Indian definition of secularism is incomplete, says Romila Thapar

Thapar made the observations while delivering the Dr Asghar Ali Memorial Lecture on ‘Indian society and the secular’ at Jamia Millia Islamia.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Published: August 20, 2015 3:23 am

The Indian definition of secularism was “limited and incomplete” as it restricted itself to mere co-existence of religions which did not prevent some religions from being “marginalised”, historian Romila Thapar said on Wednesday.

Thapar made the observations while delivering the Dr Asghar Ali Memorial Lecture on ‘Indian society and the secular’ at Jamia Millia Islamia.

“Secularism is the curtailment of religious control over social institutions, not the absence of religion from society. It is when our primary identity is of equal citizens of the nation, not as belonging to a particular religion or caste. But the Indian definition of secularism is limited to the coexistence of many religions which is incomplete because some religions can still be marginalised as they are,” said Thapar.

Share This Article
Related Article

“There is an attempt now to not give secularism much attention. There are demands that the word be deleted from the Constitution so that the demand for its inclusion can be forgotten. Some argue that it’s a western concept. But both nationhood and democracy are post-independent concepts too. Moreover, internalising the neo-liberal market economy is also western,” she said.

Thapar argued that the concept of secularism went beyond politics and none of the mainstream political parties adhered to it. “There is one political party which supports the term in theory but has trouble implementing it in practice whereas there is another, the foundational ideology of which is anti-secular,” she said.

She talked about how neither the religious nationalists and the anti-colonial nationalists had questioned the colonial historiography of India.

“Colonial history had to paint this picture to legitimise their rule and show that a third party was needed to control the situation. This image was imprinted, especially in the history of Medieval India, of which it is said that ‘we were slaves’. While the religious nationalists readily accepted this, even the anti-colonial nationalists did not question the monolithic nature of both religions,” argued Thapar.

For all the latest Delhi News, download Indian Express App

  1. S
    Jan 30, 2016 at 6:30 pm
    Perhaps this woman is trying to redeem herself in line with the public sentiment reflected in Mr. Modi. To achieve secularism, how about granting religious freedom to the descendants of those who were Hindu before 1921 and not running their affairs through erudition, arithmetic and integrity challenged judges, politicians,bureaucrats, cops, journalists and worse?
    1. R
      Aug 20, 2015 at 10:34 pm
      Romila Thapar calls herself a historian when she only collected a bunch of biased material put out by the like of Max Muller and published it. She never tried to visit the excavation sites or interpret the results of excavations. Aryan invasion theory is one such example. Nehru wanted to put history beside and concentrate on building India and that was possible only by creating communal stability in the country. After having being ruled by minority for close to a thousand years, the time has finally come for the majority to wake up and be counted.
      1. Y
        Aug 20, 2015 at 8:22 pm
        She is a fake historian. Children are being taught distorted history of India. These leftists hisorians have no guts to tell the truth
        1. Nanda Kishore
          Aug 20, 2015 at 9:41 am
          Nationhood is NOT a Post-colonial concept in India. Even the age old mantras of Hindu worship, which are recited on daily basis in Temples and during poojas talk of *Bharata-Varshe*, and *Bharata-Khande*. It even talks about *Sapta-Dveepaa-Vasundhara* (The earth with SEVEN continents). So I think Ms.Thapar should learn more about India before uming herself to be an eligible speaker on certain issues. :)
          1. D
            Aug 20, 2015 at 4:02 pm
            I agree that Indian definition of secularism is “limited and incomplete” - possibly due to the public perceptions driven by the political & religious leaders. Team which created our Consution probably meant something idealistic. We need a serious national debate (not on TV) on what it means to be "secular" or else gap in people having different faith (and also faith-less) will keep on increasing providing easy fodder to certain people.
            1. Load More Comments