Out With Communalism and In With Cosmopolitanism (RELS 348)

An anonymous author wrote, “My govt’s only religion is India first: Modi,” The Times of India, 28 February 2015, in which he/she discusses India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his attempt to remain true to the Constitution of India and “not to discriminate among people on grounds of religion” (Anonymous). The PM states that the government “has only one religion, India first… and its devotion is only to the country” (Anonymous). The claims are made in response to accusations of preferential treatment of “Hindutva hardliners” (Anonymous) over the Muslims. The article depicts Modi in opposition to “communalism in Parliament” and in support of “unity in diversity” (Anonymous), which he believes defines his country. Modi addresses the hostility between Hindus and Muslims in India, exclaiming in an earlier speech that, “they had fought long enough without gaining anything… they should fight their poverty instead of each other” (Anonymous).

Prime Mister Modi’s claims echo an earlier time in Indian history. In the 1930s and 1940s, M.N. Roy also supported a “united political party of the Indian people, free from religious prejudices and communal narrowness” (Manjapra 135). At the time Roy claimed that in the “context of anti-colonial struggle, imaginary civilizational divides between Hindus and Muslims had been produced in nationalist discourses” (Manjapra 136). Like Modi, Roy “undertook to revise the idea of Indian civilization not as content and pure, but as cosmopolitan” (Manjapra 136).

Both men argue India needs to be united under a patriotic front rather than segregated into religious sects clashing in civil unrest. Modi admits the “poison of communalism… was allowed to spread for political reasons for a long time” (Anonymous) and that his government would be the one to end it; however, when a member of the opposition challenged his statement he brushed him off claiming he “did not wish to waste time” with a rebuttal (Anonymous) whereas Roy was quick to defend himself “before Hindu and Muslim critics alike” (137).

The men differ in the angles at which they approach the problem of a divided India. Prime Minister Modi is a political leader attempting to bring social change to the people of his country; whereas Roy endeavoured to influence change against the system imposed by colonial Indian governments and authorities. As Modi is still attempting to unite India under the banner of patriotism and nationalism, arguably Roy was unsuccessful in his attempts at a united India. With such an enormous and daunting task in uniting the people of a country, one can only hold out hope that Modi will significantly impact the movement Roy bolstered more than 70 years ago. The persistence of this problem of segregation between the two religions begs the reasoning that it will take a considerable effort to extinguish the hostile feelings and bring together the people of India under a common constitution with diverse religious practices.



Works Cited

Anonymous. “My govt’s only religion is India First: Modi.” The Times of India. Web. 27 February 2015.

Manjapra, Kris. M.N. Roy Marxism and Colonial Cosmopolitanism. New Delhi: Routledge, 2010. Print.


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