Was India ever really “secular”?

Anton Wessels, a Reformed Christian professor of “missiology”, wrote a book many years ago, Europe: Was It Ever Really Christian? The title reflects on the fact that a secular ‘post-Christian’ Europe may never have been very Christian at all, at least in Wessels’ telling.

Wessels writes from a Reformed Protestant perspective. This tradition has taken a very dim view historically of ‘popular folk religion’ during the medieval period in much of Northern Europe. Wessels’ catalog of non-Christian beliefs and practices before and during the Reformation emphasize that from the perspective of a confessing Reformed Protestant it may actually be a fact that most of the population never truly internalized in the gospel, even if they made outward show of affiliation with the Christian religion. Christendom was nominal, not substantive.

There are many arguments one can bring to bear to critique Wessels’ views. In particular, some historians of religion assert that in fact, late medieval piety resulted in the spread of genuine deeply held Christianity to the peasantry of much of Europe. The argument then is that this sincere Christianity is actually one reason that the Reformation occurred when it did. Additionally, even granting Wessels’ contention about the medieval period, the competition between Protestants and Catholics after 1500 guaranteed attention to popular beliefs and practices for several centuries before secularization. The suppression of pagan practices among Lithuanian peasants occurred during the period when Catholic clerics were fighting off the expansion of Protestants.

And yet I think we need to give the nod to some element of Wessels’ thesis: that popular Christianity was quite distinct and different from the faith promulgated from on high, and officially claimed as the ideological basis of Western societies. Perhaps the rise of modern secularism is in some ways the proletarianization of European culture?

What does this have to do with India? In the comments below, and in the media, some Indians are bemoaning the death of secular India. But was India ever secular truly? Nehru was an agnostic. His great-grandchildren now make a show of attending Hindu temples and asserting their Brahmin lineage.

I grew up in the United States of Ameria with the children of elite Indian Americans, who left in the 1960s and 1970s. These people were all urbane, and most of them were not particularly religious. But, like my own parents, they were all very self-conscious of their “communal” identity. These were people who grew up in a “secular India”, and moved through good universities. Because of the times, and when they left, many still retained socialist sympathies (as my own parents do). But, these were not liberal cosmopolitans. Most of their children were absorbed into American culture, but they were products of something very alien to liberal individualism.

The India that people are mourning was a weird chimera. Traditional, collectivist, and communal on the broad level. But ruled by a small English-speaking elite with cosmopolitan pretentions, Macaulay’s children. Generations of secularism and socialist rule did not erode the ancient foundations of Indian society, with caste and community reigning paramount.

What we are seeing is the death of the chimera and the revolt of the middle class. True change and secularization are going to occur only with broad-based prosperity and urbanization. Secular socialist India couldn’t bring that, and so nothing changed on the fundamental structural level. Its failure laid down the seed-bed for the emergence of the Hindu Right, which draws deeply at the well of communal sentiment which is stitched throughout the fabric of Indian society.

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97 Replies to “Was India ever really “secular”?”

  1. The question which definition of Secularism are we discussing ? How India specific definition & Identity politics in India needs a clearer definition of secularism.

    Book – {Free Source}
    https://www.academia.edu/20350420/Europe_India_and_the_Limits_of_Secularism

    // True change and secularization are going to occur only with broad-based prosperity and urbanization. Secular socialist India couldn’t bring that, and so nothing changed on the fundamental structural level. //

    Absolutely true but what you miss are the specific historical facts that led to regional Caste/Class communities which are inherent in knowledge production & state craft.

    https://www.academia.edu/37740094/Social_Life_Issues_of_Var%E1%B9%87a-J%C4%81ti_System

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    1. the indian definition is not sustainable. not with the sort of population it had/has.

      Absolutely true but what you miss are the specific historical facts that led to regional Caste/Class communities which are inherent in knowledge production & state craft.

      why the fuck are you addressing a point that i didn’t even make?

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      1. Since the modern Indian state engages the public as caste/class communities i wanted to show how this kind of state’s engagement is basically going back in time than moving forward which would have been to create better opportunities for all Indians.

        The above paper highlights the historical process through which regional Caste/Class communities emerged during the ancient Indian Empires.

        I think you don’t like to connect history to present if it is out of course aka Genetics.

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          1. Point is India needs to get out of imagining modern Indian statehood according to it’s communities rather one has to imagine India with a common statehood with equal rights & opportunities even with existing inequalities, hierarchies, practices & then address the issues of discrimination, inequality etc. instead of masking all of them into a common ‘original sin’ aka Caste without sincerely addressing any of them.

            Actually Indian Secularism has been killed in favor of Western Secularism by Western blind spot intellectualism.

            https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/elections/lok-sabha/india/view-this-country-deserves-better-than-godses-patriotism/articleshow/69464541.cms

            Answer lies in how India since Ancient times did not tried to completely wipeout any community, how it gave shelter to many communities of the world etc. If not forcing Indic religions on such small communities was not ‘secularism’ then what was it ?

            Why i don’t agree with the idea of ‘Fair representation’ because to me ‘representation of fair ideas’ is more important than representation of ‘identities’.

            Broad point i want to make is – Western Idealism’s imposition in India has creating the mirror image of identity politics that is gaining ground in the rest of the world & Hindutva is mirrored Abrahamic Identity forged to fight the ‘Religious Identity Politics’ of world.

            https://www.firstpost.com/india/abrahamic-hindutva-the-religious-fundamentalism-that-is-a-threat-to-indias-tolerant-and-pluralist-civilisational-order-2-3825669.html

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  2. When I was an undergraduate in a previous millennium I took the Intro to Sociology class*. There were a couple of sessions on sociology of religion. which were taught by Father Andrew Greeley†. Greeley asserted that English persecution had turned Ireland into the only Catholic nation in the world. One student asked him about Italy. Greeley replied that Italy is pagan just as it has always been.

    *After which I reached the conclusion that Sociology is intellectual junk food.

    †He is pretty much forgotten, but in his hey day he was described as: “the ‘Catholic’ darling of the secular media.” Whenever the MSM needed to interview a Catholic priest about Church issues, they called Greeley. Not only was he a professor, but he also wrote a bunch of potboiler novels that sold fairly well.

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  3. I’m not sure what you mean by “secularism” exactly. If it was the agnosticism expressed by many of the “Anglicized” early leaders of independent India, then sure, secularism never existed in India in any material sense among the masses. Indians across all religions tend to be deeply religious. In my mind, at its most basic level, secularism in the subcontinent is the antithesis of the Two Nation Theory — the belief that Hindus and Muslims can live together harmoniously, even if Hindus comprise the majority.

    Does history prove this notion that Hindus and Muslims can live together harmoniously? As far as I’m concerned — no. As much as liberal scholars like to whitewash the atrocities committed by Muslim subcontinental rulers against Hindu subjects, I don’t think Hindus and Muslims got along all that well in the aggregate. And modern India and modern Pakistan/Bangladesh is no picnic for Muslims and Hindus, respectively.

    Secularism, therefore, is an aspiration, not a historical reality. Just as the Germans and French made amends, the Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent could, some hope, make amends and live together harmoniously.

    And this aspiration was not merely confined to the Anglicized early leaders of India. It has formed one pole of the tug-and-pull between the Hindu nationalist conservatives and those tolerant of the existence of different communities existing within one sovereign state. The nationalist conservatives have the upper hand right now in India, as they do in increasingly much of the world, but it would be wrong to dismiss the other side altogether.

    What many Indians are mourning is the death of an idea of India, not a reality. The reality is, was, and probably will be, grim. Communal divides have always existed and have only deepened of late. But there was a dream. Was.

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    1. Hoju, we could also say that there is no evidence that the different caste/jaats of india can co-exist without exploiting each other. Or that there is no evidence that a workable multilingual nationalism can emerge, without one ethnic/linguistic group exerting hegemony on others. Is the hindu-muslim problem more intractable than the others, or is just more salient in the national level discourse?
      At least in the south, and it varies between the states, more people would sacrifice their own physical well-being for their language than religion. I don’t see that changing soon. On a state level, hindu-muslim-christian relations are still working. The hindustani style religious polarization and resentment towards more functional societies is poison. Karnataka is imbibing this nonsense, but i don’t see it lasting indefinitely.

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      1. @girmit

        I get what you’re saying, but I guess at the core of it I think the Indian left / secularists need to take a different approach. Currently, I feel like the Indian left’s approach to promoting secularism is to argue that the history of the subcontinent is characterized by communal harmony. And in attempting to do so, they’ve only further riled up the Hindu right. The facts on the ground are complicated, of course, but I don’t think people like Audrey Truschke are helping things out by whitewashing Aurangzeb, for example.

        The better approach may be to simply acknowledge that the past was violent and then try to move past it. It’s not like the American left, for example, tries to recast its treatment of natives and African Americans as being positive. Acknowledgement may lead to reconciliation. Truth and reconciliation.

        I agree that much of this discussion only applies to Northern and Western India. “National” discourse in India, including the national media, sadly seems exclusively concerned with Northern and Western India. And unfortunately, I’ve bought into that Northern/Western centrism in my own comments. I agree that in the South, linguistic identities take precedence over religious identities.

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    2. This is a good comment hojo, and an accurate definition of Indian “secularism”.

      What Indians call “secularism”, championed by Congress in 47 and after, Jinnah and the muslim league called “the hindu raj”.

      It was the faint hope that the hindu majority could rule and lead a country where Hindustani Muslims and their culture could flourish as equals, which often required assymetric protection.
      That “Hindu raj”, or secularism, is dead today.

      Triumphant Pakistani Muslims might say Jinnah is vindicated– the hindu raj inevitably became the hindutva raj — but I think there is nothing happy about this. It was a good thing.

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        1. I don’t see why not. In Canada, for example, there is asymmetric protection for francophones in general and Quebecois in particular.

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  4. To add, my point is that, in addition to all of the ‘enemies’ of the Sanghis (Dalits, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists), a noteworthy but sadly rapidly diminishing number of Hindus also hold hope for an India where members of different religious communities can coexist.

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      1. Shrikanth Krishnamachary (a conservative Indian diasporan commentator) thinks 2100 Hinduism may be very ISKCONized in character. I kind of agree, I think Hinduism will gradually adopt a more unitary, modernized, and streamlined form, which will facilitate proselytizing.

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        1. As a non-Hindu that’s a very alien and unattractive form of Hinduism. Can we please keep the current forms? Thanks

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          1. Even that ISKCONized version of a future Hinduism is a dream. The smart money is a future Hinduism that imitates Islamism. Good luck.

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          1. Don’t be so sure. A guy from the deep south revived Hinduism all over India (and reduced my folks and the Baudhas to small minorities). A guy from Telangana (Vallabacharya) converted Gujarat from a Shaivite to a Vaishnavite state, and converted a large portion of Jains to Vaishnav Banias (which is why Gujarat has many Jain Vaishnav combined castes).
            All the current gurus with pan Indian appeal, bar one (Ramdev) are South indians (Sri Sri, Sadguru etc.)
            The South is the brain trust of Hinduism, and they shall continue to define high Hinduism (which will trickle down to the masses).

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          2. The Northmen certainly have a burgeoning demographic advantage…the South will punch above its weight, but I think we will have the edge over them moving forwards.

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          3. justanotherlurker

            Well if that’s what the South really believes than who am I to shake them off their dreams 😛

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          4. in any case, Saurav’s favorite North-South divide is not real, and is certainly becoming less real.
            BJP breached TRS’s fort in Telangana this time, Karnataka has been a strong hold for a decade plus now, and Kerala is just a matter of time. So that leaves Andhra and TN, important states but not all of the South

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          5. I did see a far lefty Dravida Nadu type on Twitter (Puram) throw a tantrum about Karnataka, how it’s apparently in thrall to “Brahmins” and not a part of South India.

            In my mind that basically gives the game away. This guy doesn’t care about South India, or Tamils, or whatever, he just hates the BJP.

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      2. In some sense, maybe. Muslims of India today will need to convert to Hinduism (if that is even possible — many Hindus don’t believe you can convert into Hinduism) or seek refuge in other countries. It is sad that this is what has become of India. That Godse and British razakar “Veer” Savarkar come to represent her.

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        1. yeah, but the hindus who don’t think you can convert are the LESS hindutva types. it’s like in islam, the LEAST RACIST and traditional muslims are the most religiously radical.

          i think it is unlikely muslims will have to leave. but history is full of unlikely things happening *shrug*

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          1. “yeah, but the hindus who don’t think you can convert are the LESS hindutva types.”

            I think that’s technically correct but de facto wrong. Who do you think has been organizing the ghar whapsis (reconversions)? Hindutvadis, of course. Call it a reconversion and you’re all good, it seems. So yes, conversions may not be Hindutva but reconversions certainly are.

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        2. Dude stop with the alarmist nonsense. Nobody is looking to convert the Muslims.
          The Hindu right is about asserting the primacy of Hinduism in India, similar to the Sri Lankan or Malaysian models. I disagree with this part of their agenda, but what you are suggesting is baloney either out of ignorance or to tar your ideological opponents.

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          1. Its always a toss up if BJP shills are stupid or think everyone else is.

            Converting non-Hindus to Hinduism has been vocally supported by the Hindu-right (including the BJP), and they’ve made numerous statements about threatening to expel Muslims from India.

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          2. Indthings, as a crypto Islamo supremacist (your personal lack of belief, if that is the case, notwithstanding) and an overt Pak nationalist, you have no credibility or leg to stand on. You are not an honest interlocutor, sorry.

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    1. You’re assuming these people all take your side in the Indian culture wars, when in fact some do, some oppose you, and many don’t care.

      In Uttar Pradesh, the erstwhile Dalit-Yadav MGB collapsed and many Dalits are apparently siding with the BJP. Where do they fit into your taxonomy?

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  5. “Secular socialist India couldn’t bring that, and so nothing changed on the fundamental structural level. Its failure laid down the seed-bed for the emergence of the Hindu Right, which draws deeply at the well of communal sentiment which is stitched throughout the fabric of Indian society.”

    Very true, but i was thinking what happens the Hindu right fails (and it will fail somewhat) to bring in the same changes to the fundamental structural level. Will/Can they switch back? What comes next after the fall of the right (worldwide) as well.
    That would be really interesting to speculate.

    Some might desert it, but my guess is perhaps not all of them(ask the baniyas, perhaps the most loyal supporter of Hindu right EVEN after demonetization/GST which hit them hard ) because they would have bought into the ideology enough, never to desert the right.

    Thus i feel the right has more staying power than the India’s older socialist left, because deep down i think neither socialism/marxism were “Indian” thing. “Communalism” and ” degree of Tolerability of the other ” on the other hand are authentic Indian/subcontinental stuff.

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  6. I think that’s technically correct but de facto wrong. Who do you think has been organizing the ghar whapsis (reconversions)? Hindutvadis, of course. Call it a reconversion and you’re all good, it seems. So yes, conversions may not be Hindutva but reconversions certainly are.

    i think we agree? i think i wasn’t clear: if you are a lejit hindu nationalist, you are MORE open to accepting ppl of brown origin who are not hindu converting. the ppl who are skeptical are ‘moderate traditionalists.’

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  7. “The South is the brain trust of Hinduism, and they shall continue to define high Hinduism (which will trickle down to the masses).”

    It may not trickle down fast enough to protect Hinduism from the cult of Hindutva that’s taken hold of the North and West.

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  8. This was shared in my Whatsapp extended family group (Hindu BJP supporters).

    Thought I would re-share verbatim just to give those who don’t have direct connections to India, a flavor of how regular Indian Hindu BJP supporters in India who don’t read Brown Pundits see the political landscape, memes like these are a big factor in modern election propaganda efforts:

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    This is MAHABHARAT and BHARAT

    Duryodhan & Rahul Gandhi
    Both without talent. But yet wanted to be rulers on the principle of birth-right.

    Bhishma & Advani
    Never crowned. Got respect & yet became helpless at the end of their lives.

    Arjun & Narendra Modi
    Both talented. Reached the highest position due to being on the side of dharma. But realise how difficult it is to follow and practice.

    Karna & Manmohan Singh
    Both intelligent. But never reached anywhere being on the side of adharma.

    Shakuni & Kejriwal
    Both never fought a war, just played dirty tricks.

    Dhritrashtra & Sonia
    Both were blind for love of their sons.

    Lord Krishna and APJ Abdul Kalam
    We celebrate both of them but do not follow what they taught and preached.

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    1. To be honest, this is a lot better than American Lefties comparing our politics to…Harry Potter. Mahabharata is at least high art.

      “Karna & Manmohan Singh
      Both intelligent. But never reached anywhere being on the side of adharma.”

      They’re not wrong…

      “Shakuni & Kejriwal
      Both never fought a war, just played dirty tricks.”

      Savage.

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      1. … and Karna too.

        In a way he did his dharma, by not switching (even when he was offered many times) and sticking to his friend’s side even when he knew he would lose.

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      2. I dunno. I’ve not read any retelling of the Mahabharata that portrays Duryodhana as a tragic hero, or redeemable in any form. Mostly he’s a fairly one-dimensional villain.

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  9. India’s secularism was one of its most impressive features. Despite the fact that religion was the basis for Partition, Pandit Nehru and the Congress Party upheld the idea that India belonged to all its citizens and that Indian Muslims were just as much a part of the nation as anyone else. When Pakistan declared itself an “Islamic Republic”, India could easily have declared itself a Hindu Rashtra. It did not and perhaps that is why it had high moral standing in the rest of the world.

    I don’t think that Rahul and Priyanka are necessarily visiting temples and emphasizing their Brahmin identity because of their personal beliefs but rather because they have realized that “soft Hindutva” is the only way Congress can compete with BJP. Not that this works. If voters are inclined towards Hindutva, why would they turn away from the real thing to an imitation?

    This election has shown that the Hindu identity is more important to a lot of people than bread and butter economic concerns for example. It is unfortunate that “othering” and hate have been so successful. It doesn’t bode well for minorities that people are OK with lynchings etc. One can only hope that the constitutional safeguards are enough to prevent the ruling party from doing too much damage.

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    1. Uh, did you even read Razib’s post? His entire point is that Indian secularism never had much purchase among the Indian population at large.

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      1. Secularism may not have had much “purchase” but the Indian population at large was not indifferent to people being lynched. The hateful rhetoric we are hearing about Muslims was not common earlier. Neither could a candidate for office call the assassin of the father of the nation a “deshbhakt” and win the election. Something has really changed in the past five years.

        Indians may not have been secular in the Western sense but they were largely tolerant. The greatest period of communal polarization was argubly during Partition. Yet the leadership at the time was able to control these divisive forces in the nation’s interests.

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        1. I think the Pakistani amnesia about partition violence and ethnic cleansing has to be down to the fact that the violence and forced exodus from there was near total. Therefore, there are really no tangible after effects, especially lingering Hindu-Muslim animosity at the street level.

          Hundreds of thousands of people died in the partition violence, there was no control to speak of. Although Gandhi’s actions were heroic.

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          1. Pandit Nehru did not allow Partition to become an excuse for treating Indian Muslims as anything less than equal citizens. If that was possible at that time what is the excuse for lynchings etc now? Have Indians suddenly become more vile than they were 70 years ago? No, it is the quality of the leadership that has brought out the worst in people.

            And there is no “Pakistani amnesia” about Partition. Muslims were ethnically cleansed from East Punjab as well.

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          2. Kabir, you talk way too much about the lynching stuff, which while horrible and sensational, still only comprises a few dozen-100s events in a developing nation over a billion strong. Denominators matter.

            Certainly, denominators don’t matter to the West, cow lynchings are the perfect crime, indicative of exotic Hindu savagery…I’ve often said that they occupy the same role in the 21st century Western imagination that Sati did for the 18th century.

            But no, they’re not on most people’s radar, just because they are low-frequency events occurring in a nation that is somewhat lawless at baseline. That’s really it. Nobody is deliberately indifferent to it, they just don’t register it because it’s too rare, and there’s so much other bad stuff.

            If it makes you feel better, dowry deaths (also a horrible thing) are also not on too many people’s radars.

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          3. Lynchings are a symptom of the larger communal hatred. They are primarily directed at minorities. Dowry deaths aren’t specifically against minorities. That’s the difference.

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    2. Few people are OK with lynchings, Kabir. (I would like the number to be 0 but that’s the world we are living in.)

      Did you listen to the election podcast? Kushal gave a few examples of lynchings in India in a typical year. One person was lynched for stealing a slipper (not being a Muslim.) And other such sordid cases. India is a poor country with a completely dysfunctional law and order system. Picking out just the cases of Muslim lynchings will give you a misleading impression of what’s going on in India. A serious study will reveal that Muslims were in no better (or worse) shape under Congress governments.

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      1. “Muslims were in no better shape under Congress governments”– Congress has never propogated an idea of India in which the country belongs only to the religious majority. Neither does Congress go around supporting “ghar wapsi” or obsessing about “love jihad”. Those are only things that interest the Hindu Right. I doubt a Congress candidate would ever call the man who murdered the father of the nation a “deshbhakt”.

        Congress has its own problems but they at least claim to stand for an India in which minorities can have an equal stake.

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        1. Why is ghar-wapsi an indication of intolerance ? If Muslims and Christians can evangelize why cant Hindus reconvert ?

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          1. Ghar-Waspi is based on the insulting idea that all non-Hindus in South-Asia were once Hindus, but either through foreign compulsion or personal deficiency, they lost their faith (and thus “real” Indian identity).

            Many cases of Ghar-Waspi in India involve coercion, especially when targeted at Muslims and Christians.

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          2. INDTHINGS:

            I personally couldn’t care less about ghar-wapsi, but I have to ask you: what percentage of cases do you think are coercive in nature?

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          3. INDTHINGS seems to respond with particular revulsion to said “insulting idea,” but he doesn’t seem to care about Hindus or folk religion practitioners being told they actually worship demons and need Jesus to save them.

            (Obviously I oppose coerced conversion…I have heard of a few coerced conversions in Uttar Pradesh, but from following the matter, it seems is that most events are voluntary, and frequently transactional. I honestly find the whole affair distasteful, but the proselytizing faiths opened the door, and now we have to walk through it. Conversion initiatives by their nature bring faiths into conflict, and that conflict is not going to look like a friendly university debate club. It involves antagonism, denigration, bribery, and unfortunately sometimes force.)

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          4. Numinous,

            Tough to say. For tribals most are probably legit (and some Christian groups probably overlap here). For other Christian groups and Muslims, most are probably coercive.

            HM,

            I didn’t realize you had the ability to read minds and tell other people what they really believe. But sure, I think Ghar-Waspi is particularly pernicious as it has real world implications (Hindus using their “true Indianess” to brutalize non-Hindus). Christians and Muslims may think very lowly of Hindu/pagan beliefs, but most of the time don’t use those beliefs to justify atrocity.

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          5. “Ghar wapsi” implies that Muslims and Christians were originally Hindu and can only become first-class citizens of India by “reconverting”. This is in line with Savarkar’s ideas about India belonging to the “Hindu race” and others having to give up their culture in order to stay in the country.

            I have no issue with voluntary conversions but “ghar wapsi” targets the most vulnerable populations and often forces them to convert.

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          6. Evangelization is based on the insulting idea that your religion is better than someone else’s. So what is your point ?

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          7. “I have no issue with voluntary conversions but “ghar wapsi” targets the most vulnerable populations and often forces them to convert.”

            As opposed to kidnapping people’s underage daughters and forcing them to convert ? Can you point to any incidents where people were forcibly ghar-wapsied ?

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          8. There is nothing wrong with preaching your faith. If others voluntarily convert that is their business.

            There is no equivalence between the preaching of minority groups and members of right-wing majoritarian groups forcing minorities to “reconvert”.

            No one is defending forced conversion in Pakistan. “Ghar Wapsi” is just as bad. Minorities should not be targeted in either country.

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          9. So …. no basis for ghar-wapsi ever having been forced.

            I can provide tonnes of documented examples of Muslims “involuntarily” converting kaffirs – especially their daughters. Have you ever written a single post decrying that – as opposed to your “concern” for minorities in India ?

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          10. This is hilarious. Ghar wapasi is as big a joke as love Jihad. There is no systematic large scale muslim to hindu conversion going on. And yes even in UP. The numbers are so less that even the Hindu Right does no take i Ghar wapasi seriously. That we are discussing this might as well discuss love jihad too.

            What happens in most cases is there is some Hindu to muslim or Hindu to christian conversion happening somewhere in mosque or church and group of Hindu right group guys show up and beat folks or get a FIR to STOP the conversion. That’s the degree to which the whole bru-haha is.

            Of conversion of tribals –>Hinduism or to Christianity , everyone thinks tribals are fair game, so yeah it happens (even there i think the numbers are trumped up) , but thats a total different discussion

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          11. “I agree its not a big issue, as Hinduism remains hugely unpopular among non-tribal peoples, and attracts very few converts, coercion or no.”

            True. Also it doesnt murder people for leaving it. The threat of murder does increase the popular appeal of some religions.

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          12. Arjun,

            I have already said that minorities should not be forcibly converted in either India or Pakistan. I can’t be clearer than that.

            In any case, secular India should hold itself to higher standards than the “Islamic Republic” of Pakistan.

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          13. @INDTHINGS

            Muslims call converts ‘reverts’ on the idea that everyone is born Muslim, and then corrupted by other faiths.

            How is that less insulting than Ghar-Wapisi ?

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          14. “In any case, secular India should hold itself to higher standards than the “Islamic Republic” of Pakistan.”

            Murdering apostates is not a “Pakistani” practice. It s a Muslim practice – sanctified by its scriptures and prophet and according to polls overwhelmingly supported by Muslims across the world in this day and age.

            Are you criticising Islam and its prophet by any chance ?

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        2. “I didn’t realize you had the ability to read minds and tell other people what they really believe.”

          Well in the time I’ve known you, I don’t remember you saying anything nice about Hinduism (correct me if I’m wrong). So call it an educated guess.

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      2. Kabir has a point, there shouldn’t be any lynching at all. Full stop. It is a symptom of something really wrong with society.

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  10. In 2002, an eleven judge bench passed a landmark judgement that restored parity between Minority and Hindu educational institutions. One of the first moves of the Sonia Gandhi led UPA government elected in 2004, was to nullify this judgement through a constitutional amendment (the 93rd) which restored the privileges of the Minority institutions.

    This amendment enabled the state to place obligations on private unaided Hindu institutions which the Minority institutions would be exempt from. The Right to Education bill passed by the UPA in 2009 which required non-Minority run schools to provide 25% of their seats for free. Due to the 93rd agreement, the state can impose many such obligations and interferences on private, unaided Hindu schools but not on even state-funded Minority schools.

    The Narendra Modi govt in 5 years hasn’t touched or even spoken about reversing this amendment. Now, who is ‘Secular’ here and who is ‘Hindu-Nationalist’?

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    1. Per wiki there were about 16 Muslims killed in lynchings in 2017, 5 in 2018 and 2 so far in 2019. For a country of over a billion, those are really small numbers.

      That being said what has changed is plenty of right-wing Hindu groups have become more active in harassing and carrying out low level violence against Muslims without serious sanction. The Asifa Bano case last year where an eight year old girl was allegedly gang-raped and murdered by eight Hindu men saw Hindutvas marching out and protesting their arrest (including two BJP state ministers), intimidating the family and preventing the girl from being buried in her village. That would have been unthinkable ten years ago.

      4+
  11. It isn’t that India was never secular. Let’s face it, ‘secular’ isnt a binary all-or-nothing quality. You can be more or less secular.
    One could say India was ‘more’ secular during Nehru’s time. A great leader can bring out the best in his followers.
    Over time, his place was filled by more cynical exploiters of people’s sentiments and people noticed. The 80s were a turning point. I recall being shocked by the cynicism displayed by Rajiv Gandhi during the Shah Bano affair. And later there was the cooked up hysteria by the most neanderthal elements among the Muslim community over Satanic Verses – which had been banned by the Indian government well before the Ayatollah heard about it in his book club. A policeman was actually LYNCHED in Bombay by the mob protesting a banned book published in a distant country.
    The pendulum is now swinging in a country where the public has grown bitter – Pakistan-backed terrorism within India hasn’t helped. So if they pick up the hammer and try to put some fear of God among those who had grown emboldened by the erstwhile ‘secularism’ who would you blame ?

    This too will pass.

    5+
    1. “The 80s were a turning point”

      I think all this Shah Bano and Satanic verses turning the tide in India’s secularism is bit exaggerated. Outside of middle class homes, hardly many knew or cared about this issues to suddenly start seeing Congress as a muslim party.

      To me frankly this serves as just a lazy explanation by many liberal journalist as to explain Congress losing the Hindu vote. And we middle calss folks have fallen for this line thinking that Shah Bano case was some sort of a big deal for that supposedly middle of the road hindu who was voting Congress till then and then turned towards the BJP.

      The reasons for N-Indian Hindus turning to BJP, and subsequent Congress loss of power , has more to do with Mandal-Kamandal politics of the 90s rather than events in the 80s

      0
      1. You need to stop with the North/South obsession. West Bengal just proved it is part of the exact same trend by bloodying Mamtadi’s nose.

        2+
          1. LOL. Yeah, sometimes i overdo it. But what’s life without a bit of fun

            For heaven’s sake spell your name as Saurabh. And please don’t pronounce “vegetable” as “bhegetable”. It is so annoying.

            You wanted fun, right 🙂

            0
      2. I don’t have any figures to share with you, just an anecdotal example. My dad flirted with the RSS during his youth, but then became a Congress voter for a time. He voted for Rajiv’s party in ’84. Every election since then he’s been a reliable BJP voter.

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      3. “I think all this Shah Bano and Satanic verses turning the tide in India’s secularism is bit exaggerated.”

        I agree. Shah Bano case was an obscure event. Ram Mandir movement was game changer. Everything changed after that. India was just not the same place after it.

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  12. Kabir says : “India’s secularism was one of its most impressive features. Despite the fact that religion was the basis for Partition, Pandit Nehru and the Congress Party upheld the idea that India belonged to all its citizens and that Indian Muslims were just as much a part of the nation as anyone else. When Pakistan declared itself an “Islamic Republic”, India could easily have declared itself a Hindu Rashtra. It did not and perhaps that is why it had high moral standing in the rest of the world.”

    Ironically, the proponents of the “Two Nation Theory” did not think that the Congress Party prior to the partition was secular enough 🙁

    6+
    1. There is also a growing realization in India that high moral standing in the world and a dollar will buy you a dollar meal at McDonald.

      6+
    2. Pre-1947, the Congress Party failed to compromise with the Muslim League, resulting in the Partition. Post 1947, Nehruvian Secularism was a very impressive achievement.

      The “Two Nation Theory” was a rhetorical ploy that caused immense destruction. It is ironic that Hindutvadis and Islamists agree that it should be taken as fact. That said, Pakistan exists now and I’m not advocating for it to be subsumed into “Akhand Bharat” or anything like that. Mutual respect as sovereign states is the way forward.

      Congress is by no means a perfect party but if I have to choose between the idea of secularism and the Hindu Right, the choice is a no-brainer.

      0
  13. There is a misunderstanding about what is secularism. It simply means government decisions and administrative process are carried out on rationa, pragmatic l and non-religious grounds. The laws also made on rational and non-religious grounds.

    With sharia governing Muslims, Indian society and legal system has never been secular.

    3+
  14. I read somewhere that when the President of Mexico, a selfdeclared secular country went to recieve Pope at the airport, he had to take one day holiday. Now, that’s secularism.

    I like French laicité.

    1+
  15. What Jawaharlal Nehru did was to import British socialism and ‘secularism ‘ was one of them. The British socialism is not able to take religious fundamentalism by the horns and easily compromises with that, esp Islamic variety. True to its model, Nehruvian Secularism also genefluxted first to Islamic fundamentalism and as a consequence led to Hindu fundamentalism.

    French secularism is a tough nut to crack.

    1+
  16. @Kabir

    “Pandit Nehru did not allow Partition to become an excuse for treating Indian Muslims as anything less than equal citizens. If that was possible at that time what is the excuse for lynchings etc now? Have Indians suddenly become more vile than they were 70 years ago? No, it is the quality of the leadership that has brought out the worst in people.”

    yatha raja tatha praja

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  17. Folks on twitter (of a certain political persuasion) have already designated Karnataka as a BIMARU or a N-Indian cow belt state for voting the BJP. LOL

    2+
  18. Who are you to point finger at glorious 1000000000000000000 year old Tamizh culture , you BIMARU piss drinker North Indian

    0
  19. Thought provoking article. I believe Nehruvian secularism was always just skin-deep. Hindus have never genuinely welcomed Muslims among themselves. In the name of religious tolerance, at best they just tolerated them. But I will put more of the blame on the “other” side than on Hindus.

    The problem is really the exclusionary nature of Abrahamic religions. They are defined by sharp contours, and they don’t really gel well with the local traditions. This is especially true of Islam. A Hindu can visit Muslim dargahs without much fuss, but it is impossible for a Muslim to visit Hindu temples due the dogmatic nature of his faith.

    I remember reading an interview of Abdul Qadir Khan (Pakistan’s famous nuclear-bomb maker). The interviewer asked him why did he hate Hindus so much. AQ Khan answered bluntly – because we are different people. They worship cows, we eat cows.

    Khan may have put it crudely and simplistically, but he was essentially speaking the truth. Hindus and Muslims are really different people.

    I remember another interview. It was with Khushwant Singh, the formidable liberal icon. He was asked why did the Punjabis fell upon each other with such bloodthirsty ferocity during the Partition. He answer was same – because hinudus(+sikhs) and muslims were really different people.

    Having said that, Hindus do display a level of large heartedness which is found lacking in Muslims, especially in Muslim majority countries. For e.g. in Pakistan they will hound Ahmadis even for writing kalama over their mosques, or for eulogizing Muhammad. I can’t imagine such petty hearted display coming from Hindus.

    I guess Hindus can be “secular” (meaning – accepting of religious pluralism), as long as the process is Hindu driven, and generally cloaked in a hinduised umbrella.

    Even the prayers of Hindu nationalist group RSS makes it clear that they think of Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains as their own. (They explicitly include them in prayers). To a certain extent, even the Christians have been integrated in the local milieu in India. So ultimately it is for the muslims to do some soul searching and figure out why they remain an alien faith in India after a 1000 year presence.

    4+
    1. “Having said that, Hindus do display a level of large heartedness which is found lacking in Muslims, especially in Muslim majority countries”

      LOL. Do you know Muslims have the exact same stereotype about the hindus (of muslims being large hearted and hindus not) 😛

      0
      1. Do you know Muslims have the exact same stereotype about the hindus (of muslims being large hearted and hindus not)

        May be they do. I guess it is for others to judge now.

        0
    2. This post is on the money. I’ve always viewed Islam as a totalizing and oppositional identity that essentially overrides Indianness. Or at least, that’s what the Muslims themselves seem to want.

      “So ultimately it is for the muslims to do some soul searching and figure out why they remain an alien faith in India after a 1000 year presence.”

      Islam in India is a WIP, there’s still time for me to be proven wrong and for it to start going down a different path.

      2+
      1. I don’t think India really matters within the broader Muslim imagination. It is a global religion in a way that Hinduism isn’t, so why would it be Indian.

        The issue is that it otherizes heathens or disbilevers, in a way that Hindu religious texts simply do not and can not due to core differences in Philosophy.

        I think Hinduism has the potential to be a global religion, due to a more sensible concept of God in the more popular darshanas compared with “invisible bearded man in the sky” faiths, but would require considerable reform and ‘de-Indianizing’ of the faith.

        1+
  20. @Sumit

    “Muslims call converts ‘reverts’ on the idea that everyone is born Muslim, and then corrupted by other faiths.”

    It’s deeply insulting, but criticizing Islam is Islamophobic these days so be careful.

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