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Rethinking the secular state: perspectives on constitutional law in post-colonial India

John, Mathew (2011) Rethinking the secular state: perspectives on constitutional law in post-colonial India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines the role of the secular State in the making of modern constitutional government in India and argues that the practice of constitutional secularism is an unrealised pedagogical project whose goal is the transformation of Indian society and its politics. Toleration is the core value defended by the liberal secular State and the Indian State is no exception; however, its institution in the Indian Constitution compels religious groups to reformulate their traditions as doctrinal truths. Through decisions of Indian courts I demonstrate that this is an odd demand made on non-Semitic traditions like Hinduism because even up the contemporary moment it is difficult to cast these traditions in terms of doctrinal truths. Though reformulated religious identities are occluded descriptions of Indian religious traditions, I argue that they have gained considerable force in contemporary India because they were drawn into constitutional government as the problem of accommodating minority interests. Accommodating minority identities was part of an explicitly stated pedagogical project through which the British colonial government was to steward what they supposed to be irreconcilably fragmented ‗interests‘ that comprised Indian society towards a unified polity. Though the Indian Constitution reworked the politics of interests toward the amelioration of social and economic ‗backwardness‘, I argue that the rights granted to the Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, and Minorities continue to mobilise these groups as reformulated religious identities with associated interests. Thus as recognisably occluded accounts of Indian society, I demonstrate that reformed religious identities and indeed the practice of secular constitutionalism functions like a discursive veil that screens off Indian social experience from the task of generating solutions to legal and institutional problems.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Mathew John
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Loughlin, Martin and Murphy, Tim

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