TODAY, IN INDIA, nearly all media have been co-opted into “Hindu nationalism,” which appears to be virtually the only permissible perspective on politics. According to this perspective, “Hindu” is both an ancient religion and an ethnic group mythically born with it, thus making “Hindus” the eternal natives of India. This political project seeks to return India to an ahistorical past in which Hindus were supposedly free of external “mlechcha,” or impure, mixtures—from the ancient Greeks to the European colonial powers.
Many enthusiastic political observers recently claimed that the “Hindu state” has been in effect since 5 August 2020, when the construction of a Rama temple was inaugurated with a religious ceremony. The temple is being constructed on land in Ayodhya, previously known as Faizabad, where there once stood a sixteenth-century mosque. The mosque was demolished in 1992 by a mob assembled by leaders of Hindu organisations, including the currently ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. In the ceremony, which was televised by every major news channel, the prime minister, who heads the government of a country with a secular constitution, participated in the religious ritual, acting like a priest. The event—in which the constitutional and the theocratic were confused with each other—was held on that particular date for a reason.