Scholar Links Today’s Indian Nationalism to European Xenophobia

by Pheroze L. Vincent – December 24, 2014

The Hindu

In a lecture here on Wednesday, eminent philosopher Akeel Bilgrami explained that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s modernity and secularism were indigenous and distinct from Europeans notions of these concepts. “The doctrine of secularism emerged as a large and corrective measure, essentially, as this narrative shows, to be a counter to a process that starts with a nationalism founded on religious majoritarianism,” he said.

Professor at the Columbia University in New York, Professor¬†Bilgrami spoke on Nehru and The Concept of Secularism–the fifth talk in The Indian Moden and Nehru series of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust and the India Habitat Centre in the capital. He explained that European nationalism was generated by creating a feeling of “ours” by finding an external enemy within its territory to be despised as the “other.”

“Indian society seems to have sunk into the majoritarian form of nationalism that I have traced to Europe’s nation building past,” he added.

“The work of Nehru’s, just like a range of writings by Gandhi from Hind Swaraj onwards, form all their many differences of attitude towards religion and science and secularization constantly applauded India’s diverse peoples mutual influence upon each other, their shared sites of worship, and all other familiar elements of a civilization that came later to be captured in such tired phrases and clich√©s as ‘composite culture and ‘unity in diversity’,” he said.

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