Jaideep A Prabhu
Vaad-Prativaad: Secularism is Important to a Modern India
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

வாசக  நண்பர்களே , देवियों और सज्जनों, mesdames et messieurs, signore e signori,

It gives CRI great pleasure to announce the launch of its debate series, Vaad-Prativaad. There are many important issues before India today that need discussion and debate, issues that can affect the trajectory of a state or redefine a nation from its core. Sadly, we do not see public fora of the country locked in a raucous babble of intelligent points and counterpoints. CRI wishes to create a space for such debate, if only virtually to begin with, so that we as Indians may listen, learn, and participate in the discussion of questions important to our lives.

The structure of Vaad-Prativaad is as follows: the core CRI team will approach and confirm two people from outside the CRI fold to debate a given issue, one for and one against a motion decided previously by the team. Both will be invited to submit an opening piece supporting their argument, and both shall be published simultaneously. Following this, once our readers have had time to digest the arguments of both sides, both participants shall submit another piece, critiquing his/her opponent’s opening statement. After a short delay again, they will be given a chance to respond to the critiques made against them. At this point, the moderator will summarise the debate, drawing on the salient points of both arguments, and the floor would be thrown open to the House. While participants may or may not choose to field questions, it is an opportunity for the readership to discuss the debate amongst themselves. CRI is not interested in the outcome of a debate but only that it is conducted professionally and that we all learn something.

The motion for Vaad-Prativaad Autumn 2012 is, Secularism is Important to Modern India. This topic stokes passions even today, despite the addition of the word “secular” to the preamble of the Indian constitution. There are many reasons for this, as our participants will no doubt enlighten us. So without further ado, let us turn to our speakers.

[Please vote your opinion BEFORE the debate here. A similar poll will be conducted after the debate. This will allow us to measure how much the speakers were able to sway the readers and what sort of pre-debate bias there was. This is only for CRI’s statistical curiosity and has no bearing on anything else.]

SPEAKER FOR: Speaking for the motion is Harsh Gupta, the force behind the twitter handle @hguptapolicy. Harsh considers himself a classical liberal, and in the time I have known him, has come across as an erudite and polite individual, not afraid to follow answers wherever they may lead him. He retains an open mind, and does not tolerate weak arguments with pleasure, a fact that has certainly endeared him to me!


Thanks to Jaideep Prabhu and CRI for hosting this debate; thanks to Sandeep Balakrishna for engaging me.

I will argue that:

(1)  India needs to separate religion and state and treat its citizens as individuals and not as members of groups. Advocating majoritarian policies is wrong (say, restrictions on voluntary conversions and cow slaughter) and needs to be separated from protesting minority appeasement (say, in policy regarding education/quotas, religious trusts, civil code, Article 370 etc.)

(2)  The political philosophy of Hindutva is morally wrong, detrimental to the Indian national interest, detrimental to Hinduism, and politically counter-productive. The Indian Right needs to adopt and not attack secularism/liberalism. On the political platform, equality of individuals before the law should be fought for. (Using the social platform against, say, conversions is perfectly legitimate and we should put our own financial and intellectual resources behind this – legitimate communalism, properly understood – rather than trying to use either the state, or worse violent groups).

Now, I must attempt to describe what I mean and do not mean by “secularism”, “liberalism”, and “Hindutva”. I am aware that all these three terms have many interpretations, and also that any interpretation will inevitably pigeonhole some proponents or opponents of these ideas. But that is unfortunately inevitable – hopefully, in due course of the debate, more clarity will emerge. But it is crucially important to note that I am discussing these terms as instances of political philosophy, not as examples of personal worldviews. Therefore, by secular and liberal I mean those who want the omissions and commissions of the government to be strictly bound by these ideological constraints. Similarly, when I say I am against Hindutva, I mean that I do not want any majoritarian government policies. This does not take away my rights to indulge in community-specific charity or criticism, so long as I am not being coercive. As Thomas Paine noted, “Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness…[society] encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions…”

Starting with secularism, what I have in mind here is the American First Amendment interpretation – there, the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses mandate the separation of state and religion (the other part of this amendment – free speech – is important and relevant too, as we shall see). Therefore, a genuinely secular polity should not indulge in any positive or negative discrimination based on any citizen’s religious faith, or lack thereof. The state should not even know or ask the faiths of their citizens – it is not the state’s business, and this just ends up congealing identities. Examples of non-secular policies in India would be religion-based quotas, religion-based tax benefits, religion-based educational autonomy, religion-based diet restrictions and of course more ambiguously religion-based law enforcement. While our state is secular insofar as it has not established itself in service of any religion and people are largely free to follow their religions, nonetheless it does not treat Indians of all religions equally. More worrying is the trend of moral surrender by the Indian state when it comes to dealing directly with individuals, especially with those who happen to be from the minority communities. We have different laws for different communities in education, civil codes, taxes, religious trusts etc (read my earlier article against the government controlling Hindu temples) – these aspects simply cannot be considered secular according to my interpretation (Saying that the Indian judiciary have accepted many of these laws, and that the Indian constitution is now explicitly secular is neither here nor there – the Indian constitution is also “socialist”, but there are many interpretations of socialism).

Positive discrimination on the basis of race or caste is still illiberal (and more divisive than affirmative action on more economic criteria) but somewhat understandable, because one simply cannot change those attributes, yet one can change his or her religion. In any case, some policies based on “positive” discrimination may actually hurt more than help – whether funding madrassas and lightly regulating them is positive for the Indian Muslim community or not is an open question. This shows that Indian secularism is not just about minority appeasement (although it is that too), but also a benign condescension at best and deliberate social suppression for maintaining vote-banks at worst.

There are other forms of “secularism” out there too – French, Turkish, British, even Chinese. For the French, individual rights are important but their national culture and language are important too (burkhas, turbans, prominent crosses etc may not be welcome in public institutions). The Turks take it one step ahead – in their attempt to basically sideline Islam, the Kemalists aggressively looked down upon all religious dresses, changed their script, and a lot more (in the last decade, they have faced an aggressive and what seems to be a durable backlash). The British still love their monarchy and national church, but of course do not persecute any religion. Indeed, in their efforts to subsidize multi-culturalism and prevent “hate speech”, they have unfortunately become close to a benign totalitarian state with a rotting underclass. The Chinese rulers will persecute any religion or “cult” if they stand against national harmony or integrity as the Communists see it. Yet, these forms of quasi-secularism are clearly preferable to, say, present-day Islamist theocracies. So, yes, we must distinguish. India is thankfully very much secular compared to a Pakistan or even Bangladesh but our problems – including many that agitate Hindu nationalists – are not because we are too secular, but because we are not secular enough.

Now, this does not mean it is not always difficult to answer questions about the exact meaning of secularism. For example, the United States allows tax benefits to religious places and trusts – while unlike in India, there is no majority/minority discrimination there – nonetheless, it ends up favoring those who have certain theological beliefs over those who say they have none. This raises a larger point – what counts as religious beliefs – are socialism, bioethics, environmentalism etc “religions”? Is secularism itself a religion? Attempting to answer all this inevitably takes us to the debate about the state’s role in man’s life, showing that secularism is but a sub-set of liberalism. But this shows that secularism should also include opposing those policies that could be ostensibly pushed for reasons not related to religion, but nonetheless have a disparate impact on one group and there are plausible religious motives for such policies. I have in mind here some proponents of cow slaughter bans who say, for example, pet dog cannot be killed in parts of the West. It is a fair point that shows the inconsistency on animal rights. But sticking to the conventional definitions of religion for now, this is more a criticism of the law being seemingly arbitrary or illiberal, and not non-secular per se.

By liberalism, I mean classical liberalism not modern-day “left-liberalism”, which is a mix of aggressively redistributionist policies and minority victimhood-mongering politics. In classical liberalism on the other hand, the individual and his inherent rights (more specifically, his negative liberties of life, liberty, property – according to Isaiah Berlin) are valued more than his group identity – whether the grouping is by religion, language, caste, gender, class, sexual orientation etc. Classical liberals are broadly against speech restrictions, trade restraints, over-centralization and arbitrary governance. They stand for the rule of law, property rights, federalism and efficient government spending on welfare to a limited extent. Relevant for our debate is that genuine liberals are against arbitrary decisions or the “rule of man”. For example, the state implementing decibel limit laws in the case of some religious places/festivals but not in case of others, using the Indian constitution’s illiberal rights to constrain speech and assembly to constrain the liberty of some writers while patronizing others (this happens across the political spectrum) and not allowing political workers to flag the Indian national flag in Srinagar. This is clearly not compatible with liberalism or rule of law, but we instead have the curious case of Hindutva activists attacking both secularism and pseudo-secularism, and mocking “liberals” while still criticizing them for not being liberal enough! On the other hand, the BJP is best placed today, if it can get rid of the partially real, partially semantic albatross of Hindutva, to emerge as a true liberal party (Please see my earlier article on this in Mint)

So let us discuss Hindutva. By Hindutva, I mean the political philosophy that at a macro-level seeks recognition from the state of India being a Hindu country and at a micro level, supports policy restrictions such as those on voluntary conversions and cow slaughter (see my earlier article against Hindutva). In general is uncomfortable with more than 200 million Muslims and Christians being full and equal citizens of India. Subramaniam Swamy’s idea that only those Indians who are Hindus or who accept that they had Hindu ancestors be allowed to vote has been rejected by some moderate Hindu nationalists, but justified by more extreme ones. The history of India – from the brutal Muslim rule centuries ago to the partition sixty-five years ago – a history whitewashed earlier but now challenged by scholars bypassing the politically correct corridors of academia makes some want the Indian state to be their partisan instead. Then, the present-day sporadic Islamist violence juxtaposed with claims of Muslim victimhood justified by leftists (not to mention continuing funding for Christian and Islamic causes funded by the West and Saudi Arabia) creates a (in my view, false) sense of siege. Extreme adherents of this philosophy also support destruction of more mosques formed by destroying temples (While the Babri Masjid’s destruction was also wrong, but at least it was technically a property dispute older than our modern republic, the other mosques in the minds of some far-right groups have had no legal disputes and are being actively used for offering prayers).

Given these ground realities, I reject a non-political interpretation of Hindutva as dubious, and indeed misleading as it tries to adopt the metaphysical beauty of Hinduism and other Dharmic religions for public consumption (Look at this otherwise very well written piece on this site, which remarkably uses the words Hinduism and Hindutva interchangeably!) I also reject the idea that “western” political concepts would not apply to India as wrong given that we are already using a British parliamentary system. We should accept the idea based on its validity and applicability, not its genesis date or location. Moreover, much of modern Hindutva (and curiously, a significant though lesser portion of Islamism too) has been inspired by early 20th century European nationalisms, as can be clearly seen from the writings of Golwalkar and to a lesser extent Savarkar. In contrast, a Shyamaprasad Mukherjee was relatively more “liberal” and a Deendayal Upadhyaya focused more on Hindu society rather than the Indian state – like Vivekananda, Dayananda, Rammohan Roy, Gandhi and many others before him. Therefore, this debate is, for better or worse, more complicated than about using complicated Sanskrit words, which no one uses anymore, or throwing charges of deracination on those one disagrees with.

Now, without any doubt, the Indian society’s core is undoubtedly its Hindu civilization. But Hindutva wrongly tries to merge Hinduism and India, making both more parochial in the process. Hinduism is not a territorial concept, it is a worldview – maybe not theological in the Abrahamic sense, but nonetheless a set of beliefs, guidelines and attitudes, however flexible. Arun Shourie understood this, and so did Koenraad Elst (even if their views on other aspects of Hindutva differ from mine).

The Hindutva movement may have been the only realistic, if not a legitimate, response to the minority appeasement and casteist manipulations of the 1980s and earlier. But by and large, it has been a reactive not pro-active movement. It sells resentments, not alternatives. But as the Buddha once said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” One need not be passive, weak or an extreme Gandhian caricature when it comes to non-violence to understand the wisdom of that statement. We need peace, progress, prosperity and a strong deterrence against hooliganism on the streets. For this, India needs to rise above identity politics speak against both majoritarianism as well as appeasement in our legislatures.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

SPEAKER AGAINST: Speaking against the motion is Sandeep Balakrishna, Assistant Editor at Niti Central and a blogger of some repute (twitter handle @SandeepWeb). In the time I have known Sandeep, I have been pleased to discover a scripturalist who abhors the mumbo-jumbo usually associated with traditionally or religiously-inclined people. Sandeep is extremely knowledgeable about Hindu scripture and tradition, and without doubt eminently qualified to enlighten us and engage in this debate.


According to Arun Shourie, Indian secularism “consists of branding others communal,”[1] a wholly accurate characterization of what passes for secularism in India. The reason this one term causes tremendous hostility isn’t tough to seek.

Secularism is fundamentally a concept alien to India, it isn’t clearly defined, it hasn’t found resonance with the so-called masses of India, and the Constitution itself hasn’t taken an explicit or clear position on it. Howsoever noble its intent, in practice secularism has proven divisive and continues to encourage inter-religious strife on a scale never seen before in Indian history. Indeed, it’s not inaccurate to claim that secularism has, over the years become synonymous with the British policy of dividing Indians primarily along religious lines.

History of Indian Secularism

To begin with, we need to examine why there is such a huge disconnect between precept and practice of secularism in India.

First, it is important to recall that the person who gave impetus to secularism as state doctrine was India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He did this in a loose fashion, one that was the direct consequence of his poor understanding of the Indian situation—more specifically, his misreading of Hinduism.

In a 1928 speech addressed to a gathering of students in Bombay, he said, “Much is said about the superiority of our religion, art, music and philosophy. But what are they today? Your religion has become a thing of the kitchen, as to what you can eat, and what you cannot eat, as to whom you can touch, and whom you cannot touch.” [2] In 1963, a year before his death, he declared that the real “danger to India, is Hindu right-wing communalism.”[3] A cursory reading of Nehru’s biography lends us several such examples. It suffices to say that Nehru’s definition of secularism had its basis in his bias against Hinduism.

Nature of Indian Secularism

Because this bias defined Nehruvian secularism—which continues to be practiced today—it set the tone for every state policy that followed. It’s therefore unsurprising that almost all such policies were designed to contain if not suppress the Hindu voice in India. But it didn’t merely stop at that—it went out of its way to mollycoddle the minorities, which in India’s case back then, comprised almost entirely Muslims. This was done in a bid to soothe the fears of Muslims who complained that they would be unable to live in peace—and without fear—in a Hindu-majority India. This complaint was despite the fact a separate state was carved out of undivided India owing to the selfsame fear of Muslims.

This seems to be a fair concern but questions arise over the actual steps taken to assuage it. While legislations like the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 almost completely changed the face of the Hindu society, most Muslim-oriented legislations put the Muslim community almost outside the purview of the state in several key areas. For instance, the Muslim Personal Law is a law unto itself, governed by the principles of the Sharia, which is recognized by the Indian state. Equally, the Hajj Act, 1959 provides for facilitating the Mecca pilgrimage of Indian Muslims at taxpayer expense. Muslim (and Christian) educational institutions are pretty much exempt from inspection by the Indian state. In practice, this means that they can discriminate against the majority community and the majority community does not have any legal recourse to fight such discrimination.

These are just the major characteristics but characteristics representative of the nature of secularism in practice in India.

It is clear therefore that in no other truly secular country in the world do we find such a yawning gap between precept and practice. In other words, Indian secularism is anti-secularism in practice because a survey of the numerous definitions of secularism yields a common strand: equality.

Roots of Secularism

This brings us to an examination of the roots of secularism.

These roots date back to a medieval Europe, which was struggling to free itself from the clutches of the Church, which stifled the individual.

The etymology of “secularism” is derived from the Latin word, saeculum meaning “time-cycle, era, eternity, world, time, age,” and so on. The original meaning of “secular” is synonymous with “temporal” in the sense of “non-permanent, fleeting,” and so on. It is clear from its origins that this word had no political connotations whatsoever. What’s more, when this word was transmuted into modern languages via Church parlance, it still didn’t have a political connotation. Even when the Church used this term, it didn’t use it in the sense of non-religion, or even in the sense of having a specific attitude towards religion. Thus, within the context of the Church, secularism signified a very clear differentiation: there were Priests/clergymen whose job was solely dedicated to the Spiritual and the Monastic, and there were Priests who were involved in worldly duties such as a parish priest. The latter were secular Priests who officiated on such things as baptism, weddings, and funeral rites.

This was perfectly fine as long as everybody agreed that this is the way to go and the way to be. However, an important problem arose in the matter of confessions. In other words—to use common terminology—every confessional Church claimed that it was the only true Christian Church. Thus, the Calvinists, the Lutherans, and the Catholics claimed that theirs was the only true Christian Church. In a highly-Christian Europe, this was an almost insurmountable problem given that the Church had a huge say in how the State was run. If the head of state favoured a specific Church denomination, he was bound to side with this Church’s truth-claims over the truth-claims of other Church denominations. Such favoritism naturally caused resentment among those other denominations that claimed that their claim to truth was the actual truth. This kind of reasoning and this situation is best encompassed by one term: competing truth-claims.

However, the state head, by sheer political might had no other recourse but to impose his/her preference as state doctrine. The alternative was to face the wrath of the Church denomination he was affiliated to. The results of such imposition are predictable: it led to prosecution and discrimination based merely on human whim.

Thus, after decades upon decades of such unceasing conflict, which included bloodshed—or more specifically, around the period of the Enlightenment, thinkers and philosophers realized that the State had no business playing favourites or worse, being an arbiter and enforcer of Church-related matters. This is briefly how the word secularism acquired a new meaning—as a doctrine concerning the state.

Context and Consequences

This was a historic progressive step because it limited the role of the state to focus only on worldly matters and allowed the individual the freedom to pursue religious goals or even to espouse no religion at all.

However, what is not to be forgotten here is that this concept originated in, and is a product of various conflicts purely in the context of the Christian religion. All discourses regarding secularism that followed are primarily based upon this context. A quote from Jakob De Roover[4] sums this up accurately:

The steps from Locke through Jefferson… are not those of rational enlightenment which extends its secular values to humanity but those of an internal religious dynamic of secularization which spreads Christian principles in a secular guise.

Thus, there were a specific set of conditions and an historical inheritance that led to the birth and development of secularism as a political doctrine.

Now when Nehru declared secularism to be the state doctrine of India, it did exactly one thing: it was acting on one man’s assumptions that the situation in India during his time resembled that of the situation in Europe a few centuries earlier.

The consequences again were predictable.

Thinkers, scholars, and India-watchers abroad, when they were told that secularism was the Indian state’s doctrine, naturally assumed that this secularism was the same as the one back home. And they used precisely this lens to examine and analyze every event, development, and upheaval that occurred in India. Both Nehru’s unexamined assumption and the West’s uncritical acceptance of India as a genuinely secular state are the consequences that derive from what Jakob De Roover[5] describes as:

What..has happened in normative theories of secularism is that this internal problem of Christian Europe has been projected universally as though it is a general human predicament 

But what was the situation in India?

Defining Hinduism

The characterization of Hinduism by Nehru as merely a set of individual and social practices, several of which are abhorrent and irrational is a classic case of mistaking the forest for the trees.

In analyzing secularism with respect to India, it is fundamental to define the term religion. For the purposes of this essay, religion is defined as, and denotes the Christian religion and the situation created by the Christian religion in societies where it is in a majority and where it directly influences and shapes State policy. Islam is also mentioned in the text that follows because this definition of religion also holds true in its case.

By this definition, Hinduism is not a religion.

Hinduism is, so to say, a vast umbrella that accommodates any number of philosophical schools that derive their philosophy primarily from verifiable experiences of an individual.

Over thousands of years and after countless philosophers, debates, and writing, the Vedanta philosophical system is the most accurate representation, if not the definition, of Hinduism. That said, both traditional and modern scholars of Hinduism unarguably recognize six philosophical schools of Hinduism—Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta (also called Uttara Mimamsa and Upanishad).

Vedanta holds the topmost position in the Indian philosophical system because it is based on verifiable universal experience, which can only be experienced but cannot be explained. This is akin to getting one’s skin burnt by fire, an experience, which is verifiable but which cannot be explained.

Vedanta posits that the ultimate and the highest goal of any human being is the experience of Ananda (loosely translated as Ultimate Bliss). It follows therefore that Ananda is a state of being, which can only be realized. Because it is a state of being, it has no form, no gender, and is not bound by time and space. This is akin to our experience of deep sleep.

However, because concepts like this are extremely abstract and beyond the reach of most people, Vedanta provides some hints and recommends certain practices by which one can attain this state. There are recommendations but no strict dos and don’ts. In fact, Vedanta allows “each man to explore his own path and chart his own course” as long as the destination is the same. The various Upanishads are just that—descriptions of the experiences of the sage who reached the said goal of attaining Ananda.[6]

Now, the aforementioned characteristic of abstractness makes it difficult for the human mind to conceive abstractness because the mind always works within the space and time constraint. Unless something is named and placed in a context (or location), it becomes well-nigh impossible to even think of it.

The Conception of God

This brings us to the conception of God.

Because the state of Ultimate Bliss is both formless and genderless among other things, the conception of God according to Vedanta is that there is no God. There logically can’t be a God in a state of being. Recognizing the manner in which the human mind works in order to make sense of things—including God—Vedanta allows the conception of God—any God, and any number of Gods. And because the state of Ananda is genderless, it makes no difference whether this God is a God or a Goddess for these are intermittent stages for realizing the said state of Ananda. [7]

It is this conception of Vedanta that gave rise to—what’s understood by the West as a defining feature of Hinduism—worshipping multiple Gods in multiple forms/ways of worship: making idols, building temples, painting, through the arts…it is why virtually any physical object can become a God or Goddess in Hinduism.

This is also the reason why there has never been a Prophet in Hinduism. When virtually any method, any practice, and any path—in the decent sense—is open for realizing the state of Ananda, the need for a human agent is by definition obliterated. Thus, the 10 avatars of Vishnu, the thousands of Hindu gurus in history including modern-day saints or pontiffs of various sects of Hinduism act merely as moral and spiritual guides and not as messengers of God or the Divine.

Major Contrasts

Now, unlike both Islam and Christianity, there is a separate worldly or secular side to Hinduism—worldly or secular in the sense of clear laws and codes governing it.  These laws and codes do not claim sanction from any particular God or Goddess. They are collectively, generically known as Dharmashastras (Body of Knowledge Dealing with Dharma or Righteous Conduct), which are not religious texts. They lay down codes governing the conduct of worldly life of both individuals and/or the state. The branch that deals exclusively in matters of the state is known as Arthashastra. The roots of almost every major social practice prevailing in Hinduism can be traced to one or more Dharmashastra or derivatives thereof. Now, Dharmashastras are not static and provide for course corrections to suit changing times. [8]

This crucial difference is what distinguishes Hinduism from Prophetic religions. In both Islam and Christianity, almost every aspect of an individual’s life as well as the policies and activities of the State, is governed by their respective scriptures. However, a state governed by the laws of Dharmashastra will not refer the Vedas or the Puranas to settle a worldly dispute between two parties. Indian history is replete with instances of this practice—of settling worldly disputes by referring to secular texts—by various kings. On the other hand, an Islamic state will use the Koran and other Islamic scriptures to settle such disputes. This applies more or less equally to purely Christian states.

This crucial difference in the outlook of Prophetic religions and Hinduism is also found in the way citizens are treated. Prophetic religions treat minorities as Zimmis (in Islam) or loosely speaking, as second-class citizens (under Christianity). These minorities have almost no rights, are discriminated against by law, and typically live under the mercy of the adherents of the majority religion.

However, because Hinduism as a philosophical system views even Islam and Christianity merely as alternate paths to attaining Ananda—a mistaken view, nevertheless widely held—the notion of treating their adherents as inferior doesn’t logically arise. And because this view also informs the Dharmashastras, Hinduism treats minorities on par. This is the reason why no Hindu king demolished a mosque even after he vanquished a Muslim king in battle and also why he allowed Muslims to freely practice their faith in his kingdom. In other words, equal respect to all faiths.

Closing Notes

This is radically different from the (Christian) conception of secularism whose genesis and application we’ve seen earlier in this essay.  This difference in conception is rooted in high philosophy and originates from the premises of mutual trust and respect. It sustained religious and social cohesion for hundreds of years spanning hundreds of kingdoms in India.

However, with the ascendancy of British power in India, distortions, both unintentional and willful, crept into the study of Hinduism and Hindu society with the result that symmetry was established between prophetic religions and Hinduism. For instance, leaders like Rajaram Mohun Roy misdiagnosed such social evils as Sati as an essence of Hinduism itself. This process accelerated until it reached a climax in Nehru who reduced Hinduism to a set of abhorrent practices, leading him to equate the historical situation in Europe with that in India during his time. Secularism was his solution to this problem.

As we have seen, this variety of secularism continues to wreak untold damage upon the nation. In spite of being politically independent for 65 years, majority of Indians have little or no understanding of what secularism really means. If this by itself is not a decisive proof that secularism is wholly alien to India’s millennia-old civilizational consciousness and values, it is at least proof that a non-free, a non-secular India was better integrated and less divisive than it is now under the unwritten state doctrine of secularism.

[1] The very first sentence of A Secular Agenda, Arun Shourie

[2] Nehru: A Biography, Shashi Tharoor

[3] Ibid

[4] Jakob De Roover: Speech at Rethinking Religion in India conference, 2009

[5] Ibid

[6] Almost all Upanishads are ascribed to and/or penned down—so to say—by a sage or Rishi or his disciple(s).  For instance, the Katha Upanishad is ascribed to sage Nachiketa, the Jabalopanishad to Satyakama Jabali, and so on.

[7] Incidentally, one of the best definitions of the word “abstract,” which apply accurately to this discussion is this: “Not representing or imitating external reality or the objects of nature; separated from embodiment.

[8] For an encyclopedic exposition of Dharmashastras, see Vols I—VI of History of Dharmashastras by P.V. Kane published by Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune.