ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Towards a Marxist Understanding of Secularism-Some Preliminary Speculations

Secularism Some Preliminary Speculations S Khan IN recent weeks there has been an important debate in The Times of India on the place of secularism in Indian life, the nature of Hinduism, communalism and so on. The main participants in it have been Gautam Adhikari and Girilal Jain, editor of The Times of India. Adhikari's view can be described as that of the modern bourgeois liberal who has a particularly strong commitment to promoting rational/scientific modes of thinking and behaviour. In short, his is what is often taken as the standard secularist viewpoint and one which Marxists for the most part endorse. In fact one of the problems for Marxists is that their view of secularism has rarely been adequately distinguished from that of the 'progressive' bourgeois liberal, Jain's position is harder to define or categorise. It would be unfair and wrong to call him a Hindu nationalist in the generally accepted sense of the term, especially when lie has taken pains to explicitly reject the idea of an RSS type Hindu Kashira, and to dismiss any idea that Hindus in India have been subordinated or subdued by the other religious minorities. In fact the essential thrust of this argument is that, for the last 150 years if not more, Hindus have been more and more asserting themselves. It is inconceivable that they could ever be dominated by minorities especially after partition. The attempts by religious minorities to establish a collective self-identity for themselves is a defensive response to the pressures imposed by both modernisation and growing Hindu ascendancy. At the same time, Hinduism being what it is, the minorities need not in the main fear that this natural and inevitable post-independence ascendancy will result in generalised religiou, intolerance against thern. Thus Hindu communalism, even allowing for peripheral aberrations and inter-religious riots, is really a non-issue. It just cannot be. Minority communalism because it is that of a minority is not really an insuperable problem in itself, though in Punjab where it becomes allied to terrorism, outside help, and struggles for a separate territory it does obviously pose very grave problems for the Indian slate but more in the sense of challenging the state's authority than threatening a Hindu-Sikh holocaust.

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