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Between Competitive Communalism And Suitable Secularism: Where India Stands Today

Communalism

Between Competitive Communalism And Suitable Secularism: Where India Stands Today

Has secularism ever fulfilled its mandate in India or was it always sent askew by communal politics?

Religious outrage: A ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ recital by Hindu organisations after the murder of tailor Kanhaiya in July 2022
Religious outrage: A ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ recital by Hindu organisations after the murder of tailor Kanhaiya in July 2022 Photo: Getty Images

The understanding of secularism in India has changed over time with its politics and politicians. While communalism has always been the antithesis of secularism, new strands of communal identity politics have conceptually impacted the logical and lexical semantics of secularism. The current socio-political trends seem to indicate that secularism in India has perhaps failed the test of competitive communalism.

Competitive communalism predominantly refers to rivalry between groups that defined their identity primarily along religious lines and was a feature of Indian politics in the late colonial period. Neeti Nair, Associate Professor at Virginia University and author of Hurt Sentiments: Secularism and Belonging in South Asia, explains that such competition coexisted with the ethic of shared living among members of different sects and religious communities. Such coexistence amid competition forms the bedrock of the Indian brand of secularism, which is not exclusive but inclusive.

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