Enforced Homogeneity and the Politics of Sanatana: Construction of a Popular Hindu Identity in Contemporary India

Abstract

The political, the public and the popular have been intertwined with the discourse of religion since time immemorial in India. Although, the aftermath of colonial rule constitutionally paved its way for a democratic secular republic; a critical process of constructing a popular Hindu Identity has sustained throughout. Such revivalist processes in contemporary India have a number of sociological implications. Far from being a uniform mode of faith, Hinduism is a conglomeration of numerous sects and cults. The vividness of Hinduism comprising of monotheism, polytheism and henotheism reflects localized forms of faith based on their cultural specificities. In the contemporary Indian political scenario where a robust Hindu right-wing ideology dominates, an enforced unification process has reached its zenith. Consequently, construction of a monolithic Hindu identity called the “Sanatana” and antagonism towards the religious “others” has escalated. Thereby, there are two central themes that my paper engages with. First is to critically examine the multitude of processes that create the dichotomy of “us” and “them” in Indian public domain. This sharply visible intersection of the religious and the political raises pertinent questions about the Indian state and its discourses of pluralism and secularism. Thus, the paper analyses issues pertaining to this enforced homogeneity; its causes and consequences. The second concern of this paper is to further examine how the differential belief and practice systems of the Hindu sects and cults have interacted with this greater political project of homogenization by exploring their responses in the form of assimilation, resistance and contestation.

Presenters

Daisy Barman
Researcher, Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India

Details

Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Theme

The Politics of Religion

KEYWORDS

SANATANA DHARMA, SECTARIAN HINDUISM, PLURALISM, COMMUNALISM, RESISTANCE, ASSIMILATION, INDIAN SECULARISM

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