Faith, Citizenship, and Belonging in India


On August 15, 2022, greater than 1 billion Indians will have a good time the seventy-fifth anniversary of India’s independence from the British Raj. India’s democracy has been prefaced with innumerable adjectives—loudest, largest, and most enduring within the growing world. In some ways, additionally it is an “unlikely” democracy. Its deep-seated inequalities, excessive charges of poverty and illiteracy, sprawling geography, and linguistic variety imply that India possesses few of the everyday conditions for democracy that political theorists have enumerated. But seven-and-a-half a long time later, India’s democracy stays intact.

At present, whereas the political framework of Indian democracy stays firmly in place, contemporary questions are being raised about its content material. As India commemorates this milestone anniversary, one query above all strikes on the coronary heart of democracy’s unsure future: who belongs in at this time’s India? This query will not be a brand new one—it was the identical query that India’s constitutional framers debated as they navigated the complexities of the subcontinent’s partition, the uneven attain of the Indian state, and the patchwork of instantly and not directly dominated British territories.

Via its constitutional and authorized structure, India sought to construct a liberal democracy—one which afforded all its residents equal rights and safety below the regulation. Inherent on this imaginative and prescient was an embrace of secularism and India’s variety. Framers conceptualized India as a mosaic, not a monolith—a polity comprised of numerous linguistic, ethnic, non secular, and regional identities.

Madhav Khosla

Madhav Khosla is an Affiliate Professor of Legislation at Columbia College. His most up-to-date ebook is India’s Founding Second: The Structure of a Most Shocking Democracy (Harvard College Press 2020), which was an Economist Greatest Ebook of 2020 and co-winner of the Order of the Coif Ebook Award 2021.


With the advantages of hindsight, this framework was removed from good. As an illustration, the Indian Structure enjoined the state to intervene in non secular affairs on the belief that it will achieve this even-handedly, a fantastic line that proved tough to stroll. Nonetheless, it laid the muse for what got here to be referred to as the “concept of India.” The thought of India, fairly merely, is that there isn’t a single “concept of India”; the state wouldn’t insist upon strict congruence between the imagined “nation” and its sovereign territorial boundaries.

In recent times, nonetheless, an alternate imaginative and prescient with roots relationship again to the nineteenth century has come to the fore—one which has pitched a narrower imaginative and prescient of nationhood. Advocates of Hindu nationalism imagine that Indian tradition is synonymous with that of Hindus, who account for roughly 80 % of the nation’s inhabitants. Hindu nationalists imagine that India is essentially a Hindu rashtra (nation) and that the secularism articulated by the structure was a betrayal of the bulk’s needs.

Milan Vaishnav

Milan Vaishnav is a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program and the host of the Grand Tamasha podcast at Carnegie, the place he focuses on India’s political financial system, governance, state capability, distributive politics, and electoral habits.

The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP), the political social gathering most carefully aligned with the Hindu nationalist ethos, has launched newfound challenges to the constitutional requirements of inclusion. Put merely, there may be clear proof that—in a fashion each specific and novel—faith is getting used as a filter by means of which Indian citizenship could be decided. These challenges are continuing each in formal, authorized phrases in addition to in casual, social phrases. Hindu nationalists are adopting legal guidelines to codify the preeminence of a non secular majority whereas concurrently reshaping casual norms, customs, and behaviors to curtail the de facto minority rights and privileges.

Many of those challenges didn’t originate with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s beautiful rise to nationwide energy in 2014. India’s postindependence historical past is suffering from examples of secular events cynically using non secular appeals to curry favor with electorally essential communities. Legal guidelines that impinge on free expression and particular person freedom, a lot of that are used to clamp down on minorities, have colonial origins and have been additional strengthened by successive Indian governments properly earlier than the rise of the BJP.

Nonetheless, whereas these points have complicated roots, it’s exhausting to disclaim that the BJP’s development of Hindu nationalist tenets has exacerbated social cleavages, particularly on non secular strains.

In 2019, the South Asia Program of the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace convened a bunch of specialists to investigate and contextualize current shifts within the conception of citizenship and belonging in India. This group is comprised of authorized students, political theorists, and political scientists. Their findings are being printed in a particular part of Research in Indian Politics devoted to the seventy-fifth anniversary of independence and are reproduced right here with permission from the journal’s writer.

Because the editors of this assortment, we hope this work informs readers in regards to the state of Indian politics on the eve of the nation’s birthday. However we additionally imagine that this assortment contributes to modern world debates in regards to the state of democracy and democratic erosion—from the rise of populism to the attract of non secular nationalism. In sum, it’s our distinct hope that the pondering synthesized on this venture attracts a large viewers and influences public discourse.

We’re grateful to the Henry Luce Basis, whose beneficiant grant made the analysis for this compilation doable, and the muse’s former director of coverage initiatives Toby Volkman.  We additionally owe a debt of gratitude to our collaborators—Hilal Ahmed, Niraja Gopal Jayal, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Neelanjan Sircar, and Raeesa Vakil—for his or her wonderful contributions, written throughout an especially difficult pandemic. Caroline Duckworth and Jonathan Kay on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace supplied wonderful editorial and analysis help all through this venture. We additionally benefited from the inventive skills of Natalie Brase, Cliff Djajapranata, Douglas Farrar, Fiona Garguilo, Jessica Katz, Jocelyn Soly, and Cameron Zotter. Lastly, we’re grateful to Suhas Palshikar and his editorial colleagues at Research in Indian Politics for his or her partnership.


Reinventing the Republic: Religion and Citizenship in India

Niraja Gopal Jayal

The mobilization of faith for political functions has an extended and troubled historical past within the Indian subcontinent, from the consolidation of electoral blocs to inter-community violence. Its deployment to outline and circumscribe authorized citizenship is comparatively new in India, although arguably not within the subcontinent, the very object of whose bifurcation in 1947 was to separate residents into two nations based mostly on faith. It’s the politicization of that historic divide that animates current makes an attempt to recast citizenship in India alongside non secular strains. In impact, it’s an try to construe Indian citizenship as faith-based, in consonance with the thought of a Hindu majoritarian nation, of which Hindus are pure residents whereas Muslims, on this view, correctly belong to Pakistan or Bangladesh. Perfecting this congruence is the item of the brand new venture of citizenship.

Niraja Gopal Jayal is the Avantha Chair on the King’s India Institute at King’s Faculty, London.

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Hindu Nationalism: From Ethnic Identification to Authoritarian Repression

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

This text displays on the connection between Hindu nationalism and democracy and the way the previous emerges from inside democracy solely to subvert it. The essay outlines essential conceptual points within the relationship between Hindu nationalism and democracy, discusses the connection between the thought of a “Hindu Rashtra” and “Hindu Rajya,” and delves into the complicated interaction between Hindu nationalism and caste. This text in the end argues that Hindu nationalism’s alignment with authoritarianism in a political type doesn’t merely corrode democracy, however it additionally undermines all values. The target of this evaluation is to not present a complete rationalization of the rise of Hindu nationalism, as a lot as to replicate on the methods wherein its ideology operates at a number of ranges.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor for Distinguished Instructing at Princeton College.

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New India, Hindutva Constitutionalism, and Muslim Political Attitudes

Hilal Ahmed

This text explores Muslim political attitudes in modern India. It contextualizes the political responses of Muslim communities within the backdrop of two essential legal-constitutional adjustments launched by the Bharatiya Janata Get together authorities: the abrogation of Article 370 of the Structure and the Citizenship Modification Act (CAA), 2019. These adjustments, Ahmed suggests, stem from the official doctrine of New India and its operative mechanism, Hindutva constitutionalism. Analyzing the character of Muslim participation within the anti-CAA protests and Muslim electoral responses in two subsequent elections (Delhi Meeting election, 2020, and the Bihar Meeting election, 2020), Ahmed argues that the political engagement of Muslims might be interpreted as an ever-evolving discourse, which not merely responds to Hindutva politics but additionally asserts its relative autonomy.

Hilal Ahmed is affiliate professor on the Middle for the Research of Creating Societies in New Delhi, India.

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Illustration and Legitimacy within the Supreme Court docket: Adjudicating Legislation and Faith in India

Raeesa Vakil

This text presents the argument that the Supreme Court docket of India’s jurisprudence on procedural bars to litigation is inadequate to handle challenges that come up in circumstances involving non secular rights. Inspecting the court docket’s views on standing (the correct to litigate) in three key public curiosity selections (the Sabarimala Temple case, the Ram Janmabhoomi case, and the triple talaq case), Vakil argues that the court docket has privileged a discretionary, ends-based reasoning over an strategy based mostly on precept and regulation, leading to erratic and inconsistent outcomes. The result’s an unsure degree of safety to minority rights in judicial processes.

Raeesa Vakil is a J.S.D. candidate at Yale Legislation College.

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Faith-as-Ethnicity and the Rising Hindu Vote in India

Neelanjan Sircar

Spiritual division shaped the idea for the subcontinent’s partition and has continued to be a significant social cleavage in native relations. But remarkably, non secular events have hardly ever been profitable in India. This can be altering with an ascendant Bharatiya Janata Get together mobilizing the Hindu vote. Accordingly, this text seeks to explicate the situations below which profitable non secular events could emerge. To take action, Sircar conceives of electoral mobilization on faith as a type of ethnic mobilization, referring to it as “religion-as-ethnicity” voting. Sircar argues that religion-as-ethnicity voting emerges when the non secular group meets sure spatial demographic standards (density and pivotality) and when a governing social gathering representing these pursuits can use state energy to reify boundaries between non secular teams. Sircar makes use of this framework to elucidate the emergence of the Hindu vote within the Indian state of Assam.

Neelanjan Sircar is senior fellow on the Centre for Coverage Analysis in New Delhi, India.

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