The Making of Indian Secularism: Empire, Law, and Christianity, 1830-1960

Article excerpt

The Making of Indian Secularism: Empire, Law, and Christianity, 1830-1960. By Nandini Chatterjee. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Pp. xiv, 337. $95.

This work maintains that one cannot comprehend how a secular political system in India emerged without understanding what Indian Christians contributed to this process. By examining implementation of laws pertaining to religious education, to religious endowments, and to inheritance of family property, Nandini Chatterjee argues that what began under the Company's Raj and continued under the British Crown generated the formation of official attitudes and procedures and that these have continued to define a special kind of secularism in our own day. Drawing her data from government records, political pamphlets, newspapers, and missionary archives, as well as collections of private papers, she explains how India's Christians not only shaped their own identity but also evolved into a self-consciously All-India "minority" within an emerging nation. She contends that India's Christians "played a disproportionately significant role in shaping Indian secularism" (p. 2) - and, indeed, in the very shaping of modernity itself. As India's peoples contended with conditions of imperial rule, a uniquely Indian secularism emerged. …