ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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The Constitutional Vision

Secularism in a Pluri-Religious Society

The idea of secularism as expressed in our Constitution and as articulated over the years through the political process is embedded in the concepts of equality and democracy rather than in the Western concept of secularism which denies religion any space in the public sphere. This secularism, admittedly, is a peculiar Indian invention. But it is one necessitated by the historical conditions of Indian society in which a modern democratic state is being introduced into a traditional and religious society by our national leadership and our Constitution makers at the time of independence. It demands an affirmation of religious freedom against religious oppression, of religious tolerance against religious chauvinism. What this calls for is an open-ended but value-committed dialogue between believers of various faiths and followers of different traditions in an "heretical response" to our present challenges, or in other words, in a search for collective alternatives to modernity and secularisation. Neither the "positive secularism" of the Hindu right, nor the Nehruvian version of the liberal left, nor the anti-secularism of the anti-modernist are able to provide an adequate basis for such a quest in the changing socio-religious situation of our times. Rather we need to recapture the inspiration of our freedom struggle as expressed in the vision of our Constitution.

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