Savarkar before Hindutva: Sovereignty, Republicanism and Populism in India, c. 1900-1920

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Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was the theoriser of Hindutva (1923) – the project to radically reconfigure India as a Hindu majoritarian state. Assessments of Savarkar’s earlier The Indian War of Independence (1909), a history of the 1857 Indian “Mutiny”, have generally subsumed this tract into the logic of Hindutva. This article offers a re-assessment of The Indian War of Independence and situates it within the political and intellectual context of fin-de-siècle western India. I suggest that this history of Indian rebellion propagated a novel iteration of Indian popular sovereignty predicated on Hindu-Muslim unity. I read Savarkar as adapting the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini and Johann Kaspar Bluntschli to challenge what he regarded as the fissiparous logic of late colonial liberalism. Finally, this article argues that Savarkar’s account of the mutual constitution of general will and the personalism of sovereignty must be read as a previously unacknowledged instance of Indian populism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalModern Intellectual History
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Sep 2020

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