ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Religion, Secularism and State Power

Secular States, Religious Politics: India, Turkey, and the Future of Secularism by Sumantra Bose, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, September 2018; pp xi + 380, price not indicated.


Two modern states that expressed a secular commitment grounded in very different understandings of secularism appear now to be converging with regard to their experience of complications in meeting with the requirements of secularism and those of democracy. One of them, Turkey, began its journey as a modern nation state by registering hostility to religion in a markedly authoritarian manner. This state has eventually morphed towards a blend of religious majoritarianism and populism, while retaining an authoritarian legacy. The other, India, took off with openness to religious diversity and with an understanding of secularism that was not hostile to the public expression of religion within the kind of framework envisaged by Rajeev Bhargava’s (1994) notion of “principled distance.” But, India’s journey as a modern nation state has also veered in the direction of a heady mix of religious majoritarianism and populism. What is the explanation for such a congruent political turn in Turkey and India?

Sumantra Bose’s Secular States, Religious Politics: India, Turkey, and Future of Secularism contains detailed analyses of constitutional politics (and some societal processes) in Turkey and India related to the abridgement of the secular commitment in these two countries. The book is a tour de force for anyone interested in a meticulous account of the different events and processes that have shaped the trajectories of secularism and democracy in modern-day India and Turkey. And, it is the different events and processes under focus that yield resources for what the book’s title classifies as “religious politics.” Details of what goes under the umbrella term “religious politics” can be found consistently in each of the seven chapters of the book, which covers a period from the early 20th century up until 2017.

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Updated On : 23rd Mar, 2020


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