Areu, Mario Lopez: Inclusion and the modern idea of India: B. R. Ambedkar and the reconceptualisation of communalism.

The modern idea of India, as a postcolonial entity, is intimately linked to a vision of an inclusive multicultural polity (Khilnani, 1997; Vajpayee, 2013). Thinkers like Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas K. Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed that the distinct feature of Indian civilisation was its organic ability to manage its socio-cultural diversity through peaceful accommodation. Indian national identity was built around the idea of inclusivity, through religious tolerance and equal citizenship. That egalitarian idea of India has, however, been put into question by tensions between the different communities that form it. Hindu-Muslim relations, which epitome was the partition of British India into the postcolonial states of India and Pakistan, but also by riots like the one following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 or in Gujarat in 2005. Equally, caste discrimination, particularly towards dalits, remains unresolved. This paper analyses the question of inclusion/exclusion in modern Indian political thought, through an analysis of the conceptualisation of communalism by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (189-1956). Ambedkar was a scholar, leader of the dalit movement, President of the Constitution Drafting Committee of India as well as the first Justice Minister of independent India. Ambedkar was one of the most sophisticated and ardent critics of the dominant idea of Indian society as an inclusive one. In this paper, we will first examine Ambedkar’s analysis of the exclusivist nature of the Indian social order, based on Hindu religious principles. We will then look at how for Ambedkar, India could not be a nation until it removed the religious dogma that made its society be stratified in castes and lacking a spirit of fraternity among all of its members. Finally, we’ll examine how he reconceptualises communalism as not the expression of community confrontation, but rather as a necessary step for minorities to mobilise against majoritarian rule to abolish the Hindu social order and build that inclusive nation of equal citizens that was needed for India to become not only modern, but also a true society. Our analysis will be based on a close reading of a vast array of Ambedkar’s writings and speeches, from some of his key works like Annihilation of caste, What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables and Pakistan or the partition of India to public and parliamentary speeches, pamphlets and opinion pieces. This research we think is a valuable contribution to the conference because it examines the question of inclusion/exclusion in the biggest and most heterogenous democracy in the world, India, through the examination of its rich modern tradition of political thought.