Reimagining Indian Secularism
Now available in India. Forthcoming in the rest of the world in December 2023.
An original analysis of the religionization versus secularization of state and society in India.
For much of its history, religion has had a precarious existence in India. The subcontinent was home to religio-philosophical practices—what Rajeev Bhargava terms non-religions—but not a comprehensive category called religion. Once this category arrived in India in the last few centuries, it set off a process of religionization by which these non-religions were turned into religion. For this reason, Bhargava argues, in order to reimagine and vindicate secularism today, the foreignness of religion itself must be acknowledged.
What is unique about Indian secularism? In this book, Rajeev Bhargava argues that secularism in India, as opposed to in the West, did not arise in a society that had already been religiously homogenized, where the need of the hour was to break the political nexus between church and state. In India, secularism does not demand that the state is against or indifferent to religion, but rather that it combat institutionalized religious domination, both between and within religions. Apathy or antipathy to religion, Bhargava points out, would foment inter-religious rivalries that intensify anti-reformist tendencies, fueling further division.
As secularism receives daily ridicule in India, Bhargava provides an account of how this “principled distance” from religion has been a victim of misunderstandings by its proponents, abuse by its practitioners, and deliberate distortion by its opponents. Reimagining Indian Secularism offers a proposal of how we might one day be able to rehabilitate secularism.
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