Wednesday, June 29, 2022

On Nehru’s Mission to Propagate Secularism

The French writer André Malraux met Jawaharlal Nehru on several occasions in the 1950s and 1960s. In his autobiographical book Antimémoires, published in 1967 (Anti-Memoirs, 1968), Malraux has given a lengthy account of his conversations with Nehru. 

In one of the conversions Malraux asked Nehru, "What has been your greatest difficulty since independence?” Nehru’s answer: “…creating a secular state in a religious country. Especially when its religion is not founded on a book of revelation." Malraux says that at that moment he thought that he was “face to face simultaneously with eternal India.” He was filled with the notion that “Nehru was attempting one of the most profound metamorphoses in the world.” (Anti-Memoirs, page 143) 

I wonder if Nehru was criticizing Hinduism when he said that it was not founded on “a book of revelation.” Nehru saw himself as a world historical figure, not a mere prime minister, whose primary responsibility was to enable Indians, especially the Hindus, to transcend their religion and become secular. The problem was that only the Hindus were expected to be secular in Nehru’s India—his secularism implied that the Hindus should love all religions except their own.

No comments: