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The Crisis of Indian Secularism

From: Journal of Democracy
Volume 14, Number 4, October 2003
pp. 11-25 | 10.1353/jod.2003.0076


After fifty years of independence India maintains a constitutional commitment to secularism. However, the practice of secularism in India is now increasingly under attack. In the quest for electoral advantage, the once-dominant Congress Party, made a series of choices that compromised India's secular ethos. These choices enabled the explicitly anti-secular Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to dramatically expand its political base through the pursuit of a blatantly anti-secular and majoritarian political agenda. In recent years, as a direct consequence of the BJP's rhetoric and policies, a range of religious minorities have been subjected to discrimination and violence. Despite this adverse trend it is still too early to ring the death-knell of Indian secularism. The growing electoral strength of hitherto disenfranchised groups, the existence of institutions committed to secularism and the continuing secular constitutional dispensation offer some hope for sustaining the secular order in India.

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