Book review: Arkotong Longkumer, The Greater India Experiment: Hindutva and the Northeast

Published date01 June 2024
AuthorSanghamitra Misra
Date01 June 2024
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 147
They argue that this is because of the ‘cultural assimilation of Dalits’ and the ‘othering of Muslims,’ but
fail to note a massive 18% shift of ‘pasmanda’ Muslims towards the BJP in the 2022 assembly polls in
UP, which demonstrates that the BJP’s ‘inclusive politics’ has attracted more Muslims towards the party.
In the final chapters, the authors seem enthusiastic about three new small Dalit outfits: the Bhim
Army led by Chandrashekhar Azad; the Ambedkar Jan Morcha led by Shrawan Kumar Nirala in Eastern
UP (Poorvanchal); and the Bahujan Mukti Party led by Daddu Prasad in Bundelkhand. They focus more
on the Bhim Army and its leader Chandrashekhar, though all the three claim Ambedkarite lineage and
vie with each other for capturing the Dalit constituency. The authors lament the decline of Dalit party
BSP, but hope that the Dalit outfits will regroup to keep the flag of Dalit assertion high in UP.
The authors present their volume through a lens of identity politics and fail to delineate the undercurrent
of transformative politics—in the country in general and UP in particular—hinged on the twin issues of
inclusive politics and transition from caste to class. It’s very clear from the reading of the volume that
the authors fail to recognise the positive aspect of Dalit integration with the mainstream Hindu social
order which had earlier been divided hierarchically on caste lines that, unfortunately, often displayed
inter-caste domination and exploitation. One positive aspect of this is that the social evil of untouchability
(that was constitutionally abolished and now at its extinction in society) that led to social discrimination
and alienation of a social denomination from the mainstream society may become almost extinct. The
authors seem to be writing an obituary for the BSP in UP on the one hand, and a background paper on
the other, for seeking the revival of petty Dalit outfits to challenge the BJP’s inclusive politics, by adding
an exclusionary tinge in the hope of reviving identity politics to defeat the so-called Hinduization and
cultural assimilation of Dalits by the BJP.
The book is a good read for all those interested in understanding the decline of BSP and Mayawati in
UP after the victory of Samajwadi Party in 2012 and the coming of BJP and Narendra Modi in 2014 at
the national level and Adityanath Yogi in 2017 at the state level. The authors’ empathy for the revival of
autonomous Dalit politics in UP could be a great motivation for the new Dalit leadership and Dalit-
centric parties to read this book and learn the reasons for the rise and fall of Dalit leaders and BSP.
A. K. Verma
Centre for the Study of Society and Politics
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Arkotong Longkumer, The Greater India Experiment: Hindutva and the Northeast. Delhi: Navayana, 2022,
336 pp., `599.
DOI: 10.1177/23210230241235365
Arkotong Longkumer’s ethnography tracks the successful spread of Hindutva’s ‘arborescent’ roots
across the contemporary canvas of religious and political life in northeastern India. Working with a rich
repository of ethnographic material collected in the course of interviews with activists of the RSS as well
as those associated with non-RSS political organizations, Longkumer finds the RSS and its affiliated
members deeply embedded in educational institutions, cultural forms, history writing and organizational
politics. He identifies the prime cultural sites for Hindutva’s operations: the placing of Northeastern
India and its indigenous ‘tribal’ religions within the ‘imaginative geography’ of Akhand Bharat,
Hindutva’s interface with Christianity and Rani Gaidinliu. Although fieldwork remains confined
primarily to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland with some brief forays into Guwahati, the effects and

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