Identity Politics in India

By: Nahid Afrose Kabir  

Muslims in India have lived alongside Hindus peacefully for many centuries. Yet in the contemporary period some politicians have orchestrated division for political ends, for example, during the Godhra-Gujarat riots in India in 2002 which caused many Muslim casualties. Critics alleged that the ruling party in Gujarat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its leader Chief Minister Narendra Modi (now the Prime Minister of India) were responsible for the Godhra-Gujarat riots. The BJP is influenced by India’s Hinduvta ideology, which demands the assertion of India’s national identity as a Hindu state. It defines Hinduism as a cultural construct rather than a religious one. As such, it demands that India’s minorities including Muslims adopt Hindu values. In the 2017 election in Gujarat, India’s Congress Party, which generally remains secular, embraced Hindu identity politics and won several BJP seats. In the framework of identity politics in India, where religion seems to dominate the social, economic and political spheres, this paper examines the position of Muslims in Gujarat. This paper is based on interviews with Muslims (aged 15 years and over) that I conducted in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 2012. I will examine the social, economic and political issues that are impacting some Muslims in Gujarat. I conclude that, in the era of identity politics when Muslims form a voiceless minority, national and international policy makers should promulgate policies that would improve the social cohesion and inter-communal understanding of Muslims in India in general, and Gujarat in particular.

Hindu, Muslim, Politics, India
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Nahid Afrose Kabir

Associate Professor, Department of English and Humanities, BRAC University, Bangladesh

Dr Nahid Afrose Kabir is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Humanities at BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is also an Adjunct Professor and Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University in Washington DC, USA, and holds Adjunct positions at Edith Cowan University in Perth, and at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia. Since 2005, Nahid Afrose Kabir has 54 peer reviewed publications including four books: Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations and Cultural History (London: Routledge 2005); Young British Muslims: Identity, Culture, Politics and the Media (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2012); Young American Muslim: Dynamics of Identity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2014); and Muslim Americans: Debating the Notions of American and Un-American (London: Routledge 2017).