The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future

The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future

by Martha C. Nussbaum

Martha Nussbaum examines the threat to democracy in India posed by Hindu extremists, whose growing power and virulent anti-Moslem invective threatens the fabric of the state.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Cultural
  • Rating: 3.75
  • Pages: 403
  • Publish Date: May 15th 2007 by Belknap Press
  • Isbn10: 0674024826
  • Isbn13: 9780674024823

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She takes as her case study the RSS and BJP of India who are gaining political footholds in India and are directly responsible for the violence in Gujarat in 2002.

The heart of her book is the claim that there are two struggles any person is any nation always has to face - one external, where the impulse to homogenize and remove people who might be inconvenient to a straightforward narrative about your own invulnerability; and second, an internal struggle to accept yourself as having a body with vulnerabilities, instead of imagining yourself as made of iron. She applies this idea to India, focusing on the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims, as well as the broader Hindu right. For her part, Nussbaum seems like someone who genuinely loves the pluralistic India she has seen and read about, and has clearly read plenty of texts and talked to a number of important people. Her close reading and comparison of Nehru, Gandhi, and Tagore is very insightful, and her analysis of the particularly brutal treatment of Muslim women in 2002 Gujarat as being linked to their strange symbolic positioning in certain Hindu male minds as both inferior (because dirty and impure) and a serious threat (because of the historic Mughal domination) is certainly onto something. First, her triumphant story of India doing away with the BJP in the 2004 elections because people opposed their attempts at religious division has soured since, since the BJP was elected nationally less than a decade later under the Gujarat Chief Minister she criticizes. She certainly finds certain sources that support this division, and there really is a persisting problem of Muslim hate and distrust in the country, but she seems to read too much into a lot of what she learns about. Ultimately, I think she is a pretty good scholar when it comes to close readings of texts and ideas, but the application of her ideas to the messy, messy debates about identity, especially when it's a people who have been humiliated through colonization until recently will probably not yield many easy answers.

The book frequently dismisses right wing complaints as not worthy of serious consideration. Actually, nearly all the policies advocated in this book are either confused, or platitudinous and vague. In the decade since this book was written we've gotten more wise to the internal civilizational dynamic, but the point sill stands.

In order to attack the Hindu Right, Nussbaum must resort to making arguments and criticisms on the basis of their lack of academic rigor.

A solid analysis of communal violence in India, Hindu Right(sangh parivar) and Indian diaspora in US. One can surely dispute whether this is sufficient, as any casual observer of Indian politics knows Kashmir and the regular confrontation with Pakistan also feeds into the communal violence.

This is just another ill informed sensationalist hit piece against the BJP+RSS and its "Hindutva" movement whose main victims are not the fools (or as Nussbaum fancies, fascists) of the so called Sangh Parivar but normal Indians and Hindus whose humanity is degraded into caricatures for her story. What India needs is rational sane voices analyzing facts and making informed criticisms of the current BJP government and RSS family.

She received the Brandeis Creative Arts Award in Non-Fiction for 1990, and the PEN Spielvogel-Diamondstein Award for the best collection of essays in 1991; Cultivating Humanity won the Ness Book Award of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 1998, and the Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2002. Hiding From Humanity won the Association of American University Publishers Professional and Scholarly Book Award for Law in 2004. She received the Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2002, the Barnard College Medal of Distinction in 2003, the Radcliffe Alumnae Recognition Award in 2007, and the Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in 2010.