The Concept of Secularism
SAHMAT and India Habitat Centre held an engaging lecture at its Gulmohar Auditorium recently. The subject of the lecture was ‘The Concept of Secularism’. Professor Akeel Bilgrami was the speaker for the day. It was the fifth lecture in the series that has been running for some time now. Professor Bilgrami is the Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and Director of South Asia Institute. Professor Kumkum Sangari is the Professor of English and Humanities at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
The moderator of the event
Professor Bilgrami started by explaining the concept about concepts and how a concept is described and given a definition. He said, “Societies and politics are understood and described by concepts. Concepts are expressed in words and words are supposed to have definitions. The words which do have definitions in a very strict sense tend to express only a tribunal concept”.
Then coming to democracy he said, “The Greek term dēmokratía is related to our term Democracy while differential relation with inference to the notion of citizenship. Because that in term is determined by whether or not slaves exist in society or whether or not women are considered citizens”. He then goes onto say that the term Secularism is no exception of this theological genealogy. India’s own intense recent discussions of secularism are very much a product of the history of internal development within the long and fantastically creative period of the freedom movement. One cannot just stipulate that the term Secularism means this or that thing. You must put in a lot of effort to show what you mean by a certain meaning. And to do that we have to follow the demands of both – the theoretical analysis as well as history and conception history. Which may require a delicate form of balance and adjudication since they may pull the argument in a different direction.
Introduction of the speaker
He later added that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the chief architect of India’s democracy. For this Nehru is contrasted by his admirers like Noble Laureate Amartya Sen and his criticisers like Ashish Nandy. For the lecture, he said that he wanted to assemble equally to the point from other parts of the writings and for several understanding of the periods they lived and struggled. The contrast is both limited and restraint and it focuses on more marginal rather than the parliamentary procedure of the country. These points argues that not only there is far greater affinity in their thought about India and the ideas that were to be to extended to the action but moreover that Secularism, as a doctrine, if it is understood in its long arbitrary and instituted term, was not a very central idea for the country. And once this idea is in place, it becomes significantly easy to understand the concept of Secularism.
The term ‘Secularism’ is a very late comer in the official rhetoric in the Indian polity and Constitution. The Constitution never used the word ‘Secularism’. It was only introduced in the year 1976 in the article 25, in 42nd amendment. The word has its root in European society and could be found in very ancient Indian history as in the likes of Ashoka’s reign.
Picture Courtesy : Neel Kamal Pandey, OneWorldNews