot establish that because of Gandhi, violence was set aside and cultureand religion were rewritten. Violence continued to exist. Gandhihimself regarded non-violence as merely a strategy to be used circum-spectly to foil a cunning adversary. In fact, Gandhis non-violence, withwhich he had already experimented in South Africa, can be interpretedas collective resistance at a moderate and regulated level of militancy.In Gandhis estimation, violence would have stripped resistance of itsmass character and would have thereby threatened its sustainability (S. Sen, 2007).

    In contrast to popular representation, Gandhi, who had a singularlyversatile philosophy, believed that for the prevalence of truth, theconcept of Ahimsa (non-violence) could also be sacrificed. This shouldnot come as a surprise since Gandhis views were, among others,inspired by the Gita and the Gita never underplayed the utility ofviolence. Nonetheless, non-violence, as it is everywhere, wasconsidered desirable in the face of a global public and Gandhi, overtime, became a symbol of non-violence per se.

    In fact, one lone man, Mahatma Gandhi, the non-violent secularist,mourned the killings of the innocent and fasted in Kolkata (formerlyCalcutta) while the country celebrated the onset of free India. Divisivepolitics, as embodied in partition, which had taken recourse in large-scale retributive violence and set aside the norms of religion as faith,had left a deep scar on his secular soul; he did not rejoice. For hiscussed stand on secularism, he even lost his life. Nathuram Godse, aHindu fundamentalist, shot Gandhi for his supposed pro-Muslimleanings. This is a clear indicator of the fact that opinion was dividedabout Gandhi even in pre-independent India: Gandhi was shot by aHindu.

    The Studys Historical and Geographical Background

    Questionnaires are not the method of choice in the context of religion(Williamson & Ahmad, 2007) and particularly when the respondents

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  • are largely illiterate, the choice of qualitative interviews is mandatory.One of the authors (R. Sen) conducted the interviews during thesummer of 2003, when the atmosphere in India was charged withcommunal tension and the hawkish Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wasstill in power. The general belief was that it would win the parlia-mentary elections to be held in 2004 with a thumping majority; the UShad invaded Iraq; and, for the first time in independent India, politicalclout was used in Gujarat in 2002 to inflame communal riots. Theresults are hence context specific.

    The research locale was Dharavi in the heart of Mumbai, which issupposed to be Asias largest slum and is a communally sensitive area.Here, religion has a significant presence as testified by the fact that ithas 28 temples and 35 faith schools (madarsas) and mosques (Sharma,2000). On several occasions, Dharavi has witnessed riots betweenHindus and Muslims. Major riots broke out in Dharavi in December1992 (motivated by the demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya).Since then, there has been palpable communal tension. Following theriots in 1992, there was high polarization around communal lines andtenuous co-existence of different communities. Dharavis temperamentwas described as highly mercurial. In the words of the interviewees,Dharavi is symbolic of a world that changes everyday and nobodyknows when it might explode and what spark will trigger it off. Herethe mafia and underworld ruled; drug peddling, prostitution and gangwars were still routine.

    In Dharavi, violence had become part of daily discourse, internalizedand accepted as a norm. Given its volatile nature, Dharavi has createda discourse of violence that has become normative and has been usedby politicians over many decades to incite communal violence. Thistinderbox, which was highly inflammable, was the locale of the presentresearch.

    Mumbai lies in the state of Maharashtra, which, together withGujarat, has the highest per capita death rate and incidence of riots.They also account for the largest number of total deaths in riots. InMaharashtra, there is a pattern of consistent violence which contrastsstarkly with its image as an industrial and modern state (Varshney,2000). Given its high propensity to riots, it became the natural choicefor our study on violence.

    Communal rioting is essentially an urban phenomenon, whereasrural India, with two-thirds of the Indian population, accounts for lessthan 4 percent of deaths through communal violence (19501995).Hindu-Muslim riots are concentrated in eight cities representing 5percent of Indias population (see Table 1). This cluster accounts for a

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  • disproportionate share of communal violence (45.5 percent). Given thatcommunal rioting is city specific, Mumbai, with its highly riot-pronenature, was selected as the appropriate city for research on ethnicviolence. This metropolis, beset with contradictions, its Manhattanskyline juxtaposed with slums, has been witness to large-scalecommunal violence.

    For the study, literacy was used as a principal basis of stratification.Semi-literacy (less than nine years of education) is a good indicator forpoverty and deprivation in India. To counter the frequent critique thatresearch supposedly representing the plebeian voice in reality drawson elitist or official material, we focused on low literacy coupled withsocioeconomic deprivation. Additionally, we targeted married, 2535-year-old slum residents. Amidst the deprived there is a high preva-lence of early marriage and, second, communal politics generallyflourishes amidst the 2535-year-old age group. Consequently, this agegroup is actively involved in the creation of inflammatory situations.

    Finally, the study was restricted to a riot-prone area. In order tounderstand ethnic conflict, this does not suffice. A similar studyconducted in a peaceful slum would have greatly enriched the analysisand understanding of the nature of conflict, and its attendant violence,retributive violence and non-violence. Unfortunately this was notpossible.


    SampleTwenty in-depth interviews (10 in each religious group) were carriedout among Hindu and Muslim, semi-literate married males, aged2535 years, who resided in Dharavi. In order to establish a socialnetwork, help was received from contacts (i.e. people familiar with themilieu, social class and religion).

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    Table 1. Indias riot-prone cities, 19501995 (Varshney, 2000)

    Cities Deaths due to riots 19901995

    Mumbai 1137Ahmedabad 1119Hyderabad 312Meerut 265Aligarh 160Vadodra 109Delhi 93Kolkata 63

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  • Material and ProcedureThe interviews were conducted in Hindi/Hindustani (a mix of Hindiand Urdu) and lasted 6075 minutes. They probed the different symbolsand representations being used to bolster communal politics andfocused on violence and non-violence. Given the communal surchargeand politically sensitive nature of the research, use was made of visualstimuli. The respondents were shown the visuals and then theirreactions, which became akin to storytelling, were probed. This methodhelped to build a rapport with the respondents, who were otherwisereluctant to talk on the subject of violence. However, since the inter-viewer was a Hindu woman, initially the respondents, in particular theMuslims, were reticent, but once a rapport had been established, theybecame emotionally invested (Mamali, 2006; R. Sen, 2005).

    Setting aside interview-related logistics, visual stimuli were alsoused because we believe that historical symbols are part of a culturalnarrative that can be used to mobilize public opinion, since it isassumed that there is a feedback loop between representations of thepast and the social identities of the here and now.

    In the ensuing analysis, recourse has been taken to a multi-levelanalysis, but is largely dependent on interviewee responses. Personalsurmises and observations have been mentioned separately; sources ofsecondary data, used to help understand interviewee responses, arementioned in the text. Quotes from interviewees statements aremarked with M for Muslim and H for Hindu.

    Analysis and Interpretation

    Divergent Perceptions of Gandhis Non-violenceIn pre-independent India, Gandhi, although controversial, was highlyrespected and independent India declared him the father of thenation. However, in contemporary India, due to an upsurge in Hindufundamentalism, the image of Gandhi has undergone a radical trans-formation among a growing number of Hindus.

    The simple question, are you a Gandhi? became a pejorative foranyone who espoused any act of simplicity. Gandhi was beginning tobe looked down upon or at least considered eccentric. Further, accord-ing to the respondents, responsibility for the partition of India in 1947was now being differently assigned and Gandhis intentions werebeginning to be questioned by an increasing number of Hindus.

    Gandhi had pampered the Muslims, hence they are now trying to dominatein our country. This should not be allowed. They got Pakistan because of

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  • him and now why do they not leave us in peace? Why dont they takeGandhism to Pakistan? (H)

    According to the respondents, for those people who were wedded tothe cause of Hindu revivalism, Gandhi had become anathema and thefinal insult. Historical perceptions of events such as the partition ofIndia became strongly linked with the stand the respondents weretaking on topical political issues such as the rise of Hindutva.

    One reason for this change in representation, Gandhis big mistake,was the organized bid to write a history that was manipulated to suitan agenda of Hindu revivalism. The data show that during this time,history was open to elaborate oral arguments and was not, as it is oftenbelieved to be, a repository of facts (Wertsch, 2002; White, 1987). Thefollowing responses reflect the distortions of history and the new oralhistory debates used to justify current political understanding: Heshould not have given Pakistan to Muslims, should have left it in India.This was Gandhis big mistake. Why are Hindus today missing inPakistan and Bangladesh whereas over here they [Muslims] keepincreasing? (H).

    Thus, the BJPs politics of oral augmentations constituted a historyand began to retain, alter or reappropriate social knowledge, whichbegan to condition the behaviour, emotion and perception of HinduRashtra (nation), Hindutva, secularism and Gandhi. The tenets(Jhingran, 1995), on the basis of which the BJP tried to create a funda-mentalist mindset, were:

    (1) Hindus constitute the Indian nation, since they are the originalinhabitants and sole creators of its society and culture;

    (2) Hinduism is uniquely ubiquitous and tolerant and, hence, superior toany other faith;

    (3) The subsequent entry of foreigners created the illusion that Indiawas a land of many different and equal cultures; and,

    (4) Only a truly secular Hindu Rashtra will afford protection to non-Hindus.

    All four points reflect a rather clear fundamentalist ideology: claimto a region by descent; superiority of ones culture; and the rejection ofsecularism. This reorientation of history, which can be challenged andis controversial (for example, Lal, 2003; McGuire, Reeves, & Brasted,1996; Pandey, 2001; Punyani, 2003; Varshney, 2000; Zakaria, 2002),became akin to a charter (Liu & Hilton, 2005). It contained inventedtraditional memory (see the italicized terms in the four points givenabove), which was used to serve current social purposes (Anderson,

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  • 1991; Hobsbawm & Ranger, 1983; Kammen, 1993; Wagner, 1998) andhelped in the creation of a strong Hindu identity.

    The present data provide an example of how political entrepreneursconcoct stories to help create new political realities (Hunt, 1984). Webelieve that Hindu revivalists, in their attempt to create a Hindu India,superimposed the new elementthat Gandhi was responsible for thedivision of Indiaon memories of the past. Gandhis big mistakebegan to occupy centre stage and became the anchor for anti-Gandhidiscourse.

    Our surmise is that the first attempts to rewrite history begin withwhispered smear campaigns and in an atmosphere charged withcommunal distrust, the person who upholds the middle groundbecomes the first casualty. Gandhi, who had for a long time stood as asupreme product of this multi-religious history and was a symbol ofcommunal harmony and peace, thus became its primary target.Thereby, through manipulation of a symbol and the rewriting ofhistory, Hindu ideologues tried to modify the existing knowledge base.Our data show the dynamics whereby historical events and thesurrounding narratives were selectively employed by politicians (inthis case, Hindu revivalists) to legitimize their hidden agendas (Liu &Laszlo, 2007). They astutely used significant images rooted in the pastto manipulate the present. Experiences were thus concretized intosymbols (R. Sen & Wagner, 2005), which led to representation of eventsand figures. Gandhi too was meted this fate by Hindu revivalists.

    Destroying Cultural SymbolismThe research highlights the fact that in the changed circumstances ofcontemporary Indian society, the perception of Gandhis culturalsymbolism, used for non-violence or peaceful resistance, had movedtowards a more Hindutva framework. Respondents from both thecommunities in Dharavi were quick to reject the basic tenets ofGandhian thinking in relation to non-violence. Gandhis ideas wereviewed as anachronistic and not in synch with modern reality,although the views on Gandhi himself were divided: The world haschanged, people want to move fast. All this is for the old fashioned andnot in keeping with the present (H).

    Respondents felt that Gandhis beliefs had become history, which,when read, was a wonderful tale, but was perceived as many lightyears away from reality. There was a mute desire, a mere glimmer, toreplicate it, but it was perceived as wishful thinking and set aside whenreferenced to the harsh reality of their existing situations. The respon-dents across the communities also showed a desire for the common

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  • day, gentler existence (aam, siddhi-saadhi zindagi). However, given thegeneral sociopolitical ambience, this was seen as gibberish (bakwaas),since there was a well-entrenched belief that politicians were beyondredemption and that, in order to preserve their terrain, they wouldimmediately remove a Gandhi who was spartan and self-sacrificingand would therefore challenge their ways.

    The analysis of the interviewees discourse shows that Khadi(homespun), which was one of the powerful symbols of a classlessideology and was used by Gandhi to unify the fragmented polityagainst British imperialism, was now viewed altogether differently. Itwas represented as a luxury. Muslim and Hindu respondents alikewere unanimously cynical about its usage and felt that it had nowclassed itself in the designer nichea product for the rich. Khadi usershad become a class by themselves (see Figure 1).

    For most respondents, Khadi signified the hypocritical posture ofpoliticians who:

    . . . just as actors wear clothes appropriate for the character they are playing,politicians wear Khadi. They are all hypocrites (dhongi). We should all stayaway from the Khadiwaalas [those who wear Khadi]. They just come to makea fool of us. No one is a Gandhi amongst them. They just live in luxury usinghis name. We should beat them up. (H)

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    Figure 1. Khadi (homespun)

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  • The philosophy of simple living; high thinking and peaceful co-existence of all religions (sarvadharma sambhav) was used by Gandhi tobring about a change in social perception. Amongst our respondents,this philosophy had been turned on its head and was perceived as aluxury that could be indulged in only by the privileged. They felt thatall these high thoughts could only be the prerogative of those whowere comfortable and did not have to fight for their daily survival:

    They have the time and means to be good. We survive. No time for all thisgoodness stuff. Do your job and get on. At best dont pick up a fight (lafda).Besides, what do we have to give up . . . our clothes, our children? All thisis time-pass (pastime) for the rich (bade log). (H)

    The above examples indicate that when a bundle of signifiers areassimilated, they create representations, which often help in the socio-cultural interpretation of events. The change in perception shows thatthese multi-level meaning complexes are not closed units, but are opento constant innovation (Valsiner, 2003). Representations are not fixedentities, but are dynamic, open and subject to social change. Gandhissymbols in contemporary India, as testified by the intervieweesresponses, had lost their impact.

    Corroborating the above surmise, respondents from both thecommunities were also sceptical regarding the use of peaceful resist-ance as an effective conflict resolution process. Although the desire forpeaceful resistance existed, it was not considered viable. They did notplace great faith in such a process: In todays circumstances violencecannot be countered with non-violence. Nobody wants to follow thepeace route. The attitude is: I have to kill; will kill (M).

    The Beginnings of Retributive Violence

    Historical ContextRetributive violence has, since ancient times, been a legacy that has, timeand again, been revoked in the name of correcting dharmic imbalance,to strengthen a pan-Hindu sociopolitical identity or to consolidatepower in institutional politics. British and modern India have both beenwitness to the formation of militant organizations: the RSS (RashtriyaSwayam Sevak, an extreme rightwing organization) project commencedin 1925; Hindu Mahasabha, which stood for Hinduizing India andmilitarizing Hinduism; and the Muslim League were organized in 1906(Hardy, 1972; Jalal, 1985). All these political outfits were driven by astrong religious ideology under the disguise of cultural nationalism.

    In independent India, all hues of ideological players have taken partin unleashing retributive violence: the Congress party spearheaded the

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  • anti-Sikh violence of 1984; a Gandhian, Hitendra Desai, featured in thebout of violence against Muslims in Gujarat, 1969; and, finally, the BJPand Hindutva (Akbar, 2003; Engineer, 1995).

    Taking their lessons from this multilayered history, the BJP(19992004) made an attempt to orchestrate social transition, wherebyan attempt was made to systematically crystallize ethnic identities.This trait is perceived in almost all kinds of nationalisms where, in thebid to create a nationalist identity, the immortality of the group isemphasized and the arguments in favour of its continuity underlined,so that people feel impelled to be the torch bearers (Smith, 1998). Ourrespondents supported this thesis. According to the interviewees,during the BJP regime, the idea was that the core identity of a trueHindu be constructed around ancient Hindu lineage, militancy beaccepted, retributive violence be justified, secular acts be perceived aspretentious and those who espoused such views be considered lackeysof western spirit and, thus, the superiority and immortality of Hinduand Hindu-sthan (land of Hindus) be firmly established.

    Thus, stoking Hindu revivalism, through the ancient Indian civiliz-ation themean astute use of tradition and past experiences to justifypolitical agendas (Pennebaker, Paez, & Rim, 1997; Reicher & Hopkins,2001)the BJP was able to inflame the embers of Hindu pride andkindle the desire for retributive violence as exemplified by responsessuch as will wage a higher form of violence in order to establishHindu superiority. In fact, throughout the interviewees discourse, theunderlying emotion, expressed in different forms, was an eye for aneye and a tooth for a tooth. This discourse of violence had becomenormative. Undoubtedly, with this shift in identity politics having beenset in motion, it exerted a strong motivational pull on the people.

    With social changes during the late 1970s and early 1980s, com-munalism got a strong boost and started attacking secularism in a bigway. The BJP took up the mantle of the communal party, quicklymushroomed, introduced a communal rhetoric in the social space andopenly declared its agenda of Hindu Rashtra (Jhingran, 1995).

    The Symbolic Antecedents of ViolenceThe events that followed show that the agenda of balancing the acts ofhistory through Hindu revivalism, and thereby domination of theMuslim community, was beginning to be accepted. For instance,colours also began to be endowed with different sociopolitical signifi-cance. The significance of the saffron colour (bhagwa) has its origin inthe Vedic ages, when it was associated with fire (Agni) worship and itwas customary for sages to carry fire when they moved from one

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  • ashram to another. It is conjectured that perhaps because of the incon-venience of carrying fire over long distances, a safe symbolthesaffron flagwas created. Triangular and often forked saffron flags areseen fluttering atop most Sikh and Hindu temples. While Sikhs regardit as a militant colour, Buddhist monks and Hindu saints wear robes ofthis colour as a mark of the renunciation of material life. However, ourrespondents in Dharavi immediately associated the saffron colour withthe BJP and its allies: This [the saffron flag] is symbolic of the Shiv Senaand the BJP. Whole of Mumbai is full of such flags. In Dharavi they areall over the place (H).

    This is the Maratha Tigers [local name by which Bal Thackeray, who is headof the rightwing Shiv Sena, is addressed in Maharashtra] colour. When heroars (garajna) everybody stops in their tracks. We should have his flageverywhere. (H)

    On the basis of these reactions, it is clear that its former meaning inHindu culture as a symbol for renunciation had been transformed.Instead of being a symbol of piety, it had become symbolic of Hindurevivalism, since both the BJP and Shiv Sena have appropriated thesaffron colour and, in contemporary India, saffron has become a socialrepresentation of Hindutva to the extent that if anyone wears saffron-coloured apparel, he or she is teased as having become a part of theHindutva brigade. Thus, a new representation was createdthe colour had taken on a different connotation and been effectivelyinstrumentalized.

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    Figure 2. Rightwing flag

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  • The respondents expressed that an escalation in Hindu militancyhad been given a clear mandate. The Hindu flag in the saffron colour,bearing Hindu symbols (om and swastik), along with a sword, wasunanimously appreciated by the Hindu respondents.

    In Hinduism, om or aum is considered a sacred syllable representingthe Brahman or the Absolutethe source of all existence. In ancientIndia, as elsewhere, the incomprehensible, such as Brahman, was repre-sented as a symbol and was used to anchor the Unknowable. It is animportant symbol in Hinduism, occurring in every prayer, and in-vocation to most deities begins with it.

    Second in importance only to the om, the swastik holds great religioussignificance for Hindus. Swastik is not a syllable or a letter, but apictorial character in the shape of a cross with branches bent at rightangles and facing in a clockwise direction. A must for all religiouscelebrations and festivals, swastik symbolizes the eternal nature of theBrahman, for it points in all directions, thus representing the omni-presence of the Absolute. The term is believed to be a fusion of the two Sanskrit words Su (good) and Asati (to exist), which, whencombined, means may good prevail.

    Coming back to the local, among our Hindu respondents, the saffronflag with Hindu symbols, along with the new addition, the sword, wasseen as a statement of the rise of Hindu militancy. It has no symbols ofthe Muslims . . . only Hindu symbols. The sword can kill. It heralds thatHindus are now thinking of violence (H). It is important to make noteof the pride factor and aggressive tone being associated with Hinduism.Hinduism, a philosophy of life, was thus beginning to take on the huesof canonical thought and began to be treated as religion as ideology.

    In contrast, when this visual was shown to the Muslim respondents,there was a feeling of unease and a no comment/brushing asidescenario was common. The few who did speak appeared apprehensiveat this change in Hindu identity: Why does this flag have the sword?

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    Figure 3. Aum or Om (this was not a separate visual shown to the respondents, but is amodified version of the symbol embedded in the visual of the saffron flag)

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  • The rest of the symbols are religious. Now they are trying to provokethe Hindus to become militant. This is clear and we feel insecure (M).

    Here it is perhaps worth emphasizing that this change in culturaltools, such as social representations, was not driven by an internaldialogue, but was fuelled by collective controversy. The decodificationof visuals did not take place in a cultural, semantic or political void,but in an environment that was heavily loaded with discourse. Some-times our respondents reduced a semiotic mediator (e.g. the saffroncolour), which represented several things simultaneously, to a signwith a single meaning (Hindutva). Through this reduction, the colourwas objectified as a representation of Hindutva. The addition of a newelement, the sword, to a repertoire of religious symbols and theconcomitant reactions, which gathered momentum at the societal level,were a by-product of a social trend, which was then known as thesaffron (bhagwa) wave.

    From 1991 onwards, the distribution of tridents for the symbolic self-defence of the Hindus and trishul-diksha (consecration or initiationby giving a trident; Shrimali, 2003) had gained currency. In such anatmosphere, as the interviewees indicate, the Hindus became morebelligerent and the Muslims apprehensive, but retaliatory. Such actionsand accounts, an escalation in militancy and aggression amongst boththe communities are clear examples of social representations goingpublic in words and deeds. Social representing is not a sterile processlimited to theoretical and image factors, but comprises behaviour.Violence was justifiably unleashed and led to riots. When this occurs,noticeable changes in the symbolic sphere more often than not precedethe enactment of a representation.

    Condemning SecularismAccording to Hindu and Muslim respondents, the spirit of retributiveviolence engulfed both communities. The interviewees responsesshow that any dissidence against the holy alliance between religionand politics was generally not tolerated. It was brushed aside aspseudo-secularism. Hindus described secularists as clones of theanglicized native who, having imbibed western values, was elitist, outof touch with the real India and was always ashamed to assert his orher own religious demands. They stood in the dock accused of usingdouble standards when taking a stand on religious issues and thegeneral feeling among the respondents was that most English-speakingHindus are not open to shedding their anti-Hindu rhetoric. In affectiveterms, the respondents resented this group, calling them glamorousand arrogant.

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  • The general feeling among Hindu respondents was that enough wasenough and it was time that Hindus demanded respect and putpeopleMuslims and secularistsin their place. Proponents of theHindu cohort also often referred to secularists as ideological enemiesand had coined a term for them: Macaulays children. The descriptorsassociated with Hindu secularists by the Hindu respondentshead inthe clouds (airy fairy), talk gibberish in English (angrezi mein git-pit),weak Indians, without spine, brown sahibs/memsahibs, clones of theBritish (angrez), westernized, smugshow, and we surmise, that byprefixing secularism with pseudo-, the definition of the entirebaggage associated with secularism, a previously firmly held represen-tation, was being changed. Thus, by changing the definition of secular-ism, the Hindu ideologues had successfully, to some extent, changedcollective thought and thereby increased their hold on the Hindumindset. We believe that this representation of the secularists, whenintertwined with the Hindutva slogan, Say with pride that you are aHindu (Garv se kaho ki Hindu ho), not only increased the distance of thecommon people from the secularists, but also helped in consolidatingethnic identities and further fragmented the society along communallines. Thereby, Hindutva, through the use of cultural signs, createdsocial turmoil and impacted the thinking of the common man.

    At the time of the fieldwork, there was movement taking placeregarding the perception of secularists and Gandhi. The perception ofboth by a section of Hindu respondents, as discussed above, was indirect contrast to that held by the Muslim respondents as well as someHindus. This group referred to secularists as, saviours, symbolic ofhope and security, protectors of the minorities and, because of themwe can still live in India. Muslim respondents, as well as some Hindurespondents, echoed a similar feeling for Gandhi, remarking that hesymbolized hope in an increasingly hostile atmosphere and, hence,was seen as the sole protector of the Muslims: Gandhis philosophydid not create partition. Gandhi had said that, first cut me into twopieces, then divide the country (9M).

    The overall responses show that the perceptions of Hindu/Muslimsecularists and of Gandhi had begun to serve as markers of salientgroup boundaries. These boundaries were beginning to catalyze theformation of ethnic identity, which was becoming increasingly rigid andtenets of religious behaviour were getting less fuzzy and more clearlydemarcated. Testimony to this social change is reflected in the inter-viewees responses. If Muslim secularists were perceived as havingsold out to the trio of Zionists, Hindu revivalists and US, forgottenIslam and were mere pretenders and there was underscoring of the

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  • view that Kattar (fundamentalist) Muslims were the true followers bysome of the Muslim respondents, the feeling towards Gandhi amongsome of our Hindu respondents was: Nobody wants a Gandhi today.People want a leader who is strong and thinks about the Hindus. In allthis, where does Gandhi figure? (H).

    These descriptors/emotions, whether they be associated withHindu/Muslim secularists or Gandhi, show that the space for secular-ism, also perceived by some as symbolic of syncretism, was gettingreduced, and religion as faith was gradually becoming religion asideology and in the bargain creating new ethnic identities. Conco-mitantly, this led to a rise in retributive violence.

    Hindu Ethnic DominanceAs discussed earlier, in the atmosphere of divisive politics thatpermeated India during 19992004, the agenda of Hindu revivalismhad begun to overshadow institutional politics. Our intervieweesresponses indicate that those who opposed the rise of Hindutva andretributive violence were symbolically represented as westernized,pseudo-secularist and, hence, not representative of the true India.

    In this sacred/profane dichotomy, it appeared that the fundamental-ists had found a competitive edge. In contrast, Gandhi, who could notbe faulted for his westernization, was projected as a leader responsiblefor the partition of the country. In the changed circumstances, as indi-cated by the material, new politicians were beginning to gain respectwithin the public space and in the minds of many Hindus. Theirsuccess hinged on an escalation of violence, which had become anaccepted way of life, and only a few respondents belonging to both thecommunities felt that this trend will change. Violence was here to stay.

    The material shows that, as instigated by Hindu revivalism, mostHindu respondents exhibited a complete transformation in the repre-sentation of Gandhi. A process of collective coping on the symboliclevel, a societal renegotiating of representations, was taking place. Anew social representation of Gandhi and non-violence was emergingsince, in the atmosphere existing at that time in Dharavi, groupidentity, whether it be Hindu or Muslim, was being threatened. Inorder to promote the formation of ethnic identity, communication andrhetoric were being used to subvert social rules: People have no oneto guide them. They do have a space for peace, but nobody touchesthat. Its only violence that they see and follow (H).

    This transformation ushered in profound change in socioculturalpatterns. While it would be difficult to assign any one overridingreason, our research suggests that one of the main causes for this

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  • divided identity may have been as a result of the shift from religion as faith (Nandy, 1990) to religion as ideology and concomitantly acrystallizing of a fundamentalist and uni-dimensional religiousidentity. In the following discussion, we use the term religion as faithin a Gandhian sense, meaning the lived experience, the deeds, thepersonal example. Traditionally, Hinduism is not a religion, but aphilosophy of life and hence open to change. However, religion asideology, as defined here, is perceived as didactic, demanding commit-ment, expansion of its territory, and has a set of commandments thatare not to be trespassed. The boundaries are defined and its protectionattains paramount significance.

    Religion as Ideology and Consolidation of Ethnic IdentityOur respondents pointed out that during the BJP regime, both Hindusand Muslims had gradually set aside the rich cultural heritage ofsyncretic religion and rode roughshod on these little traditions. Rustichomilies, exotic and integrated remixes, which served as a spiritualbalm, were replaced by didactic religious tenets. Consequently, thelines of ethnic identity were becoming clearly demarcated andsyncretic culture did not seem to be attractive. It appeared to have lostits pull.

    Some people in the villages are just Muslims in name. They live with Hindusand have forgotten the ways of Islam. What is the right thing to eat? Theydrink [alcohol]. This is not allowed in Islam; it is haram (prohibited). Thatwhich is made by rotting is haram. (M)

    This trend was in sharp contrast to earlier Indian culture where,often enough, the religious space of common people remained fluidand incorporated elements from the great traditions, whatever theirorigin: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or tribal. This eclectic assimilation,which was free from the boundaries of religion, had helped people tocome to terms with the often hostile environment within which theyexisted. The most outstanding example of such cultural interminglingwas that which took place between Hindus and Muslims over anextended period and gave rise to syncretic popular cultures, which arenot centrally organized and lack a formal canon. Both religions hadintegrated some aspects of the other within their own mainstreamreligio-cultural matrices. As a result, syncretic cultures grew. Conse-quently, unusual gurus, the dramatist of popular angst (Banerjee,2002), struck a chord in peoples imagination. Banerjees account ofsaint Satyapir or Satyanarayan, who claimed that, I am Rahim in Mecca,in Ayodhya Ram, lucidly illustrates this dual religious identity. Two

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  • distinct religious identities (Hindu and Muslim) were merged andused interchangeably. Yet another testimony of this cultural inter-mingling was that all over India, posters were sold which, togetherwith the icons of Mecca and Medina, depicted the portraits of saints anda pictorial version of the legends and miracles associated with them.All this was beginning to be lost.

    The respondents felt that both Hindus and Muslims were movingtowards a communal ideology whereby religion moved out of thebounds of the private and entered the public arena and became the basis of an antagonistic relation between the two groups. Theresponses reveal that religion as an ideology was fast replacing religionas faith. When such a shift takes place, the issues related to identity andselfhood become so fissile that, if torched, they subsume individualrationality, heighten community emotion (komi jazba) and the devilcomes in. Consequently, they become highly susceptible to collectivecontroversies, especially when such controversies have their origin inreligious ethos. The mix between fundamentalist and secular dis-appears and hardlining becomes the rule.

    Most of us are a mix of fundamentalist (kattar) and secular. When an incidentoccurs, then there is a heightened community emotion (komi jazba). Thenanything can happen. You are angry. If you see something, a devil comes in,an influx of emotion. You dont understand anything. You might regret thislater but then its real. It sweeps you. (M)

    The respondents felt that there had been an erosion of their ethnicidentity and that this should be rectified. Thus, social positions andnewly emerging ethnic identities had to be enacted and the use ofviolence became sanctioned.

    Importantly, in the entire discourse, affect and cognition were in-variably discussed in terms of the collective: communal passion (kaumijazba), protectors of Hindus/Hinduism (Hinduoan ke rakshak), we(humsab), those people (woh log), social pressure (samaj ka dabav), andso on. The attribution for any act or deed was rarely in the first personsingular. In fact, the common people, through whom most acts ofviolence were committed, absolved themselves from all responsibilityregarding such violence. Although they conducted the violence, it wasnot seen as an act associated with their own identity, but was solelyattributed to political ambition. Philosophically stated, the underlyingelement was: Those who have to dig a hole every day to drink water[the poor] how can they be involved? (H). Dig a hole every daycharacterizes their helplessness and justifies the behaviour of thosewho dwell in the slums. Their harsh reality allowed them to explain

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  • away the threatening phenomenon of guilt. All our respondentscutting across religion did not bear the burden of guilt. Violence wasjustified, explained away or seen almost as a dharmic (religious)necessity used to protect ethnic identity.

    One other reason for rationalizing acts of violence and maintenanceof an ethnic order was the extensive deployment of rhetoric, in particu-lar, to rationalize the existence of Hindu-Muslim antagonism and toprove that communalism is morally correct, inevitable and necessary.These ideas circulated widely and freely in the public domain andacquired a commonsense quality by their institutionalized repetition.This narration helped in the creation of a new ethnic order wherebythe group dominates and ones identity absolves from guilt. Retri-butive violence was not perceived as individually driven and responsi-bility rested with the group as a whole, not with the individual whocommitted the act.


    The present research shows how fundamentalist politics is based on aredefinition of what constitutes religion, in the course of which thesymbolic realm undergoes profound changes. The meaning of thesaffron colour, for example, changed from sacred fire to signify in-cendiary militancy, as did other cultural elements. Equally, the repre-sentation of the past is being cleansed and historical events arerearranged in the interest of ethnic division and readiness for col-lective violence.

    Our respondents alluded to religion as their all-encompassing andexclusive identity that sets them apart from their neighbours who donot share in the same creed, hence creating sharp divisions between theproximal ethnic groups of Hindus and Muslims. Driven by factorsmore akin to an ideological mindset, people begin to mould theirbehaviour within the straitjacket of pre-specified terms of reference,which are circulated at the collective level. Such overarching systemsof partitioning lead to the creation of different ethnic identities wherea singular trait, based on religion, foments the entire structure of theidentity and hastily reduces the complexity of identity to a uni-dimensional phenomenon (A. Sen, 2006).

    In the present case of the growth of Hindu fundamentalism, thesymbolic non-violence inherited from Gandhis struggle for Indianindependence from the British Empire was one of the symbolicobstacles that had to be turned from its feet onto its head, and success-fully so. Gandhis symbolism, non-violence and ethnic tolerance

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  • became despised and interpreted as a major cause of many of thecurrent problems. At its core, all fundamentalism is an exercise in theradical remoulding of the past.

    One final comment is in order here. The cultural dynamics analyzedin this study throw some doubt on the view that religious funda-mentalism is first and foremost a psychological phenomenon (Ellens,2006; Hood, Hill, & Williamson, 2005). We do not wish to lessen therole of psychological factors in general, but movements such asHindutva, as well as others around the world, embrace too many differ-ent people to be accounted for solely by shared psychological traits.Instead, the actors share a similar background of culture, social classand cast. Fundamentalist movements that blossom hand in hand withnationalist politics are, at their core, collective events that irresistiblyengulf the individual actors and bring them to commit acts thatbecome possible only against the background of mass action; and theunderlying psychology is a societal psychology of collective represent-ing and acting rather than a psychology of personality. We are talkinghere of collective states and not of individual traits.

    Our material shows that through the manipulation of culturalsymbolism, collective controversy and group-related feelings ofimpunity, violence is allowed to be committed without feelings ofpersonal guilt. Once identity shifts have taken place and ideologyreplaces faith, a new ethnic order may emerge. We think that thepresent example illustrates many similar conflicts around the world,where a dominant political interest governs public discourse, appro-priates religious feelings and redefines the cultural and historical toolsat disposal in a society.


    Our special thanks to Catalin Mamali and Sukla Sen for their incisivecomments and suggestions.


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    BiographiesRAGINI SEN earned her PhD from the London School of Economics andPolitical Sciences and is the author of We, the Billion (Sage, 2003). She hasworked as Head of Social Research, India and Nepal, with MARG (now AC-Nielsen). Dr Sen has been a senior fellow at the Observer ResearchFoundation and has also lectured at the University of Delhi. She is currentlyDirector, Logistics India. ADDRESS: 103 Marian Terrace, 68 Chapel Road,Bandra West, Mumbai-400050, India. [email:]

    WOLFGANG WAGNER is Professor at Johannes Kepler University, Linz,Austria and at the University of the Basque Country, San Sebastin, Spain. Hisresearch is on societal psychology, social representations, racism and thepopularization of science. He recently co-published Everyday discourse andcommon sense: The theory of social representations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) andco-edited Meaning in action: Construction, narratives and representations(Springer, 2008). [email:]

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