As we complete fifty years of Independence we face ironically the most serious threat to the gains of that Independence. The Hindutva forces, which have captured the government, are attempting to destroy the secular foundations of the Indian polity, to reverse the process of political empowerment of the people by jettisoning the system of parliamentary democracy and ushering in coterie rule under the guise of a presidential system, to unleash war-mongering, revanchism, and heightened tensions vis-a-vis our neighbours including the threat of a nuclear war, to appease imperialism through large-scale compromises and concessions so that it turns a blind eye to their depredations, and to terrorise civil society through selective attacks on artists and intellectuals in order to snuff out dissent. This, almost text-book, scenario of emerging fascism, being enacted by forces which had nothing to do with India's struggle for Independence and whose progenitors were avowed admirers of Hitler, provides the context for the present number of Social Scientist.
The lead article by Irfan Habib, which contains the text of his convocation address at the Vidyasagar University in Midnapore, argues that while pre-colonial India had made progress towards achieving some prerequisites of nationhood, it still was a long way from becoming a nation. It had developed a multi-religious, or supra-religious, culture and a sense of political unity, but the "idea" of India, the sense of belonging to one country, had not yet been diffused among the broad masses of the people; until the nineteenth century the perception of India as a country remained confined to the upper strata. Besides, an important condition of nationhood, namely a widely-shared feeling that the country must be governed by those belonging to it, was still lacking. The National Movement which drew into its fold the workers and peasants, which instilled among the masses a desire for liberation from "foreign" rule, and which made them unite, transcending their particularities, changed all that: the Indian nation emerged as a result of a long struggle. By its very nature it could have no association with any particular religion; secularism central to its being. Those who are threatening this secular foundation of our nationhood are therefore engaged in a process of destruction of this nationhood itself.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid was an important landmark on the road traversed by these forces in the march towards their current ascendancy. The way in which they have manipulated the Ram myth, imparting to it a historical verisimilitude it never had, and in the process mythologized history, is discussed in the paper by S.P. Udayakumar. "Mythologizing history" however is not just vapid; it is dangerous. Harking back to a period of imagined greatness, which ended because of the machinations of some group of "saboteurs" and can be resumed through their suppression, indicates not just an inability to come to terms with the failings and weaknesses of society