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Keywords:

  • Hindu nationalism;
  • history;
  • India;
  • partition;
  • secular nationalism;
  • textbooks

Abstract

‘Unity is always obtained by means of brutality’ wrote Ernest Renan. Following this idea, this article investigates how social conflicts and violence are included or muted in national history. This is done by comparing the successive series of history textbooks used in India in the postindependence period. The historical narratives contained in the textbooks were influenced by different conceptions of the Indian nation, and these variations allow us to observe and better understand what is remembered or forgotten in the national narrative. We will see that conflicts and violence are referred to when they involve the nation against its ‘other’ but depictions of conflicts within the nation as it is imagined are avoided. Thus, certain violent episodes of the past find a place in the national historical narrative, yet violence in itself is never described.