01.11. - 05.11. 2019


Leipzig University

Strohsackpassage | Nikolaistraße 6-10 | 3rd floor | 04109 Leipzig | Room 3.25
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Since its foundation as a republic, political secularism was an important element of postcolonial India. How it was to be understood, however, was heavily contested from the very beginning. The issue of minorities, especially the Muslim population who chose to remain in the country after the bloody partition between India and Pakistan, became crucial. This is documented in compromises, especially in the realm of personal law that is at odds with the constitutional aim of establishing a uniform civil code. Moreover, Communal violence, often directed against Muslims, has – in its own way – stressed the significance of minority relations for Indian politics. During the last decades, the political project of secularism was heavily contested in India. In the course of this contestation, an odd ‘alliance’ emerged between critics with a Hindu-nationalist background and postcolonial intellectuals. Both criticized secularism as a Western imposition, and considered it “alien” to the Indian civilization (Ashis Nandy). Whereas one side, referred back to an ancient Indian tradition of inter-religious tolerance, the other side argued against the “pampering of minorities”, especially the Muslims, and tried to foster a nation with essentially Hindu features. A group of intellectuals and scholars, however, stood up in defense of an Indian variety of secularism, distinct from its European and North American predecessors. These intellectuals argued on the level of political theory, philosophy, and history, but also embraced a normative political program.
A main protagonist of this group of scholars is the political scientist Rajeev Bhargava, who for a long time was the director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.

The aim of the workshop is to discuss different aspects of his scholarly work, and relate it to the program of “Multiple Secularities” at the Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies. It is especially the link between certain historical features of societies, and their present forms of dealing with the differentiation between religion and other societal spheres, which is of interest to the workshop.

The workshop is open to all interested. Please register by 28 October via email to:


Friday, 1 November

09:30 – 13:00
Author meets critics: Discussion of Rajeev Bhargava’s article “An Ancient Indian Secular Age?”
Chair: Sushmita Nath

15:00 – 17:00
Opportunity for one-on-one talks (after registration)

Monday, 4 November

09:30 – 13:00
Author meets critics: Discussion of Rajeev Bhargava’s article “Is European Secularism Secular Enough?”
Chair: André Laliberté

15:00 – 17:00
Opportunity for one-on-one talks (after registration)

Tuesday, 5 November

09:30 – 13:00
Discussion of the Multiple Secularities approach with regard to its (historical) applicability to India

15:00 – 17:00
Opportunity for one-on-one talks (after registration)

• Bhargava, Rajeev. “An Ancient Indian Secular Age?” In Beyond the Secular West. Edited by Akeel Bilgrami, 188–214. Religion, culture, and public life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
• Bhargava, Rajeev. “Is European Secularism Secular Enough?” In Religion, Secularism, and Constitutional Democracy. Edited by Jean L. Cohen and Cécile Laborde, 157–81. New York Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2015.
• Bhargava, Rajeev. “Secular Politico-Legal Regimes in Religiously Homogenous and Diverse Societies.” In Routledge Handbook of Law and Religion. Edited by Silvio Ferrari, 229–44. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2017.
• Kleine, Christoph, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Research Programme of the HCAS ‘Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities’” Working Paper Series of the HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” 1, Leipzig, 2016.

Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities”, (28 October 2019)