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

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Shift from Syncretism to Communalism

Attempting to analyse how and why Odisha has gradually become hostage to the politics of Hindutva, this paper traces the evolution of the state's syncretic tradition, which, despite occasional outbursts of communal antagonism, ensured peaceful coexistence. It points out that Hindutva's systematic expansion, which also made use of Christianity's contentious legacy in the state, has communalised the everyday syncretic space. In recent years, the state's social and caste hierarchy, conservative elites, middle class, civil society, media, and neo-liberal political class have overtly and covertly reinforced Hindu majoritarian politics.

Who Does the Media Serve in Odisha?

A look at the historical trajectory of the media in Odisha shows that it had little to do with business interests till the 1980s. Political interests and state power, especially state-sponsored advertising, were its main drivers. The low-key relationship between the media and business changed dramatically in the 1990s. Corporate and business interests now dominate Odisha's media, both through direct ownership and through advertisements. The mainstream media in the state primarily reflects the interests of certain sections of society, and a model of development that favours corporate dominance and accumulation through dispossession. An alternative media is gradually emerging in the vernacular and on the web, but they face significant challenges.

Mining and Industrialisation

People's movements in the various tribal districts of Odisha have been opposing plans for mineral extraction and industries that will deprive them of their land and livelihoods. However, the political and state machinery seems to have enthusiastically climbed aboard the development bandwagon, especially in the mining sector, and is little inclined to heed the voices of the poor, marginalised people. Money and greed being powerful motivators, the rapidity with which Odisha has been ceding rights to exploit its mineral wealth is alarming.

Confronting Extractive Capital

Mines and other large industrial projects in Odisha have meant the large-scale displacement of people, and destruction of the environment. These have led to widespread grass-roots resistance. This paper takes a look at the major movements against dislocation and the state-corporate nexus that seeks to repress or counter them. It analyses who actually benefits from further depriving the poor, and the crony capitalism and capture of the state apparatus by the extractive sector. It also points out that an increasing convergence of the ecological and social justice trajectories is seen in the people's resistance movements.

Flawed Cartography?

The Urjit Patel Committee has come out in favour of the Reserve Bank of India moving towards a flexible infl ation targeting system. This approach to monetary policy is a product of the much-criticised "new consensus macroeconomics", a school of thought that is credited with causing the recent global fi nancial crisis. The objectives for monetary policy that the committee suggests are not only theoretically unwarranted, but also unjustifi ed for the current state of evolution of India's financial system.

And a Little Child Shall Lead You...

An elementary model of the Urjit Patel report is formulated here. Along with the positive repo rate-infl ation rate target connection, open economy controls as well as institutional data are potentially adjusting variables

Off-target on Monetary Policy

Disregarding international experience of recent years, the Urjit Patel Committee recommends that the Reserve Bank of India pursue a single objective of infl ation targeting. It focuses on the interest rate to control infl ation (by influencing inflation expectations), though experience has shown that in India this mechanism has a weak impact on inflation and a stronger one on output. It is a disappointing report drawing on a textbook reading of the New Keynesian model.

Reassessing Secularism and Secularisation in South Asia

Secularisation, once a key concept in debates about modernisation and modernity, has received very little academic attention over the last half century. In fact, it is often seen as a subset of or engulfed within secularism, which has been central to academic and political debates about democracy, nationalism and contemporary politics. In this special issue, we focus on both in their mutual interaction. It provides a mix of theoretically informed pieces with detailed, contextualised research adding granularity to the discussions by asking: Can secularisation happen without secularism? Or vice versa? What kinds of secularisation have specific versions of secularism promoted? Have there been reversals in secularisation, or has it been a largely linear process in south Asia?

Defining Self and Other

Bangladesh's experience with secularism has been chequered. Beginning with a strong constitutional mandate and political rhetoric, the word "secularism" has been changed, removed and restored, while Islam remains the state religion. Aspirations to the principles of secularism - tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and equal treatment of all religions by the State - have been battled at the level of constitutional amendments and political affiliations. These aspirations also undergird a certain epistemic ground, framed by hermeneutic approaches, which produces particular ways of understanding the self as Muslim and its non-Muslim others. This article examines that epistemic ground, tracing the changes in constructions of the self and the other brought about by the manner in which the Islamic Foundation has approached the Quran, methods for reading it, and the manner in which it has advocated attachment to the Islamic tradition. The article highlights how an increasingly muted understanding of power has led to an ever expansive gap between Muslims and the non-Muslim others they share the nation state of Bangladesh with.

Desecularisation as an Instituted Process

Religious norms have significantly shaped the evolution of political and legal institutions across many Muslim societies. The public visibility of Islam has been analysed through multiple and overlapping lines of scholarly inquiry, which draw attention to the poverty of the "secularisation theory" - the thesis that modernisation leads to a decline of religion in individual minds and social institutions. The case of Pakistan, analysed in this article, is particularly suggestive for highlighting one historical modality of the relationship between religion and politics. Through focusing on concrete instances of exclusion of religious minorities across time, this article proposes the conceptual usefulness of desecularisation as a historically contingent, instituted process for analysing how distinct notions of politics, citizenship and national identity have become embedded in Pakistan. It argues that desecularisation has led to the slow exit of religious minorities from organised political life, an increase in the cultural power of religious parties in dictating the religious content of state policies, and the entrenchment of both politics of expediency and politics of fear in the way state authorities respond to physical and symbolic violence against religious minorities.

Secularising the 'Secular'

The Taj Mahal can also be seen as a religious place of worship, as the local Muslim community is allowed to offer prayers at the mosque situated inside the Taj complex. The monument is also privy to two kinds of publics - a congregation that offers prayers at the mosque, paying no attention to the central building, and a "public", which stays at the central building and seems to follow the given official meanings of the Taj as a world heritage site. Is it possible to look at the Taj merely as a secular historical monument? If yes, how can we respond to the religious meanings embedded in the very architectural composition of the buildings? Are Muslims, as a religious minority, entitled to use spaces such as the mosque in the Taj Mahal to offer congregational prayers? This article explores these questions to understand the practice and politics of "secularism" in postcolonial India.

Reimagining Secularism

It is widely recognised that political secularism, virtually everywhere in the world, is in crisis. It is also acknowledged that to overcome this crisis, secularism needs to be reimagined and reconceptualised. This article takes the first few steps towards doing so. It argues, first, that we need to move away from the standard church-state models of secularism and begin to focus instead on secularism as a response to deep religious diversity. Second, it claims that diversity must be understood as enmeshed in power relations, and therefore the hidden potential of religion-related domination must be explicitly acknowledged. Third, these two moves enable us to view secularism as a response to two forms of institutionalised religious domination, inter- and intra-religious. This way of conceiving secularism rebukes the charge that secularism is intrinsically anti-religious. Secularism is not against religion; it opposes institutionalised religious domination. Finally, the article argues that this conception entails that a secular state shows critical respect to all religious and philosophical world views, possible only when it adopts a policy of principled distance towards all of them.

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