Most India-watchers concur that secularism is under siege in the country. Though this has always been the case since the political elite opted for making the idea of secularism one of the cardinal values of the basic law of the state after independence, in recent times it is blatantly emasculated not only by the Hindu fascists and Muslim supremacists but also by some social scientists and public intellectuals who are not remotely connected with communal and divisive political forces. Constitutionally speaking because of the presence of an interrelated set of certain components such as freedom of religion, citizenship rights to all irrespective of faith, race etc., absence of a state religion and separation of state and religion in core areas of governance and politics, the constitution makers had created a secular state in an excessively religious and essentially traditional society. This disconnect between a modern-secular state and a conservative society has always been a detrimental factor in the attainment of the ideal of a secular-democratic polity.
This volume makes a discerning attempt to bring into focus myriad dimensions of the idea of secularism and the foremost impediments in the way of its attainment. Most scholars who contributed to this volume have, for the most part, underscored that the disconnect between a modern-secular state and a conservative society has always been a detrimental factor in the realization of the ideal of a secular-democratic polity. Added to this is the burden of the past centuries that the independent nation of India has to carry on its young shoulders. There are political factions in India that invent their own historical narratives to advance their political agenda. This exercise coupled with political and economic contestations leads to social dissensions and communal hatred, the ugliest manifestation of which is communal violence that occasionally take on the form of anti-minority pogroms.
The erudite critiques of the concept of secularism and its correlated premises that are encompassed in this volume shall be of assistance not only to the scholars but also to the students of social sciences and the conscientious readers interested in knowing about the socio-political milieu they are living in.
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