This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in Contemporary South Asia © Taylor & Francis; see publisher's version and entry in my publication list. The book itself is here.

Articles of faith: Religion, secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court, by Ronojoy Sen, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2010, xli + 237 pp., ISBN 0-19-806380-6

After independence, India established a ‘principled distance’ between religion and the state as part and parcel of becoming a ‘modern nation’. At the same time, India also saw the rise of Hindu nationalist forces which question this very distance. Both seemingly opposed trends share common roots, argues Ronojoy Sen in his detailed exegesis of Supreme Court judgments on religion: the court ‘significantly narrowed the space for religious freedom’ by ‘homogenizing and rationalizing religion and religious practices’ – which in turn ‘strengthened the hand of Hindu nationalists, whose ideology is based on a monolithic conception of Hinduism and intolerance of minorities’ (xxix, xxx). While identifying the link between exclusivist Hindutva and wider trends towards a more homogeneous and standardized Hinduism ‘as a religion’ is not that new, Sen manages to shift this debate from colonial to post-colonial times, and is the first to highlight the key role of the judiciary. This makes his book an important contribution to the study of religion, law and politics in contemporary India.

Later today, I will give a talk on my Gujarat project at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University Lucknow. While preparing my notes for this lecture, I realized that I somehow missed to put any extensive english summary of this project online til today. To fill this gap: here come today's notes (which in turn build on earlier talks and conference papers); please refer, however, to my published work, especially my monograph, if you want to cite my findings -- these notes are rough and not meant for further distribution.1. In the meantime, however, I am curious for your comments below, as always...

  • 1. Is publishing them on this blog a contradiction, then? Mabye, yes...