His review of The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future
by Martha C. Nussbaum is more than a review. It provides great insights into the communal problem in India. It is definitely a must read for all those who are concerned about India's future and understand how peace and communal harmony is significant for the country's uninterrupted progress.
Her interviews with prominent right-wing Hindus yield some shrewd psychological insights, particularly into Arun Shourie, an economist and investigative journalist who, famous initially for his intrepid exposés of corruption, became a cabinet minister and close adviser to BJP prime minister Vajpayee. She suggests that the anti-Muslim views of Shourie, who is otherwise capable of intelligent commentary, may owe to "something volatile and emotionally violent in his character...something that lashes out at a perceived threat and refuses to take seriously the evidence that it might not be a threat."
In a chapter that forms the core of the book, she examines the ideas and legacies of Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Rabindranath Tagore, founding fathers of India's democracy. Her admiration for Tagore and Gandhi is deep. However, she offers only qualified praise for Nehru, India's resolutely rationalist first prime minister. Nussbaum laments that Nehru neglected "the cultivation of liberal religion and the emotional bases of a respectful pluralistic society"—a failure that she thinks left the opportunity wide open for the BJP's "public culture of exclusion and hate."
I find this point about the (failure of) "cultivation of liberal religion" pertinent. In fact, even if it is partly true, one of the factors for growing communalisation, I feel, is the failure of the public education system (read India's sarkari schools). You go to any town in India, big or small, the sarkari schools are the worst in terms of teaching quality and infrastructure--and these were the institutions that were supposed to shape the hearts and minds of India's generations. Instead, there are more mercenary style private schools that attract the better pupils (who can afford to pay the fees) where the emphasis is on getting good grades and hardly any concern is shown to develop "emotional bases of a respectful pluralistic society."
India's middle class, which is enjoying the economic boom today, is mainly a product of such private schools (I'm not saying all of them are bad) and they have no understanding of religions other than their own--so misunderstandings and misconceptions about "others" abound which are later on systematically exploited by the politicians.