Martha Nussbaum on India’s “Clash Within”

Pankaj Mishra recently reviewed Martha Nussbaum’s new book, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future in the New York Review of Books. The review gives some tantalizing hints as to Nussbaum’s arguments, but Mishra also spends a considerable amount of time rehashing his own views (rather than Nussbaum’s) on the subjects of communalism and India’s evolution as a free market economy.

A better introduction to Nussbaum’s ideas about India can be found in a good-sized extract from the new book that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education last month. (Also check out Ramachandra Guha’s review here. And finally, there’s an MP3 Podcast of Nussbaum’s lecture at the University of Chicago you can download here; listen especially to Nussbaum’s prefatory comments on what led her to this project.) For those who are unfamiliar with Nussbaum’s interest in India, she has collaborated closely with Amartya Sen in the past, and also published a book called Women and Human Development that dealt with gender issues in India.

A few quotes from the extract at the Chronicle and some thoughts of my own on Nussbaum’s ideas after the jump.Nussbaum is clear from the start that the main goal of her book is to help American readers see India’s communalism problems in a global context. She wants to debunk Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, and suggest Gandhi as an alternative:

The case of Gujarat is a lens through which to conduct a critical examination of the influential thesis of the “clash of civilizations,” made famous by the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. His picture of the world as riven between democratic Western values and an aggressive Muslim monolith does nothing to help us understand today’s India, where, I shall argue, the violent values of the Hindu right are imports from European fascism of the 1930s, and where the third-largest Muslim population in the world lives as peaceful democratic citizens, despite severe poverty and other inequalities.

The real “clash of civilizations” is not between “Islam” and “the West,” but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single “pure” religious and ethnic tradition. At a deeper level, as Gandhi claimed, it is a clash within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality, with all the vulnerability that such a life entails.

This argument about India suggests a way to see America, which is also torn between two different pictures of itself. One shows the country as good and pure, its enemies as an external “axis of evil.” The other picture, the fruit of internal self-criticism, shows America as complex and flawed, torn between forces bent on control and hierarchy and forces that promote democratic equality. At what I’ve called the Gandhian level, the argument about India shows Americans to themselves as individuals, each of whom is capable of both respect and aggression, both democratic mutuality and anxious domination. Americans have a great deal to gain by learning more about India and pondering the ideas of some of her most significant political thinkers, such as Sir Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi, whose ruminations about nationalism and the roots of violence are intensely pertinent to today’s conflicts. (link)

What’s interesting about this is the way Nussbaum — by training a philosopher — keeps a philosophical (rather than a political) idea at the center of her argument. She is not talking about competing political systems or the ideologies of individual political parties so much as she is trying to suggest competing ways of understanding the “self” in a world full “others.”

That said, Nussbaum does get into some specific details, and outlines a version of the rise of the Hindu right starting with the arguments of Savarkar and Golwalkar, and ending in Gujarat 2002. (Some readers will agree with her version of events, some may disagree. I think she is substantially correct.)

For Nussbaum, the rhetoric of Hindutva is to a great extent a rhetoric of masculinity under threat:

The creation of a liberal public culture: How did fascism take such hold in India? Hindu traditions emphasize tolerance and pluralism, and daily life tends to emphasize the ferment and vigor of difference, as people from so many ethnic, linguistic, and regional backgrounds encounter one another. But as I’ve noted, the traditions contain a wound, a locus of vulnerability, in the area of humiliated masculinity. For centuries, some Hindu males think, they were subordinated by a sequence of conquerors, and Hindus have come to identify the sexual playfulness and sensuousness of their traditions, scorned by the masters of the Raj, with their own weakness and subjection. So a repudiation of the sensuous and the cultivation of the masculine came to seem the best way out of subjection. One reason why the RSS attracts such a following is the widespread sense of masculine failure.

At the same time, the RSS filled a void, organizing at the grass-roots level with great discipline and selflessness. The RSS is not just about fascist ideology; it also provides needed social services, and it provides fun, luring boys in with the promise of a group life that has both more solidarity and more imagination than the tedious world of government schools.

So what is needed is some counterforce, which would supply a public culture of pluralism with equally efficient grass-roots organization, and a public culture of masculinity that would contend against the appeal of the warlike and rapacious masculinity purveyed by the Hindu right. The “clash within” is not so much a clash between two groups in a nation that are different from birth; it is, at bottom, a clash within each person, in which the ability to live with others on terms of mutual respect and equality contends anxiously against the sense of being humiliated.

Gandhi understood that. He taught his followers that life’s real struggle was a struggle within the self, against one’s own need to dominate and one’s fear of being vulnerable. He deliberately focused attention on sexuality as an arena in which domination plays itself out with pernicious effect, and he deliberately cultivated an androgynous maternal persona. More significantly still, he showed his followers that being a “real man” is not a matter of being aggressive and bashing others; it is a matter of controlling one’s own instincts to aggression and standing up to provocation with only one’s human dignity to defend oneself. I think that in some respects, he went off the tracks, in his suggestion that sexual relations are inherently scenes of domination and in his recommendation of asceticism as the only route to nondomination. Nonetheless, he saw the problem at its root, and he proposed a public culture that, while he lived, was sufficient to address it. (link)

I think the threatened-masculinity point is interesting, as is Nussbaum’s proposed alternative. For her, the way to combat the hyper-virility of communal groups is not anti-masculinity, but an alternative conception of what it might mean to assert oneself as a man. I’m not sure the Gandhian idea of masculinity — which has always struck me as rather abstruse — is the best way to go, but this is still a provocative point.


The one point of disagreement I have with Nussbaum — at least from the extract I linked to — relates to whether the “clash within” is primarily a matter of Hindus/Muslim tension. As I’ve been watching Indian politics over the past few years, I’ve been struck, first, by the degree to which regional and state political considerations have come to dominate over grand ideology and national politics. Secondly, I’ve been struck by the continuing electoral fragmentation by caste — the Indian political system is not simply divided on a left/right diagram, but cut into a much more fragmentary array of caste-based political parties that can form (and break) alliances with the national parties at the will their respective leaders. Nussbaum may in fact be right about the principal problem in Indian politics (i.e., her philosophy of “the clash within”), but perhaps she needs to move beyond her current exclusive focus on Hindu/Muslim conflicts.

130 thoughts on “Martha Nussbaum on India’s “Clash Within”

  1. One way to go about it is:

    Start by having a sympathetic view of tradtional Indian systems and beliefs. (This does not have to be the end goal though) Find all the reasons you can support them. You won’t find it easily … so you have to search for them.

    You will need to clear the western cobwebs before even plunging into all this (and that itself will take a mighty effort)

    Many Japanese consider themselves as Shintoists and Buddhists and this really boggles the western minds which are used to either this or that, both not both. Concepts such as homosexuality, have always existed in margins in India and scarcely elitited much attention .. but the west people have been battered to death for such fringe practises.

    I hope you get my drift. We are out and out westernized (and christianized) and our modern institutions promote western education/thinking etc and as a result in view of these obstacles it is a formidable task to figure out our ancient traditions anthe rationale behind them.

  2. Venkat: “But we are actually talking of centuries of diversity .. have you come across liguistic/cultural intolerance of extreme extent. The Arabs and the Europeans will give an arm and leg to achieve the unity that India is. But the reasons really for India’s unity goes back thousands of years back. “

    –> What are you talking about ? All those attacks on buddhist temples(in srilanka) by cholas and killing of jainas by pandya kings were all fiction ? How can you say the reasons for india’s unity goes back thousands of years back when the concept of india is a recent one ?

    “The answer is something you have to go to India’s ancient past. I feel your problem is you are looking at Western concepts for an answer. You will never find it in there. Most of our thinking is very westernized. IF you delve deeply and try to understand the Indian mindset you will find the answers. But this takes several years of study. It cannot happen tomorrow.”

    –> The westernized thinking has benefited india immensely. It has had some drawbacks when applyied in Indian context but that is no reason to throw the entire system out in favour of ancient indian system that was patchy at best when it was in vogue.

  3. Concepts such as homosexuality, have always existed in margins in India and scarcely elitited much attention .. but the west people have been battered to death for such fringe practises. … We are out and out westernized (and christianized) … I hope you get my drift.

    Your drift damn near blew my mind. I knew the US should have kept those Jesus loving gays out, and Canada would’ve been ours. All the raving loons we ever might want!

  4. 91 Rahul,

    Here is one more data point among the many references, if you have not already seen it.

  5. Rahul

    What are you comparing india to exactly? Some sleepy suburb in the USA? Where land was obtained by systematic expulsion of the native “adivasis” and initial industrialization took place on the backs of ultra-dalit slaves?

    Or are you comparing india to Europe? Where the single largest minority culture was systematically murdered and exterminated in one of the most violent acts in recent history? Where in addition 20 million ordinary europeans died in wars created by their leadership during 1850-1950?

    Your remarks display a deep ignorance of history, especially recent western history. OH ! But I forgot this was a discussion of “savage” people and not of the master race.

    Talk about ignorance masquerading as profundity….

  6. Talk about ignorance masquerading as profundity….

    Yep, al beruni, you demonstrated it. Except for the profundity part. Although I don’t recall doing any comparing, I guess I was. To the country of Europe, no less.

    I don’t think it is worth engaging you further, but my remarks were explicitly about India, not a thesis on the History of Peoples, Indigenous And Conquered, All Over the World, Old and New, from the Last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago to Modern Times.

    India certainly doesn’t seem to be disjointed, what with all the knees being jerked and elbows being thrown around here.

  7. Al beruni, Why such outburst when Rahul asked a question about India? Is questioning the concept of India so sacred?

    India is infact unusual in a way that there is no country in the world with 14 official languages

  8. Venkat, this is simply not true. Tamil chauvinism led to ridiculous amounts of violence in Tamilnadu in the 60s, people in Karnataka continually see fit to burn buses and theaters over real and perceived tiffs with TN (language, water etc.), Karnataka and Maharashtra keep bickering, often violently, in Belgaum. There are many fights for secession in the north east, new states were created as recently as 5 or so years ago (Uttaranchal, Chattisgarh), and so on. None of these states really has the military might to secede, but that doesn’t prevent assorted isolated movements.

    I am responding to comments like these. What are you comparing these events to? This is all part of the process of nation formation/extension/maturation. I am not a fundamentalist indian nationalist at all – i respect very much the Gandhi and Tagore position which is deeply skeptical about nationalism as a social force – but I think it silly to comment on the problems of indian nationalism and the on-going struggles to create a modern indian state without comparison to other geographies and histories.

    And, yes, you do need to understand the history of “History of Peoples, Indigenous And Conquered, All Over the World, Old and New” before offering your one-off opinions on india.

  9. before offering your one-off opinions on india.

    Oh, my opinions aren’t one-off. I have them all the time! I guess it is one of the virtues of a profound ignorance.

    And, if you look at the comment, my statement was a direct response to this question: why do we not fight with each other and try to secceed — eg Tamil Nadu Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat etc.

    Some sleepy suburb in the USA? Where land was obtained by systematic expulsion of the native “adivasis” and initial industrialization took place on the backs of ultra-dalit slaves?

    Are you saying that India has the potential to be as successful as the USA currently is, because it is similarly exploitative? (don’t bother to answer that).

    In any case, my question was because India is far more heterogeneous than the average Western European country, and the United States, and has very distinct subcultures. But I guess it’s just all yaaaaawn, been there, done that.

  10. India fundamentally seems unwieldy and far more “diverse” than would naturally be accomodated in one country to me. But it has lumbered along so far. I wonder how the economic and natural resources of different entities play into this.

    Rahul, I guess you were just asking a question not promoting the idea of secession right?:-)

    Look at our history – Its only when India united that colonial rule could end. Gandhi,Nehru and Sardar Patel understood that.Else we still would be a loose confederation of princely states. Bluntly, it is not possible for each state to survive on its own. That’s why though there is a lot of sabre -rattling – See Bal Thackeray’s sporadic attempts to reclaim Mumbai for the Marathi manus - (in the 70s he agitated against Southies, and recently against Bihari/UP migrants)ultimately it comes to naught.Because the bottom line is that we all NEED each other ( Cue to Mani Rathnam’s Bombay theme ).Seriously though, I do not see secession as practical at all not least because of the migration patterns since independence.

  11. Obviously, I am not promoting secession. I’m too lazy for that.

    Bluntly, it is not possible for each state to survive on its own.

    That is what I was alluding to with my statement, as you seem to have picked up on.

    Its only when India united that colonial rule could end.

    That is one reasonable explanation. Does it mean that in the absence of the British Raj, India as a country would not exist?

  12. Does it mean that in the absence of the British Raj, India as a country would not exist?

    Maybe .I would hesitate to credit “The Man” and hesitate to attempt to rewrite history to prove a point :-)

  13. Thanks, Runa. But you see the problematic questions in raises :) Anyways, back to idiocy.

  14. and, yes, without the indian invention of zero and the positional notation, the modern world wouldn’t exist !!

    Thats a stupid statement, right? Of course, other folks would have invented the necessary math tools at some point.

    Of course, the modern indian state was formed in the context of the british occupation. What would have happened otherwise? We dont really know. Indians would have modernized in a different context, absorbed the lessons of the enlightenment thinkers in different ways – would it be more like africa or china or indonesia? Who knows..

    But according to our friend Rahul, the modern indian nation was formed due to the british. Just like all modern mathematics exists due to ancient indian breakthroughs…

  15. Al beruni, I’m going to resist the ad hominem because I try (but don’t always succeed) not to say things on the Internet I wouldn’t say in person. I did not posit anything, I asked a question. If what you wanted to say was “We don’t really know? Would it be like africa or china or indonesia? who knows?“, I don’t see how it is any different than my statement in #112. Modulo the abusiveness, of course.

    Alright, I’m really done discussing with you. That way, I’ll have time to drop those dolts Pankaj Mishra and Ramachandra Guha about their rank idiocy in addressing this question.

  16. 7

    “Perception is reality. By writing that Hindu males are perceived as emasculated, she is basically saying that they are.”

    No she isn’t. I don’t understand this comment. Is this some sort of postmodern argument to say perception is reality?

    “I know that “anti-secular” comments are banned from this site, so I’m trying to walk the fine line. But the BJP are not Nazis. They are a democratically elected political party in India, and they clearly have the support of a significant portion of the country. Why is it OK to denigrate Hindus for supporting a political party that pursues their interests, while not pointing out that the exact same thing takes place here in America in the form of the GOP for evangelical Christians? I mean seriously, would gay rights, abortion, prayer in schools etc. even be political issues if they weren’t trying impose their religious values on this supposedly secular country?”

    The Nazi party was also democratically elected. I think the BJP has a long way to go before becoming anything close to the Nazi party, but there are some fascist tendencies in the BJP. Same goes for the GOP of the last few years.

    “Basically my problem is not with Nussbaum’s definitions of identity, it is with the condescending way she frames the Middle East and India as “backwards” because of their adherence to identity politics, when the West still employs the exact same pratices (and has done so for hundreds of years, after using them to systematically oppress the “Third World”). People here are just better about concealing their bigotry with “modernity”"

    I sort of agree with this.

  17. 12 razib

    “this is surely true. but they are not the modern republican party either.”

    hmmm. the BJP did not launch a unilateral attack on another country under false pretenses.

    the BJP and GOP have fascist tendencies although neither comes close to Nazism.

  18. “The canonical version is, by definition, hegemonic – and this long preceded the TV serial. Still, the TV serial, broadcast just as TV began to be available near-nationwide – probably did reinforce the hegemony of the canonical version, and therefore also helped strengthen a perception of a unitary Hinduism.”

    This is so dumb it’s not even funny…

  19. Ashis Nandy has an interesting essay “Hinduism and Hindutva” He says Indian nationalists, hindutva and the left use history and western concepts to interpret indian experience. The three groups are deculturated. Indians free from westernization interpret experience through myth and legends and are ahistorical.

  20. Ashis Nandy has an interesting essay “Hinduism and Hindutva” He says Indian nationalists, hindutva and the left use history and western concepts to interpret indian experience. The three groups are deculturated. Indians free from westernization interpret experience through myth and legends and are ahistorical.

    This seems extremely true to me. The problem is, the more “globalized” India gets, the more it relies on the views of Western trained academics like Nussbaum and Amardeep, and less on its own much richer, fuller ahistorical tradition.

  21. In comment above “ahistorical” is good? G Unit, you are becoming a bore with your accusations about ‘western-trained.’ What exactly does that mean? Should we turn to Vedic scholars to understand what’s going on or wait till we can invent a time-machine to go back to pre-colonial India?

  22. People who believe absurdities, will commit atrocities–Voltaire

    I think Nussbaum’s project is rooted in a similar desire–to root out the absurdities that people believe. I’m surprised at the ignorance that passes for knowledge on this discussion board. I’ve been following the posts pretty carefully and thought I’d put my $0.02 after the furor had died away. I am bothered by the personal attacks that are usually leveled against anyone who tries to offer a nuanced understanding of the situation.

    A real discussion of this article would center around:

    The real “clash of civilizations” is not between “Islam” and “the West,” but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single “pure” religious and ethnic tradition.

    Hardly anyone referenced this paragraph, which is the real crux of her argument. This is the lesson which Nussbaum feels America needs to learn from the Indian example. And really, it’s not just about these two countries. As indicated in the quote from her article, this is a problem being experienced by many countries in the world.

    When I was an undergrad, I had a professor Ron Takaki who wrote a history of America called “A Different Mirror”. It was his attempt to offer a version of American history that took into consideration contributions made by immigrants and minorities. And he’s laughed off by religious conservatives… why? Because he offers a nuanced understanding which goes against their vision of America being founded in Christianity.

    So, while many of you would consider yourselves liberals and fully support Takaki in the face of religious extremism in America… you deride Nussbaum with insults like ‘western-trained’ and call her unknowledgable about India. Do you get my point? She’s doing the exact same thing over there that Takaki is doing here.

    You can’t be for minority rights here and then turn around and say that “Muslims get too much” in India, esp. in the face of a mountain of evidence that shows that Muslims are disadvantaged minority in India.

    Although I am Indian, I grew up in Fiji. In the country of my birth, Indians are victims of a right-wing ideology which tells followers that God has bestowed the land to the indigenous of Fiji, that it is only their right to govern, etc. etc. A simplified history has been constructed which doesn’t reflect reality and only confirms one thing in the minds of indigenous believers: the Indian is an outsider.

    I knew a guy named Vivek in undergrad (sounds a great deal like the Vivek who posted above). Great guy… excellent researcher in the biological sciences… med school at UCSF… blah blah blah. But, the ignorance he spewed when he started talking about the history of India was amazing. Every introductory or survey history course he took, he battled the professors saying they were biased westerners. What I don’t get is how such smart people could believe such COMPLETE falsities? The answer is quite simple: Education.

    While most of you out there have mastered education in the sciences and engineering, your exposure to a humanities curriculum has been minimal. This is another point Nussbaum was stressing. Why does education matter so much? I think an education in the sciences leads to an understanding of a certain kind of world-view, filled with certainties: the hypothesis is either true or false. There are binaries, the circuit is either I or O. Exposure to humanities lets people understand that there are not always answers and that to get answers sometimes, a nuanced understanding is in order.

    This is usually where right-wing types have jumped all over me and accused me of denying all sorts of unpleasantries in the history of India. This is another absurity that people believe. There is no conspiracy out there to discredit Hinduism (I think our ignorance brings enough shame to our faith).

    I’m sorry. I will always fight for a nuanced version of Indian history (what’s been referred to as ‘western propoganda’ on this site). If you guys had bothered to sit in on these classes while you were in undergrad, you wouldn’t sound so ignorant.

    These histories so important? Otherwise, people will believe all sorts of absurdities.

  23. wow…what a thread. sigh and amardeep, i commend your patience in the first third of the postings.

  24. I think an education in the sciences leads to an understanding of a certain kind of world-view, filled with certainties: the hypothesis is either true or false. There are binaries, the circuit is either I or O. Exposure to humanities lets people understand that there are not always answers and that to get answers sometimes, a nuanced understanding is in order.

    This is just a stereotype of science. In reality, controversies do arise in science. The controversies die only when enough experimental evidence is collected.

    There is no analog of experimental evidence in the humanities. So controversies in history never die out.

    Another disadvantage that humantities’ researchers have is that their publications can be used to form political ideologies. Nussbaum’s views are helpful to left-of-center parties. So she comes across as a left-of-center ideologue. Here is another way of looking at it: What is the dividing line between a professor of history publishing a thesis and a newspaper columnist writing an left-wing op-ed article?

  25. The problem is, the more “globalized” India gets, the more it relies on the views of Western trained academics like Nussbaum and Amardeep, and less on its own much richer, fuller ahistorical tradition. This might be as good a time to announce this as any other. I have decided to split from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have my own thing now. It is called the Thing of the Flying Food Monster. The original Church was based, regrettably, on spaghetti which has historical connections to Italy. I urge you all to join the Thing in view of this ahistorical tradition that, thankfully, no other country other than India has. (Whew, otherwise, we would have to let everybody in!) Good, no? Join now! The Thing of the Flying Food Monster : now also ageographical and areligious. Coming soon to a Thing near you.

  26. Ashis Nandy has an interesting essay “Hinduism and Hindutva” I am not sure if you are talking about this essay. It seems to be about something quite different.

  27. While it is commendable that a scholar of Nussbaum’s stature has decided to invest her energy in writing a lengthy tome about India, The Clash Within, hardly charters new terrains. Many authors, including her own colleague Dipesh Chakrabarty at University of Chicago, have written extensively – and more informatively – about the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. Rather condescendingly Nussbaum declares in the preface, “This is a book about India for an American and European audience.” Such a statement presupposes an authenticity about herself as being able to ‘speak to’ a Western audience having been raised, as she writes, “in her elite WASP heritage.” It comes with an implication that Indians in India cannot gain from her insight or, worse, cannot fully comprehend her comparative critique of liberal democracies.

    Since the early 1990s quite a few Indian and Western scholars have written about the rise of religious nationalism including excellent books by Christopher Jeffrelot, Arvind Rajagopal, Partha Chatterjee, Chetan Bhatt, Thomas Hansen, Sikata Banerjee, Yogendra Malik to name a few. This is not a lightweight list though these scholars are not household names like Nussbaum. Nussbaum, unfortunately, lumps these politically and philosophically diverse works into one footnote and barely refers to them in building her own arguments.

    In one chapter, she examines the ideas and legacies of Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Rabindranath Tagore. Primarily using second-hand exegeses, Nussbaum paints a facile picture of the three men, writing more at a level of a graduate student term paper than a scholar of international reputation. She briefly interviews BJP and RSS leaders (40 minutes in the case of Arun Shourie whom she harshly criticises) and then provides pages of what reads like psychological insights. There lies the danger of moving from ancient Greek philosophy, a scholarly area in which Nussbaum specialises, to writing about contemporary politics in India.

    Nussbaum asks, at the end of the book, what can be done to change the course of the virulent nationalism that has gripped India and in fostering liberal democracy. She herself has little in answers except to encourage the teaching of Arts in India’s educational system. While Arts and Humanities have been treated as ‘second class’ in our schools, the solution Nussbaum presents is hardly adequate. Germany and Italy’s rise to fascism was also coupled with an equal zealotry for European arts. United States has some of the most expansive museums in the world (and some of the biggest patrons of Arts) but it hasn’t stopped the militarisation of that nation.

    All this is not to say that the book has no merits. Nussbaum provides a scathing critique of Narendra Modi’s policies in Gujarat and describes how Indian voters, angered by the BJP’s pro-rich economic policies and anti-Muslim violence, voted it out of power in 2004 elections. The chapter on the Indian diaspora which pours millions of dollars into funding the Hindutva movement is particularly thought-provoking. The book is at its strongest when Nussbaum tackles issues of gender including an analysis of the Shah Bano case, a Uniform Civil Code, and the fear of emasculation among upper-caste Hindu men.

    The Clash Within could be worth a read for someone who is completely unfamiliar with the vast literature on Indian nationalism but for those who are looking for a more historically nuanced reading or a new interpretation, the book has little to offer.

  28. I find it incredible that Nussbaum could so casually dismiss Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in India, as something minor! What about Kashmir? How can anyone even mention Islamic terror in India, without referring to the occurrances in Kashmir since 1989? There, her whole Moslem minority-Hindu majority paradigm falls apart like a house of cards! And then there are the 2 serial bomb attacks in Mumbai, the attack on India’s parliament, the October 2005 bombing in Delhi, the Sankat Mohan bombing in Varanasi, the assault on a scientific institute in Bangalore, the Akshardham temple massacre… The fact is, India is the most Islamic terrorised democracy on earth, putting into the shade the US, UK, France and Spain. And Nussbaum has the audacity to say that Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism is minor or soft in India!

  29. Krish, Nussbaum or any other American or British academic/writer has no business telling Indians what to do or how to think. The only way that could be credible is if the US or UK experiences what India has- an extremely violent Islamic separatist movement on their own soil, plus multiple bombings throughout their respective countries. And if they handle the problem with more humaneness than India has so far. As things stand now, Nussbaum et al sound pompous, condescending and judgemental. I can’t see for the life of me how an American can sit in judgement about issues of religion and pluralism in India. From what pedestal?

  30. In the quoted text of the article by Nassbaum, I can see that Rabindranath Tagore is referred to as “Sir”. As far as I know, the poet returned the title in protest against the Jallianwallabag massacre. As far as Gandhi is concerned, he completely failed to prevent the loss of life and rape of women during the partition. Despite his power base being in western India, he had no effect on the violence in Punjab, and went to Bengal after the first phase of violence against the life and women of Hindus in Noakhali in Eastern Bengal had been successfully executed with the triple aim (Look at Yasmin Khan’s book on Partition) of looting of valuables, ethnic cleansing, and appropriation of Hindu women and lands largely completed. Was Gandhi more concerned about the possibility of a militant reaction from the hindus that would disbalance the political power equations in post-independence India? Since the alternative strands of nationalistic movements appear to have derived their strength from the non-Muslim majority, with Punjab (whose Sikh and Hindu refugees heckled Nehru when he attempted to visit a transit camp) and Bengal being especially the leading culprits daring to challenge Nehru’s leadership from time to time, was it important for Gandhi and Nehru to ensure as large a population of Muslims as possible in India to be used as checks and balances in Uttar Pradesh’s bid for national dominance? Commentators in this column react too much to the Freudian stance of Nassbaum, but we have to remember that authors and scholars also reveal a lot about themselves and their inner Freudian picture when they invoke repeatedly certain paradigms – in this case it is a common feature of most American scholars to be particularly obsessed with sexual interpretations of Indian entities. This should be seen more as a reflection of the thought processes and obsessions of American society rather than a deliberate attack on Indians. It should also be kept in mind, that for decades, the European and American scholars were fed with only a certain reconstruction of Indian history and culture (such as “Islamization in India took place at the hands of Sufis who were a mild mannered, integrative, mystical and philosophical sect”, with a complete suppression of the chronicles in Persian, of exploits of the founding Sufi leaders in the north and the east who showed no hesitation at all in shedding the blood of non-Muslims, or abducting women, or say no mention of the systematic enslavement and export of Hindus under various Turko-Afghan and Mughal regimes – ref. Levi, with ShahJahan being projected as the doting husband who built Taj-Mahal but not as a Padshah who made enslavement and sale of Hindu peasants and their women an extensive and lucrative business of the Mughal empire, etc.). So it suddenly appears to be stunning and shocking that such deep seated resentments against the muslims can exist. They always existed as communities are unlikely to have forgotten oral traditions that recount stories of persecution, forced conversions, rape and murder at the hands of various Muslim rulers who tried to emulate the founders of their religion and their native traditions of Arabic Ghazwas. This sort of an academic project to rewrite the consciousness of a vast population was bound to fail in the long run, as even with all sorts of state repression, the majority of the population did not convert to Islam, and it took Islamic invaders almost 800 years from their first attempts to penetrate to the deep south, compared to the roughly 50 years they needed to overrun from Levant to Spain. The degree of resistance to this expansion in India should have been a sufficient indicator, that sooner or later, once the Independence generation was gone, the majority sentiments would assert itself, and the process would be hastened by any sense of insecurity at the hands of predominantly muslim neighbours, who have continued to show what they are capable of under the cloak of religion even during modern times as evdidenced in the Partition and the 1971 civil war in East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, where roughly 2.5 million Hindus were eliminated, and the horror stories of rape and sex-slavery of the partitions repeated (there are excellent non-Indian academic sources for this, whom I am sure Nssbaum would find it difficult to discredit).