Aparna Vaidik is an author and a historian, currently teaching at the Ashoka University in Haryana. She comes from a family deeply influenced by strictures of Hindu orthodoxy and Hindu nationalism. Partly as a result of her life in cosmopolitan Delhi and her academic career, she identified and explored the violence that undergirds Hindu nationalism, and more broadly Indian history and mythology.
Her latest book, My Son’s Inheritance: A Secret History of Blood Justice and Lynchings in India, was published in the wake of the lynchings of Muslims and Dalits by Hindu majoritarian outfits in recent years, in the name of cow protection, and protests against them. In the book, Vaidik visits Khatu Shyamji, a small town in Rajasthan to which her family traces its ancestry in part. She explores upper-caste Hindus’ long history of violence in the name of gau raksha—cow protection. Vaidik critiques the indifference of many Indians, including of liberals, to the violence that, she argues, is replete in Indian history and Hindu mythology. She also points to how upper-caste privilege plays a major role in people’s inability to recognise this violence.
As Indian politics places itself firmly on the right of the ideological spectrum, some individuals who were previously members of right-wing organisations, have moved towards the Left—or at least, away from the Right. Yet, others, who hail from a notably right-wing milieu, never embraced it and have become the political right’s fiercest critics. What makes such individuals go against the stream? What events, situations and considerations shape their decisions? Abhimanyu Chandra, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, seeks to explore these transitions in a series of interviews, titled Converse Lens, published by The Caravan. Chandra spoke to Vaidik over e-mail about why and how she did not take the baton of Hindu nationalism passed on to her by her grandfather, and her study on the violence inherent, as she argues, in India’s past.