Letter: India's declining secularism

Sir: James Chiriyankandath and Shuja Shaikh are quite right to stress the fragility of India's secularism (Letters, 14 December). On the day before the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu fundamentalists an incident occurred in Delhi that demonstrated a Muslim threat to India's secularism.

Professor Mushirul Hasan, the pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia (Muslim National University) was set upon by Muslim fundamentalist students and beaten to within an inch of his life. The cause goes back to the early summer when Professor Hasan, while indicating that he was unhappy with Rushdie's Satanic Verses, urged, in the name of free speech, that the fatwa against Rushdie be lifted.

The result was a massive agitation against Professor Hasan, calls that he be dismissed from the university and public threats to his life: the matter became a cause celebre for India's secular intelligentsia. For much of the summer Professor Hasan was under police protection and virtually a prisoner in his own home, while a government commission investigated what should be done. It recommended that Professor Hasan should return to his post. He was beaten up within hours of doing so.

Yours faithfully,


Department of History

Royal Holloway

Egham, Surrey

14 December