Amit Chaudhuri

We have read all about Hindu revivalism in newspapers, and seen the pictures on television; one’s personal feelings about it cannot be separated from the information the media give us. When I returned to Calcutta for two months in mid-January, I listened to all the arguments given by people one had always thought of as ‘liberal’, a category as vague as ‘normal’, for and against Hindu fundamentalism. I listened to the various ways, small and big, in which middle-class Hindus had been infuriated by Muslims – the recitation of prayers five times a day on loudspeakers; the Shah Bano case, where a Muslim woman pleaded to be divorced under civil rather than Muslim law (her plea was upheld by the Supreme Court, but overruled by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the face of widespread Muslim protest, and against the advice of ‘secular’ Indians, both Muslims and Hindus); the way in which Muslims supposedly support Pakistan at cricket matches. Hindu fundamentalism was only an extreme reaction to years of ‘pampering’ Muslims, I heard; but then I heard about its disturbing consequences as well: many innocent people were killed, mainly in the slums, during the riots in Bombay, the city where I grew up; militant Marathi Hindus – the Shiv Sena – even invaded the exclusive, inviolate upper-middle-class areas where my parents and I had once lived.

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