The Secular State and Religious Conflict: Liberal Neutrality and the Indian Case of Pluralism
S. N. Balagangadhara and Jakob De Roover, Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent University, Belgium
The Journal of Political Philosophy: Volume 15, Number 1, 2007, pp. 67â€“92
there has been some thought in the forum about indian thinking. Here is a paper which analyzes the issue of conversion and secularism, neutrality and liberalism of the Indian state.
#1. the paper establishes that in the formulation of neutrality by Indian state, indian thinking
has been ignored.
#2. in the formulation of neutrality by the indian state, the indian state has picked a side, i.e., it is not neutral.
#3. indian state cannot remain neutral - as neutrality is currently defined.
Here are some paras from the article to give you a flavor of the article
The secularists are not as neutral as they think they are. Their plea for conversion indicates that they have made their choice. (i.e, by deciding to be neutral they are not neutral)
Let us now summarise the four choices the Indian secular state has to make.
(a) The â€˜Hindu traditionsâ€™ and the â€˜Semitic religionsâ€™ are phenomena of the same kind, or they are not.
(b) As such, they are religious rivals, or they are not.
(c) As rivals, they compete with each other regarding truth or falsity, or they do not.
(d) They can do that because some religion is false, or they cannot because no religion is false.
In each of the four cases, these claims are those of the Semitic religions and the Hindu traditions respectively.
Each of these assumptions carves the universe up into two exhaustive partitions, because, in each case, one statement is the logical negation of the other. So, what should a liberal state do in such a situation? What choices are open to it, if it wants to remain neutral and secular?
If we accept this principle while framing our account of state neutrality, the proposition that the state ought to be neutral implies that the state can be neutral. Thus, on this construal, liberal neutrality is obligatory only if the state can be neutral toward the different religious and cultural traditions in a society. However, the choices that the Indian state confronts are logically exclusive. Furthermore, each term in the different choices represents a different point of view: the Semitic or the pagan, which means to say that the state cannot choose between these alternatives without sacrificing the very principle of state neutrality. However, the Kantian dictum, that â€˜oughtâ€™ logically implies â€˜canâ€™, generates the following valid theorem: â€˜cannotâ€™ logically implies â€˜ought notâ€™. This means that the Indian state ought not to be neutral with respect to religious conversion in India because it cannot be neutral.
Nevertheless, it is an empirical truth that theories of state neutrality have hitherto obliged the Indian state not to be neutral. The post-independent Indian state implemented a series of reforms to â€˜the Hindu religion and its lawâ€™, while it did not interfere with Islam and Christianity. This suggests that some interpretation of â€˜neutralityâ€™ and â€˜liberalismâ€™ is at stake here. We think this to be the case. Theories of state neutrality that interpret this notion to mean neutrality of justification force us to compromise the notion of a neutral and liberal state. Such interpretations either generate odd conclusions or try to defend indefensible positions.
Indian thinking poses a challenge to the theories of the west (like liberalism, secularism, state neutrality etc) and to the Indian state (because it is based on western theories) since these theories have evolved out of the western notion of religion. That is, these secular theories are based on the western definition and experience of religion. Where as pagan and non-book multipolar multi centric religions like hinduism cannot be captured either by that definition or that experience. The problem ofcourse is serious and grave because India is the ground where semitic religions and living Indian traditions are in contact and thus in conflict.
This paper uses an entirely western framework to bring the conflict of indian thinking with western theories to the 'western' minds. That is, the way it is posed, the problem is appealing to the western mind. here are two systems which are diametrically opposite to each other, how to theorize
is appealing to the intelligencia(western mind).
But at the same time, I am worried that there is a danger that ultimately all arbitration will happen on the basis of western ideas and theories. So what happens if the data(indian thinking) becomes too problematic for the model (western theories?) Will they change the model? Will they discard or 'massage' the data? The problem is if they respect this data they will have to break a whole lot of models (read the paper).
If they don't do any thing about it then conversion remains legal and we will continue to have the same conflicts on the streets. The intellectuals will then continue to address this problem on the street by eliminating/ridiculing indian thinking as they have done so far.
one example is:
hindu says all religions are the true. then islam must be true, if islam is true then hinduism cannot be true. if you are not careful about the definition of the word true and the subject to which it is applied when hindu says true, then you can easily conclude that hinduism is an illogical religion and hindus duplitious.
this whole thing is problematic only to western theories because they are solving the problem of western religions which are about truth of their religion. in western terms truth of religion is all about sanction of god, is it word of god or not is their problem. we have no such problem. when we say all religions are true it means all experiences of religion are true and that true means it must have occured it does not mean it IS. our theology is based on does it
. chipa tha kya kaha kisne dhaka tha? hein kisiko nahin pata, nahin hein pata. only later does a hypothesis follow, hiranya garbha ...
before you jump in and say hey, but that is a very advaitic point of view, let me say that despite there being p different ideas about what is and what is not, the framework of the debate has always been set by advaitic ideas and in the absence of brainwashing our people are conditioned to those ideas naturally irrespective of whether they are literate/educated or not. the problem now is that pagan/advaitic framework has been discarded in favour of something else, of which most people have no clue. when people talk in that framework we feel ashamed and diffident.
an example of this is value that is placed on religions vs animalism. a very western distinction. my doddappa uber orthrodox madhva performs elaborate rituals with all the taratamya to 'vedic' gods and without ever batting an eye lid and with no confusion whatsoever goes to invoke his family spirit for solace and advice. i am even making this point because that i make that distinction between the two forms, my doddappa does not even think about.
How to conduct the debate in indian terms in conditions sensitive to indian thinking.