Tuesday, June 05, 2007


My post on what it means to be a liberal in India elicited insightful responses on the limits of liberalism. Here, I bring to our attention, an article written by Mukul Kesavan in the Telegraph on May 31 here. (Thanks to Mr.Abi for the link) He handles the problem of liberal inconsistency - an issue of concern to some of us - in historical context, which should be of interest to all of us. He says in this crucial paragraph: "Being inconsistent in these matters is not always a dishonourable position, because liberal inconsistency has some warrant in the history of the republic. The Indian state’s policies were often less than even-handed because it needed to manage anxiety and vulnerability and difference. The decision not to extend the uniform civil code to Muslims, for example, was one of these inconsistencies. Many liberals criticized Nehru’s ‘failure’ to draw Muslims into the ambit of a uniform civil law, but equally there were many who sympathized with his decision because they agreed with his sense that the Fifties was a time when a Partition-torn Muslim community needed reassurance, not ‘robust’ reform. You can argue that the exemption of Muslims bought the young republic time to make its Muslim population feel at home. You can equally argue that it was a timorous and cowardly unwillingness to grasp the nettle which gave the Hindu right a stick to beat secular liberals with. In a country as diverse and complicatedly troubled as India, one size doesn’t always fit all. But those of us who cite our Republican history as precedent, who argue that circumstances alter cases, and believe that consistency is, sometimes, a poor guide to policy, must also accept that there will be times when our inconsistency will be exploited by our ideological enemies to attack people and institutions that we value."
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