ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reviving a Debate

Sumanta Banerjee Secularism and Its Critics edited by Rajeev Bhargava; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp 550, Rs 695.
FOR certain politicians and academics in India today, the most favourite whipping boy is the term 'secularism'. Although in this country it had never acquired the dimension of that other ideal that threatened Europe in the days of Marx, its detractors have turned it into a westernised spectre which supposedly haunts the pristine Indian tradition of harmony, and creates all the ills that bedevil our society today! It is necessary to demystify both the bogey of a demonical 'secularism' and the myth of a divinely tolerant society of an imagined past which is being projected by many among these critics as an alternative to secularism. The present volume brings together representatives of some of these different anti- secular schools of thought as well as their opponents, and through the debate that ensues, attempts to provide answers to some of the vexed questions of our times. Can the principles of secularism be modified to suite the Indian situation and respect some of the traditional religious norms? How far can the state intervene in religious matters? What is the best way to prevent conflicts between religious groups? What are the limits to toleration?

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