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Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi shared the view that India’s nationalism made secularism unnecessary, for secularism is a notion whose conceptual genealogy is in a specific historical context, an idea designed to repair the damaging effects of European nation-state formation. An alternative Indian nationalism was to consist in a reconstruction of what they took to be India’s unselfconsciously pluralist traditions; the genuine and lived pluralism of ordinary Indian social life was to be replayed in the political arena of anti-imperialism. Secularism, both in Europe and post-Independence India, consists not in neutrality among religions but in a lexicographical ordering between the commitments to freedom of religion and to fundamental constitutional rights. The exception granted by the Indian state to Muslim personal law ought not to be seen as a denial of secularism but as a suspension of the secular ideal in the context of the history of a collective human subject.


Institute for Social Justice

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