Taylor Sherman

Reassessing Secularism and Muslim Belonging in Early Postcolonial India

Since independence, Muslim belonging in India has been anchored using the language of
secularism. In the last 3 decades, the rise of Hindu nationalist forces has led many to announce
that India’s secularism is in crisis. However, the understanding of today’s crisis is rooted in the idea that secularism was an agreed concept that was successfully introduced under India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. This paper reassesses secularism in early postcolonial India, avoiding the well-trodden territory of Nehru’s published works. Instead, it explores contests over the definition of secularism, and the question of Muslim belonging, at several layers of Indian government and society.

Dr. Taylor C. Sherman is Associate Professor in the Department of International History at
the London School of Economics. In 2014-15 she is Visiting Professor in the History Department at Columbia University.