The story of India’s anti-colonial nationalism cannot be told without recourse to the simultaneous rise of religious majoritarianism. As these two phenomena inhabited the same temporal world, revisiting the foundational moments of India’s republic is of prime importance to understand our present predicament—the ascendancy of Hindutva forces. Hence the period between 1920 and 1940 is extremely important to understand this phenomenon. It is in this context that the book, Competing Nationalisms: The Scared and Political Life of Jagat Narain Lal, by political theorist Rajshree Chandra needs to be looked at. Through a richly documented political biography of her paternal grandfather—Jagat Narain Lal—Chandra offers critical insights into the politics of these crucial decades.
Lal, the book’s main protagonist, was a freedom fighter, an active member of both the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha, a member of the Constituent Assembly, and a member of the Linguistic Provinces Commission (also known as Dhar Commission formed in 1948). The book is about a deeply conflictual journey, both at the personal and political level, of an erstwhile member of Hindu Mahasabha, who ended up prescribing a civic version of nationalism. To conceptualise such a journey, the author has identified four competing strands of nationalism that Lal was a part of: ascetic nationalism, Hindu nationalism, anti-colonial nationalism, and civic nationalism. This is mapped across six chapters in the book.
This story was originally published in epw.in . Read the full story here