Abhinav Chandrachudis an advocate who practises at the Bombay High Court. He graduated from the LLM programme at Harvard Law School, where he was a Dana Scholar, and from the JSM and JSD programmes at Stanford Law School, where he was a Franklin Family Scholar. He has worked as an associate attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a global law firm, and as a paralegal at AZB & Partners, a leading law firm in India. He is the author of Republic of Rhetoric: Free Speech and the Constitution of India (2017) and Supreme Whispers: Conversations with Judges of the Supreme Court of India 1980-1989 (2018). He writes a column for Bloomberg Quint.
How did India aspire to become a secular country? Given our colonial past, we derive many of our laws and institutions from England. We have a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster model of government. Our courts routinely use catchphrases like 'rule of law' or 'natural justice', which have their roots in London. However, during the period of colonial rule in India, and even thereafter, England was not a 'secular' country. The king or queen of England must mandatorily be a Protestant. The archbishop of Canterbury is still appointed by the government. Senior bishops still sit, by virtue of their office, in the House of Lords.
Thought-provoking and impeccably argued, Republic of Religion reasons that the secular structure of the colonial state in India was imposed by a colonial power on a conquered people. It was an unnatural foreign imposition, perhaps one that was bound, in some measure, to come apart once colonialism ended, given colonial secularism's dubious origins.
There are a series of false notions about secularism in India that have come to penetrate our consciousness so deeply that slaying them becomes significant, especially in these times. To do so, though, it's important to marshal our facts carefully. To that end, Abhinav Chandrachud's fine new book, Republic of Religion: The Rise and Fall of Colonial Secularism in India offers an excellent resource.