chapter  11
17 Pages

A nation in making?

‘Rational’ reform, ‘religious’ revival and swadeshi nationalism, 1858 to 1914
WithSugata Bose, Ayesha Jalal

The foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 provided a convenient starting point for those with a penchant for chronological precision. If Indian nationalist thought can at all be construed as a derivative discourse, it was derived from many different sources – not just the rationalism of post-enlightenment Europe, but also the rational patriotisms laced with regional affinities and religious sensibilities. The fictive separation of religion and politics in the colonial stance was breached the moment the British took the momentous decision to deploy religious enumeration to define 'majority' and 'minority' communities. Religious sensibility could in the late nineteenth century be perfectly compatible with a rational frame of mind, just as rational reform almost invariably sought divine sanction of some kind. The currents and cross-currents of social reform informed by 'reason' and its apparent rejection in movements of religious revival are being weighed and analysed more carefully.