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  • Secularism in India: A “Gandhian” Approach

    Farah Godrej

    Chapter from the book: Ashcroft R. & Bevir M. 2019. Multiculturalism in the British Commonwealth: Comparative Perspectives on Theory and Practice.


    Chapter 8 analyzes Gandhi’s apparent ambivalence toward the notion of secularism, which stems from the operation of two different conceptions of religion in his political thought. The first sees religion as a practice-based seeking after truth through reflection on conscience, in the light of one’s own religious traditions. The second view sees religion as claiming absolute doctrinal truth, which is the view of religion implicit in the metaphysics of the Abrahamic religions, and at work in colonial missionary practices. Ghandi thought the first “private” understanding of religion could nevertheless usefully inform a public engagement with other views, but that the second should be strictly separated from politics because of its tendency to facilitate competition and ideological entrenchment. His views are prophetic regarding current religious strife in India, which is arguably driven by a western secularism that is anathema to the Indian context historically, politically and on a deeper metaphysical level.

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    Godrej, F. 2019. Secularism in India: A “Gandhian” Approach. In: Ashcroft R. & Bevir M (eds.), Multiculturalism in the British Commonwealth. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.73.h

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    Published on July 12, 2019