Accounting for Change in Diverse Societies

Why Did India Choose Pluralism?
Lesson From a Post-Colonial State

Publication Date: April 2017

Rochana Bajpai

Rochana Bajpai is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the SOAS South Asia Institute and a member of the Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice (CCRJ). Her research interests are in comparative political thought and political ideologies, liberalism and multiculturalism, and modern Indian politics. She is the author of Debating Difference: Group Rights and Liberal Democracy in India, and has also published several journal articles and chapters in edited volumes on constitution-making, secularism, social justice and liberalism in India. She is currently working on a study of comparative affirmative action, with a focus on policy debates in India and Malaysia, as well as comparative political thought and ethnography.

Like many postcolonial states, India’s path to independence included building a common national identity among diverse religious and ethnic groups. While the creation of Pakistan in 1947 seemed to assert that Hindus and Muslims could not co-exist in a single nation, India remained committed to recognizing cultural diversity and promoting a more pluralistic sense of citizenship. What lessons can we learn about the choices India made and the dynamics of difference within its self-identity as a country? Is a commitment to pluralism central to India’s identity today?

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