We have become accustomed to news of sectarian violence on the Indian sub-continent suggesting a widening rift between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities whose extremist spokespersons insist that they represent separate and irreconcilable civilizations. But in reality it is tolerance and acceptance between her many religious communities more than conflict that defines the lived experiences of her people. Evidence of this exists in most every region of the country. Asim Rafiqui’s project The Idea of India is an artistic exploration of these unique syncretic rituals, sites, and communities and confronts the power of nationalism and ideas of fixed and opposed ethnic, cultural and social identities.
Since early 2009 he has been traveling into this India; of lived experiences, of lives and imaginations not bound by sectarianism. It is a journey into an alternative India; of lived experiences, of lives and imaginations not bound by sectarianism and riven with nationalist divisions. In some instances he has documented real, lived acts of resistance and cultural sharing, in other instances he has explored social spaces that point to worlds more complex, beautiful and vital than those offered by the threadbare hate mongering of the sectarians. And in while doing so he has used photography not only as a means of evidence, but also as a vessel for the imagination.
Since beginning this work Asim have traveled to regions in Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Goa, Kerala, and Maharashtra. Essays, journals, maps, and photographs can be found at the Idea Of India project website. The work was completed in late 2012 and a book draft is currently in the works.