Chapter

The Secular State and Religious Conflict<sup>*</sup>

S.N. Balagangadhara

in Reconceptualizing India Studies

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780198082965
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081936 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198082965.003.0009
The Secular State and Religious Conflict*

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This chapter develops an alternative perspective on the issue of secularism in India. Contemporary India confronts acute problems of religious pluralism, which pose fundamental challenges to the existing political theory concerning religious toleration. As the Indian society consists of both pagan traditions and Semitic religions, the secular state confronts a set of difficulties unknown to the western cultural background from which it originally emerged. More specifically, by tackling the problem of religious conversion, this chapter shows that the dominant way of conceiving state neutrality becomes problematic in the Indian context. The argument suggests that the post-independent Indian state, modelled after the liberal democracies in the West, is the harbinger of religious violence in India because of the way it conceives of state neutrality. More of ‘secularism’ in India will end up feeding what it fights: the so-called ‘Hindu fundamentalism’.

Keywords: Secularism; religious pluralism; religious toleration; political theory; secular state; state neutrality; religious violence; conversion

Chapter.  12073 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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