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date: 29 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the historical emergence of secularism through movements, debates, and legal formulations to explain specific features that the concept has acquired in the context of India. The first part examines the tensions between the theoretical narratives of Indian constitutionalism and the practices of politics that led to the acceptance of certain essential conditions of secularism. The approach towards secularism found in writings of Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar are then discussed. The third part focuses on the ill-defined meaning of secularism that does not accurately reflect the conceptual shifts made by the modern legal system. The final section critically examines the claim that secularism is a state-led exercise in certain domains. An overview of the legal literature shows that secularism is also the domain of experts, bureaucrats, and professionals. The history of court decisions about what constitutes a religious practice that is protected by law reveals considerable variation and arbitrariness..

Keywords: India, Mahatma Gandhi, personal law, state secularism, denominations, gender justice

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