A manifesto for lost liberals?


Every lost liberal, defeated by the Indian election result and the Hindu nationalists’ emphatic win, should read sociology professor Avijit Pathak’s piece in The Wire. (Click here or just read the blog below. It has the highlights of Professor Pathak’s argument).

Professor Pathak makes an important concession:

“In contemporary India, no concept has created more confusion than ‘secularism’. If secularism means inherent scepticism towards religion, it fails to appeal to many in a country where religious traditions are fairly strong.”

He then proceeds to accept the appeal of “distinctive cultural markers and symbolic heritage”.

This is precisely because “globalisation has only intensified cultural politics…globalisation has also caused immense psychic/cultural anxiety about one’s identity and roots.”

Finally, he asks those who want a kinder, gentler Indian narrative arc to look for a different storyline, one that acknowledges the desire to be culturally distinctive and unified. If parts of that identity search is Hindu-ness, that too is fine. However, that unity would not be “uniformity”, and certainly not the one imposed by muscular Hindu nationalists. Instead, it should “attempt to experience the subtle thread of civilizational connectedness amid splendid differences”.

The Professor significantly makes the following assertion: “the alternative to the spiritually impoverished secularism is not divisive communalism”.

That is exactly the point to be stressed in these difficult times. Hindu-ness doesn’t have be rooted in the perceived other-ness of non-Hindus. It should stand on its own, rooted in its own strengths.