Kia recalling 295,000 vehicles due to risk of engine fires    Egypt's wheat strategic reserves enough for 5.7 months – minister    Turkey in weekend lockdown as coronavirus cases hit record highs    U.S. stocks sweep to records on hope for fiscal relief    Egypt's environment minister to launch legal action against TV channel that filmed ‘merciless' fox hunting    Egypt PM to attend AU's 13th extraordinary summit on AfCFTA    US Trump orders withdrawal of all troops from Somalia    Bahrain now 2nd nation to grant Pfizer shot emergency use    Oman to enact labour, taxation and subsidy reforms, minister tells Manama summit    Solskjaer can't think past 'next six games' at Manchester United    Egypt's poverty rate falls for first time to 29.7% since 1999    US raised prospect of blacklisting Yemen's Houthis: Oman FM tells Manama summit    Bahrain says it won't allow imports from Israeli settlements    Egypt reports 427 new coronavirus cases, 19 deaths on Friday    LIVE: Talae El-Geish v Ahly (Egypt Cup final)    Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot    Frank Lampard keen to extend stay at Chelsea    China says US legislation targeting Chinese firms discriminatory    Egypt sees receiving first batch of coronavirus vaccine in May 2021 – official    Khartoum's benefits from GERD cannot be achieved without signature of a binding legal agreement, says Sudan's irrigation minister    42nd Cairo International Film Festival opens today amid strict precautionary measures    Egyptian expats to print ballots starting Thursday for 2nd stage of parliamentary run-offs    Gana Hena play at Al-Ghad Theatre is a must go    A final battle    Free Devastation    Brexit unresolved, as EU, UK say big differences remain    Cairo International Book Fair suspended for five months over coronavirus concerns    US will reduce number of its troop in Iraq, Afghanistan    Egypt unveils largest archaeological discovery in 2020 with over 100 intact sarcophagi    Trump says won't blame Egypt for being ‘upset' over GERD dispute with Ethiopia    1st stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections kicks off on Saturday    Global Finance: Egypt's Tarek Amer among the world's top 20 central bank governors    Legend footballer Lionel Messi says he is forced to stay with Barcelona    Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan to resume Nile dam talks today    Iraqi conglomerate eyes developing land that housed Mubarak-era ruling party HQ    Legend Messi officially wants to leave Barcelona, hands transfer request    The Facebook Preacher's Search for Fame, and Egypt's Economy    Egypt calls on UNSC to address oil spill risks off Yemen coast    Egypt economically strong in face of COVID-19, reforms ongoing: International Cooperation Minister    Arafa Holding reports $144,000 COVID-19-related losses in April    Egypt's efforts in Libya to activate free will of Libyan people: Al-Sisi    Hyksos campaigns were internal takeover, not foreign invaders: study    COVID-19 affects Egypt sporting clubs    COVID-19 will soon turn to seasonal like swine flu: Presidential Health Advisor    ‘Egypt's Support' coalition convenes to discuss its Senate election list    Robbery attempt leads to discovery of Ptolemaic monuments in Qena    Flouting international guidance, Ethiopia unilaterally starts filling its Nile dam    Zaha speaks out after online racial abuse    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Religion and the public sphere in India
Published in Daily News Egypt on 24 - 06 - 2011

In contrast to most South Asian countries, modern India has always been officially “secular”, a word the country inscribed in its Constitution in 1976. Secularism, here, is not synonymous with the French “laïcité”, which demands strong separation of religion and the state. India's secularism does not require exclusion of religion from the public sphere. On the contrary, it implies recognition of all religions by the state. This philosophy of inclusivity finds expression in one article of the Constitution by which all religious communities may set up schools that are eligible for state subsidies.
India's secularism, therefore, has more affinities with multiculturalism than with “laïcité”. Its emphasis on pluralism parallels the robust parliamentary democracy and federalism that India has been cultivating for 64 years.
But today, secularism is in jeopardy in India. The main threat comes from the rise of Hindu militancy and its consequences not only for electoral politics, but also for the judiciary and society at large.
The rise of Hindu nationalism
The core belief of the Hindu nationalist movement, whose key organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was founded in 1925, is that the Indian identity is embodied in Hinduism, the oldest and largest religion of India. For decades the RSS has worked at the grass roots level, recruiting children who are taught to fight religions founded outside India (including Islam and Christianity), and forming new fronts (that include student, labor and peasant groups).
The RSS and its offshoots consistently criticized pro-minority policies. But it mostly remained a marginal player until the 1980s when the ruling Congress Party was again assailed by the old Hindu nationalists' critique of ““pseudo-secularism.
The RSS supported party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) mobilized on claims that the government and courts favored Muslims, and also demanded the (re)building of a temple where the Babri Masjid mosque was constructed in 1528 at Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
This campaign culminated in the demolition of the mosque by a Hindu mob in 1992. It was accompanied by widespread wave of communal riots aimed at polarizing the voters along religious lines. It contributed to electoral gains for the BJP, and in 1998-2004 the party was in position to head a new national-ruling coalition.
Towards an ethno-democracy
The 1980s-90s were a turning point in the India's secularism. This period could have been a parenthesis, since the Congress Party regained power in 2004, but India has never returned to the balance of religious co-existence and compromise that prevailed in its first three decades of independence.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the communal clashes that accompanied the BJP's rise to power have never been addressed properly by the policy and judiciary. Muslims were massacred in numbers unprecedented since India's 1947 partition; about 1,000 were killed in Bhagalpur in Bihar State alone in 1989, and violence rose to the level of pogroms in Gujarat State in 2002 when about 2,000 Muslims were killed after 59 Hindus burnt alive in train coaches in Godhra, Gujarat. Inquiry commissions prepared reports that were either never made public or not followed by serious action. In most democracies, the kind of violence Gujarat experienced in 2002 would have resulted in at least a “Justice and Reconciliation” commission.
And minorities must cope with marginalization. Christian Tribals are victims of violence, especially in Orissa and Gujarat, where they are requested to (re)convert to Hinduism. Muslims face discrimination in the job and housing markets, and Muslim ghettoization is increasing in northeastern and western India. On the political scene, Muslims are marginalized with less than six percent of MPs in the lower house of Parliament while representing 13.4 percent of the population. In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh commissioned a report on the status of India's Muslims by a committee named after its president, Justice Rajinder Sachar. But none of the Sachar Committee's key recommendations to improve Muslims' situation has been implemented perhaps from political fears that the BJP will again denounce “pseudo-secularism”.
India is gradually moving away from multiculturalism toward a type of democracy exemplified by Israel and Sri Lanka, known as “ethnic democracy”, where minorities are treated as second-class citizens. With this transformation, India may well lose one of the key pillars of its soft power, the quality of its multiculturalism — and more alarmingly, perhaps also its adherence to the rule of law.
Christophe Jaffrelot is senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS. He teaches at Princeton, Yale and King's College. This article is part of the series “Religion, Politics & the Public Space” in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts project ( It's published in collaboration with Daily News Egypt. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nation Alliance of Civilizations or of the institutions to which the authors are affiliated.

Clic here to read the story from its source.