14 April, 2021

A Billion Gandhis

Down the ages, a natural tolerance—tinged with faith—has been our subsoil. Why do my friends foist a dry import like secularism upon this rootedness?

Sandeep Adhwaryu
A Billion Gandhis
Secularism is not communal amity; it is only one way of achieving such amity. As an ideology, it is not even 300 years old. Yet, despite the consistent failure of secularism to contain the growth of both Hindu nationalism and Islamic, Jewish and Christian fundamentalism in recent years—both in India and elsewhere in the world—only a few seem to have the courage to look beyond it.

In a recent column in this magazine (Abhor Singularity, May 31), my friend Kuldip Nayar has lamented my rejection of secularism and loss of faith in the plural traditions of South Asia. Nayar, whom I have given company in many battles—including some he would call secular—has got me entirely wrong. Actually, my criticism of secularism is an aggressive reaffirmation of these proto-Gandhian traditions and a search for post-secular forms of politics more in touch with the needs of a democratic polity in South Asia.

The concept of secularism emerged in a Europe torn by inter-religious strife,...

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