This year, the Azim Premji University and Lokniti, a research programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, jointly published a report titled, “Politics and Society between Elections,” which seeks to understand the relationship between the citizen and the state after the completion of elections. The report is based on a series of surveys conducted among 16,680 respondents across eight states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra—between November and December 2017.
The study focused on a wide section of minorities and social groups and addressed questions concerning a range of issues, such as the delivery of public services and public order, discrimination and violence, the citizens' perception of state institutions, and economic process and governance. The following extract from the report studies the perception of different groups towards symbols of a majoritarian national or cultural identity. It pertains to four specific questions: whether individuals who do not stand for the national anthem, who do not say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” who eat cow meat, and who engage in religious conversion, should be punished for the same. As the report notes, the results indicate that many respondents tend to support state punishments for actions “that contravene majoritarian interests.”
In a predominantly Hindu population, there is no gainsaying that majoritarianism will share an affinity with nationalism. Therefore, it is to be expected perhaps that such nationalism will acquire a cultural-religious complexion. What is however not expected is when majoritarianism becomes dangerously illiberal in that it almost disabuses from public memory nationalism’s syncretic form upon which the nation state was built. Such illiberal populism is not just exceptional to India, but symptomatic of many democracies around the world today.
Our aim is to understand how pervasive is public opinion that is supportive (not) of such instances and what are its correlates in terms of subnational regimes, social cleavages and in rural and urban areas? How polarised is the public on matters of cultural nationalism? How closely intersected are adherents of Hindu culture with loyalists of majoritarian nationalism?
We ask four questions to ascertain the strength of support for state censure as sanctions against what could be construed as anti-national actions.