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Secularism does not mean non-religious, but equal respect to all faiths: EAM Jaishankar

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London, Nov 16 (PTI) Secularism for India does not mean being
non-religious but an equal respect to all faiths, but the
“appeasement” government policies of the past made the biggest
religion of the country feel like it had to be self-deprecatory in the
name of equality, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.
During an interaction entitled ‘How a Billion People See the
World’s at the Royal Over-Seas League in London on Wednesday
evening, Jaishankar was asked if India had changed since the
Nehruvian era to become less liberal and more “Hindu
majoritarian” under the BJP-led government.
While asserting that India had certainly changed, Jaishankar was
categorical that the change did not mean India being less liberal
but rather “more authentic” about expressing its beliefs.
“Has India changed from the Nehruvian era? Absolutely, because
one of the assumptions of that era which very much guided the
thinking of the polity and its projection abroad was the way we
define secularism in India,” said Jaishankar, in response to a
question by journalist-author Lionel Barber.
“For us, secularism doesn’t mean being non-religious; for us
secularism means equal respect to all faiths. Now, what happened
in reality in politics was beginning with equal respect for all
faiths, we actually got into a sort of politics of minoritarian
pandering. That, over a period of time, I think, created a
backlash,” he said.
Jaishankar referenced “appeasement” as a very powerful word in
the Indian political debate, which guided the direction in which
politics went.
“More and more people started feeling that in a way, in the name
of equality of all religions, in fact, the biggest religion had to be
self-deprecatory and play itself down. A big part of that
community felt it was not being fair,” he noted.
The senior BJP leader said the political and social changes seen in
India in the last few years have partly been a reaction “at an
intellectual and political level” to this sense of unfairness.

Specifically asked if tolerance had gone down in India as a result,
he responded: “I don’t think so; I think on the contrary. I think
people today are less hypocritical about their beliefs, about their
traditions and their culture.
“We are more Indian, more authentic. We are not today, either
currying favour before a global audience or really trying to live up
to some kind of left-wing liberal construct which a lot of Indians
felt was not us.”
The question-and-answer session, organised by foreign policy
agency Wilton Park in partnership with the High Commission of
India in London, marked the minister’s final engagement in
London as he concluded his five-day UK visit.
The discussion covered a wide range of topics, including India-
China relations, the ongoing diplomatic row with Canada and the
socio-political scenario in the country.

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