Competing Nationalisms: Book Discussion

Book discussion on ‘Competing Nationalisms: The Sacred and Political Life of Jagat Narain Lal’ by Rajshree Chandra. It was jointly organized by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi. It was  chaired by Antara Datta. The discussants included Apoorvanand and Aditya Nigam. 


Competing Nationalisms reflects upon Jagat Narain Lal’s richly conflictual journey and explores the competing strands of nationalism that intersected not just own life, but also the nationalist world that he was a part of and that we inherited in 1947. As a member of the Indian National Congress and of the Hindu Mahasabha; as a Hindu who wanted to combine seva (service), bhakti (devotion), sangathan (organization) and virtues of civic nationalism; as a Gandhian and as an ascetic nationalist seeking freedom in a political world-Jagat Narain Lal’s life becomes a mirror for the times in which the complex of religiosity, cosmology and ritual could not be isolated from either the political or the social field.

The book travels with Jagat Narain Lal in his journey as a nationalist through four pathways-Ascetic, Hindu Nationalist, Anti-Colonial and Civic nationalisms. His life and times give us a glimpse into these intersecting, competing and mutating idioms of nationalism. In his anxieties and competing political pursuits lay Indian nationalism’s own fraught relationship with questions of identity, faith and nationhood. In his vulnerability, suffering, negotiations and truth-telling lies a story of nationalism’s own conflicts and contradictions. In Jagat Narain Lal’s small story lies a bigger history of competing nationalisms, as well as a tale that speaks to the present.

Rajshree Chandra is Professor of Political Science, Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi.

Antara Datta is Associate Professor of English, Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi.

Apoorvanand is Professor of Hindi, Faculty of Arts, University of Delhi.

Aditya Nigam is Professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

15 January 2022, 5.30 pm, Zoom