Did the secular sanitisation of pre-colonial Indian history allow Hindu nationalism to weaponise it?
For many in the expanding Hindu middle class – demoralised for decades by Congress’s betrayals and being rapidly unshackled, by [Manmohan] Singh’s liberal economic policies, from Nehruvian shibboleths about self-restraint – the barbarism in Ayodhya contained a self-empowering, even redemptive, message: an ancient civilisation had purged itself of the shame inflicted by history by razing the monument to its subjugation. The past, so many felt, had been avenged.
The promise of a violent release for the resentments and confusions incubated by Hindus’ unresolved feelings about their history is what gave Hindu nationalism its visceral appeal. The anti-colonial nationalism pioneered by Congress, cohering in opposition to the British, had applied a romantic gloss on pre-colonial India: it was Eden vandalised by satanic Europeans. But had the British really ruptured India’s historic continuity? Or was it India’s decline, precipitated by centuries of conquest, that enabled Britain so swiftly to overpower the subcontinent? . . .