Ghosts of Indian Unity: Difference, Diversity, and Violence

  • Emily Rook-Koepsel University of Pittsburgh


Circumscribing appropriate dissent against the Centre’s politics through emergency legislation, politics of shaming, and violence is an integral part of the Indian state’s definition of Indian unity, and is directly related to the way that unity and diversity were defined during the anti-colonial campaigns of the 1940s. Conflation of ‘national unity’ with fundamental homogeneity has led to the portrayal of those non-normative Indians who sought to speak and organise from their position of difference, whether it be religious, communal, linguistic, or gendered difference, as disruptive to Indian unity and threatening to the state. Even when relatively complying minority citizens have often found themselves to be targets of improvement campaigns, loyalty pledges, and active silencing; while dissenting, or at times even visible, minority citizens have routinely been marked as anti-national. This paper traces the link between outbursts of violence against minority and marginalised citizens in the contemporary period and the definition of unity propagated through the anti-colonial movement of the 1930s and 40s. Focusing on three issues, the analysis and arguments around the Communal Violence Bill at the 2011 National Integration Council meeting, the reading of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the wake of death of a young man from Arunachal Pradesh in 2014, and the 2016 jailing of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, the paper argues that the adoption of majoritarian ideas of unity has continued to police the limits of what the state deems ‘legitimate diversity.’

Dec 31, 2017
How to Cite
ROOK-KOEPSEL, Emily. Ghosts of Indian Unity: Difference, Diversity, and Violence. Kairos: A Journal of Critical Symposium, [S.l.], v. 2, n. 1, p. 67-82, dec. 2017. ISSN 2581-7361. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 feb. 2019.