Revival of religion in public space a serious concern for Indian secularism, legal expert says

Vice Chancellor of Nalsar Faizan Mustafa said India is becoming less secular.Photo: Twitter/VC_NALSAR

A jurist who is also vice-chancellor of NALSAR University of Law in Hyderbad has called the resurgence of religion in public space represents a "serious concern" for secularism in India.

According to Indian newspaper Economic Times of India, NALSAR vice chancellor Faizan Mustafa spoke to Press Trust India (PTI) and said that a controversial government ad circulated on Republic Day and the subsequent statements issued by Shiv Sena presented an opportunity for examination of the current state of secularism in the country.

The advertisement on Republic Day featured a version of the country's Preamble of the Constitution with the words "secular" and "socialist" removed.

Shiv Sena, a regional political party aligned with the right and its pro-Hindu nationalist stance, subsequently issued a statement supporting the removal of these words from the Preamble.

Shiv Sena subsequently moved to demand permanent removal of the two words from the Preamble.

Mustafa claimed that the statements of the extreme right might as well usher in a government that recognises Hinduism as the de facto state religion.   This has been a particular concern following the ascendency of Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party is sympathetic to Hindu nationalists. 

Mustafa then told PTI that "the revival of religion in public space was a matter of serious concern."

"The failure of India's experiment with secularism will be the greatest tragedy of the 21st century," Mustafa said. "Secularism is the core of modernity and the narrative of secularism is the story of progress and the exercise of reason."

The jurist added that the first mistake India made in its pursuit of secularism was its failure to clearly delineate state and religion.

Mustafa pointed to the Shiv Sena's call for a Hindu state in Maharashtra as another indication of the failure of secularism in the country. 

"[T]he highest court in the country should have taken cognisance of this alarming move, but unfortunately this was not done," Mustafa lamented.