[Indian Express > Op-Ed > ‘In India, the greater the intensity of religious practice, the greater the support for democracy’
Vandita Mishra > Oct 24, 2008: Alfred C. Stepan is the Wallace Sayre Professor of Government at the School of International and Public Affairs and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Toleration and Religion at Columbia University. He teaches comparative politics and his research interests include theories of democratic transitions, federalism, and the world’s religious systems and democracy. He has consistently argued for looking at the Indian model — be it secularism or federalism — on its own terms, and not just as a departure from the western norm. In the capital on Thursday, Prof Stepan spoke on ‘Rituals of Respect: Sufis and Secularists in Senegal’ at the CSDS. Excerpts from an interview with Vandita Mishra: Do you see a crisis of secularism in India today?
I am horrified by events in Orissa and in Gujarat earlier. But as a comparativist, I must look at the larger frame.
The conventional wisdom is that the greater the intensity of religious practice, the more dangerous it is for democracy. But our data tells us that for all of India’s four major religions — Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism — the reverse is true. The greater the intensity of religious practice, the greater the support for democracy. My judgment is that this would not have happened if India had not chosen its inventive form of secularism. Sometimes the state doesn’t live up to it. But in comparative terms, it is a success.]
It is difficult to gauge what exactly Professor Stepan has in mind when he lauds "religious practice" but the fact that it lulls people into living primitively is perhaps spotted as contributing to peace. Older religions have failed in their duty to impel people to receive education and develop skills in keeping with the times.
We, therefore, disagree with the wilted model of India that Professor Stepan is endorsing. Savitri Era Party has the vision to galvanize the youth of India to build a radically new future for the country. [TNM]