Secularism in India

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Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page.
We have laid down in our constitution that India is a secular state. That does not mean irreligion. it means equal respect for all faiths and equal opportunities for those who profess any faith.~Jawaharlal Nehru
I believe that the word secular is the biggest lie since Independence.~Yogi Adityanath
We make no discrimination against the adherent of any religion. All faiths are entitled to equal protection and equal respect. This we have named "Secularism", which entitles each Indian to pursue his own belief and learn more about his own creed. But it also requires him to extend the same right to persons of other religions.~Indira Gandhi
But there is an even more potent cause for the near total erasure of such material from our public discourse and our instruction. And that is the form of “secularism” which we have practised these forty-five years: a “secularism” in which double-standards have been the norm, one in which everything that may remove the dross by which our national identity has been covered has become anathema. ~Arun Shourie

Secularism as practiced in India, with its marked differences with Western practice of secularism, is a controversial topic in India. Supporters of the Indian concept of secularism claim it respects "minorities and pluralism". Critics claim the Indian form of secularism as "pseudo-secularism". Supporters state that any attempt to introduce a uniform civil code, that is equal laws for every citizen irrespective of his or her religion, would impose majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and ideals. Critics state that India's acceptance of Sharia and religious laws violates the principle of Equality before the law.

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  • I believe that the word secular is the biggest lie since Independence. Those that have given birth to this lie and those that use it should apologise to the people and this country. No system can be secular. Political system can be sect-neutral. If someone were to say that government has to be run by one way of prayer, that is not possible. In UP, I have to look at 22 crore people and I am answerable for their security and their feelings. But I am not sitting here to ruin one community either. You can be sect-neutral but not secular.
  • Secular, as I understand, means that religion should not play any role in governance. If it’s true, then why were you quiet for last 10 years when the ruling party was continuously giving alms to Muslims? Did you and your fellow signatories utter a word when PM M.M. Singh said that minorities have first right over natural resources? ... Secularism was nothing but a ploy to attract Muslim votes and keep a control on Hindus from asserting themselves. ... If your fellow ‘secular’ filmwallas feel so strongly about the ‘secular foundations’ and its preservation thereof, how come they never uttered a word against the Muzzafarnagar riots? Or against Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav? Or Azam Khan? Or Abu Azmi?
    • Vivek Agnihotri - Urban Naxals The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam (2018, Garuda Prakashan)


  • The secular state assumes that the Semitic religions and the Hindu traditions are instances of the same kind.
  • “When Indian intellectuals use existing theories about religion and its history – for example, to analyse ‘Hindu-Muslim’ strife – they reproduce, both directly and indirectly, what the West has been saying so far. (…) the ‘secularist’ discourse about this issue can hardly be distinguished – both in terms of the contents or the vocabulary – from Orientalist writings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
    • S. N. Balagangadhara (p.47) [Secularism is the direct heir of the colonial dispensation.] quoted from Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies


  • The general enthusiasm for "secularism" in itself should indicate that the meaning of the term has undergone a drastic change in India, and that it is irresponsible to use the term as if it had its established Western meaning (which most India-watchers do). Just as the English word deception has a radically different meaning from its French look-alike déception (= disappointment) the British-English word secularism radically differs in meaning from its Indian-English look-alike secularism. A professional interpreter who translates déception as deception is incompetent, and an India-watcher who translates the Indian-English term secularism into standard English as secularism, has a similar problem.
  • Genuine secular states have equality before the law of all citizens regardless of religion. By contrast, India has different civil codes depending on the citizen's relgion. Thus, for Christians it is very hard to get a divorce, Hindus and Muslim women can get one through judicial proceedings, and Muslim men can simply repudiate their wives. The secular alternative, a common civil code, is championed by the Hindu nationalists. It is the so-called secularists who, justifying themselves with specious sophistry, join hands with the most obscurantist religious leaders to insist on maintaining the present unequal system. Likewise, legal inequality in matters of temple management, pilgrimage subsidies, special autonomy for states depending on their populations' religious composition, and the right to found religious schools is defended by the so-called secularists (because it is invariably to the disadvantage of the Hindus) while the Hindu nationalists favour the secular alternative of equality regardless of religion. In India, sharia-wielding Muslim clerics whose Arab counterparts denounce secularism as the ultimate evil, call themselves secularists.
    • Koenraad Elst (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate, p. 1-2.
  • The fundamental mistake of Indian secularism is that Hinduism is put in the same category as Islam and Christianity. Islam and Christianity's intrinsic irrationality and hostility to independent critical thought warranted secularism as a kmd of containment policy. By contrast, Hinduism recognizes freedom of thought and does not need to be contained by secularism.
  • The more I learned about this Indian "secularism", the more it became clear to me that it was often the very opposite of what we in the West in genuinely secular states call "secularism". Indeed, over the years I have had many a good laugh at the pompous moralism and blatant dishonesty of India's so-called secularists. Their specialty is to justify double standards, e.g. why mentioning murdered Kashmiri Pandits is “communal hate-mongering” while the endless litany about murdered Gujarati Muslims is “secular consciousness-raising”. Sometimes they merely stonewall inconvenient information, such as when they tried to deny and suppress the historical data about the forcible replacement of a Rama temple in Ayodhya by a mosque: given the strength of the evidence, all they could do was to drown out any serious debate with screams and swearwords. But often they do bring out their specific talents at sophistry, such as when they argue that a Common Civil Code, a defining element of all secular states, is a Hindu communalist notion, while the preservation of the divinely-revealed Shari’a for the Muslims is secular. That’s when they are at their best.
  • Indian secularists prefer to keep the rest of the world in ignorance about their own dirty little secret, viz. that “secularism” in India often means the very opposite of its normal meaning. When you question an Indian secularist at close quarters, he will try to save his position by explaining that secularism in India happens to mean something different from what it means in the West. But do they tell this to Western audiences? ... Westerners’ automatic sympathy for Indian secularism (and against the supposed “theocrats” they hear about) is predicated on the assumption that their own familiar secularism is also present in India, that both are the same.
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015, Ch 30.
  • The word “secular” was not part of India’s political parlance in the days of the Constituent Assembly, and even the Republic (let alone India itself) was not founded as a “secular” state. On the contrary, the Constituent Assembly through its chairman, BR Ambedkar, explicitly rejected the two S words. India became a “secular socialist” republic under the Emergency dictatorship (1975-77) without proper Parliamentary debate. “Secular” is one of the few words in the Constitution that was enacted without democratic basis, and this is only fitting for a “secularism” which has always and unabashedly been despotic and anti-majority. There may be many things wrong with democracy, but it is not anti-majority. Indeed, that is precisely what is wrong with democracy, according to the secularists.
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015, Ch 30.


  • We make no discrimination against the adherent of any religion. All faiths are entitled to equal protection and equal respect. This we have named "Secularism", which entitles each Indian to pursue his own belief and learn more about his own creed. But it also requires him to extend the same right to persons of other religions.
  • Secularism is the bedrock of our nationhood, secularism as defined not in the English dictionaries, where it is defined as ‘non-religious’ or ‘anti-religious’, but secularism the way Panditji defined it as Sarva Dharma Samabhava which allows every religion to flourish in our country.
    • Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi Selected Speeches and Writings (1986), Vol. 1, p. 55.
  • The word secular is defined in the dictionaries as "the belief that the state, morals, education, etc. should be independent of religion." But in India it means only one thing -- eschewing everything Hindu and espousing everything Islamic.
    • Goel, Sita Ram: Perversion of India's Political Parlance (1984)
  • In the current political parlance Islamic imperialism masquerades as secularism, while Indian nationalism gets branded as "Hindu communalism".
    • S.R. Goel in Hindu Temples – What Happened to Them, Volume I (1990), p. 217, 2nd edition (also in History Versus Casuistry:Preface, 1991)
  • The concept of Secularism as known to the modern West is dreaded, derided and denounced in the strongest terms by the foundational doctrines of Christianity and Islam. Both of these doctrines prescribe Theocracy under which the State serves as the secular arm of the Church or the Ummah, and society is regimented by the Sacred Canon or the Shariat. This fact is more than evident if we survey the history of Christianity till the French Revolution, and the practice which prevails in all Islamic states till today. It is a different matter that Christianity has reconciled itself to Secularism because of its steep decline in its traditional homelands - Europe and the Americas. The doctrine remains unchanged and Christianity will restore Theocracy if it were to acquire power again. Islam has yet to evince any sign of similar reconciliation with Secularism either in doctrine or in practice. In fact, the recent trend in most Islamic countries has been to revert to Theocracy in its pristine form, that is, as it existed under the four "rightly guided caliphs".
    It is, therefore, intriguing that the most fanatical and fundamentalist adherents of Christianity and Islam in India - Christian missionaries and Muslim mullahs - cry themselves hoarse in defence of Indian Secularism... The puzzle needs unravelling unless one is satisfied with the mere sound of the word 'secularism', and at the same time nails pluralistic Hinduism as a closed monotheism like Islam and Christianity as India-watchers in the West and their lickspittles in this country have been doing for a long time... It can be concluded quite safely that although all 'secularists' may not be scoundrels, all scoundrels in India are 'secularists'. (...) Secularism in the West had risen as a revolt against the closed creed of Christianity and had meant, for more than 150 years, a freeing of the State from the clutches of the Church. In the Indian context it should have meant a revolt against the closed creed of Islam as well, and keeping the state aloof from the influence of mullahs.
    • S.R. Goel in : Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998)
  • Secularism per se is a doctrine which arose in the modem West as a revolt against the dosed creed of Christianity. Its battle-cry was that the State should be freed from the stranglehold of the Church, and the citizen should be left to his own individual choice in matters of belief. And it met with great success in every Western democracy. Had India borrowed this doctrine from the modem West, it would have meant a rejection of the dosed creeds of Islam and Christianity, and a promotion of the Sanatana Dharma family of faiths which have been naturally secularist in the modern Western sense. But what happened actually was that Secularism in India became the greatest protector of closed creeds which had come here in the company of foreign invaders, and kept tormenting the national society for several centuries.
    We should not, therefore, confuse India's Secularism with its namesake in the modern West. The Secularism which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru propounded and which has prospered in post-independence India, is a new concoction and should be recognized as such. We need not bother about its various definitions as put forward by its pandits. We shall do better if we have a close look at its concrete achievements.
    Going by those achievements, one can conclude quite safely that Nehruvian Secularism is a magic formula for transmitting base metals into twenty-four carat gold. How else do we explain the fact of Islam becoming a religion, and that too a religion of tolerance, social equality, and human brotherhood; or the fact of Muslim rule in medieval India becoming an indigenous dispensation; or the fact of Muhammad bin Qasim becoming a liberator of the toiling masses in Sindh; or the fact of Mahmud Ghaznavi becoming the defreezer of productive wealth hoarded in Hindu temples; or the fact of Muhammad Ghuri becoming the harbinger of an urban revolution; or the fact of Muinuddin Chishti becoming the great Indian saint; or the fact of Amir Khusru becoming the pioneer of communal amity; or the fact of Alauddin Khilji becoming the first socialist in the annals of this country; or the fact of Akbar becoming the father of Indian nationalism; or the fact of Aurangzeb becoming the benefactor of Hindu temples; or the fact of Sirajuddaula, Mir Qasim, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, and Bahadur Shah Zafar becoming the heroes of India's freedom struggle against British imperialism or the fact of the Faraizis, the Wahabis, and the Moplahs becoming peasant revolutionaries and foremost freedom fighters?
    One has only to go to the original sources in order to understand the true character of Islam and its above-mentioned luminaries. And one can see immediately that their true character has nothing to do with that with which they have been invested in our school and college text-books. No deeper probe is needed for unraveling the mysteries of Nehruvian Secularism.
    • Sita Ram Goel, Tipu Sultan - Villain or Hero (1993)
  • Thus Hindu society not only presents itself as a prey to these exclusive, intolerant and imperialist ideologies but also acts as a buffer between them. India is secular because India is Hindu. It can be added as a corollary that India is a democracy also because India is Hindu. If Hindu society permits this free for all any further, the days of Secularism and Democracy in this country are numbered. Let the Hindus unite and save themselves, their democratic polity, their secular state, and their Sanatana Dharma for a new cycle of civilization, not only for themselves but also the world.
  • Another side of the same strategy has been worked out to neutralise, paralyse and blacken or pamper different sections of Hindu society so that the road is cleared for the forward march of Islamism. Some salient features of this secondary strategy can be outlined as follows: 1. The concept of Secularism which is enshrined in the Constitution of India and which has become the most sacred slogan for all our political parties should be distorted, misinterpreted and misused to the maximum to block out the least little expression of Hindu culture in the state apparatus and public life of India;...
  • That brings us to the second subject where the United Front between Islamism and Communism scored a notable victory-the subject of Secularism. They joined hands to jibe at Secularism till the concept was totally distorted and became a synonym for Islamic imperialism. Secularism as a state policy had been evolved in the modern West which had become sick of the contending theocratic claims of Christian churches. Theocracy had been as alien to Hindu state and society as it had been intrinsic to Christian and Islamic state and society. Secularism was, therefore, nothing new for the Hindus. ....
    • Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Society under Siege (1992)
  • The puzzle gets solved when one contemplates the character of Indian Secularism and finds that is no more than a smokescreen used by the Muslim-Christian-Communist combine in order to keep India's national society and culture at bay. ... They are simply projecting their self-images on to those whom they view as their enemies. ....
    • S.R. Goel. Hindu and Hinduism, Manipulation of meanings, 1993.
  • I have no use for a Secularism which treats Hinduism as just another religion, and puts it on par with Islam and Christianity. For me, this concept of Secularism is a gross perversion of the concept which arose in the modem West as a revolt against Christianity and which should mean, in the Indian context, a revolt against Islam as well.
    • S.R. Goel. How I became a Hindu (1982)
  • I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Secularism in its present Indian form is no more than an embodiment of anti-Hindu animus, and is supported by all those who want to destroy Hindu society and culture. Secularism is essentially a political concept which originated and took shape in nineteenth century Europe. ....It was in this atmosphere of revolt against Christianity and its closed culture that the concept of Secularism was evolved and employed in country after country in Europe. The secular power of the State was no longer to be the secular arm of the Church. It was to become secular on its own, that is, a power which secured equal rights to all its citizens without bothering about their beliefs. The Church was separated from the State which was no longer supposed to interfere with the religious life of the citizens, or to discriminate against any citizen on the basis of his on her religion or absence of it. Religion was now to be treated as a purely private matter in which the state was not supposed to pry, and which was not to be projected in public affairs.
    • S.R.Goel. Defence of Hindu Society (1983)
  • The smokescreen for this Stalinist operation was provided by the slogan of Secularism which nobody was supposed to question, or examine as to what it had come to mean. Its meaning had to be accepted ex-cathedra, and as laid down by the Muslim-Marxist combine. In the new political parlance that emerged, Hinduism and the nationalism it inspired, became blackned as “Communalism”. Small wonder that the word “Hindu” started becoming a dirty word in the academia as well as the media. ... Secularism arose in the modern West as a revolt against the closed theology of Christianity which had acquired a stranglehold on the State; in India, unfortunately, Secularism has become the biggest single protector of closed theologies promoted by Christianity and Islam. ... All this was being done by [Nehru] in the name of Secularism, which concept he had picked up from the modern West and perverted to mean the opposite of what it meant there.
    • S.R. Goel in Shourie, A., & Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Vol. II
  • Secularism in the modern West had symbolized a humanist and rationalist revolt against the closed creed of Christianity and stood for pluralism such as has characterized Hinduism down the ages. But Pandit Nehru had perverted the word and turned it into a shield for protecting every closed creed prevailing in India at the dawn of independence in 1947 Islam, Christianity, Communism.
    • Goel, S.R. Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (1998)
  • What helped the Christian missions a good deal from the outside was the rise of Nehruvian Secularism as India’s state policy as well as a raging fashion among India’s intellectual elite. The knowledgeable among the missionaries were surprised and somewhat amused. They knew that Secularism had risen in the West as the deadliest enemy of Christian dogmas and that it had deprived the churches of their stranglehold on state power. In India, however, Secularism was providing a smokescreen behind which Christianity could steal a march.
    • Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)


  • Historical powerful forces have attempted to restrict democracy to a set of strictly procedural routines for governance and legislation, but once in motion, democratic procedures have over time tended to remold the very form in which a society represents and imagines itself, its institutions and its history. It is my contention that the history of Indian democracy may be fruitfully interpreted in these terms as a gradual and circumscribed questioning of hierarchies and authority, spreading from the political field to other realms in society. As the political field acquired even more prominence due to the weight of the developmental state in all spheres of society in the 1970s, a new political culture marked by "political entrepreneurship" emerged. This gave rise to a new construction of politics as an "amoral vocation," a construction that reflected a widespread discomfort with the proliferating populist techniques of political mobilization and governance, and a disapproval of the new breed of public figures from modest social backgrounds who used their language, manners, and social background to consolidate mass followings. In the face of this "plebeianization" of the political field, sections of the educated urban middle classes and upper-caste groups began to denounce the political vocation, question the legitimacy of the state and discard the principles of democracy and secularism. For decades democracy and secularism meant protection and extension of social privileges to the educated Hindu middle classes, and condescending paternalism vis-à-vis lower-caste groups and minorities. However, as it became clear that political democracy was slowly giving birth to this new and unfamiliar form of society, the "softness" of the secular state became the target of the Hindu nationalist critique of a "pseudo secularism" that was "pampering minorities." Anti-democratic attitudes are today widespread in the same urban middle class in India that for years was regarded as the bedrock of political democracy in the country, and the backbone of the nation. Hindu nationalism emerged successfully in the political field in the 1980s as a kind of "conservative populism" that mainly attracted more privileged groups who feared encroachment on their dominant positions, but also "plebeian" and impoverished groups seeking recognition around a majoritarian rhetoric of cultural pride, order, and national strength.
  • The notion of a single Hindu culture, incommensurable with Islamic or western epistemes and forms of organization, is the real fiction at work here, imposed by orientalism and painstakingly promulgated, organized, and reformulated by generation of Hindu nationalists and other Indian nationalists for more than a century. [...] In order to understand Hindu nationalism we need to analyze carefully the official secularism it opposed. Textbook versions of secularism as the absence of religion from the public sphere, or a more fashionable understanding of secularism as a metonym of scientific rationalism, will not suffice. We need to take a closer and more informed look at the practices and meanings of secularism in the public culture of independent India. The dominant interpretation of secularism in India did not entail the removal of religion from the political sphere, but rather the belief that religion and culture were elevated to an ostensibly apolitical level, above the profanities of the political. This institutionalized notion of culture and religion as apolitical, and the derived notion of selfless "social work" as ennobling and purifying by virtue of its elevation above politics and money, provided an unassailable moral high ground to a certain genre of "antipolitical activism," conspicuous among social and cultural organization but also often invoked in agitations and in electoral politics in India. I submit that it was from this discursive field of "antipolitics" and "religious activism" that the Hindu nationalist movement, with great ingenuity, built its campaigns and organizational networks for decades. Like other forms of cultural nationalism, the Hindu nationalist movement always entertained a complex ambivalence vis-à-vis democracy and apprehension toward the "political vocation." The evolution of the movement, its organization, and its political strategies must be understood in the context of a constant negotiation and oscillation across the deep bifurcation in modern Indian political culture between a realm of "sublime" culture and realm of "profane" competitive politics.


  • Independence governments implemented secularism mostly by refusing to recognize the religious pasts of Indian nationalism, whether Hindu or Muslim, and at the same time (inconsistently) by retaining Muslim 'personal law'.
    • Ronald Inden in his work, “Imagining India.”quoted in Adrija Roychowdhury. Secularism: Why Nehru dropped and Indira inserted the S-word in the Constitution. | New Delhi | August 5, 2018 [1]


  • A number of Indians have tried to define secularism as sarva dharma samabhava (equal respect for all religions). I cannot say whether they have been naive or clever in doing so. But the fact remains that secularism cannot admit of such an interpretation. In fact, orthodox Muslims are quite justified in regarding it as irreligious. Moreover, dharma cannot be defined as religion which is a Semitic concept and applies only to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is not a religion in that sense; nor are Jainism and Buddhism, or for that matter, Taoism and Confucianism.
  • As far as I know, Nehru never defined secularism in its proper European and historical context.
    • Girilal Jain, in : Elst, Koenraad: Ayodhya and after, Appendix I



  • The recent import of secularism from the West is based on substituting 'religion' for 'dharma' and adopting Western social and legal structures. This has led to divisive vote-bank politics in the name of secularism and to a counter-reaction by a segment of Hindu politicians wanting to create a Hindu 'religion' that is equally political. The chain reaction set in motion has been disastrous both for Hindus and minorities.
    • Malhotra, R., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2018). Being different: An Indian challenge to western universalism.
  • I offer sapeksha-dharma as an alternative to Western secularism. Secularism is perhaps better expressed as pantha-nirapeksha, which means not favouring one pantha (i.e., sect or denomination) over another. A society based on sapeksha-dharma would be expected to uphold the highest dharma rather than exercising mere tolerance or indifference. By its very nature, dharma would be sensitive to diversity among communities. Civic identity, daily life, politics and the art of government would all be maintained through multiple levels of reciprocal relationships informed and guided by this notion. It would also provide a safe framework for purva paksha since the ethic of mutual respect would trump the differences before they could turn toxic.
    • Malhotra, R., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2018). Being different: An Indian challenge to western universalism.
  • There was such a tag which was in fashion wearing which all sins would get washed. That fake tag was called secularism. Slogans would be raised for the unity of secular people. But you would have witnessed that from 2014 - 2019 that whole bunch stopped speaking. In this election not even a single political party could dare to mislead the country by wearing the mask of secularism.
  • Are we really honest when we say that we are seeking to establish a secular state? If your idea is to have a secular state it follows inevitably that we cannot afford to recognise minorities based upon religion.
    • H. C. Mookherjee. Vice president of the drafting committee .quoted in Adrija Roychowdhury. Secularism: Why Nehru dropped and Indira inserted the S-word in the Constitution. | New Delhi | August 5, 2018 [2]
  • The word ‘secularism’ in India has no bearing on the attitude and conduct of individuals nor of religious groups. However, it has been used as a slogan of varying significance. In its name, anti-religious forces, sponsored by secular humanism or Communism, condemn religious piety, particularly in the majority community. In its name, minorities are immune from such attention and have succeeded in getting their demands, however unreasonable, accepted. In its name, again, politicians in power adopt a strange attitude which, while it condones the susceptibilities, religious and social, of the minority communities, is too ready to brand similar susceptibilities in the majority community as communalistic and reactionary. How secularism sometimes become allergic to Hinduism will be apparent from certain episodes relating to the reconstruction of Somanath temple. These unfortunate postures have been creating a sense of frustration in the majority community.
  • If however the misuse of this word 'secularism' continues...if every time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the questions; if our holy places of pilgrimage like Banaras, Mathura and Rishikesh continue to be converted into industrial slums... the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up.
    • Kanhaiya Lal Munshi in a letter to Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, quoted (partially) in Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.210, with quote from K.M. Munshi, Indian Constitutional Documents: Pilgrimage to Freedom, 1902-1950. and Pilgrimage to Freedom by K.M. Munshi, p. 312) (also in Gujarat Riots: the True Story: The Truth of the 2002 Riots, also in Hindutva For The Changing Times, also in Profiles in Deception: Ayodhya and the Dead Sea Scrolls , also in BJP's White Paper on Ayodhya & the Rama Temple Movement, also in Politics in India, 1992-93, etc.)
  • Decades ago, a prominent Congress leader, Kanhaiya Lal Munshi (1887-1971) had warned his party colleague, and the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru (1889-1964) in a letter stating, “If every time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question... the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up.” Far from heeding this warning, under the guise of upholding secularism, the Congress Party has made demonisation of the majority its main political plank. This perversion is unthinkable in any other country of the world.
    • Madhu Kishwar (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p. 210, with quote from K.M. Munshi, Indian Constitutional Documents: Pilgrimage to Freedom, 1902-1950,


  • We talk about a secular state in India. It is perhaps not very easy even to find a good word in Hindi for "secular". Some people think it means something opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct. What it means is that it is state which honours all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities; that, as a state, it does not allow itself to be attached to one faith or religion, which then becomes the state religion.
  • We have laid down in our constitution that India is a secular state. That does not mean irreligion. it means equal respect for all faiths and equal opportunities for those who profess any faith.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru, An Appeal, 5 July 1961, in Jawaharlal Nehru: An Anthology, pp. 332-3.


  • Do we realise how that hastily-ordered ban [on the book The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie] has changed India forever? .... When the Government promptly submitted to this illiterate hysteria, it convinced [Hindus] that secularism had become a code phrase for Muslim appeasement.
    • Vir Sanghvi: Liberal first, secular second. Sunday, 27.2.1994, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 32-33
  • Though borrowed from the West, secularism in India served a different end. In the West, it was directed against the clergy, tyrannical rulers, and had therefore a liberating role; in India, it was designed and actually used by Macaulayites to keep down the Hindus, the victims of two successive imperialisms expending over a thousand years. In the West, it opposed the Church which claimed to be the sole custodian of truth, which took upon itself the responsibility of dictating science and ordering thought, which decided when the world was created, whether the earth is flat or round, whether the sun or the earth moves round the other, which gave definitive conclusions on all matters and punished and dissent. But in India, secularism was directed against Hinduism which made no such claims, which laid down no dogmas and punished no dissent, which fully accepted the role of reason and unhampered inquiry in all matters, spiritual and secular; which encouraged viewing things from multiple angles - Syadvada (for which there is no true English word) was only a part of this larger speculative and venturesome approach... There is yet another difference. In the West, the struggle for secularism called for sacrifice and suffering-remember the imprisonments, the stakes, the Index; remember the condemnation of Galileo; remember how Bruno, Lucilio Vanini, Francis Kett, Bartholomew Legate, Wightman and others were burnt at the stake. But in India secularism has been a part of the Establishment, first of the British and then of our own self-alienated rulers. It has been used against Hinduism which has nourished a great spirit and culture of tolerance, free inquiry and intellectual.... Religious harmony is a desirable thing. But it takes two to play the game. Unfortunately such a sentiment holds a low position in Islamic theology... Secularism has become a name for showing one's distance from this great religion and culture. Macaulayites and Marxists also use it for Hindu- baiting... More than the policy of divide and rule, the British followed another favourite policy, the policy of creating privileged enclaves and ruling the masses with the help of those policies were embraced in their fullness by our new rulers-the rules of the game did not change simple because the British left.
    • Ram Swarup, "Seeing through Indian secularism", in: Koenraad Elst, Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991), Appendix II
  • But there is an even more potent cause for the near total erasure of such material from our public discourse and our instruction. And that is the form of “secularism” which we have practised these forty-five years: a “secularism” in which double-standards have been the norm, one in which everything that may remove the dross by which our national identity has been covered has become anathema.
    • Arun Shourie - Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud
  • Some have seen in his approach a reaction to Islam’s assertiveness. In response to the suggestion that Hindus are behaving like Islamists, the one-time journalist and former BJP minister Arun Shourie commented tartly: ‘In a word, three things are teaching the Hindus to become Islamic: the double-standards of the secularists and the State, the demonstrated success of the Muslims in bending both the State and the secularists by intimidation, and the fact that both the State and the secularists pay attention to the sentiments of Hindus only when the Hindus become a little Islamic… [My] forecast: the more the secularists insist on double-standards, the more Islamic will the Hindus become.’
    • Arun Shourie, quoted from Shashi Tharoor, Why I am a Hindu, 2018
  • Now that the Chief Minister of Bihar has dragged 'succularism' into the political discourse, it is time to deconstruct it so that we can end this pointless debate once and for all. I have deliberately misspelt the word because when said in Hindi that is how it is usually pronounced. It is a hard word to write in devnagri and the Hindi and Urdu equivalents do not quite mean what secularism has come to mean in the Indian political context. It is a foreign word that evolved in a European context when the powers of the church and the state were separated. In India, since none of our religions were led by pontiffs who controlled armies, or had vast temporal powers, we had no need to make this separation. But, the word secularism is used in India more than almost any other country. Why? Well, because when we entered our current era of coalition governments, political parties of leftist disposition found it convenient to keep the BJP out of power by saying they would only ally with 'succular phorces'. The BJP became a pariah after the Babri Masjid came down and so whenever someone like Nitish Kumar wants to hurl abuse at the party he is in alliance with in Bihar, or one of its leaders, the 'secularism' debate gets revived. When I heard Aung San Suu Kyi's address to both houses of Britian's Parliament in Westminster hall last week, what impressed me was the clarity with which she spelt out her vision for her country. But, throughout her speech, something kept bothering me and by the time she finished, I discovered what it was. What bothered me was that I could not think of a single Indian leader who could make such a speech. The Indian political landscape today has become a desert in which only the stunted progeny of stunted political leaders bloom. We need our political parties to throw up real leaders and we need a political discourse in which real political problems are discussed. So can we stop fishing 'secularism' out of the dustbin of history and holding it up as a shining ideal? Its relevance faded a long time ago.
  • In the interests of 'secularism', most Indian schools and colleges provide only limited courses for the study of ancient India, Vedic Hinduism and Sanskrit literature. So the vast majority of Indian children grow up with a sense of being Indian that is restricted to a religious identity. When this gets infused with a toxic sort of nationalism, as happens in RSS educational institutions, the result is bigotry of a lethal kind.


  • "Indian 'secularism' is basically a linear descendant of Leftist ideology, and derives its inspiration from Leftist terminology and thought categories, so that 'secularism' boils down to anti-Hinduism".
    • S. Talageri, The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (1993) (TALAGERI 1993:10).


  • Hindu India, Secular India.
    • VHP. Slogan used in ads by the Vishva Hindu Parishad published in some papers in 1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.

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