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Out Of Sync: Why Secularism Is A Colossal Failure In India

Bahujan Perspective

Out Of Sync: Why Secularism Is A Colossal Failure In India

Secularism in its present form is the result of a collective historical failure, completely at variance with public ethos which is not secular

In High Esteem: Muslim women holding a framed photograph of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar during anti-CAA protes
In High Esteem: Muslim women holding a framed photograph of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar during anti-CAA protes Photo: Suresh K. Pandey

Secularism was one of the most elaborately debated issues by the framers of the Indian Constitution. They were concerned about the impact of Partition and the possible ways of protecting the fundamental rights of religious minorities. The meanings of secularism oscillated between procedural justice to religious minorities to ‘principled distance’ between religion and politics. Secularism was burdened by the imperatives of protecting religious and cultural identities, on the one hand, and carrying out necessary ‘social reform’, on the other. Secularism was a double-edged sword that attempted to strike a balance between the majority and the minority and between tradition and modernity.

There has been a substantial reflection in Indian public debates on what secularism ought to mean but very little focus on the workings of secularism, of what it is and what it has come to be. Often, theory is normative but the workings of concepts in the empirical world are fairly messy and complex. Secularism was no exception to this norm. The way secularism was conceived had eventually very little to do with how it actually turned out to be in the way it was practised by political parties, social activists and religious minorities.

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