In the January issue of Rethinking Marxism (sub. req.), Saroj Giri explores the underlying assumptions that drive the conceptions of Indian secularism employed by both its critics and its advocates:

Most antimodern and subaltern critiques of “secularism” in India work by exposing a hidden, particularist majoritarianism (communalism) underneath abstract secularist universalism; this, however, externalizes communalism to the effects of “Western modernity” or secularization. On the other hand, the secularist left also externalizes communalism to feudal, premodern power relations or right-wing forces, or to the lack of left nationalist hegemony, or “an ethically neutral state.”

What if, however, “abstract” secularism is only the form of appearance of an actually existing communal social order? The categorization of (Nehruvian) secularism as “abstract” and “imposed” glosses over the continuity it provides to this structurally embedded communalism. Dominant communalism’s coexistence with hegemonic secularism, otherwise presumed to be anti-communal and already fighting communalism, precludes anti-communalism as part of a larger (‘old-fashioned’?) revolutionary transformation of society.

We have something to learn from Fanon: “one cannot divorce the combat for culture from the peoples struggle for liberation”. This raises the question of the political subject, revealing serious limitations of the biopolitical model of state power invoked by some Subalterns.

Read more here.