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The Ganges Freezes Over? No!: A Response to Martha Nussbaum

This preview from Martha Nussbaum's The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence and India's Future has generated at least one passionate response in the burgeoning Indian blogosphere. Her essay is a paranoid summary of the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and its relationship with 1930s European fascism. She tries to scale up the microcosm of Gujarat, as if it represents the whole mosaic of modern India, and fails miserably. While devoid of any new insights on our predicaments, the preview essay contains strangely amusing notions such as:

Well, for a start, the people who spoke Sanskrit almost certainly migrated into the subcontinent from outside, finding indigenous people there, probably the ancestors of the Dravidian peoples of South India. Hindus are no more indigenous than Muslims.

Even the most liberal Hindu would be offended. This image brings to my mind that great genetic journey we have all made, all the peoples of the world – branching out from the dark heart of Africa, the cradle of Man, the source and origin of all nomadic drift. By Nussbaum's logic the Hindus are no more indigenous than Muslims because the Hindu identity as a coherent unit was only established after the arrival of Islam in as a force in the subcontinent, in the same way as the idea of India as a national entity was only conceivable after its assembly within the British Empire. It would be far too laborious to point out the historical errors and faulty assumptions in Nussbaum's story, which would have benefited from a little research.

For anyone looking for the most authoritative guide to post-1947 democratic India, please refer to historian Ramchandra Guha's awesome tome – India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy . The hyperlink will take you to a review of the book by Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian, who describes it thus:

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