Hindutva and Violence tells the story of the place of history in Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s political thought. It examines Savarkar’s central claim that “Hindutva is not a word but a history.”
For Savarkar, this history was not a total history, a complete history, or a narrative history. Its purpose was to trace key historical events to a powerful source – the font of motivation for “chief actors” of the past who had turned to violence in a permanent war for “Hindutva” as the founding principle of a Hindu nation. At the centre of Savarkar’s writings are historical characters who not only participated in ethical warfare against invaders, imperialists, and conquerors in India, but also became Hindus in acts of violence. He argues that the discipline of history provides the only method for interpreting Hindutva.
This book also shows how Savarkar developed his conceptualisation of history as a way into the meaning of Hindutva. Savarkar wrote extensively – from analyses of the nineteenth century to studies of antiquity – to draw up his histories of Hindus. He also turned to a wide range of works – from the epic tradition to contemporary social theory and world history – as his way of explicating “Hindutva” and “history”.
By examining Savarkar’s key writings on history, historical methodology, and historiography, Vinayak Chaturvedi provides an interpretation of the philosophical underpinnings of Hindutva. He demonstrates that all critiques of Hindutva require grappling with Savarkar’s idea of history.
Vinayak Chaturvedi is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India (2007) and the editor of Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (2000) and The Pandemic: Perspectives on Asia (2020). His articles on historical methodology, intellectual history and social history of South Asia have appeared in journals such as, Past & Present, Social History, Modern Intellectual History, Postcolonial Studies, South Asia, Left History, and WerstattGeschichte.
Chaturvedi takes a thoroughly critical position against Savarkar’s variety of Hindu nationalism but, unlike a lot of dismissals from the left, employs the critical apparatus of historical scholarship to seriously examine the oeuvre of a major right-wing thinker who had imbibed the modern ideas of nation, race, and revolution from nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe. The research that has gone into this book is impressive. I have no doubt at all that it will be a very significant contribution specifically to the literature on Hindu nationalism but more generally to modern South Asian history.
– Partha Chatterjee