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Whose Swadeshi? Contending Nationalisms among Indian Christians

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The current resurgence of Hindu fundamentalism in India is broadly situated in the search for a pan-Indian Hindu identity, and in the assertion of a pan-Indian "Hindutva" (Hindu-ness) that is claimed to be the true heritage of Indians. This discourse inevitably involves the demarcation of the "Hindu" from the "other" — minorities defined as less Indian, if not foreign. Historical grievances are constructed against them and used to justify attacks on them. These "others", however, have their own discourses, their own constructions of identities, and their own articulations of historical grievances; and these are not necessarily defensive, or reactions to the Hindu fundamentalist discourse. This paper discusses the nationalist discourse of Indian Christians during the anti-colonial struggles and in the post-colonial era; an era that contained not only a rejection of Western colonial domination, but also a critique of Western hegemony over Christianity itself. Included in this discourse are the celebration of indigenous Christian traditions on the one hand, and the "Inculturation" (or simply, Indianization) of Christianity in such areas as the liturgy and even theology. Ironically, however, this process, spearheaded by the "upper caste" Christian elite, led to an oppositional discourse of the subaltern "lower caste" Christians, who resent what they see as "Sanskritization" or even "Brahminization". They have attempted to formulate their own forms of inculturation, including a sophisticated Dalit Theology. This paper examines the dialectic of these discourses, situating these in their specific historical, local-global contexts.


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