Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Increasing religiosity, materialism and elections

Meera Nanda, in her forthcoming book, God Market: How Globalization is Making India More Hindu, is developing an interesting thesis. It is that the BJP is creating a huge Hindu vote bank. In itself, it is nothing new. But what makes her forthcoming book interesting is how she goes about proving her thesis: she uses data with which we are all familiar, but have not taken due notice.

Meera Nanda is a John Templeton Foundation Research Fellow. Her major works include Wrongs of the Religious Right: Reflections on secularism, science and Hindutva (New Delhi, Three Essays Collective, July 2005), Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004, Indian edition by Permanent Black, 2005), Breaking the Spell of Dharma and Other Essays,( New Delhi, Three Essays Collective, 2002).

She is in the course of completing two more books: The Vedas as Science: The Strategies and Dangers of Hindu Scientism (to be published by Penguin) and The God Market: How Globalisation Is Making India More Hindu (Random House). Beginning her career as a Science Correspondent with Indian Express in New Delhi in mid-1980s, she later pursued an academic career in the philosophy of science. For her latest book in the pipeline, The God Market, she began to closely observe how increasing religiosity in India is making not-easily recognisable impact on its polity and society. She claims to have data to show that the deeper Hinduisation of the public sphere got a fillip during the NDA regime at the Centre, and later under the UPA Government. Through her book, she challenges the Western thesis that growing materialism makes people become less religious, at least in the case of India. She is also extremely critical of the deemed universities, which began during the NDA rule, and got a fillip under the UPA, for having paved the way for unregulated growth of religious universities. The PEW data shows that religiosity is pretty high in India, and what we are witnessing is a heady mix of State support with such religiosity. In this article in Telegraph, she explores the BJP's first major attempt to create a Hindu vote bank in this election, even while the party pretended that development, not Hindutva, is its plank in this election. Another article which she wrote recently for the New Humanist is here.
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