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Secularism is Important to Modern India

Harsh Gupta & Sandeep Balakrishna

Debate moderated by Jaideep Prabhu

Secularism is Important to Modern India It gives CRI great pleasure to announce the launch of its debate series, VaadPrativaad. There are many important issues before India today that need discussion and debate, issues that can affect the trajectory of a state or redefine a nation from its core. Sadly, we do not see public fora of the country locked in a raucous babble of intelligent points and counterpoints. CRI wishes to create a space for such debate, if only virtually to begin with, so that we as Indians may listen, learn, and participate in the discussion of questions important to our lives. The structure of Vaad-Prativaad is as follows: the core CRI team will approach and confirm two people from outside the CRI fold to debate a given issue, one for and one against a motion decided previously by the team. Both will be invited to submit an opening piece supporting their argument, and both shall be published simultaneously. Following this, once our readers have had time to digest the arguments of both sides, both participants shall submit another piece, critiquing his/her opponents opening statement. After a short delay again, they will be given a chance to respond to the critiques made against them. At this point, the moderator will summarise the debate, drawing on the salient points of both arguments, and the floor would be thrown open to the House. While participants may or may not choose to field questions, it is an opportunity for the readership to discuss the debate amongst themselves. CRI is not interested in the outcome of a debate but only that it is conducted professionally and that we all learn something. The motion for Vaad-Prativaad Autumn 2012 is, Secularism is Important to Modern India. This topic stokes passions even today, despite the addition of the word secular to the preamble of the Indian constitution. There are many reasons for this, as our participants will no doubt enlighten us. So without further ado, let us turn to our speakers. 2

[Please vote your opinion BEFORE the debate here. A similar poll will be conducted after the debate. This will allow us to measure how much the speakers were able to sway the readers and what sort of pre-debate bias there was. This is only for CRI's statistical curiosity and has no bearing on anything else.] SPEAKER FOR: Speaking for the motion is Harsh Gupta, the force behind the twitter handle @hguptapolicy. Harsh considers himself a classical liberal, and in the time I have known him, has come across as an erudite and polite individual, not afraid to follow answers wherever they may lead him. He retains an open mind, and does not tolerate weak arguments with pleasure, a fact that has certainly endeared him to me! FOR THE MOTION: Thanks to Jaideep Prabhu and CRI for hosting this debate; thanks to Sandeep Balakrishna for engaging me. I will argue that: (1) India needs to separate religion and state and treat its citizens as individuals and not as members of groups. Advocating majoritarian policies is wrong (say, restrictions on voluntary conversions and cow slaughter) and needs to be separated from protesting minority appeasement (say, in policy regarding education/quotas, religious trusts, civil code, Article 370 etc.) (2) The political philosophy of Hindutva is morally wrong, detrimental to the Indian national interest, detrimental to Hinduism, and politically counterproductive. The Indian Right needs to adopt and not attack secularism/liberalism. On the political platform, equality of individuals before the law should be fought for. (Using the social platform against, say, conversions is perfectly legitimate and we should put our own financial and intellectual groups). 3 resources behind this legitimate communalism, properly understood rather than trying to use either the state, or worse violent

Now, I must attempt to describe what I mean and do not mean by secularism, liberalism, and Hindutva. I am aware that all these three terms have many interpretations, and also that any interpretation will inevitably pigeonhole some proponents or opponents of these ideas. But that is unfortunately inevitable hopefully, in due course of the debate, more clarity will emerge. But it is crucially important to note that I am discussing these terms as instances of political philosophy, not as examples of personal worldviews. Therefore, by secular and liberal I mean those who want the omissions and commissions of the government to be strictly bound by these ideological constraints. Similarly, when I say I am against Hindutva, I mean that I do not want any majoritarian government policies. This does not take away my rights to indulge in community-specific charity or criticism, so long as I am not being coercive. As Thomas Paine noted, Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness[society] encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions Starting with secularism, what I have in mind here is the American First Amendment interpretation there, the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses mandate the separation of state and religion (the other part of this amendment free speech is important and relevant too, as we shall see). Therefore, a genuinely secular polity should not indulge in any positive or negative discrimination based on any citizens religious faith, or lack thereof. The state should not even know or ask the faiths of their citizens it is not the states business, and this just ends up congealing identities. Examples of non-secular policies in India would be religion-based quotas, religion-based tax benefits, religion-based educational autonomy, religionbased diet restrictions and of course more ambiguously religion-based law enforcement. While our state is secular insofar as it has not established itself in service of any religion and people are largely free to follow their religions, nonetheless it does not treat Indians of all religions equally. 4

More worrying is the trend of moral surrender by the Indian state when it comes to dealing directly with individuals, especially with those who happen to be from the minority communities. We have different laws for different communities in education, civil codes, taxes, religious trusts etc (read my earlier article against the government controlling Hindu temples) these aspects simply cannot be considered secular according to my interpretation (Saying that the Indian judiciary have accepted many of these laws, and that the Indian constitution is now explicitly secular is neither here nor there the Indian constitution is also socialist, but there are many interpretations of socialism). Positive discrimination on the basis of race or caste is still illiberal (and more divisive than affirmative action on more economic criteria) but somewhat understandable, because one simply cannot change those attributes, yet one can change his or her religion. In any case, some policies based on positive discrimination may actually hurt more than help whether funding madrassas and lightly regulating them is positive for the Indian Muslim community or not is an open question. This shows that Indian secularism is not just about minority appeasement (although it is that too), but also a benign condescension at best and deliberate social suppression for maintaining vote-banks at worst. There are other forms of secularism out there too French, Turkish, British, even Chinese. For the French, individual rights are important but their national culture and language are important too (burkhas, turbans, prominent crosses etc may not be welcome in public institutions). The Turks take it one step ahead in their attempt to basically sideline Islam, the Kemalists aggressively looked down upon all religious dresses, changed their script, and a lot more (in the last decade, they have faced an aggressive and what seems to be a durable backlash). The British still love their monarchy and national church, but of course do not persecute any religion. Indeed, in their efforts to subsidize multi-culturalism and prevent hate speech, they

have unfortunately become close to a benign totalitarian state with a rotting underclass. The Chinese rulers will persecute any religion or cult if they stand against national harmony or integrity as the Communists see it. Yet, these forms of quasi-secularism are clearly preferable to, say, present-day Islamist theocracies. So, yes, we must distinguish. India is thankfully very much secular compared to a Pakistan or even Bangladesh but our problems including many that agitate Hindu nationalists are not because we are too secular, but because we are not secular enough. Now, this does not mean it is not always difficult to answer questions about the exact meaning of secularism. For example, the United States allows tax benefits to religious places and trusts while unlike in India, there is no majority/minority discrimination there nonetheless, it ends up favoring those who have certain theological beliefs over those who say they have none. This raises a larger point what counts as religious beliefs are socialism, bioethics, environmentalism etc religions? Is secularism itself a religion? Attempting to answer all this inevitably takes us to the debate about the states role in mans life, showing that secularism is but a sub-set of liberalism. But this shows that secularism should also include opposing those policies that could be ostensibly pushed for reasons not related to religion, but nonetheless have a disparate impact on one group and there are plausible religious motives for such policies. I have in mind here some proponents of cow slaughter bans who say, for example, pet dog cannot be killed in parts of the West. It is a fair point that shows the inconsistency on animal rights. But sticking to the conventional definitions of religion for now, this is more a criticism of the law being seemingly arbitrary or illiberal, and not non-secular per se. By liberalism, I mean classical liberalism not modern-day left-liberalism, which is a mix of aggressively redistributionist policies and minority victimhood-mongering politics. In classical liberalism on the other hand, the individual and his inherent rights (more specifically, his negative liberties of life, 6

liberty, property according to Isaiah Berlin) are valued more than his group identity whether the grouping is by religion, language, caste, gender, class, sexual orientation etc. Classical liberals are broadly against speech restrictions, trade restraints, overcentralization and arbitrary governance. They stand for the rule of law, property rights, federalism and efficient government spending on welfare to a limited extent. Relevant for our debate is that genuine liberals are against arbitrary decisions or the rule of man. For example, the state implementing decibel limit laws in the case of some religious places/festivals but not in case of others, using the Indian constitutions illiberal rights to constrain speech and assembly to constrain the liberty of some writers while patronizing others (this happens across the political spectrum) and not allowing political workers to flag the Indian national flag in Srinagar. This is clearly not compatible with liberalism or rule of law, but we instead have the curious case of Hindutva activists attacking both secularism and pseudosecularism, and mocking liberals while still criticizing them for not being liberal enough! On the other hand, the BJP is best placed today, if it can get rid of the partially real, partially semantic albatross of Hindutva, to emerge as a true liberal party (Please see my earlier article on this in Mint) So let us discuss Hindutva. By Hindutva, I mean the political philosophy that at a macro-level seeks recognition from the state of India being a Hindu country and at a micro level, supports policy restrictions such as those on voluntary conversions and cow slaughter (see my earlier article against Hindutva). In general is uncomfortable with more than 200 million Muslims and Christians being full and equal citizens of India. Subramaniam Swamys idea that only those Indians who are Hindus or who accept that they had Hindu ancestors be allowed to vote has been rejected by some moderate Hindu nationalists, but justified by more extreme ones.

The history of India from the brutal Muslim rule centuries ago to the partition sixty-five years ago a history whitewashed earlier but now challenged by scholars bypassing the politically correct corridors of academia makes some want the Indian state to be their partisan instead. Then, the present-day sporadic Islamist violence juxtaposed with claims of Muslim victimhood justified by leftists (not to mention continuing funding for Christian and Islamic causes funded by the West and Saudi Arabia) creates a (in my view, false) sense of siege. Extreme adherents of this philosophy also support destruction of more mosques formed by destroying temples (While the Babri Masjids destruction was also wrong, but at least it was technically a property dispute older than our modern republic, the other mosques in the minds of some far-right groups have had no legal disputes and are being actively used for offering prayers). Given these ground realities, I reject a non-political interpretation of Hindutva as dubious, and indeed misleading as it tries to adopt the metaphysical beauty of Hinduism and other Dharmic religions for public consumption (Look at this otherwise very well written piece on this site, which remarkably uses the words Hinduism and Hindutva interchangeably!) I also reject the idea that western political concepts would not apply to India as wrong given that we are already using a British parliamentary system. We should accept the idea based on its validity and applicability, not its genesis date or location. Moreover, much of modern Hindutva (and curiously, a significant though lesser portion of Islamism too) has been inspired by early 20th century European nationalisms, as can be clearly seen from the writings of Golwalkar and to a lesser extent Savarkar. In contrast, a Shyamaprasad Mukherjee was relatively more liberal and a Deendayal Upadhyaya focused more on Hindu society rather than the Indian state like Vivekananda, Dayananda, Rammohan Roy, Gandhi and many others before him. Therefore, this debate is, for better or worse, more complicated than about using complicated Sanskrit words, which no one uses anymore, or throwing charges of deracination on those one disagrees with. 8

Now, without any doubt, the Indian societys core is undoubtedly its Hindu civilization. But Hindutva wrongly tries to merge Hinduism and India, making both more parochial in the process. Hinduism is not a territorial concept, it is a worldview maybe not theological in the Abrahamic sense, but nonetheless a set of beliefs, guidelines and attitudes, however flexible. Arun Shourie understood this, and so did Koenraad Elst (even if their views on other aspects of Hindutva differ from mine). The Hindutva movement may have been the only realistic, if not a legitimate, response to the minority appeasement and casteist manipulations of the 1980s and earlier. But by and large, it has been a reactive not pro-active movement. It sells resentments, not alternatives. But as the Buddha once said, Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. One need not be passive, weak or an extreme Gandhian caricature when it comes to non-violence to understand the wisdom of that statement. We need peace, progress, prosperity and a strong deterrence against hooliganism on the streets. For this, India needs to rise above identity politics speak against both majoritarianism as well as appeasement in our legislatures. * * * * * * * *

SPEAKER AGAINST: Speaking against the motion is Sandeep Balakrishna.

In the time I have known Sandeep, I have been pleased to discover a scripturalist who abhors the mumbo-jumbo usually associated with traditionally or religiously-inclined people. Sandeep is extremely knowledgeable about Hindu scripture and tradition, and without doubt eminently qualified to enlighten us and engage in this debate.
AGAINST THE MOTION: According to Arun Shourie, Indian secularism consists of branding others communal,[1] a wholly accurate characterization of what passes for secularism 9

in India. The reason this one term causes tremendous hostility isnt tough to seek. Secularism is fundamentally a concept alien to India, it isnt clearly defined, it hasnt found resonance with the so-called masses of India, and the Constitution itself hasnt taken an explicit or clear position on it. Howsoever noble its intent, in practice secularism has proven divisive and continues to encourage inter-religious strife on a scale never seen before in Indian history. Indeed, its not inaccurate to claim that secularism has, over the years become synonymous with the British policy of dividing Indians primarily along religious lines. History of Indian Secularism To begin with, we need to examine why there is such a huge disconnect between precept and practice of secularism in India. First, it is important to recall that the person who gave impetus to secularism as state doctrine was Indias first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He did this in a loose fashion, one that was the direct consequence of his poor understanding of the Indian situationmore specifically, his misreading of Hinduism. In a 1928 speech addressed to a gathering of students in Bombay, he said, Much is said about the superiority of our religion, art, music and philosophy. But what are they today? Your religion has become a thing of the kitchen, as to what you can eat, and what you cannot eat, as to whom you can touch, and whom you cannot touch. [2] In 1963, a year before his death, he declared that the real danger to India, is Hindu right-wing communalism.[3] A cursory reading of Nehrus biography lends us several such examples. It suffices to say that Nehrus definition of secularism had its basis in his bias against Hinduism. Nature of Indian Secularism Because this bias defined Nehruvian secularismwhich continues to be practiced todayit set the tone for every state policy that followed. Its therefore unsurprising that almost all such policies were designed to contain if not suppress the Hindu voice in India. But it didnt merely stop at thatit went 10

out of its way to mollycoddle the minorities, which in Indias case back then, comprised almost entirely Muslims. This was done in a bid to soothe the fears of Muslims who complained that they would be unable to live in peaceand without fearin a Hindu-majority India. This complaint was despite the fact a separate state was carved out of undivided India owing to the selfsame fear of Muslims. This seems to be a fair concern but questions arise over the actual steps taken to assuage it. While legislations like the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 almost completely changed the face of the Hindu society, most Muslim-oriented legislations put the Muslim community almost outside the purview of the state in several key areas. For instance, the Muslim Personal Law is a law unto itself, governed by the principles of the Sharia, which is recognized by the Indian state. Equally, the Hajj Act, 1959 provides for facilitating the Mecca pilgrimage of Indian Muslims at taxpayer expense. Muslim (and Christian) educational institutions are pretty much exempt from inspection by the Indian state. In practice, this means that they can discriminate against the majority community and the majority community does not have any legal recourse to fight such discrimination. These are just the major characteristics but characteristics representative of the nature of secularism in practice in India. It is clear therefore that in no other truly secular country in the world do we find such a yawning gap between precept and practice. In other words, Indian secularism is anti-secularism in practice because a survey of the numerous definitions of secularism yields a common strand: equality. Roots of Secularism This brings us to an examination of the roots of secularism. These roots date back to a medieval Europe, which was struggling to free itself from the clutches of the Church, which stifled the individual.











word, saeculum meaning time-cycle, era, eternity, world, time, age, and so on. The original meaning of secular is synonymous with temporal in the sense of non-permanent, fleeting, and so on. It is clear from its origins that this word had no political connotations whatsoever. Whats more, when this word was transmuted into modern languages via Church parlance, it still didnt have a political connotation. Even when the Church used this term, it didnt use it in the sense of nonreligion, or even in the sense of having a specific attitude towards religion. Thus, within the context of the Church, secularism signified a very clear differentiation: there were Priests/clergymen whose job was solely dedicated to the Spiritual and the Monastic, and there were Priests who were involved in worldly duties such as a parish priest. The latter were secular Priests who officiated on such things as baptism, weddings, and funeral rites. This was perfectly fine as long as everybody agreed that this is the way to go and the way to be. However, an important problem arose in the matter of confessions. In other wordsto use common terminologyevery confessional Church claimed that it was the only true Christian Church. Thus, the Calvinists, the Lutherans, and the Catholics claimed that theirs was the only true Christian

In a highly-Christian Europe, this was an almost insurmountable problem given that the Church had a huge say in how the State was run. If the head of state favoured a specific Church denomination, he was bound to side with this Churchs truth-claims over the truth-claims of other Church denominations. Such favoritism naturally caused resentment among those other denominations that claimed that their claim to truth was the actual truth. This kind of reasoning and this situation is best encompassed by one term: competing

However, the state head, by sheer political might had no other recourse but to impose his/her preference as state doctrine. The alternative was to face the wrath of the Church denomination he was affiliated to. The results of such 12

imposition are predictable: it led to prosecution and discrimination based merely on human whim. Thus, after decades upon decades of such unceasing conflict, which included bloodshedor more specifically, around the period of the Enlightenment, thinkers and philosophers realized that the State had no business playing favourites or worse, being an arbiter and enforcer of Church-related matters. This is briefly how the word secularism acquired a new meaningas a doctrine

concerning the state.

Context and Consequences This was a historic progressive step because it limited the role of the state to focus only on worldly matters and allowed the individual the freedom to pursue religious goals or even to espouse no religion at all. However, what is not to be forgotten here is that this concept originated in, and is a product of various conflicts purely in the context of the Christian

religion. All discourses regarding secularism that followed are primarily based
upon this context. A quote from Jakob De Roover[4] sums this up accurately: The steps from Locke through Jefferson are not those of rational enlightenment which extends its secular values to humanity but those of an internal religious dynamic of secularization which spreads Christian principles in a secular guise. Thus, there were a specific set of conditions and an historical inheritance that led to the birth and development of secularism as a political doctrine. Now when Nehru declared secularism to be the state doctrine of India, it did exactly one thing: it was acting on one mans assumptions that the situation in India during his time resembled that of the situation in Europe a few centuries earlier. 13

The consequences again were predictable. Thinkers, scholars, and India-watchers abroad, when they were told that secularism was the Indian states doctrine, naturally assumed that this secularism was the same as the one back home. And they used precisely this lens to examine and analyze every event, development, and upheaval that occurred in India. Both Nehrus unexamined assumption and the Wests uncritical acceptance of India as a genuinely secular state are the consequences that derive from what Jakob De Roover[5]describes as: What has happened in normative theories of secularism is that this internal problem of Christian Europe has been projected universally as though it is a general human predicament But what was the situation in India? Defining Hinduism The characterization of Hinduism by Nehru as merely a set of individual and social practices, several of which are abhorrent and irrational is a classic case of mistaking the forest for the trees. In analyzing secularism with respect to India, it is fundamental to define the term religion. For the purposes of this essay, religion is defined as, and denotes the Christian religion and the situation created by the Christian religion in societies where it is in a majority and where it directly influences and shapes State policy. Islam is also mentioned in the text that follows because this definition of religion also holds true in its case. By this definition, Hinduism is not a religion. Hinduism is, so to say, a vast umbrella that accommodates any number of philosophical schools that derive their philosophy primarily from verifiable experiences of an individual. Over thousands of years and after countless philosophers, debates, and writing, the Vedanta philosophical system is the most accurate representation, if not the definition, of Hinduism. That said, both traditional and modern scholars of 14

Hinduism unarguably recognize six philosophical schools of Hinduism

Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta (also calledUttara Mimamsa and Upanishad).
Vedanta holds the topmost position in the Indian philosophical system because it is based on verifiable universal experience, which can only be experienced but cannot be explained. This is akin to getting ones skin burnt by fire, an experience, which is verifiable but which cannot be explained. Vedanta posits that the ultimate and the highest goal of any human being is the experience ofAnanda (loosely translated as Ultimate Bliss). It follows therefore that Ananda is a state of being, which can only be realized. Because it is a state of being, it has no form, no gender, and is not bound by time and space. This is akin to our experience of deep sleep. However, because concepts like this are extremely abstract and beyond the reach of most people, Vedanta provides some hints and recommends certain practices by which one can attain this state. There are recommendations but no strict dos and donts. In fact, Vedanta allows each man to explore his own path and chart his own course as long as the destination is the same. The various Upanishads are just thatdescriptions of the experiences of the sage who reached the said goal of attaining Ananda.[6] Now, the aforementioned characteristic of abstractness makes it difficult for the human mind to conceive abstractness because the mind always works within the space and time constraint. Unless something is named and placed in a context (or location), it becomes well-nigh impossible to even think of it.

The Conception of God This brings us to the conception of God. Because the state of Ultimate Bliss is both formless and genderless among other things, the conception of God according to Vedanta is that there is no

God. There logically cant be a God in a state of being. Recognizing the manner

in which the human mind works in order to make sense of thingsincluding GodVedanta allows the conception of Godany God, and any number of Gods. And because the state of Ananda is genderless, it makes no difference whether this God is a God or a Goddess for these are intermittent stages for realizing the said state of Ananda. [7] It is this conception of Vedanta that gave rise towhats understood by the West as a defining feature of Hinduismworshipping multiple Gods in multiple forms/ways of worship: making idols, building temples, painting, through the artsit is why virtually any physical object can become a God or Goddess in Hinduism. This is also the reason why there has never been a Prophet in Hinduism. When virtually any method, any practice, and any pathin the decent senseis open for realizing the state of Ananda,the need for a human agent is by definition obliterated. Thus, the 10 avatars of Vishnu, the thousands of Hindu gurus in history including modern-day saints or pontiffs of various sects of Hinduism act merely as moral and spiritual guides and not as messengers of God or the Divine. Major Contrasts Now, unlike both Islam and Christianity, there is a separate worldly or secular side to Hinduismworldly or secular in the sense of clear laws and codes governing it. These laws and codes do not claim sanction from any particular God or Goddess. They are collectively, generically known as

Dharmashastras (Body of Knowledge Conduct), which are notreligious texts.


with Dharma or


They lay down codes governing the conduct of worldly life of both individuals and/or the state. The branch that deals exclusively in matters of the state is known as Arthashastra. The roots of almost every major social practice prevailing in Hinduism can be traced to one or moreDharmashastra or derivatives thereof. Now, Dharmashastras are not static and provide for course corrections to suit changing times. [8] 16

This crucial difference is what distinguishes Hinduism from Prophetic religions. In both Islam and Christianity, almost every aspect of an individuals life as well as the policies and activities of the State, is governed by their respective scriptures. However, a state governed by the laws ofDharmashastra will not refer the Vedas or the Puranas to settle a worldly dispute between two parties. Indian history is replete with instances of this practiceof settling worldly disputes by referring to secular textsby various kings. On the other hand, an Islamic state will use the Koran and other Islamic scriptures to settle such disputes. This applies more or less equally to purely Christian states. This crucial difference in the outlook of Prophetic religions and Hinduism is also found in the way citizens are treated. Prophetic religions treat minorities as Zimmis (in Islam) or loosely speaking, as second-class citizens (under Christianity). These minorities have almost no rights, are discriminated against by law, and typically live under the mercy of the adherents of the majority religion. However, because Hinduism as a philosophical system views even Islam and Christianity merely as alternate paths to attaining Anandaa mistaken view, nevertheless widely heldthe notion of treating their adherents as inferior doesnt logically arise. And because this view also informs theDharmashastras, Hinduism treats minorities on par. This is the reason why no Hindu king demolished a mosque even after he vanquished a Muslim king in battle and also why he allowed Muslims to freely practice their faith in his kingdom. In other words, equal respect to all faiths. Closing Notes This is radically different from the (Christian) conception of secularism whose genesis and application weve seen earlier in this essay. This difference in conception is rooted in high philosophy and originates from the premises of mutual trust and respect. It sustained religious and social cohesion for hundreds of years spanning hundreds of kingdoms in India. However, with the ascendancy of British power in India, distortions, both unintentional and willful, crept into the study of Hinduism and Hindu society 17

with the result that symmetry was established between prophetic religions and Hinduism. For instance, leaders like Rajaram Mohun Roy misdiagnosed such social evils as Sati as an essence of Hinduism itself. This process accelerated until it reached a climax in Nehru who reduced Hinduism to a set of abhorrent practices, leading him to equate the historical situation in Europe with that in India during his time. Secularism was his solution to this problem. As we have seen, this variety of secularism continues to wreak untold damage upon the nation. In spite of being politically independent for 65 years, majority of Indians have little or no understanding of what secularism really means. If this by itself is not a decisive proof that secularism is wholly alien to Indias millennia-old civilizational consciousness and values, it is at least proof that a non-free, a non-secular India was better integrated and less divisive than it is now under the unwritten state doctrine of secularism.


Round 2
Welcome to the second round of Vaad Prativaad (Round I may be found here). CRI apologises for the delay in initiating this round. In this round, as was explained at the beginning, each participant will interrogate his opponents opening statement, exposing its weaknesses, flaws, and inconsistencies as perceived by him/her. In the next and final round, both participants will get an opportunity to respond to these questions and offer their concluding remarks. So on to the participants: FOR THE MOTION: Harsh Gupta Separating Indic exceptionalism from internalized Orientalism: Let us discuss policy differences to understand philosophical differences better In our opening statements, Sandeep and I predictably talked past each other and did not disagree as strongly as one may have expected. The aim of this rejoinder is to explore those potential disagreements. Sandeep is critiquing Nehruvian secularism, a political philosophy that I do not consider secular enough. As I wrote in my opening statement, our problems including many that agitate Hindu nationalists are not because we are too secular, but because we are not secular enough. Sandeep does not really critique true secularism or liberalism. His statement we need to examine why there is such a huge disconnect between precept and practice of secularism in India is a giveaway in this regard. But then, he explains his understanding of Hinduism, how it is not a religion in the Abrahamic sense (I do not disagree), how secularism evolved as an armistice of various Christian sects struggling for power in the late medieval West (again, I partially agree), and hence secularism is alien to India and Hinduism (here, I do disagree). By the end of his opening remarks though, I was still not clear where my opponent stood on the actual motion that is, the role of the Indian state in a citizens life, especially seen through the prism of religious identity.


Michael Oakeshott wrote The sin of the academic is that he takes so long in coming to the point. So let us try to get beyond semantics and explore policy disagreements. Let us assume for the moment that secularism is alien and/or harmful to India (as my opponent claims), and Dharma or Dharmashastras could guide state policy in India. So some specific questions what would Sandeeps policy position be on voluntary (including financially induced) conversions and cow slaughter/beef consumption in India? Why would he endorse (if he would) coercion against fellow citizens who are exercising their individual liberty without physically harming or financially defrauding other citizens? It is telling, for example, how in the discussion about the right to convert others, we forget about the right to be converted (very similar to how in the debate about allowing foreign retailers to sell wherever they want, we forget about taking away the rights of domestic customers to buy from wherever they want). Moving on, what would his position be on the many more medieval-era mosques in India that are undeniably made on the ruins of ancient temples? Would his understanding of justice be retroactive over such long periods of time? If so, why just property disputes related to religious places. Why not temporal ones too? Beyond what date, do we take a stand and say this is it, not going any further back when it comes to property disputes? Would drawing Hindu goddesses in nude or burning their images be punished by imprisonment or worse? What about caste discrimination? Our Dharmashastras discriminated on the basis on caste. Do we substantially revise them and Sandeep does not oppose revisions but then if we do revise them, we revise them based on what normative framework of ethics and values? For example, the Vishnu Smriti says that the Brahman can have four wives, the Kshatriya three, the Vaisya two and the Sudra one. On what basis can this be justified, and equally importantly on what basis should it now not be justified (I am assuming my opponent would not defend the above)?


The Manusmriti says It is declared that a Sudra woman alone (can be) the wife of a Sudra, she and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Vaisya, those two and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Brahmana. In simpler language, so-called higher castes could marry women from so-called lower castes but not vice versa. Matrimonial hierarchy and bans combined with polygamy sounds familiar to me. Also mentioned, Twice-born men who, in their folly, wed wives of the low (Sudra) caste, soon degrade their families and their children to the state of S udras and A Brahmana who takes a Sudra wife to his bed, will (after death) sink into hell; if he begets a child by her, he will lose the rank of a Brahmana concepts that I have personally heard from Hindu holy men. Even our classics on statecraft (just as classics of all civilizations) e.g. Arthashastra, has some gaping holes. Consider excerpts Whoever kills an elephant shall be put to deathWhoever brings in the pair of tusks of an elephant, dead from natural causes, shall receive a reward of four-and-a-half panas. Ignore the debate about animal rights or the death penalty just look at the inane juxtaposition of incentives. One kills a certain animal and in turn gets killed, but if one brings body parts of the same animal that has died of natural causes (how does one verify that) and get rewarded. Such policies are designed to have unintended consequences. My aim is not to cavil selectively. I do not even want to explore the more infamous quotes such as molten lead is to be poured into the ears of the low born who dare to hear the recital of the written word from our ancient books. There may be a contextual misunderstanding here and there, but todays Hindu nationalists are, at least in their self-image (and this is indeed partially true), actually the vanguard of creating a casteless society. Was this prompted by political and religious threats, or a realization that the social system we had was immoral irrespective of any temporal considerations? Moreover, the implication that Hindu society was always truly secular is also partially a myth. Even a benevolent or tolerant king giving extensive patronage to some panths and less or no patronage to others certainly benign by standards of most other societies of their time would not pass off as neutral 21

or fair-minded today, or in accordance with the rule of law. Yes, it was a different political system and the line separating the kings personal wealth and the states was not always clear. But I wonder when those who give examples of that Indian king funded both Vishnu and Baudh panths realize how irrelevant at best that precedent is for a modern-day Indian government. Debating history and philosophy while crucial can obscure more than illuminate. Let us discuss actual policies that would evolve from our conception of what is correct whatever we call it because said policies would and do actually impact the daily lives of citizens. But on semantics, I would nonetheless say this if my opponent does not actually differ substantially on policy, then why support words like Hindutva, which even if it means a non-discriminatory cultural nationalism for some, sounds like naked majoritraianism to others. Not just to most Muslims and Christians, but also many Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs and of course, to many Hindus too. In a nation where a million mutinies are taking place simultaneously, where age-old notions of caste, religion and gender are transforming, the notion of a Hindu state has many determined opponents, opponents who are as patriotic as any other Indian. The idea as mentioned on these pages by somebody else that we are Hindus, we aspire to be Indians while rhetorically stirring for some, again conflates an identity at birth with a voluntarily explored spirituality. This is the direct outcome of seeing Hinduism through territorial, and not philosophical lens, as I have written about in my previous articles. Indic exceptionalism in the world of faith, a world dominated by Abrahamic ideas, is real and something to be celebrated. But the celebration must be humble. The notion that there is nothing to be learnt from others is a counterproductive one. St. Augustine played a big role in reconciling Greek philosophy (which was indeed more influenced by Indian philosophy than Euro-centric historians let us know) and Christian theology, thereby reinforcing a pragmatism that eluded some other societies. Baruch Spinoza, celebrated by Jews even today, was in some of his metaphysical endeavors a student of Vedanta without perhaps knowing so. Before Ghazali 22

laid the curse of literalism on the Islamic world, the Mutazilis managed to say loudly that the holy book could not have been co-eternal with God. Yes, Turkish economist Timur Kuran blamed Islamic rigidity for the long divergence of the Islamic world with the Western. But the point is that even in the Abrahamic world, there is immense heterogeneity and dynamism. The fact remains that the Judeo-Christian Western world, more accurately the Greco-Roman world refined through the sieves of Renaissance, religious civil wars and a beautifully impersonal capitalism, has some important things to teach us just like we have a lot to offer to others. The question is not who has or had more to offer, but who can absorb faster whatever is good without losing their identity. As Gandhi and Tagore used to believe, let the winds of the world blow through the doors and windows of my house but I will not be blown away. Alex Von Tunzelmann wrote in a wonderful fast-paced book Indian Summer The notion that the British race had a monopoly on freedom and democracy was unsupportable with regard to the lengthy traditions of public debate, heterogeneous government and freedom of conscience that had existed for centuries in the Indians of Asoka and Akbar. If anythingthe British army was always on hand to give succor to each imperiled tyrantAnd so imperialists were able to perfect a classic piece of doublethink: railing against what they called Oriental despotism on one hand, while propping it up with another. While Hindu nationalists (correctly) support such statements, yet many of them also end up decrying this very liberty as a Western value! It seems they have confused Indic exceptionalism, and instead internalized the very Orientalism they have been working to refute. To summarize, we should lay down policy differences on the table as that would substantially contribute to clearing the semantic cloud overhanging on this debate. And, if the policy differences are not substantial between me and my opponent, then why implicitly or explicitly endorse words in the political sphere that exclude many citizens? In this semantic (or Semitic?) egotism, I hope we are not losing sight of much more important matters. On the other 23

hand, if policy differences are substantial, then my opponents should have the courage of their conviction to defend them holistically and not opportunistically use the language of liberty when it suits their partisan or indeed philosophical ends. * * * * * * * *

AGAINST THE MOTION: Sandeep Balakrishna First of all, thanks are in order to the fine folks at CRI, my fellow-debater Harsh Gupta, and to readers who I am given to understand, responded in large numbers. Its quite heartening that a genuine spirit of debate continues to exist in this age and day when blind camp-slotting and the resultant name-calling seem to be the norm. The best place to begin my critique of Harsh Guptas position is to start at the end of my own position, against the motion, which concludes thus: As we have seen, this variety of secularism continues to wreak untold damage upon the nation. In spite of being politically independent for 65 years, majority of Indians have little or no understanding of what secularism really means. If this by itself is not a decisive proof that secularism is wholly alien to Indias millennia-old civilizational consciousness and values, it is at least proof that a non-free, a non-secular India was better integrated and less divisive than it is now under the unwritten state doctrine of secularism. Reading Harshs exposition has only strengthened the conviction I have in my position. Harshs arguments display the sameI dare say, classicfallacies that I have found in most similar critiques. While several of his points miss the forest for the treesand vice versahe does present some reasonable and strong arguments. To begin with, he chooses restrictions on voluntary conversions and cow slaughter as example of advocating majoritarian policies. In my original argument, I had at length examined the genesis and origins of the concept of secularism as a political philosophy and concluded that it stems 24

from and is applicable in a Christian context and that therefore, problems will arise if it is applied as a universal solution. Equally, I had traced the origins of Hinduism and the kind of moral, ethical, and political philosophy it spawned. In other words, before one even begins to think about advocating any majoritarian or minority-friendly/unfriendly policy, it is essential to understand the nature of the two. This essentially implies that even if a Hindu voluntarily converts to Christianity, it poses a challenge given the inherent nature of Christianity. One of the goals of the newly-converted is to convert others of his ex-religion (or nonChristians). Additionally, history is a reliable witness to show us that missionaries, since the time they set foot in India, indulged in conversions by force or fraud or both. Equally, this history tells us that such conversions have for the most part resulted in hurting Hindus. The living proof of this can be found in the Christian-majority North East and the conversion-wrought intercommunity tensions in Orissa. Such tensions didnt exist even forty or fifty years ago in these regions. Therefore, when its clear that if one faith is doctrinally inimical to another and the latter happens to be in the majority, it is in the self-preservation interests of the majority that such conversions be outlawed. Now, I am in complete agreement on Harshs note about the American First Amendment and his argument that a genuinely secular polity should not indulge in any positive or negative discrimination based on any citizens religious faith, or lack thereof. But this is a partial doctrine, one that arises purely in a different political, social and religious context. Several Founding Fathers and Constitution-drafters were terrible Christian fanatics who agreed to the principle of Church-State separation as a matter of expediency given the fact that their individual denominations would always clash with that of the rest. This resonates with my original note about the competing truth-claims of Church denominations in Europe. In sharp contrast, I have shown in my previous argument, how the Hindu notion of secularism implied honouring even 25

non-Hindu faithseven those inimical to Hinduism. (In fact, history has recorded no incident where abuse of Hindu gods was punished by Hindu rulers.) Now that centuries of history have shown how this proved dangerous to the very survival of Hinduism, it is an issue that needs to be seriously rethought. This doesnt mean discriminating against or treating minority religions badly it simply means devising policies to ensure that the majority is not sacrificed at the altar of ill-conceived secularism or a mistaken notion of humanism. PostIndependence India is the best example of the former and todays Europe and America of the latter. The kind of defining freedoms and policies of the US, which Harsh (rightly) holds in high esteem, is, as we are witnessing, powerless to preventand worse, punishthe increasing instances of Islamic bigotry and fanaticism. Harsh Guptas example of Turkeys secularismand where it now standsin his enumeration of various flavours of secularism in a way bolsters my point. Now here is a country, which was once the centre of an all-powerful bigoted Caliphate, which threw it away under Kemal Pashas leadership, and which now seeks to return the same forces of bigotry to power. This simply proves the fact that when religions hostile to the fundamental values of freedom mount a determined opposition, few things can stop its triumph. Harshs argument also reflects this in a way but goes astray when it holds that [Y]et, these forms of quasi-secularism are clearly preferable to, say, presentday Islamist theocracies. Clearly, preferable doesnt mean that its right. Also, it is a poor comparisonit is akin to claiming that it is preferable to allow a free run to the atrocities of the local hoodlum because hes not Hitler. We can notice the same quality when Harsh claims that India is thankfully very much secular compared to a Pakistan. The only question that needs to be asked is: since when did Pakistan claim it was a secular nation notwithstanding Jinnahs pronouncements? It wears the Islamic Republic of Pakistan badge rather proudly. To put it rather bluntly, where secularism as a social doctrine is concerned, India cannot be compared 26

to any nation. Consider this: it took hundreds of years of bloody and recurring denominational conflict for Europe to evolve the secularism doctrineand this was in a continent populated people of pretty much the same racial descent separated only by language and Church denominationwhereas India despite various bloody upheavals, despite hundreds of sects within Hinduism, tens of languages, coupled with Islams onslaught has managed to remain intact. Harsh next makes the same error as do the avowed secularists in the media and elsewhere when he mentions that the present-day sporadic Islamist violence juxtaposed with claims of Muslim victimhood justified by leftists creates a (in my view, false) sense of siege. One only wishes the word false was not in braces. The siege is real because since Independenceand as I showed in my original submissionthe Indian state has bent backward to do two things: first, to accommodate every outrageous demand put forth primarily by Islamic zealots and second, to turn a blind eye to extreme acts perpetrated by these zealots. Both these have been at the cost of and detrimental to Hindus, and this list is pretty long. Asaduddin Owaisis provocative speech recently on the floor of the Parliament, unthinkable even a decade ago, and the Azad Maidan riots are just the latest examples of this phenomenon. On the other side, a succession of Constitutional amendments and laws has in a way, rendered Hindus powerless in their own homeland. Surely, all this does fit into the definition of a sense of siege. Sita Ram Goels well-researched book, Hindu Society under Siege is a good source providing the list of instances of how this siege came about. It was published in 1981 and since then, this list has only expanded. Next, Harsh turns to an examination of Hindutva, which he claims is the albatross around the BJPs neck. And makes the same errors that most Hindutva critiques make. First, most Hindutva critiques are derived from secondary sources and are therefore for the most part are unreliable. The fact that agenda-driven critiques are far more copious than genuine ones compounds the problem. Now, there are two ways to embark on a truthful critique of Hindutva: one, a thorough, 27

faithful reading of the most important primary sources and two, a thorough, faithful reading of Koenraad Elsts two-volume magnum opus, the Saffron Swastika, which in my opinion has the last word on the subject. Second, like the other critiques, this one too makes gross generalizations, a direct consequence of the first. The one thing that marks out Hindutva is the fact thatapart from Savarkars expositionmost of the discourse is characterized by a crude and unsophisticated exposition of its ideas resulting from a lack of clarity of thought which itself is the result of a sense of inferiority. It is most of all, a product of its time. And so when Harsh remarks that [B]y Hindutva, I mean the political philosophy that at a macro-level seeks recognition from the state of India being a Hindu country and at a micro level, supports policy restrictions such as those on voluntary conversions and cow slaughter it is quite clear that the author has uncritically accepted the received wisdom on an important subject. We have already dealt with the voluntary conversions issuecow slaughter is a separate discussion topic which space constraints do not permit here. The next point that Harsh makes is equally interesting: In general [Hindutva] is uncomfortable with more than 200 million Muslims and Christians being full and equal citizens of India This is the regurgitation of Savarkars line that minorities be treated as second class citizens in India, an idea again, a product of its time. Even the most diehard adherents of Hindutva today subscribe to this view. If anything, Hindutva-subscribers hold thatto put it bluntlyMuslims are bad but Islam is good while the reality as weve seen earlier, is just the opposite. Harsh also commits yet another classic error I have come across in Hindutva critiquesholding a fringe group/person as the spokesperson of the entire ideology. Given Subramanian Swamys decades-long political, ideological, and positional flip-flops, given the fact that he hasnt identified openly with the BJP, the Sangh Parivar, or Hindutva, it is curious why Harsh considers him as a representative voice. 28

Even if we accept Harshs note about him, the obvious question that arises from the Hindutva camp is this: What about those Muslims who still say ladke liye Pakistan, haske lenge Hindustan (we got Pakistan after fighting but well take Hindustan with a smile)? And therefore, Harshs next statement that claims that [G]iven these ground realities, I reject a non-political interpretation of Hindutva as dubious, and indeed misleading as it tries to adopt the metaphysical beauty of Hinduism and other Dharmic religions for public consumption Weve already shown that the realities Harsh mentions are the products of uncritically applying received wisdom. But to be fair, Harsh has a point here. The separation of Hindutva and Hinduism while it is true is only partially true. Also, there non-political interpretation of Hindutva is a clever smokescreen. Hindutva is a political philosophy which seeks to restore the once-glorious Hindu society founded on Hindu values. However, the more undesirable aspects of this philosophy have been blown out of proportion and made to appear as if they are its defining and representative traits. This is one of the biggest failures of Hindutva, a failure that stems from the aforementioned lack of clarity of thought. However, rejecting it outright without studying these aspectsindeed without studying what Hindutva seeks to actually accomplishis also a sign of intellectual laziness. Indeed, nothing prevents Hindutva votaries to re-examine their positions and goals, nothing prevents them from refining the philosophy. Equally, nothing prevents its honest critics from doing a closer, deeper examination given the fact that this is how knowledge grows. In his zeal to reject Hindutva wholesale, Harsh commits the same error he accuses Hindutva adherents of making when he says on the one hand that I also reject the idea that western political concepts would not apply to India as wrong given that we are already using a British parliamentary system and .


This debate ismore complicated than about using complicated Sanskrit words, which no one uses anymore, or throwing charges of deracination on those one disagrees with.

If Indians took the pains to study and master an alien languageEnglishand to study, debate, and finally adopt an alien political system in 1947, surely, it must not take much to invest the effort required to learn those complicated words in a language native to India. More so because it holds the key required to approach this and related topics with the rigour and seriousness they demand. Because no one uses something anymore doesnt mean it isnt useful. Indeed Harshs charge itself istheres no other way to say thisborn out of ignorance. In fact, almost all the terms used in Parliament, State assemblies, and in our central and state administrative machinery are Sanskrit derivatives. The term Sabha in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is nearly 5000 years old and till date retains its original, Sanskrit meaning and usage. The same goes for Sabhadhyaksh, Rajyapal, Koshadhyaksh, Pratinidhi,

Prajatantra, Sadasya, Prakat, Kshetra, Bahumat, Vaad, Sankhya, Samaan, Sachivaalaya, VidhiEvery Indian has the complete freedom to use English equivalents but majority Indianswhether in the Government or outside ituse native words. This is a daily reality. Also, because we are using the British parliamentary system doesnt automatically imply that weve adopted everything wholesale. And equally, because we are using that parliamentary system, we are still stuck with archaic, meaningless, and even ridiculous laws. Wouldnt that make a case for rejecting Western political concepts? I agree with Harsh that this is a complicated debate but every debate calls for a sense of balance and a reasonably accurate grasp of things at a deeper and wider level. Im not imputing imbalance to Harsh but his critique of Hindutva stands on shaky grounds, his understanding of Hinduism is only partial. This is 30

why his application of the Western concept of secularism leaves a lot to be desired. As a closing instance, when he claims that Hinduism is not a territorial concept, it is a worldview maybe not theological in the Abrahamic sense, but nonetheless a set of beliefs, guidelines and attitudes, however flexible, hes partially correct. But the word theology has no application in the context of Hinduism. Hinduism is, in the memorable words of Professor M. Hiriyanna, a treatise on values aimed at achieving a philosophical goal, and not merely a worldview. Moreover, the set of beliefs, etc., have been flexible as he correctly observes, but they have been periodically revised and updated to meet the needs of changed times and situations but the philosophical goal underpinning them has remained constant. Secularism is a lofty concept, a noble end in itself to be pursued for its own sake. But as I demonstrated in my original submission, it is applicable only when specific conditions existlike medicine. My conclusion here is the same as it was earlier: secularism is wholly alien to Indias millennia-old civilizational consciousness and values, and a non-free, a non-secular India was better integrated and less divisive than it is now under the unwritten state doctrine of secularism.


Round three
Welcome to the third and final round of Vaad Prativaad (Round I may be found here and Round IIhere). CRI apologises for the delay in initiating this round logistics are a tricky business when blogging is a mere hobby! In this final round, each participant will defend his/her view from the the critique of his/her opponent in the second round. The moderator will then offer closing remarks on the debate and the three parts will be thrown open to the readers. Please direct your questions and/or comments to the authors in the specific part of the debate only. The authors reserve the right to respond, owing to the less convenient format. FOR THE MOTION: Harsh Gupta I would like to again thank the moderator and my opponent for an educative debate. I would also like to thank the CRI readers for their feeback, their interest, and above all their patience. I read my opponents detailed counterargument and I am struck by (what seems to me to be) a few red herrings that he perhaps unintentionally deploys. He is unfortunately also, if you will, very liberal with his assertions about my ignorance on a range of subjects. This is certainly as true as any allegation can possibly be my opponent has perhaps forgotten more than I have learnt about Hinduism and Hindutva. I am still reading, learning and occasionally tweaking my opinions. But, thankfully, my opponent has also been very catholic with some specific criticisms. So let us examine a few of those and then summarize why I continue to support secularism and oppose Hindutva including any minor change in my positions as these engagements have progressed. That after all is, or rather should be, the ideal aim of any such process in this season of debates. My opponent begins by saying As we have seen, this variety of secularism continues to wreak untold damage and here he refers to the Nehruvian pseudo-secularism, which I have repeatedly pointed out is not secularism. You may disagree with my definition and prefer somebody elses but in any case,


that is not the secularism I am arguing for something which should have been very clear by now. Hence, I fail to understand why my opponent continues to bring this up when we both disagree with the Indian leftist establishments understanding of secularism. Just to paraphrase my old definition of secularism, I believe it is a sub-set of classical liberalism whereby individual citizens should have the freedom to believe and propagate anything so long as it does not infringe on others individual liberties, and that the government or the state should not be normatively attached to any religious belief system. Then my opponent continues by saying that a majority of Indians have little or no understanding of what secularism really means. If this by itself is not a decisive proof that secularism is wholly alien to Indias millennia-old civilizational consciousness. Perhaps a majority of Indian have little or no understand of what constitutional republicanism is either. And this may or may not be decisive proof that constitutional republicanism is wholly alien to India, but even granting that for arguments sake since when is it so glaringly obvious that something is not to be adopted only because it was hitherto alien? Now this was just the semantic confusion part, and hence relatively innocuous. I am glad I got my opponent to take a concrete policy position though he argues against voluntary conversions of individual Indians, and I quote him now, if a Hindu voluntarily converts to Christianity, it poses a challenge given the inherent nature of Christianity. One of the goals of the newly-converted is to convert others of his exreligionsuch conversions have for the most part resulted in hurting Hindus Maybe conversions do hurt Hindus, maybe they do create new tensions. But I fail to spot the hop, the jump and the skip from condemning something, being aware of someones designs.and using the state to stop said ostensible designs? This implicitly assumes that the Indian state is for the protection of the interests of Hindus, which is the very premise under debate. Talk about circular reasoning!


Moreover, if one were to accept my opponents premise (I do not) then and this is very important who decides what helps or hurts Hindus? So far, a party almost singularly sympathetic to my opponents viewpoint on issues such as conversions, beef consumption, Ayodhya Mandir etc has never even reached 30 percent vote share in a 80 percent Hindu country. This seems to suggest that concrete and conspicuous state policies favoring Hindus over others perhaps is alien to a very large number of Hindus, and may hence constitute decisive proof against Hindutva-at-the-state-level and sympathy for a more classical liberal/secular point of view when it comes to such communal issues. Then again, it may suggest no such thing, but I am merely using the logic of my opponent. Then my opponent indulges in more non-sequiturs unfortunately: while the American First Amendment is good, but it was written by those happening to be Christian fanatics and their constitution was more a result of expediency and not conviction. All this might be true, but how does that change ones opinion of the First Amendment today is something I fail to understand. Then he suggests rethinking Hinduisms honouring of other faiths, even those which were inimical to Hinduism. That certainly pours some cold water on his other claims previous and subsequent, correct as they indeed largely are that Hinduism is tolerant and hence secularism is redundant. As I tried to show in my second piece, Hinduism while having sublime beauty in its metaphysics has an awful discriminatory on-the-ground history. This is most obvious along the axis of caste, though some could credibly argue something similar on the topic of gender too (that Hinduism is better than some other religion when it comes to womens rights or other issues is hardly a consolation prize). These uncomfortable facts give me pause whether a Hindu state would be secular and liberal enough. And now that some people like my opponents are losing patience with such tolerance is even more reason for a genuinely secular state, not less. 34

Of course my opponent says that this does not mean treating other religions or their followers, more accurately- in any discriminatory manner, and again I believe his sincerity of purpose. But this does not quite answer my original questions on what basis can we order fellow Indian citizens something along the lines of thou shalt not convert, or thou shalt not be converted, or thou shalt not kill some of your animals and/or eat them, or thou shalt not pr ay at the remaining mosques that were built by invaders on the ruins of temples centuries ago. My opponent then implies that strengthening certain religious ideologies are clearly counter-productive. On this point, if I interpret him correctly, I agree with my opponents views or what I understand to be his views. Yes, the central identity schism of South Asia is the Hindu-Muslim problem, as Lala Lajpat Rai called it. There has indeed been an ongoing war on Indian (not just Hindu) civilization for more than a millennium - by what can be called Political Islam. Partition was just the latest important battle in this seemingly never-ending war here whereby the forces of separatist Islam consolidated their gains, when they realized that further victories at least conventional ones were not feasible in the foreseeable future. With Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist heritage and scientific-artistic civilizational bequests being lost in Pakistan it is understandable that some Hindus with a meta-historical sense feel under siege. This hurt is exacerbated when actual humans minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh who were Indians just a few decades ago are killed, kidnapped or exploited in various ways. Worse, the very mention of such losses is often denounced more vociferously than the actual atrocities themselves. But even with respect to Pakistan, while the clash-of-civilizations thesis has a lot of truth in it, we must not forget that we liberated Bangladesh in 1971 under the military leadership of a Jew and a Parsi (Currently, besides a Sikh CM we have an Anglo-Indian Air Force chief, a Muslim Foreign Minister and a Muslim VicePresident). The civilizational war here is therefore, and this must be repeated, not between Islam and Hinduism per se, but between Islamism and liberalism (a liberalism 35

that is today as Indian as it is Western). In the 1965 war, soldiers like Abdul Hamid paid the highest price at very young ages fighting for India against a country that, if one goes by the logic of Hindutva-waadis, they were supposed to have sympathies for. More importantly, in the modern republic of India where almost four out of five Indians are Hindus, the sense of siege is I continue to maintain exaggerated and often for political purposes (just like minority victimhood is exaggerated and milked for votes). More importantly where there are real problems of Islamist violence (in Kashmir, Assam and Kerala for instance) the issue is again not that we do not have a Hindu state of sorts, but that we do not have a truly secular state. In Kashmir, advocating for the repeal of Article 370 is by all means a liberal and secular stand. While federalism, decentralization and provincial autonomy is important, these should be afforded to all states and they cannot come at the cost of internal barriers to commerce and migration. Similarly, the issues of illegal migration in Assam and elsewhere, as well as violence and coercion in the name of religion by anybody can and should be dealt through strictly secular lenses. India needs to have a uniform civil code too, as advocated by our Constitution and again, this is a secular demand. Another point that readers must consider, the positions that I espouse here are in many ways realistic and not radical, and indeed already accepted by the BJP it is just that unfortunately their rhetoric has at times failed to catch up with some of their official stands. The BJP pledge reaffirms Positive Secularism, (Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava) and Value-based politicsSecular State and Nation not based on religion. Yes, the BJP, like all political parties, is required by the Constitution to support secularism and socialism, but the BJPs agenda has gone f ar beyond nominal support for secularism. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement is the exception when it comes to policy formulations and in any case it is now a property dispute that the Supreme Court will decide.


Reading my opponent has certainly given me a more nuanced appreciation of the various ideologies involved, and while I continue to find Hindutva to be essentially a political project, I do think an exclusively socio-cultural Hindu revivalist movement could be useful. Yes, when the Congress party and other pseudo-secularist groups uses the state to indulge in religion-based appeasement, pushing back is required no matter what names are used to describe such a resistance. But the idea that the Indian right must push beyond a secular states level-playing field to create a deterrence through competing majoritarian politics does not seem appealing to me even in in an amoral sense. Even ignoring the many Sikhs, Buddhists and other groups who do not see themselves fortunately or unfortunately as Hindu, there are far too many caste, linguistic and other ideological divides within the Hindu community for a majoritarian agenda to be sustainably victorious. More importantly, even ignoring the above divisions, there is a large number of moderate Hindus who simply do not want a substantive Hindu state. There could be a few voters who would jump from Ram to Marx (to deliberately exaggerate a bit) because the BJP and allied groups do not push for a Hindu state, but I would wager more Hindus would leave the BJPs white umbrella because of such a blatantly majoritarian move. In any case, my opponent has not presented numbers to prove the opposite case. It is critical to realize that Indian Hindus are not against static, homogeneous groups increasingly ideas and narratives matter more than demographics. That is why the obsession with Christian conversions, love jihad, and other such issues stump me. Many Indian Christians retain Indic first names and Indian culture more broadly, and there is no real modern-day Christian equivalent of Sharia (despite real but isolated problems like Christian homophobia etc) so what really is the issue if we have more Indian Christians? As long as conversions are voluntary, and Hindu revivalist movements indulge in a healthy competition to win back souls (to use evangelical terminology) why should we want the Indian state which is what secularism is concerned with to be a Hindu partisan? A Gandhi-Nehru-Vadra, a Reddy, an Antony and 37

a Soni in the Congress party may fail to impress me for a dozen reasons but religion is not on the list yet (except to half-seriously note that the Congress has adopted tokenism so aggressively that we may soon need Hindu heterosexual male upper-caste quotas!) In the 19th century, Christians with the winds of colonialism at their back had tried to aggressively badmouth Hinduism to gain converts; that failed, and today while no love is lost in the hearts of Christian fundamentalists for Indian spirituality, they really do represent a far smaller number within the Indian and global Christian community than many Hindu nationalists would have us believe. The obsession with love jihad on the other hand (I am not saying my opponent is concerned with this issue, just that I have noticed many on social media who do not like secularism, indeed are) is positively puerile and ripe for a Freudian psycho-sexual analysis I am sure a few Muslims do trap some Hindus to convert them, but many times it could simply be love without the jihad between two young Indians with different religions just being a coincidence. While the Indian Muslim community has had a proportionately faster rise in numbers partially because of a higher birthrate, and partially because of immigration from Bangladesh I think what matters is not whether the Muslim population is at 15% or 20%, but how integrated it is. There, with gradual economic liberalization, rapidly rising female education across communities and based on my own personal experience working with NGOs in Rajasthan, Delhi and Bengal, a majority of young Indian Muslims genuinely consider themselves Indians in a way perhaps their parents and grandparents did not. The problem is not the exact number of this or that community a higher number in some ways could be a blessing but how widespread religious extremism is in any community. What is needed is higher economic growth and a complete eschewing of identity-based policies, something that BJP Chief Ministers (including a few unfairly maligned ones) continue to work hard for and substantially achieve, showing that the NDAs reformist, moderate rule was 38

not just an aberration despite the backsliding on reforms since Vajpayees exit. An Indian right that can at the state/policy level follow strict secularism while at a purely social, non-coercive level continue its cultural project for infusing Indians with a sense of history to combat the propaganda of colonialists, communists and communalists that there was no India before 1947 that is what we need. Finally, it is important to realize that Indias moral case in Kashmir, Indias soft power around the world, and Indias relatively effortless undercutting (at an ideological level) of separatists within and hate-mongers without is dependent on Indian being and being seen as a fundamentally pluralistic and tolerant nation. Not a nation where being a non-Hindu is somehow seen as being second-class, which is what a Hindu state would imply. Not a nation where a Hindu cannot become a Christian or a Muslim because another Indian comes and offers him a mix of mental and material succor. Not a nation where one cannot badmouth the Bhagwad Gita or disparagingly paint Goddess Sita. India does not need a proactive Hindu vanguard in the Abrahamic mould because this will end up making India more divided and Hinduism less universal. Instead we need to take identity completely out of our policies, our schools, our jobs, our tax code, our personal code and this must include caste identity politics also over time. I would humbly suggest that secularism has been the biggest force-multiplier for the Hindu cause in many centuries. The Hindu society by and large simply does not want to dominate or convert, and hence by being inclusive despite obvious problems in the Nehruvian execution it has managed to keep intact most of its objectives. Instead, by being genuinely non-threatening it has managed to divide its old political foe (the Islamists, into three countries and many more groups, without specifically intending to do so) and finally win peace after many centuries to develop its own destiny. Looking at the forest instead of the trees, both moral 39

and realpolitik imperatives largely coincide here. Why propose revolutions, when evolutions would do? * * * * * * * *

AGAINST THE MOTION: Sandeep Balakrishna Harshs critique of my original submission was mostly on expected lines and displays several characteristics commonly seen in the Left/Liberal commentaries on the subject. And my response too, is in the interest of exploring our disagreements. One of the first charges that anybody taking a traditional/native position while debating secularism faces is that of being an exceptionalist/exclusivist. The other term thats typically used is oriental and derivatives thereof. These terms are really meaningless and serve little function apart from sounding scholarly. Harshs tagline uses both with predictable results. Harsh wants to separate Indic exceptionalism from internalized Orientalism to arrive at a discussion of policy differences to understand philosophical differences better. The reverse is actually true: to understand policy, its essential to first understand philosophy. That said, Harsh seems to have completely misread my piece and at places has imputed meanings which didnt exist in my submissions. I shall examine these one by one. Harsh says that I do not really critique true secularism or liberalism and that my statement that we need to examine why there is such a huge di sconnect between precept and practice of secularism in India is a giveaway in this regard. I dont see what the giveaway is. The original motion set by the CRI folks was this: Secularism Is Important to a Modern India. My critique has adhered to this motion: Ive consistently argued that secularism is a concept alien to India and that even if we do adopt true secularism as is understood by the West, we will still be imposing values derived from a Christian worldview in the guise of secularism. 40

Curiously, he accepts the chain of my argument examining the origins etc of secularism, Hinduism as a religion not in the Abrahamic sense, etc, yet claims that I havent critiqued true secularism. Equally puzzling is his claim that he was still not clear where my opponent stood on the actual motion. This becomes clear when we examine his understanding of the motion. To quote: the role of the Indian state in a citizens life, especially seen through the prism of religious identity. This wasnt the actual and complete import of the original motion. Harshs understanding of the motion is therefore partial. Next, Harsh asks us to move beyond semantics and explore policy disagreements. This is a tad problematic because if we accept the fact that every word is an idea, we must take extreme care and caution to first clarify semanticsa poorly or ill-defined word causes immense problems. More so in the realm of policy, politics, the state, the individuals relationship with the state and so on. A classic case is the word itself that generated this debate in the first place: secularism. Therefore, unless Harsh clarifies his position on semantics, I see no reason to move forward. However, in what follows, Harsh seems to have picked up Hindu-specific and specific Hindu grievances to make his case in the form of a series of questions. Although these stem from the aforementioned faulty premises, some answers are in order. Harshs questions and my answers will I hope, serve to illustrate the vast worldview-differences. To answer his questions about a state guided by Dharmashastras, conversions, beef etc, I would again point him to my earlier articles where I had specifically elaborated on the nature of Abrahamic religions (to wit, conversion from one sect or denomination within Hinduism to another doesnt technically count as conversion) as the reason to argue against conversions from Hinduism. This is not the same as coercing citizens but a pragmatic policy of preventing potential social discord and preserving the majority religion. Unless Harsh wants to argue that its ok to sacrifice the majority religion on the altar of a misplaced notion of individual liberty. This, especially when it is becoming clear that basing a political/social system solely on individual liberty 41

and democratic values has failed to prevent the rapid surge of Islamism in Europe and America. Islamism has used these very values to sabotage these nations from within. This then is the long-term consequence of allowing conversionsboth voluntary and otherwise. As for my position on the mosques built after destroying Hindu

temples, Ive already discussed it indetail on my blog two years ago in the context of the Ayodhya judgment. To sum it up, here goes: first, there is such a thing as a nations cultural heritage, which is inextricably linked with, and determines the value system and lifestyle its people follow. Which is the reason they need to be preserved at all costs. Templesamong other thingsconstitute this heritage as far as India is concerned. Within this defining heritage fall things that are regarded as the most prized cultural possessions: the temples at Ayodhya, Kashi, and Mathura, which were destroyed fall into this prized realm. Other, similar temples too can lay claim to this statusthe numerous temples in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh are good examples of this. And it is therefore a legitimate claim by Hindus to ask for the restoration of these prized cultural heritages. Indeed, even during the height of the Ayodhya movement, all that Hindus demanded was the restoration of Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi temples, and not all temples destroyed by medieval Muslim invaders. This is not retroactive justiceit is restoration of what was destroyed historically. The restoration of the Somanath temple is a good example of how this can be done amicably. That said, Harshs characterization of prized elements of a shared cultural consciousness as a property dispute is very telling. It is the gulf that separates an India still rooted in her traditions and an India that understands her own country through a primarily Western prism. This Western prism is also what poses questions like the one Harsh asks about drawing Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the nude. There are thousands of nude art done by Hindus themselves since time immemorial. Far from burning or defiling them, even the most devout Hindus worship such art. I leave it to 42

Harshs intelligence to discern the reason why say, M.F. Hussains art evokes such anger while the former evokes reverence. Questions of punishment etc wont even arise once that reason is discerned. When we next look at Harshs critiques on caste, statecraft and related areas, we find that he quotes selectivelydespite his claim to the contraryand provides no context for those quotes. For this reason, I will not attempt to respond simply because the examples he quotes, the texts he refers to, and his understanding thereof is way off the mark and is eerily similar to what we find in Marxist expositions on the subject. Just a couple of lines on the issue: Why does Harsh use Vishnu Smriti to talk about caste while pretty much all Smritis have detailed and variegated expositions on caste? Equally, Manu Smriti is not applicable to Kaliyuga. But more fundamentally, there is no equivalent word in Sanskrit or in any Indian language for caste. The word Varna cannot be translated as caste. Whats also disappointing is the fact that Harsh seems to think that his thesis is somehow valid because some Hindu holy men echo his own biases without telling us what the credentials of these holy men are that qualify them as experts on the subject. Next, of all the things in Arthashastra, Harsh finds just one prescription and brands it as inane without going into the context of why such a prescription was necessary. Of course, one could look at the laws of any country and find plenty of such inane prescriptions. Itd suffice to point Harsh to, an encyclopedic site that lists allerdumb laws in the United States classified by state, city and county. Equally, why doesnt Harsh talk about the same Arthashastra, which provides elaborate safeguards to protect elephants, and rare flora and fauna. Indeed, every Indian states forest department has an equivalent of whats called an Abhayaranya, a concept that was first given by Kautilya. Itd also help if Harsh gave the source for molten lead is to be poured into the ears of the low born who dare to hear the recital of the written word from our ancient books. Merely quoting it without attribution is not good form. On 43

such prescriptions, for the record, theres also a quote in the selfsame Manu Smritibecause Harsh uses that text to base his critiquewhich provides for inserting hot coal into the throat of a Brahmin who drinks alcohol. What does that say about upper castes ill-treating the lower castes? In reality, these harsh punishments were in reality, mere deterrents. Theres really no record of such punishments being actually implemented in ancient times. From here, Harsh makes even more unsustainable claims. Consider this: todays Hindu nationalists are, at least in their self-image (and this is indeed partially true), actually the vanguard of creating a casteless society. Was this prompted by political and religious threats, or a realization that the social system we had was immoral irrespective of any temporal considerations? When Harsh talks about todays Hindu nationalists, who is he actually referring to? Without providing this information, its pretty much fair game to tar all Hindu nationalists with the same brush. This apart, what is Harshs basis for claiming something like a realization that the social system we had was immoral irrespective of any temporal considerations? This mischievous question is a common refrain of Marxist literature: large numbers of Hindu society converted to Islam, which they saw as a savior from the oppressive Hindu social order. This claim is unsustainable looked at from whichever perspectivehistorical, political and social. Indeed, the continued existence of Hindu society owes tremendous debt to the so-called lower-caste Hindus. As I mentioned in my previous rejoinder, the discourse originating from organized Hindu nationalism is rooted in inferiority complex. Their claim which Harsh repeatsof creating a casteless society emanates from uncritically swallowing the British pill, which blamed the caste system for all ills of Hindu society. If indeed the caste system was evil, what explains the fact that it bound the Hindu society together for thousands of years and the fact that it continues to survive,and the fact that our elections are fought precisely on this platform?


Equally unsustainable is Harshs claim that the implication that Hindu society was always truly secular is also partially a myth Even a benevolent or tolerant king giving extensive patronage to some panths and less or no patronage to others certainly benign by standards of most other societies of their time would not pass off as neutral or fair-minded today, or in accordance with the rule of law. because of three reasons. One, Harsh provides no evidence whatsoever to show why this was partially a myth. Two, because what Harsh seeks is a perfect state where the state is everything to everybody in the context of both place and time. And three, Harsh is indulging in backward projectionof judging the state of affairs in a time long past using todays standards. Although he admits the last point obliquely, the fact is that there was no concept of a separate personal wealth of the king and that of the state. Everything in the treasury belonged to the stateand not to the king. The luxuries he enjoyed were in the capacity of a custodian. These are fundamental concepts available in any introductory book on Indian polity/statecraft. Next is an even fallacious claim that I wonder when those who give examples of that Indian king funded both Vishnu and Baudh panths realize how irrelevant at best that precedent is for a modern-day Indian government. In which case why even use the selfsame modern-day concepts to examine what that Indian king did? If you do, then apply the same standard to both. The usage of the word funded is also quite telling. A king didnt fund different panths: he extended patronage, which has an entirely different connotation, one I hope I dont have to explain. Harsh then claims that [d]ebating history and philosophycan obscure more than illuminate. Id have to use the same terminology that he did: it is a giveaway in this regard because contrary to what Harsh claims, these debates illuminate more than they obscure. Theres a reason why the highest degree awarded in any field is the Doctor of Philosophy. Sure, policy impacts the daily life of people but what informs policy? And no, policies dont evolve merely from our conception 45

of what is correct. Policies evolve from considerations of precisely such things as history, tradition, and folk customs. Indeed, our tribal policyif you can call it thathas gone to hell simply because these factors werent considered. On the other hand, I can point Harsh to the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana folks who have done stellar work in making tribals prosperous and at the same time, have kept them rooted to their homes and allowed them to preserve their ageold customs and traditions. But Harsh returns to semantics and questions the necessity to support words like Hindutva. It appears he hasnt fully read or understood my earlier pieces on the subject in this debate. And Im loath to repeat them again and again. But his objection is as irrational and ignorant as it stems from a need to please everybody, as evidenced by this statement: why support words like Hindutva, which even if it means a non-discriminatory cultural nationalism for some, sounds like naked majoritarianism to others. Not just to most Muslims and Christians, but also many Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs and of course, to many Hindus too. What gives away Harshs ignorance is the fact that Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs are all part of the Hinduism. They are offshoots yes but every single tenet of these sects can be traced back to the core teachings of Hinduism. And even if it sounds majoritarian, so be it. Why does Harsh repeatedly use majoritarian in a negative sense? I hate to volunteer a reason but I suspect its because his understanding of the term in a negative sense derives from what European and/or Arab majoritarianism did historically. In this, he is guilty of what Ive repeatedly stressed: there was no equivalent condition at any time in India. Harshs point about not viewing Hinduism through a territorial prism but through a philosophical one is nothing new. Its laudable but it isnt practical given the multi-pronged threats Hinduism faces today. To view Hinduism solely through a philosophical lens requires a society and a nation that sustains such a condition. Given the same million mutinies that Harsh refers to, these mutinies have resulted in a highly-divisive Hindu society where castes are pitted against each other by emphasizing irreconcilable differences rather than


that which sustained them for so longa feeling of oneness despite differences. Without that society, without that nation, the philosophical lens that Harsh prizes so much will be lost for good. Valuable bits of our heritage have already been lost foreverthe Harikatha tradition is on its last legs, the tradition of impromptu poetry in Sanskrit and other Indian languages is all but gone, the Therukootu is but a pale shadow of its former glory, the wandering Sadhus who did much to spread and preserve this same philosophical lens are now given the status of beggars, there has been next to zero innovation in our classical music in the last 70 years, our temple tradition has been reduced to people praying for health, children, money, and career growththe list is endless. The necessity for viewing Hinduism through a territorial lens (while I dont accept this characterization, Ill use it for the sake of convenience) arose from the fact that for over 1000 years, Hindus have been steadily losing territory that was once theirs. And theyve been losing territory in the same proportion that their declared enemies have wrested from them. To argue against the defence of whatever territory remains still in their possession defies commonsense. And because Harsh lays tremendous emphasis on policy, here goes: a defence and/or foreign policy that doesnt take these aspects into consideration is bound to be disastrous. Theres nothing semantic about what I just described. Equally, Harshs analogy of Augustine reconciling Greek philosophy with Christian theology is flawed. Christian theology is in a line just this: it is a philosophy which begins with Lord God whose existence is a product of hearsay and whose study is termed as theology. What Augustinewith due respectsdid was to attempt to appropriate a highly-evolved Greek philosophy into the realm of an irrational belief system. The same comment applies to Harshs exaggeration that even in the Abrahamic world, there is immense heterogeneity and dynamism. The said heterogeneity and dynamism are more exceptions than rules. There are literally a handful of Abrahamic adherents who actually got away with criticizing their Gods and their holy books. 47

Harshs closing paragraphs make his stand emphatically clear. He consistently uses Western thought-models and categories to examine native traditions and discourse. Where he cites native traditions, he seems to unerringly choose only those that are disagreeable or inane as if nothing else exists in a civilization more than 5000 years old. And even these examples are hardly representative and his sources, selective and questionable. Why for instance, doesnt he use the Indian method of reasoning

(Tarka and Nyaya) to examine Western traditions? In singing paeans of capitalism, why doesnt he mention the fact that till mid-18th century, India dominated world commerce? Why doesnt he mention the fact that India imported mostly luxury goods while it exported necessities (cloth, spices, food items, etc) to the rest of the world? What part of this is notbeautiful capitalism? What does this state of affairs say about the economic and other policies that various Indian kings implemented? And why single out only Ashoka and Akbar as if this tradition of free intellectual discourse didnt exist under any other king? Why not the Kushans, Pushyamitra Sunga, Samudragupta, Chandragupta Vikramaditya, Skandagupta, Veera Ballala, Raja Bhoja, Pulakeshi II, Proudadevaraya, Krishnadevaraya.? Because the quote is from a book written by a certain Alex Von Tunzelmann, a Westerner who gloats superficially about India. This is not to be unduly harsh but to illustrate a phenomenon Ive repeatedly come across: the psychological need of a class of Indians who will say good things about their own country provided such good things are endorsed first by a Westerner. In his closing argument, Harsh asks us to lay down policy differences on the table. A fair point, but a point that jumps the gun because a policy will only be as sound as the philosophy that underlies it. He again repeats the point that policy will clear the semantic cloud while I take the exact opposite stance. Words have meanings. Unless theyre explicitly, unambiguously defined, no progress can be made. Stating something as misleading as endorsing words that exclude citizens doesnt help mattersneither in semantics nor in policy. 48

Its still unclear why Harshs refrain of policy whereas the motion was about the semantics of secularism followed by the implications of secularism as state policy. I believe my arguments have addressed both. Therefore, Harshs charge of opportunism is rather unfortunate despite the fact that my arguments have focused on the motion at hand, despite the fact that Ive used sufficient evidence and consequential reasoning to back up my assertions and despite the fact that Ive taken it upon myself to clarify several points where the burden of proof fell upon him. Nobody has monopoly over the language of liberty just as everybody has the liberty to accuse their opponents of opportunismits a nice escape route when faced with paucity of evidence. * * * * * * * *

Moderators Comments: Id like to thank both the participants, Harsh Gupta speaking for the motion, and Sandeep balakrishna speaking against the motion, for sharing with us their considered views on a topic that is critical to the social well-being of India. This first Vaad-Prativaad has, in many ways, done an exemplary job in underlining the differences of views between the two sides. But even more importantly, Harsh and Sandeep have both explained the underlying philosophies of these differences. The debate about secularism is then, simultaneously, about 1. semantics, 2. historical grievances, 3. INCs brand of sickularism, 4. what specifically constitutes Hindu beliefs, and 5. the validity of non-Indic ideas. I do not wish to summarise the debate for you to do so would only detract from the clarity with which ideas have been expressed on both sides. However, I will leave you with a few more questions: What is the statute of limitations, if there is one, for past grievances? How can we understand Hinduism? While the ancient texts speak with one tongue, there is no doubt that practice has not matched inspiration. What is the validity of any idea, Eastern or Western? The latter may not apply, but given the change in society, the former might not either. Does 49

it not become incumbent upon us to think these things through and judge based upon contemporary situation and merit? Neither participant disagreed that the INC has made a mockery of secularism. The question then arises, should we even bother to repeat that example? Any idea can be manipulated, but a susceptibility to be manipulated is only a testament to human ingenuity, not the success or failure of an idea. Secularism, we are informed, comes in many flavours French, Turkish, Chinese Is there an Indian secularism? Should there be one? What would such a concept look like? Once again, I thank the participants on behalf of CRI and its readers for an informative debate. The curse of the middle class person is the difficulty in finding time to read and ponder on important issues, and Harsh and Sandeep have both generously allowed us all to save some time by giving us the benefit of their learning. Thank you everyonegood night, and good luck!