David C. Scott


Much has been written and said in recent months about religious fundamentalism and pluralism in India. However, in order to understand what is currently going on in India with regard to these two phenomena, a third really needs to be brought into the picture -- communalism. Indeed, one could well argue, though I have neither the time nor the space here, that the fundamentalisms of India -- whether Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian -- were conceived in communally perceived times of crisis. Basically fundamentalist movements in India are critiques of contemporary ways of life and look to a future, determined by the past, where the "true believer" is twice blessed with true faith and secular power. They are defensive movements which resort to a selective retrieval of the tradition and, in the process, its redefinition.

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