The Struggle for India’s Soul

Nationalism and the Fate of Democracy

September 2021 9781787385597 356pp


There are over a billion Indians alive today. But are some more Indian than others? To answer this question, one that is central to the identity of all who belong to modern India, Shashi Tharoor explores hotly contested ideas of nationalism, patriotism, citizenship and belonging.

A contest has emerged between two opposing ideas of India: ethno-religious nationalism, versus civic nationalism. The struggle for India’s soul has heightened, deepened and broadened, threatening to hollow out and destroy the remarkable concepts of pluralism, secularism and inclusive nationhood that were bestowed upon the nation at Independence. The Constitution is under siege; institutions are being undermined; mythical pasts propagated; universities assailed; minorities demonised, and worse. Every passing month sees new attacks on the ideals that India has long been admired for, as authoritarian leaders and their supporters push the country towards a state of illiberalism and intolerance. If they succeed, millions will be stripped of their identity, and bogus theories of Indianness will take root in the soil of the subcontinent.

However, all is not yet lost. This erudite and lucid book shows what needs to be done to win the battle of belonging–to strengthen everything that is unique and valuable about India.



Shashi Tharoor is a former UN under-secretary-general, a Congress MP in India, the author of sixteen books, and the recipient of literary awards including a Commonwealth Writers' Prize. His Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India was a Sunday Times bestseller and a Financial Times Book of the Year.    

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