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The ethics of des seva: Hindu nationalism, tribal leadership and modes of sociality in Rajasthan
Published in
Volume: 49
Issue: 1
Pages: 52 - 76
Based on fieldwork in Udaipur district in Rajasthan, this article examines how Bhil tribal leaders of the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad (VKP), a branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organisation, profess an ethic of des seva, or work and care for the nation, while describing their work with the VKP. Focusing on the VKP and RSS campaigns to Ayodhya in 1990 and 1992 and to the Shabari Kumbh in 2006, I examine the shifts in the political and ethical repertoires that shape tribal VKP fieldworkers' modalities of action and forms of self-making during travel at these different moments in time. During these campaigns, non-tribal leaders sought to discipline tribal leaders, referring to historically constructed ideas and practices about the civilisational inferiority of tribals, in order to show that they can never properly engage in des seva. The article draws on incidents from these two campaigns in order to show how tribal leaders fashion themselves in relation to how others believe they should behave and reveals some of the ways in which tribals inhabit, resist and revise the ideas and practices of Hindu nationalism.
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