The Crisis of Indian Secularism

Issue Date October 2003
Volume 14
Issue 4
Page Numbers 11-25
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

After fifty years of independence India maintains a constitutional commitment to secularism. However, the practice of secularism in India is now increasingly under attack. In the quest for electoral advantage, the once-dominant Congress Party, made a series of choices that compromised India’s secular ethos. These choices enabled the explicitly anti-secular Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to dramatically expand its political base through the pursuit of a blatantly anti-secular and majoritarian political agenda. In recent years, as a direct consequence of the BJP’s rhetoric and policies, a range of religious minorities have been subjected to discrimination and violence. Despite this adverse trend it is still too early to ring the death-knell of Indian secularism. The growing electoral strength of hitherto disenfranchised groups, the existence of institutions committed to secularism and the continuing secular constitutional dispensation offer some hope for sustaining the secular order in India.

About the Author

Šumit Ganguly is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington, and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is the author (with William Thompson) of Ascending India and Its State Capacity (2017).

View all work by Šumit Ganguly