Cover of The Greater India Experiment by Arkotong Longkumer
The Greater India Experiment
Hindutva and the Northeast
Arkotong Longkumer


336 pages.
from $32.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503613461
Paperback ISBN: 9781503614222
Ebook ISBN: 9781503614239

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Longlisted in the 2021 Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, sponsored by the New India Foundation.

The assertion that even institutions often viewed as abhorrent should be dispassionately understood motivates Arkotong Longkumer's pathbreaking ethnography of the Sangh Parivar, a family of organizations comprising the Hindu right. The Greater India Experiment counters the urge to explain away their ideas and actions as inconsequential by demonstrating their efforts to influence local politics and culture in Northeast India. Longkumer constructs a comprehensive understanding of Hindutva, an idea central to the establishment of a Hindu nation-state, by focusing on the Sangh Parivar's engagement with indigenous peoples in a region that has long resisted the "idea of India." Contextualizing their activities as a Hindutva "experiment" within the broader Indian political and cultural landscape, he ultimately paints a unique picture of the country today.

About the author

Arkotong Longkumer is Senior Lecturer in Modern Asia at the University of Edinburgh, and Senior Research Fellow at the Kohima Institute, Nagaland. He is the co-author of Indigenous Religion(s): Local Grounds, Global Networks (2020), and co-editor of Neo-Hindutva (2019).

"This vivid ethnography of Hindu nationalist militants in Northeast India brings to life an encounter of contrary convictions. It explores how enthusiasts for the idea of a singular Indic identity feel forced to adapt their tactics in a region where this identity is soundly challenged. Subtle and surprising, this extraordinary study is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary Hindu nationalist politics."

—Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam

"Arkotong Longkumer presents readers an original, impressive study on the religious foundations and anxieties of Indian nationalism. This is powerful work that intimately engages with issues of sovereignty, democracy, secularism, and culture in postcolonial India."

—Sanjay Barbora, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

"This is the first book accounting for the rise of Hindutva in India's Northeast. Longkumer's deeply ethnographical approach allows him to painstakingly analyze the modus operandi of the Hindu nationalist activists at the grassroots level in a part of India where ethnic tensions are mounting dangerously."

—Christophe Jaffrelot, CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS and King's College London

"Longkumer must be commended for writing a pioneering book on the protean forms of Hindutva today. His most striking contribution might be to remind us that even the most unsavoury forms of political imaginaries can become palatable over time through careful and creative forms of persuasion."

—Uday Chandra, Pacific Affairs

"Arkotong Longkumer'sThe Greater India Experiment: Hindutva and the Northeastis a well-reasoned warning on the rise of Hindutva in the northeast of India. Drawing from his PhD work, his continuing engagement with foot soldiers of the Sangh, and his keen observations, the book provides a rich ethnographic account of the twists and turns of the dominant forces tied to the Indian nation-state, in particular Hindutva. In doing so, he engages with the larger project ofAkhand Bharat, the notional [sic] entity that extends over several countries all the way from Afghanistanto southeast Asia."

—Richard Kamei, The India Forum

"This book is an essential read for scholars of Northeast India, Hindu nationalism, indigeneity, and beyond... Deeply grounded in a relational mode of analysis while engaging a range of humanistic social sciences, Longkumer vividly renders the territorial imaginaries and anxieties driving the most recent iteration of postcolonial expansionism in the region while also shining a light on an alternate landscape of desire and possibility."

—Mabel Denzin Gergan, Politics, Religion, & Ideology

"Whether it is of drawing spatial and temporal continuities with 'Bharatvarsh' via a retelling of myth and history, or of manufacturing a shared basis for being and becoming 'indigenous', or of identifying and exorcising elements that are deemed 'foreign' so that the 'indigene' may be claimed for Hindutva, or of appropriating and iconising personalities to fit within the 'nationalist' as well as the 'anti-foreign' narrative, [The Greater India Experiment] provides a rich description of how the Sangh Parivar carefully and creatively inserts itself into the crevices of life in the Northeast."

—John Thomas, Biblio

"[The Greater India Experiment] is significant in its multi-dimensional refletion of and on the complex socio-political and religious landscape of the Northeast... This book is a fine example of the mediating role that a rigorous ethnography can play in seriously engaging with conflicting political and religious worldviews."

—Ishita Mahajan, Contemporary South Asia

"The role of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in redefining the cultures, education, and religious identities as well as histories of India, especially by aligning certain narratives and figures like Rani Gaidinliu to the Hindutva narrative, is not yet fully understood, especially in the predominantly tribal and Christian North East India.TheGreater India Experiment: Hindutva and the Northeastby Arkotong Longkumer is therefore a timely and welcome publication."

—Tanka Bahadur Subba, Economic & Political Weekly

"For anyone interested in how the BJP came to dominate all-India politics, this work is essential reading. For cultural anthropologists, it is a study in objectivity. Much more than a political and cultural study, however, Longkumer's book is a deep dive into an unfinished project. We do not know how it will turn out, and the writer makes no attempt to forecast the future. Still, he does give us all the information we need to keep track of the BJP's ongoing attempt to win the soul of India's Northeast."

—Janet M. Powers, Religion

"By taking indigenous regions and its politics—and Hindutva's newfound interest in reclaiming the region—as his focal point, Longkumer addresses a complex critical phenomenon and gap in scholarship. Longkumer's book is not only a masterful account of Hindutva's escalating stronghold in the northeastern region of India, but an eye-opening education on the history of this oft-overlooked part of the nation, making it an important book not only for Hindutva researchers, but for anyone interested in Indian (post-)colonial history, religions, and politics."

—Rashmi Shetty, Politics, Religion, & Ideology

"In his book The Greater India Experiment: Hindutva and the Northeast, Arkotong Longkumer provides honest and critical descriptions of the historical past of the Northeast alongside the contemporary developments in politics, ethnicity, and religion in the region."

—Deepika Kashyap, Critical Research on Religion