Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap]Secularism’s Brexit moment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

Mains level: Paper 1-Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism and secularism.



In India, the debate on the issue of secularism needs to be based on a more principled and practical basis.

Change in public discourse

  • Popular skepticism of secularism has been growing these days.
  • Secularism is being increasingly discounted not only by the hardliners but also by the moderate middle.
  • It is no longer taboo to raise questions that were formerly the preserve of the fringe.
  • Today, democracy is taken for granted by all the Indians. No one raises questions over its utility.
  • Secularism need to be elevated to the same level as is the democracy today, where no one raises the question on its utility.

What are the issues with the defenders of secularism?

  • Rather than make case for secularism, its champions indulge in name-calling and citing the example from the past to tarnish and shut down critics.
  • They also cite the Constitution in their support-without realising that it is this very document’s secular thrust that has became suspect.
  • They also assume the obvious correctness of their cosmopolitan worldview.

What changes need to be made?

  • They must make a case for secularism anew-principled and practical.
  • On principled basis-individual equality, freedom of conscience and personal habits.
  • On a practical basis-no country can flourish by degrading their minority.
  • They must stress the India’s plurality and “live and let live” culture, syncretic traditions and long history of respect and accommodation of differences.
  • They also need to show some humility.
  • They also have to show openness to fair-minded criticism.


These suggestions are urgently needed to be followed by those arguing in the defence of secularism otherwise there is a very real possibility of a large section of a society losing faith in secularism. In this anxious hours India needs to engage in open and self-critical debate-rather than polarising polemic.




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