Saturday, July 20, 2024

Is Secularism a pejorative term?

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Secularism in India has for long been regarded as a sacrosanct principle that cannot be tinkered with

Secularism as a public discourse is considered to be a very important organizing principle in the multicultural polities of the world.

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It is defined as the separation of the state and religion from each other. Religion must be consigned to the private sphere of life and must not be used for shaping public policy.

Evidently, it demands that state must regulate religion.

Religion must not be allowed to interfere in nurturing issues of public interest.

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In the European context, secularism denotes that the state is anti-religion and is exclusively concerned with establishing a secularized polity.

It dates back to the completion of the Thirty Years War which concluded in 1648 leading to the rise of the Westphalian nation-state system.

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Indian context

While secularism is said to originally evolved in Europe. India is no stranger to secularism.

Indian secularism has been shaped by the encounters Indians had with Arabs and European colonizers. It was the European, to be precise the British who shaped the Indian variant of secularism.

J Sai Deepak in his book India, That is Bharat has written at length about the twisted and devious nature of such a secularism that was applied to India by the British.

It was manifested in the areas of education, law, religion etc.

Cuss word?

Secularism was glorified in the Nehruvian era as a sacrosanct principle which must not be tinkered with.

This narrative was propagated further by left-wing academicians in the realm of higher education for generations.

The intellectual climate of the country was shaped accordingly.

However, since 2014 the ‘real’ nature of secularism has been highlighted in an intellectualized manner by a new doyen of Indic minded historians and new specialists,

This expose has stated the basically appeasing nature of Nehruvian secularism which allegedly is related to the appeasement of one Abrahamic religion-Islam.

Secularism was used as a ruse for Hindu bashing. Glorifying Hinduism and reveling in Hindu customs and traditions were berated as fascist, Brahminical  and even anti-minority.

It has emerged as a cuss word which propagates minority fascism.

Actual meaning

In this changed India, secularism means that while I respect all religions, I must not berate my religion.

Being a Hindu must not be a fact to be ashamed of.

Dr Koenraad Elst argues that Hinduism teaches inclusivity, tolerance and respect for the truth of other sections of the society.

A new generation of historians in the form of Vikram Sampath, Koenraad Elst, J Sai Deepak, Hindol Sengupta have emerged as new paragons of this refined Hinduism.

Regarding the controversy surrounding Hindutva, it is considered to be a socio-cultural doctrine with strong political undertones that is anchored in the civilizational heritage of India.

Hindutva is designed to give a strong sense of resistance oriented spirit to Hinduism which it lacks.


It is genuinely a good principle, but like every concept in the field of social sciences secularism will require reformation.

Secularism must be reformed to ensure that it doesn’t end up propagating woke philosophy or repeating the words of Montesquieu “tyranny of the masses”.

Secularism must be in accordance with Hindu principles and dharmic code of conduct.


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