Dissent and Democracy in Contemporary India: Visions of Education, Versions of Citizenship, and Variants of Jihad

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Nitasha Kaul


The post-2014 period in India has seen a clear political shift under the leadership of Modi-led BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), a ruling party ideologically parented by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), a right-wing Hindu-nationalist paramilitary volunteer organization that has millions of members nationwide. These years have been marked by a resurgent Hindu nationalism referred to as Hindutva. Hindutva as an ideology of majoritarian nationalism claims to make India a strong nation and gain international recognition as a rising power. However, both domestically and internationally, it is evident that contemporary that India is marked by a consistent erosion of liberal democratic norms whereby constitutionally guaranteed rights continue to be steadily qualified, undermined, and diminished, alongside a lack of promised improvement in global rankings on various indicators. Moreover, there has been an increase in anti-minority targeting, which is multidimensional and pursued through non/violent and extra/legal means. In this article, I explain the broad backdrop to political transformation and increased violence in India and then specifically focus on explicating two key dynamics—one, the multiple ways in which changes in the sphere of education have been crucial to how dissent is securitized in India and two, how the internalized hierarchical ordering of ideas of citizenship within Hindutva means that Hindu males are seen as the normative citizens and Muslims as the radical Other that can be targeted with exclusion, discrimination, humiliation, even lynching. Using the example of the multiplying vocabularies of “Jihad,” I highlight how any aspect of Muslim life or livelihood can be interpreted as a form of sinister “Jihad” deserving a justifiably violent response and/or economic marginalization. I conclude by referring to the sustained and ongoing nature of this transformation of India and call for us to recognize and challenge it.

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Kaul, N. (2023). Dissent and Democracy in Contemporary India: Visions of Education, Versions of Citizenship, and Variants of Jihad. Journal of Muslim Philanthropy &Amp; Civil Society, 7(1). Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/muslimphilanthropy/article/view/5012