Religion, religious conflicts and interreligious dialogue in India: an interrogation
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This thesis is an assessment of interreligious dialogue in India developed as an approach to other religions in the context of exclusivist attitudes. While dialogue is important in such a context, nevertheless, in terms of its wider objectives of creating better relationships in society, it has some limitations which need to be addressed for it to be more effective in society. Studying the past 60 years of dialogue in India and undertaking field-research in south India, this thesis discusses three such limitations. Firstly, critiquing the notion of world-religion categories which is fundamental to dialogue, it argues that such categories are products of the western Enlightenment and colonialism leading to framing colonised people’s identities largely in terms of religion. Dialogue, emphasising the plurality of religions, has appropriated these notions although people live with multiple identities. Secondly the idea of religious conflicts serves as the basic context for dialogue in which dialogue should take necessary actions to contain them. While the concern to do away with conflicts through dialogue needs to be furthered, this thesis considers the multiple factors involved in such conflicts and works for solutions accordingly. Analysing through a case study a clash in 1982 in Kanyakumari district which continues to be termed as Hindu-Christian conflict, this thesis shows that there are multiple factors associated with each communal conflict, and dialogue needs to understand them if it is to work effectively. Thirdly it critiques the elite nature and methods in dialogue which ignore grass root realities and call for ‘taking dialogue to grassroots.’ The argument is that grassroot experiences of relating with each other in everyday living should be incorporated in dialogue for better results. What is proposed at the end is a necessity of re-visioning dialogue which can lead to fostering ‘inter-community relations based on multiple identities and everyday living experiences of ordinary people’ that invites one to enlarge the horizons to comprehend the plurality of relations and identities, not just plurality of religions, understand and address real-life conflicts and question naming conflicts as religious, and incorporate grassroot experiences of everyday living in continuing to work for a more peaceful society.