‘Why is India’s Secular Nationalism Under Attack?’ was the topic of discussion between Ananya Vajpeyi (author), Manu Joseph (commentator and author), Prayaag Akbar (journalist) and Swapan Dasgupta (MP). The session at Lit for Life 2018 festival was moderated by Malini Parthasarathy, Co-Chairperson of The Hindu Group of Publications.
Ananya Vajpeyi started the discussion with the recognition of how ideas of nationalism were being replaced. “We are living in a regime that seeks to replace secular nationalism with religious nationalism”, she said.
Swapan Dasgupta noted that the problem tended to be a lack of even-handedness. That laws were not applicable in a uniform manner was something that needed to be dealt with, he said and added that discrimination should not apply to State policy.
Prayaag Akbar noted patterns in the development of secular nationalism in India. He talked about ideas of reinforcement that were observed in symbolism, which not only indicated who belong to the nation, but also enlisted those who didn’t.
Manu Joseph added to this discussion by raising another point about how the threat against secularism was understood, as a situation “when the elite of a system becomes the underdog of another,” pointing towards the case of a moralistic compensation being demanded. However, he said a nationalism of pride was important – because what followed it was truly important, the nationalism of shame.