Secularism has now become a meaningless word: Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar  


Stating that it was a topic that was not discussed as widely as it should be, noted historian Romila Thapar on Wednesday said secularism has now become a meaningless word and is often just a reaction to a non-secular accident that happens in the country.

Speaking at a symposium on “Redefining the Secular in Indian Society” at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library here on Wednesday, Ms. Thapar said: “People have to understand that being secular does not mean denying religion, but keeping religion at a non-invasive personal level. Also, secularism is not merely the co-existence of all religion. The implications of secularism is often misinterpreted and equated with westernisation.”

Ms. Thapar also noted that India's understanding of secularism was inadequate at present. “We still have to find the answer to the question as to what secularism means to us and look into the fact that India has the potential to nurture a secular society,” said added.

Pointing out that it was important to understand the shifting of secular to secularisation in society, historian Prof. K. N. Panikkar said: “We have to understand both secularism and community formation in a society. Secularism is not just a product of religion harmony.”

Stating that there is no one definition of secularism that everyone agreed upon, journalist P. Sainath said there are gaping holes in the definition of secularism and one of them was the issue of caste. “Till we respond to this shortcoming we cannot say that we are talking about the various issues of secularism.”

“To most of us secularism is primarily our response to Hindu-Muslim communal conflict. I want to ask if India, which is one of the most exclusionist societies, can really have secularism. The issue of caste has to be engaged with if we are looking at any real solution,” Mr. Sainath added.

The symposium, which was organised in association with SAHMAT and Social Scientist, was chaired by Prof. Prabhat Patnaik. It started with artist Ram Rahman presenting Ms. Thapar with a “gift' on her 80th birthday. “Though I was reluctant to agree for any sort of celebrations for my birthday, I am deeply touched by this gesture,” said Ms. Thapar.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 11:04:04 AM |

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