Among Indologists, it is now advised to avoid or at least problematize the word “Hindu.” Among the reasons for this wariness: Hindus themselves have only been using it for a few centuries, it is not mentioned in scripture but was tagged onto them by outsiders, it blurs important inter-Hindu distinctions and conflicts, and most objectionably, it is now the badge claimed by Hindu nationalists. Retired Delhi University historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha has continued the process of “Deconstructing Hindu identity” in an essay for the general public with that title, and it has now been published in a booklet, Rethinking Hindu Identity, along with essays on the “myth” of Hindu tolerance and on the sacred cow.

Regarding the latter point, his case is convincing enough. A good handful of passages in ancient texts are shown to confirm that the Vedic cattle-herders considered beef a normal part of their diet. In...

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