24 February 2024
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One of the most enduring narratives in the repertoire of the Indian Right is that the country’s secularism is alive because India is a Hindu-majority nation. Had it been otherwise, the argument goes, secular forces would have taken a backseat, which is what has happened in the Muslim-dominant polities elsewhere in the subcontinent.

“Those who believe that India’s secularism is challenged by a Ram temple in Ayodhya should realise that India is secular primarily because of its Hindu ethos,” wrote best-selling author Ashwin Sanghi in a widely shared article in 2020.

There are two ways to look at this argument. First, it rests on the premise that in fostering the ethics on which India’s secularism stands, Muslim participation is too frugal to make any meaningful difference. Second, it seeks to cast the concepts of tolerance and pluralism in India as part of the cultural Hindu vernacular that only the espousal of Hindu values can guarantee. Since Muslims had cut their way out in 1947, and the new nation they built was hardly a representative of religious harmony, their value system has revealed itself to be incapable of establishing, let alone protecting, and nurturing secularism.

One may, therefore, feel compelled to ask: Have Muslims then, whatever remained of…

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Abdul Gh Lone

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