Rethinking Religion in India II: Rethinking Secularism (Rethinking Religion )

Venue: IDSA - Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis

Location: New Delhi, India

Event Date/Time: Jan 10, 2009 End Date/Time: Jan 13, 2009
Abstract Submission Date: Sep 30, 2008
Report as Spam


When India became independent in 1947 there were high hopes that secularism would adequately protect the nation against communal strife. Six decades later, however, recurrent communal riots, the rise of Hindutva and key events like the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya have led to a crisis of Indian secularism. Nevertheless, no adequate understanding of the nature of these problems is provided by the current social sciences. Instead, an ideological struggle between secularism and Hindutva has hijacked all reflection and debate on the nature of Indian culture and society.

Rethinking Religion in India II is the initiative of a group of intellectuals who think this clash between secularism and Hindutva is pernicious. Within the general aims of the five-year conference cluster, this second conference intends to move beyond the framework which presents liberal secularism as the only possible solution to communal strife. Under the motto of “Rethinking Secularism,” it will examine the limitations of the conceptual framework shared by Hindutva and secularism. The Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap (Ghent University, Belgium), India Platform UGent (Ghent University, Belgium), the Centre for the Study of Local Cultures (Kuvempu University, India) and the Karnataka Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities (Karnataka, India) invite you for four days of reflection on the possibilities that lie beyond this normative straitjacket.

The conference will work towards these ambitions in four formats:

- The Platform Sessions will have a one-on-one debate between two thinkers who will focus on the question “Is secularism the solution to communal conflict in India?” Achin Vanaik (Delhi University) and Jakob De Roover (Ghent University) have been invited as central speakers in the debate.

- The Roundtable Sessions will invite a distinguished group of thinkers to reflect on three different problems related to the aim of rethinking secularism: (1) Freedom of Religion and Religious Conversion; (2) Secularism, Hindutva and the Aryan Invasion Theory; and (3) Liberal Secularism and Religious Fundamentalism: Opposites or Alter Egos? A preliminary list of speakers and respondents consists of Ashis Nandy (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies); Dilip K. Chakrabarty (University of Cambridge); Edwin Bryant (State University of New Jersey); Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame); Winnifred F. Sullivan (State University of New York); Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University); Geoffrey Oddie (The University of Sydney); Laurie L. Patton (Emory University); Richard King (Vanderbilt University); S.N. Balagangadhara (Ghent University); Vivek Dhareshwar (Centre for the Study of Culture and Society), Timothy Fitzgerald (University of Stirling).

A call for papers is open for the following two sessions ( > call for papers):

- The Parallel Paper Sessions will deal with (1) Indian Religion and the Issue of Conversion; (2) The Caste System and Indian Religion; (3) Colonialism and Religion in India; (4) Religion and Law in India. We invite submission of abstracts for these sessions. The abstracts should clearly address the questions formulated on our website.

- “How To…?” Workshop sessions: One of the workshops will deal with the question ‘How to teach about the Indian traditions and religions?’ We invite proposals for workshops dealing with similar questions. Workshop proposals should explain why this workshop is relevant in India today and why it is important vis-à-vis the general objectives of Rethinking Religion in India.

For more information, please visit our website at

A number of interviews, presentations and debates of the first conference, Rethinking Religion in India I, can be watched on


Marianne Keppens & Esther Bloch
Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap
Ghent University
Apotheekstraat 5
B-9000 Gent, Belgium
tel: +32 (0)9 264 93 71
fax: +32 (0)9 264 94 83
e-mail: &


1, Development Enclave, (near USI), Rao Tularam Marg, Delhi Cantonment, opposite Subroto Park
New Delhi