Communalism, Nationalism and the Limits of Secularism in India (HT 14)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Prof. Sushil Mittal
Date: February 3, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM

This is an analysis of the influence that the Indian Constitution of 1950 has had on the sociopolitical situation in the Indian Republic. The Reason that informs the spirit of the Constitution is an extension of the rationality that the Enlightenment scientists and philosophers considered to be infallible. This view of Reason is at variance with the Vedic-Samkhyan notion of rationality. Similarly, the law as enshrined in the Constitution preserves the system imposed by British alien rule: it is not in harmony with the spirit of classical indigenous jurisprudence. The new legal vision consequently becomes a handicap in the hands of the ruling establishment whenever a religious or linguistic rift threatens the stability of the body politic. The need to integrate the vital elements of Hindu culture, in particular those elements that foster social harmony and peace, into the law and political management of the Republic becomes imperative.

Professor Sushil Mittal is a fellow philosophical traveler with Mahatma Gandhi, Sushil Mittal is (full) Professor of Religion in the Department of Philosophy and Religion and Founding Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James Madison University, a post he held for five years (2005–2010).  Dr. Mittal joined JMU in Fall 2004.

He earned his B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, M.A. from Carleton University in Ottawa, and Ph.D. from University of Montreal.  He has served on the faculties of the University of Florida in Gainesville and Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

His discipline by training is cultural anthropology, but he is located in a department of religion where he teaches Hinduism and Gandhian thought.  He has conducted archival and field research in Canada, India, South Africa, and the United States at intervals during the last two decades.  The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his book publications include Development and Change in India (1993), Surprising Bedfellows: Hindus and Muslims in Medieval and Early Modern India (2003), The Hindu World (2004), Religions of South Asia: An Introduction (2006), and Studying Hinduism: Key Concepts and Methods (2008).

His current work-in-progress includes The Living Hindu WorldEncyclopedia of Hindu Studies, and The Gandhi Reader.

He is the (Founding) Editor of the International Journal of Hindu Studies (1997- ) and the International Journal of Gandhi Studies (2012- ).

Professor Mittal was born in Canada (his “janma-bhumi”) buthas now dedicated himself to working in the United States(his “karma-bhumi”) and he looks to India as the mainsource of his spiritual inspiration (his “dharma-bhumi”).