The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

The insiduous culture of differentiation in India

Prayaag Akbar, Ananya Vajpeyi, Malini Parthasarathy, Swapan Dasgupta , and Manu Joseph   | Photo Credit: R. Ravindran

The controversy over the film Padmaavat was “downright silly,” said member of parliament Swapan Dasgupta. His view on the issue was very different from that of the governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana, which have banned the film from public viewing.

Dasgupta was part of a panel that discussed: Is India’s Secular Nationalism under Attack? It took place on the first day of The Hindu Lit for Life. Making the case that issues like “beef ban” and “triple talaq” were introduced in 1976 when the Indira Gandhi government attempted to “codify secularism” by adding the words “secular” and “socialist” to the Constitution, Dasgupta advocated a uniform civil code as a solution.

“We have separate personal laws, which is the problem. The whole culture of differentiation has to be ended if we are to make an equal and just society,” he added.

Taking a divergent position, author Ananya Vajpeyi said that if national secularism was indeed under threat, “those who want to replace national secularism with religious nationalism” are to be blamed.

Addressing critics in the panel who said that secularism was an “alien concept” that sought to denigrate traditional culture and faith, Vajpayee said that the reverse was true.

Introducing the debate, the Co-Chairperson of The Hindu Group, Malini Parthasarathi, said the debate over secularism could be resolved only after Indian secularism is more clearly defined.

Other panelists said that many controversies over Hindu-Muslim differences of thought and majority-minority community contestations arose from regional differences.

Columnist Manu Joseph held that despite religious and linguistic disturbances in northern India, South India, Tamil Nadu in particular, has stood in strong defence of secularism.

“Eventually Hindu-Hindi nationalism will always be north Indian nationalism and there’s no point of nationalism unless it is pan-Indian,” Joseph added.

Journalist Prayaag Akbar, who has written on increased religious polarisation in India, said that cultural sensitivities also played a part in this: “Our sense of nationalism began with the wave of Bengali intellectuals, like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, who gave us the notion that the nation was “a goddess” in Vande Mataram. Indian Muslims felt excluded from this definition, which then added to the debate over national secularism.”

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 11:43:00 PM |

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