Saffron Salaams: Why Hindu nationalists need Muslim friends

Event details

PSC Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 04 June 2019


PSC Reading Room 4.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Felix Pal


Maxine McArthur

The paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps or RSS), is notorious for its many crimes against Muslim communities in India. Large scale riots, poisonous vitriol, mob-lynchings and aspirations to genocide are just the pointy end of larger systems of anti-Muslim antagonism animated by the RSS and its affiliates. The ferocity of the RSS-led forces arrayed against Indian Muslim communities makes it surprising then, that in 2002, the RSS founded a Muslim wing, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch. In the last eighteen months I have attended a wide range of Manch events and conducted eighty five interviews with Manch members, their leaders, defectors, families and critics. This seminar is the first major discussion of this fieldwork.
In this discussion, I ask why the RSS needs a Muslim wing. Why do Hindu nationalists need Muslim friends? Why do bigots act like pluralists? Beginning from these questions I argue that the RSS mobilises performances of pluralism through the Manch, not just to conceal bigotry, but as bigotry. By examining how and when it functions as exclusivism I hope to question the progressive and emancipatory assumptions that surround concepts of pluralism.

About the Speaker
Felix Pal is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU.

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