Modern Asian Studies

Shadows of the Swastika: Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Hindu Communalism

Tapan  Raychaudhuri 


A valedictory lecture is usually an anodyne statement—at its best a summing up of one's life-work, rich in wisdom and scholarship. The present exercise does not belong to that category, not merely because the speaker lays no claim to wisdom or scholarship, but because the present moment is unsuited to anodyne statements on India. Besides, the concern of this lecture has only peripheral links with my areas of professional expertise. It is addressed to a political-cum-cultural phenomenon in contemporary India which, in the opinion of many, portends a grieveous threat to the cherished values on which Indian democracy is based. We also believe that this threat, if not neutralized in time, may yet destroy the structure of polity and society which the Indian nation-state has sought to nurture; and done so, despite its many failures, with at least a modicum of success. A struggle is on for the hearts and minds of the Indian people. The present exercise is meant to be a modest contribution to the debate which is at the very heart of that struggle.