THE GOVERNANCE OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY MORE OR LESS SECULARISM? 10-12 June 2015 SESSION: THE GOVERNANCE OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN THE PUBLIC SPACE: PERSPECTIVES FROM ASIA THE GOVERNANCE OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN INDIA: SOME REFLECTIONS Rochana Bajpai | SOAS London India does not represent one single case with regard to the governance of religious diversity. The position of the Indian state during constitution-making in the late 1940s was very different from that adopted in the late 1980s, even though both were officially termed secular. Indeed, the text of the Indian constitution itself embodies multiple positions towards the accommodation of religious diversity. In the areas of religious freedom and personal law, India’s constitutional framework is broadly multicultural in character, sanctioning the public expression of religious difference. With regard to the electoral system and reservations, however, Indian constitution-makers de-recognised religious diversity, and sought the eradication of difference. Institutional and normative heterogenity in India’s constitutional framework has often been an asset, allowing for flexibility, negotiation and change over time in the state’s stance towards religious diversity. At different times, legislatures and courts have articulated both more and less accommodationist positions towards religious diversity. Nevertheless, India’s constitutional vision is characterized by a normative deficit with regard to the protection of religious difference. This has been politically influential, with the rights of religious minorities remaining under-supported by liberal democratic and nationalist principles, a line of critique exploited skillfully by a resurgent Hindu right.
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