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Constructing and Contesting a Gujarati-Hindu Ethno-religious Identity Through Development Programmes in an Indian Province

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  • Nikita Sud

Abstract

Through a case study of Hindu nationalism in India, this paper explores how development programmes serve as the site of construction of, as well as contestation over, religious identity. The participation of low-caste Dalits and tribal Adivasis in the mass violence perpetrated against Muslims in the Indian province of Gujarat in 2002 conveyed the impression that Hindu nationalists had achieved one of their key objectives of creating “Hindu unity”. Cutting across social and status divisions in the local Hindu population, the Hindu nationalist party's constituency today includes its traditional upper-caste supporters, as well as lower castes. While “the other” in the Hindu nationalist conception of community included Dalits and Adivasis as well as Muslims and Christians until the mid-1980s, the recent “Hindu unity” agenda has seen the boundaries of “the other” closing in around Muslims and Christians only. Despite these developments, this paper argues, continuing attempts at the construction of a unified ethno-religious identity are circumscribed and complicated by processes of contestation. Through village-level research, it shows how government actors are involved in simultaneous processes of construction as well as contestation over a Gujarati-Hindu identity through development programmes.

Suggested Citation

  • Nikita Sud, 2007. "Constructing and Contesting a Gujarati-Hindu Ethno-religious Identity Through Development Programmes in an Indian Province," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(2), pages 131-148.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:35:y:2007:i:2:p:131-148
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810701321951
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