Okay, soapbox time. Stage One in the Hindutva campaign was the naked bullying assertion: Mandir yahin banayenge. Next came the attempts, often ludicrous, to elevate our glorious past: We will replace Western science with swadeshi models–astrology zindabad! (Does the Indian government use Vedic mathematics to calculate the fiscal deficit? That would explain a lot…) Then the strategy gained a semblance of sophistication: hmm, what if we rewrite the textbooks really, really badly and forget all about history as it actually happened? From here to the propping up of pseudo-academics was a logical step.

Partha Chatterjee reviews a new book on demography with growing incredulity and disgust: “But what, we must ask, is this category called Indian Religionists? It turns out that this is simply a residual category obtained by subtracting Muslims and Christians from the total population. Anyone who is not a Muslim or Christian is an Indian Religionist, including Zoroastrians and Jews. True, the authors add a separate chapter in which they analyse the population trends of the less numerous religions, including Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc., but these do not affect their basic conclusions about Indian Religionists… Thus, from anti-Vedic and nastika religions like Buddhism and Jainism, to the deeply anti-Brahminical sects built around saintly figures such as Vasavanna, Nanak or Kabir, to the religions of the adivasi peoples of central India or the Tibeto-Burman or Khmer peoples of the Northeast, everything is homogenized into the timeless essence of sanatana dharma. The theory makes nonsense of all accumulated textual, historical and anthropological scholarship on Indian religions.”

The Babu always considered himself non-religious, if not atheist, and is pleased to learn that in the authors’ view, this would make him a victim “either of repressive Marxist states or of the individualizing pressures of modernity”. He grew up in West Bengal, which presumably puts him in both hitlist categories!