This book meant for students of Social Science seeks to unravel the thoughts of great Indian political thinkers and articulates the many currents of modern Indian political thought in an unconventional way by locating the texts and themes of thinkers within the socio-economic and politico-cultural contexts in which such ideas were conceptualised and articulated. It also tries to analytically grasp the influences of various British constitutional devices that happened as responses of the colonial government to redress the genuine socio-economic grievances of various sections of the Indian society.
Indian political thought involves three related issues of ‘nation’, ‘internationalism’ and ‘national identity’, which constitute the foundation as it were of any nationalist discourse. The nationalists, while confronting colonialism, also waged a war against the decadent social system which in the name of holding its genuine spirit, actually defended archaic values for sustaining vested socio-economic forces. Notwithstanding their clear political goal, the nationalists fulfilled a historic mission by articulating a new discourse while commenting on the prevalent socio-economic circumstances under colonialism.
The authors say that the dividing line between social and political actions is very thin in the context of nationalist thought. True ideas of thinkers should not be categorised purely as social or political. For instance, Raja Ram Mohan Roy tried to scuttle the divisive tendencies in Hindu society by challenging the religious orthodoxy. His appreciation for the British was governed by his critical admiration for the philosophy of enlightenment that accompanied colonial rule in India. What ran through Roy’s socio-political ideas appeared in Bankim Chandra and Dayanand Saraswati too. The authors try to show that the story was more or less the same among Muslim thinkers who appreciated the ‘modernising’ zeal of the British as seen by Syed Ahmad Khan.
In a nutshell, the authors list three major characteristics responsible for influencing social and political thought. First, that nationalism underwent radical changes as a result of the link between peripheral struggles within the Congress-led freedom movement as evident in the non-cooperation-Khilafat Movement. Second, in organising movements, activists with political affiliations faced serious challenges based on ideological differences and communal divisions. “Both Hindu and Muslim leadership drew on religion to gain politically,” claim the authors. Third, in the development of the nationalist ideology, several competing ideologies had a significant role in representing the view of those in the periphery. For instance, the Congress, in the aftermath of the non-cooperation movement, formally recognised the importance of peasantry and workers in the anti-imperial movements.
Against such a background of social and political thought, the authors discuss the development and articulation of political thought by leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Ambedkar and Lohia. At the same time the book covers the Indian freedom struggle in detail.
This book will interest students of Social and Political Sciences.
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