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

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Reconstructing the Secular Imagination of Gandhi and Nehru

The Secular Imaginary: Gandhi, Nehru and the Idea(s) of India by Sushmita Nath, London: Cambridge University Press, 2022; pp 300, $99.99 (hardback).

The subject matter of Sushmita Nath’s The Secular Imaginary: Gandhi, Nehru and the Idea(s) of India is timely. With the Hindu nationa­list government in India rebuilding the Ram temple on the site of the destroyed Babri mosque, the special constitutional status of Kashmir scrapped, and the citizenship of Indian Muslims undermined by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019, the question arises whether India could still be called a secular democratic state (with the stress on both: secular and democratic). Some widely recognised scholars of modern South Asia have called the current political dispensation despotic, ethnonationalist, populist, and fascist. In the face of the deinstitutionalisation of Indian political culture—including its structures of minority protection—one wonders what conceptual resources of the old national–secular dispensation could be revisited to rethink the relation between the state, society, and religion in India. This is where Nath’s book comes in. She engages with two towering figures of Indian political thought: Jawaharlal Nehru and M K Gan­dhi. The puzzle she tackles is that although there is a way of speaking of the “Gandhi–Nehru tradition of secularism,” public discourse and many Indian intellectuals sort the two thinkers into almost diametrically opposed camps. Gandhi is often seen as a religious-
political figure, deeply hostile towards Western modernity, while Nehru is the Western-oriented, liberal secularist who disdained the use of religion in politics.

Gandhi, Nehru, and Secularity

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Updated On : 15th May, 2023
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