Article Spotlights

articlespotlightRead on for Article Spotlights from the SEN Archives focusing on recent SEN News Bites. Here, we focus on the significance of religious and ethnic conflict to nationalism in South Asia.

Sadia Saeed’s essay deals with this relationship in the context of Pakistan.

Sadia Saeed, Pakistani Nationalism and the State Marginalisation of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan, Volume 7, Issue 3, 2007, pp. 132-152.

This paper examines the relationship between nationalism, state formation, and the marginalisation of national minorities through an historical focus on Pakistani state’s relationship with the Ahmadiyya community, a self-defined minority sect of Islam. In 1974, a constitutional amendment was enacted that effectively rendered the Ahmadiyya community a non-Muslim minority, in spite of claims by the community that it was Muslim and hence not a minority. This paper attempts to account for this anti-Ahmadiyya state legislation by arguing that the genealogy of the idea of a Pakistani state is key for understanding the politics of exclusion of the Ahmadiyya community from ‘Muslim citizenship’ – that is, who is and isn’t a Muslim.

Mara Malagodi considers the transition from Hindu monarchy to secular republic in Nepal.

Mara Malagodi, The End of a National Monarchy: Nepal’s Recent Constitutional Transition from Hindu Kingdom to Secular Federal Republic, Volume 11, Issue 2, 2011, pp. 234-251.

The article analyses Nepal’s transition in 2007 from the constitutional definition of the state as a ‘Hindu monarchical kingdom’ to a ‘secular federal republic’, followed by the abolition of the Shah monarchy in 2008. Nepal’s institutional change in 2007–2008 invites reflection on the role of Hindu kingship in informing Nepali nationalism in its constitutional formulation. The developments of the Shah monarchy are interpreted as the product of both the institution and the various historical figures that have occupied that institutional place. However, it is argued that the more or less charismatic qualities of individual Shah kings were ‘contained’ within and minimised by the prevailing institutional dimension of the monarchy in defining the Nepali nation. The nationalist legitimacy of the Shah monarchy as Nepal’s core political institution rested upon the notion of Hindu kingship, which transcended the single historical personalities of the Shah kings and proved so pervasive that it has shaped the constitutional definition of the nation even in republican Nepal.

Sarbeswar Sahoo considers ethnic Hindu politics in India.

Sarbeswar Sahoo, Ethno-Religious Identity and Sectarian Civil Society: A Case from India, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp. 453-480.

This paper analyses the role of Rajasthan Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad (RVKP), an ethnic Hindu(tva) organisation, among the tribal populations in south Rajasthan. It argues that the RVKP has been able to enhance its legitimacy and expand its socio-political support base among the tribals through a well-articulated and planned process of ‘ethnification’. This process has been carried out in four basic ways: (1) utilising development projects as means to spread the ideology of Hindutva, (2) bringing religious awakening and organising mass re-conversion programmes, (3) redefining indigenous identity and characterising certain communities as ‘the other’, and (4) with the support of the various state institutions. The paper concludes that by ethnicising indigenous identity, the RVKP has not just created a ‘culture of fear and violence’ in the tribal regions but also threatened the secular democratic ethos of Indian society.

Subhakanta Behera considers region, religion, and nationalism from a theoretical perspective.

Subhakanta Behera, Identities in India: Region, Nationality and Nationalism – A Theoretical Framework, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp. 79-93.

Given the complexity of identity in India, where ethnicity alone can only inadequately define constituent regional communities such as the Oriyas, Bengalis, Tamils and Keralites, a regional perspective provides a more useful analytical approach. In India, a territorially defined region is the most inclusive segment, which has linguistic, historical and socio-cultural connotations. Apart from the historical importance of region, it has now taken many ethnic characteristics within its ambit. While discussing the importance of ‘region’ in India, this article tries to show the weakness of an ethnic perspective in defining the identity of various language-based, but geographically confined, communities of India. The article also tries to explore how regional identities can be reconciled with a pan-Indian ideology. Perhaps in the post-modern world, this is the greatest challenge that India has to grapple with, and one that requires judicious policies and practices.

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