Majoritarian nationalisms and religion in South Asia

There has been a rise in majority nationalism globally, often linked to the rise of populism and (causing?) democratic backsliding. Many of the countries within South Asia have also seen a rise in religious majoritarianisms in recent decades. Majoritarianism(s) have challenged the liberal attributes of democracy across the subcontinent; justifying the curtailment of civil liberties, such as limiting the freedom of expression or association and to restrict citizen access to alternative sources of information. By framing opposition to majoritarian views as ‘anti-national’ in all three countries it has also sought to delegitimise the voice of political opposition. This paper, which will form part of a monograph with Wilfried Swenden (Edinburgh), seeks to do three things.

1. It unpacks the concept of religious majoritarianism, positing a typology of different types of religious majoritarianisms, and identifies the different areas of the three polities where they are manifest.
2. It identifies how and why religious majoritarianism(s) have developed since independence in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and the similarities with, and differences to, ‘Western’ interpretations and manifestations of majority nationalism.
3. It reveals how articulations of ‘the other’ have changed and expanded over time and discusses the relationship of majoritarian nationalism to democracy, especially with the deepening of the democratic base and the expansion of the media.