Indisp ens ability of Secularism
Religion is a personal matter which should have no place in politics.1
Gandhi, August 9, 1942
I take for consideration here the term secularism which has over the last decade been subjected to most intense scrutiny and a wholesale though premature rejection. I will, in arguing for the indispensability of secularism, attempt three things. First, the attempt will be to see if secularism can be theoretically grounded without "foundationalism" either of the Cartesian or Kantian kind. This is because I take "foundationalism" to be indefensible on the ground that it makes what is either historically emergent or culturally encoded into an immutable first principle. Secondly, I will try to show the untenability of the arguments of the anti-secularists and for this I will take for consideration Madan' s quite elaborate exercise. And, thirdly, I will also suggest that secularism is not necessarily a post-Enlightenment doctrine as has been often asserted; in fact, in the late Medieval and early Renaissance period there was a systematic attempt to bring about some or other form of separation between religion and the state; though the grounds for attempting this were very different than ours, the exercise is full of theoretical interest for us as well as capable of yielding new insights for our time.
Let me begin by making two statements in way of preface. I believe, with Hegel, that for humankind there is no going back in history, time is something which cannot be rolled back. And that the unavoidability
* Department of Political Science, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.
Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 7 - 8, July- August 1998