On 2 September 2019, Professor Gavin Flood, FBA, Visiting Professor at the RSIS’ Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme, presented his views on the various meanings of Hindu nationalism. He argued that Hindu nationalism need not come at the cost of Hindu narratives of pluralism and inclusivism.
Prof Flood highlighted the progressiveness of the Hindu Renaissance, a period of Hindu reform movements in the 19th Century that, among other things, emphasised upon the reasons to establish the truth of Hindu sacred texts, rejected outdated practices such as child marriage and widow burning, and constructed Hinduism as an ethical spirituality equivalent to Islam and Christianity. Beyond the inherent diversity of meanings and practices in Hinduism, Prof Flood also argued that it was possible to construct an inclusivist and pluralist view of Hinduism using resources within the Hindu tradition such as the Netra Tantra (circa 8th Century). Prof Flood also mentioned how some Hindu nationalists represented a narrow view of these traditions by embracing identity politics in their struggle for “Hindu rights”.
The seminar culminated in an engaging Q&A session, discussing the different implications of instrumental and organic nationalism, institutional and political barriers to inclusivism in plural societies, as well as the role of the secular state in addressing exclusivism.