- On the one hand, the BJP and its allies presented themselves as great champions of science, as long as it could be absorbed into ‘the Vedas’, of course.
- On the other hand, they aggressively condemned the secular and naturalistic worldview of science — the disenchantment of nature — as ‘reductionist’, ‘Western’ or even ‘Semitic’ and therefore un–Hindu and un–Indian. Science yes, and technology yes, but a rational–materialist critique of Vedic idealism no — that became the mantra of Hindutva.
Why this over–eagerness to claim the support of science? There is a modernising impulse in all religions to make the supposedly timeless truths of theology acceptable to the modern minds raised on a scientific sensibility. Contemporary Hindu nationalists are carrying on with the neo–Hindu tradition of proclaiming Hinduism as the universal religion of the future because of its superior ‘holistic science’ (as compared to the ‘reductionist science’ of the West.) Besides, it is easier to sell traditions and rituals, especially to urban, upwardly mobile men, if they have the blessings of English–speaking ‘scientific’ gurus.Granted, this business of Vedic science had been going on before anyone had ever heard the word ‘postmodern’. But this Hindu nationalist appropriation of science has found new sources of intellectual respectability from the postmodernist, anti–Enlightenment turn taken by intellectuals, most radically in American universities, but also in India. What do I mean by postmodernism and how did it play out in India?