While Indian society has been secular for centuries, the Indian state has adopted secular and democratic ideas only in the post-Independence phase—that is, since the 1950s. Sadly, both secularism and democracy have come under attack in India in recent times, according to one of the foremost historians of our age, Romila Thapar.
Although her canvas is vast, and her corpus extensive, Thapar remains self-consciously partial to a few themes—secular, secularism, secularizing—in the book under review. While secular is distinguishable from the religious, secularism—far from denoting a denial of religion—merely identifies social institutions that should be free of religious control in the modern epoch. And the secularizing process recognizes and upholds the distinction between secular and religious institutions.
The book is divided into three sections: ‘Secularism and Secularisation’, ‘Historical Perspectives’, ‘Religion and Contemporary Politics’. In the first section, Thapar informs us that secularism is not the prerogative of western Christianity, as some analysts seem to believe.