Neera Chandhoke

Neera Chandhoke
Currently Visiting Professor
Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

"The Crisis of Secularism and its Aftermath"
The concept of secularism, which enables adherents of different religions to live together in some degree of civility, is in crisis in most parts of the world. European philosophers have announced the onset of a post-secular age, marked by the recognition of both the pervasiveness of religion, and the value of religious knowledge. Discomfort with the visible presence of religion in European societies catapults a rather important question onto our conceptual horizon. Does secularism need to be written off because belief in the precondition of secularism, i.e., secularisation has gone missing across the world? Taking our cue from the Indian experience, it can be argued that the two concepts may be independent of each other. It is possible to institutionalise secularism in a religiously plural society, as India did, provided we recognise three propositions. One, political secularism is more not less important in societies constituted by a number of religious communities. Two, in democratic societies the fundamentals of political secularism have to be derived from the core principle of democracy; that is equality. Three, political secularism is not a stand-alone concept, if the first companion concept of secularism is equality, the second is toleration. Secularism, equality and toleration belong to a family of concepts that can possibly help us address the malaise of a post-modern world in which religion has made a ‘comeback’. This does not mean that the Indian practice of secularism is perfect, but it can certainly provide us with a handle to address current political predicaments.

Former professor Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. Current Position: Visiting Professorial Fellow Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU. Research Interests: Political Theory, Indian Politics, Comparative Politics. Published Work: 2015, Democracy and Revolutionary Politics: London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2012, Contested Secessions: Democracy, Rights, Self-Determination and Kashmir, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2003, The Conceits of Civil Society, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1999, Beyond Secularism: The Rights of Religious Minorities, Delhi Oxford University Press, 1995, State And Civil Society: Explorations in Political Theory ,Delhi, Sage. Edited: 2012 Protecting the Unprotected: Social Protection Policies in South Asia, Delhi, Routledge, Co-editor Sanjay Agrawala, 2009, Contemporary India, New Delhi, Pearsons, Co-editor Praveen Priyadarshi, 2000, Mapping Histories Delhi, Tulika, 1996, Understanding The Post- Colonial World: Theory and Method Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. New Delhi, 1994, Grass-Root Politics and Social Transformation, University of Delhi Press, co-editor Ashish Ghosh. Published Papers 2015-2014: 2016, ‘Paltry Vanities of Intolerance’ Economic and Political Weekly, 30 January 2016; 2015, ‘Repairing Complex Historical Injustice’ Economic and Political Weekly, vol 1, no 39, 26 September, pp 30-36 ,2014, ‘Secularism: ‘The Life and Times of a Difficult Concept’ in Peter Losonczi and Walter Van Herck, editors Secularism, Religion and Politics, London, Routledge, pp 19-35;  2014, ‘Negating Violence: The Gandhi Way’ in Eva Pfostl edited Between Ethics and Politics: Gandhi Today, New Delhi, Routledge, pp 72-97 2014, ‘Silences in the Study of Indian Democracy’ in Manisha Tikekar edited Constitutionalism and Democracy in South Asia, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, pp 139-161