Secularism and Muslim Personal Law

Rochana Bajpai

in Debating Difference

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780198067504
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080410 | DOI:
Secularism and Muslim Personal Law

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This chapter examines the Shah Bano case and considers arguments for and against special provisions for Muslim religious law in India through the prism of secularism. It argues that discursive shifts can be observed in conceptions of secularism in Congress discourse that were conducive to stronger multicultural policies: policy change was accompanied by changes in political justifications regarding group rights. With both equality and freedom-based arguments remaining under-developed in Congress discourse, preferential provisions for cultural protection continued to suffer from a justificatory deficit. This, together with the form of the discursive shift of the Congress, created a favourable ideological climate for the Hindu Right, which saw a surge of support in the aftermath of Shah Bano. While the Congress achieved the policy change it desired, it was unable to transform legitimating norms in the Shah Bano debate.

Keywords: Shah Bano; secularism; religious law; Muslims; group rights; Congress; Hindu Rights

Chapter.  19505 words. 

Subjects: Indian Politics

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