Centre Right India » The Secular State
A dialogue with naysayers
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

This series of write-ups on The Secular State organised and curated by Community Editor Dosabandit is perhaps the first social media effort in India to coherently articulate and debate the idea of a secular state, its relevance for India and also to suggest alternatives from the perspective of the ‘raucous’ Right. Free from the clutches of cliched leftist discourse and in comfort of a largely convivial CRI community the output of the series has indeed been satisfying.

As perhaps the only Centrist amidst the participants it is incumbent on me to consider and contemplate upon the questions and critiques that have been put forth against the present state of affairs.  Apart from thought-provoking write-ups that question the very basis of our liberal democratic polity and reigning political philosophies the general commentary against the Secularist set-up follows four broad themes.

The first theme is that of irrelevance. The secular state is irrelevant to the religious and cultural ethos of the sub-continent – its genesis in the Church-State conflict has no parallel in India and therefore such an import was totally unnecessary.

The second issue is that of ineffectiveness. India cannot as a secular state effectively counter radical religious sentiments from minorities and the result of this would be that the majority would always remain in a disadvantaged position.

The third theme is that of diversity. This is a variant of the irrelevance argument –  it seeks to contrast the diversity of faith systems and communities in the sub-continent and wonders if a secular state would be able to manage the challenges arising out of a complex society – contrast a multi-faith, multi-community, multi-ethnic India with both ethnically & religiously homogeneous European states.

The last issue that I was able to gather was that of the secular state’s active hostility to Hindu faith. The last six decades have demonstrated to the average citizen that our secular state would actively encourage anti-majority sentiment. Naturally this behaviour has vindicated the argument and encourages the line of thought that the only way to protect and nurture one’s religion is to discard ‘secularism’.

Are these concerns valid? I believe so. But are they reasons enough to effect an radical shift in nature of our polity? On Twitter, in the comments against posts and in emails I have consistently, perhaps ineffectively, argued: not at all. I have argued so for two reasons. The first is for a lack of alternative paradigm: whatever beginning has been made in imagining an alternative model I find to be so far removed from ground realities and are beyond the realm of realpolitik.

The second reason being that one finds some of the impulsive rejection from fellow commentators as but an abhorrence of the terminology and not of the broad conceptions constituting the fundamentals such as freedom of religion or that of an equal citizenship that is non-disciminatory.

There is a third reason too. Some of the repugnance for the secular state is rooted in slightly straight forward interpretations of history which may not be necessarily wrong but upon further contemplation can be found to have been more nuanced, therefore, requiring a tad bit more consideration.

Hopefully the dialogue would continue in the coming days.