The Law of Force is a searing critique of the illiberal and violent forces that continue to dominate our everyday life and politics. These forces began to make themselves felt in the 1980s and 1990s—regional movements, the empowerment of lower-caste communities but also Hindu nationalism—and reflected, among many other things, a deeply illiberal underside of Indian politics. Theirs was a language of deprivations and anger, and a politics of passion claiming to represent hitherto voiceless majorities. This language of strength was not based on a commitment to the values of the Constitution but, rather, a belief in popular sovereignty, the moral right of electoral majorities, and violence as a legitimate expression of political will.
In this book, Hansen discusses the discrepancy between the liberal language of rights in the Constitution and the largely illiberal and often violent ways in which the ‘force of law’ is visited upon non-elite Indians by the country’s police powers. He argues that a new and intensified sense of intimacy and hurt have facilitated the rise of a popular politics of passion and action that in turn has made public violence and the mobilization of public anger into some of the most effective means of political expression in the country. These sentiments and techniques of what Hansen calls ‘the law of force’ have been honed and perfected by the Hindu nationalist movement over the past decades.