Modi and His Brand of Hindutva: Like many commentators, I have been wondering how to understand what is happening in India. I am deeply puzzled by the descent of a fairly sturdy postcolonial democracy into a tyrannical and corrupt autocracy, sustained by Hindutva rage and high-octane xenophobia.
As always, we have a host of explanations available, whose chronology ranges from 2014, when Modi became the strongest of India’s strongmen, to 2019, when the Indian electorate renewed his regime, and backwards from 2002, when Modi showed how to decimate Muslims in Gujarat, as a prelude to his march on Delhi, to 1992, when the Babri Masjid was destroyed. Other chronologies go further back, to the wounds of Partition and to the Emergency of 1975-77, when Indira Gandhi showed how easy it was to strangle Indian democracy, even if temporarily. Other diagnoses are not chronological but tectonic and they point to a global trend towards right-wing authoritarianism.
All these chronologies have something to recommend them. I have another one to offer, which runs against the surface grain of Hindutva and is counter-intuitive to its public profile. This chronology locates the current BJP regime in the middle of the 19th century, at the crucial point where the East India Company gave way to the British Empire through the Queen’s Proclamation of 1858,