SECULARISM IN INDIA

WHAT IS SECULARISM?

When we say India is a secular nation, we mean that India does not have its own official religion but it treats all the religions equally. Secularism means treatment of all religions equally by the state. The word ‘secular’ was enacted by Indian constitution in the year 1976. “The state is not connected with spiritual and religious matter”. The concept of secularism was adopted from Western countries but with its marked differences. Various causes of secularization in India can be – Urbanization – due to urbanization people of different cultures and religions reside together in same localities when has led to secularization among citizens of India.

Growth and development in transport and communication sector – with the growth and development in these sectors people of different religions are inter-mixed with each other. They get connected to each other through social media platforms and access the public transport. Education imparted to students in institutions – education plays an important role in harmonizing people of different religious groups. Institutions welcome all religious groups equally. Legislation – various laws has been passed to protect the rights of religious groups. Special marriage Act, 1872 was passed with intent to solemnize the marriage between people belonging to different religious community.

This Act aims at making the marriage between people of different religious community a valid marriage in the eyes of law. Hindu marriage Act,1955, Hindu succession Act ,1956 has been passed to secularize people belonging to Hindu community. Constitution also provides protection under article 27-30 which says the citizens of India has right to freedom of religion. Western culture- it is also one of the factors in secularizing citizens of India. The principles of Indian secularism have been derived from the concept of western secularism. In order to modernize the state has to practice secularism and it is also the duty of citizens to comply with the provisions made by the state.

India is a secular country as per its many constitutional provisions and word “Secular” was added to “Preamble” by 42nd Constitutional amendment act 1976.

Secularism defined as the belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country or indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations. Secularism has these features –

1. Separation of religious institutions from state institutions and a public sphere where religion may participate, but not dominate.

 2. Freedom to practice one’s faith or belief without harming others, or to change it or not have one, according to one’s own conscience.

3. Equality so that our religious beliefs or lack of them doesn’t put any of us at an advantage or a disadvantage.

Constitutional Secularism (Indian Context) has two features –

 1. Critical respect for all religions, In India we are not blindly anti-religious but respects Religion not one but all religion. In India, it is impossible to distinguish religion from social So Dr. B.R. Ambedkar observed “Every aspect of religious doctrine or practice cannot be respected and respect for religion must be accompanied by Critique.

2. Constitutional Secularism follows that State must respectfully leave religion alone but intervene whenever religious groups promote communal disharmony and discrimination on grounds of religion (an inter-religious matter) or are unable to protect their own members from the oppressions. Indian state abandons strict separation but keeps a principled distance from all religions. E.g. Article 15, Article 17, Article 25 to Article 30 and Article 44.

Objectives of Secularism: –

Secularism aims at keeping all the religion in peace and fighting the conflicts to make society peaceful. The most important objectives of secularism are –

  1. To ensure one religious community doesn’t dominate other religions community- there had been various conflicts among the religious communities in India. These conflicts are often related with the status in society. Secularism plays an important role as according to this concept the state has to treat all the religions equally and ensure that one religious community does not suppress the other religious community.
  2.  To combat all inter religious conflicts to make society peaceful and harmonious- secularism has played a vital role in fighting all inter-religious conflicts. Citizens must be secular so that they can continue their beliefs and practices throughout their lives without any hindrance from the law.

Freedom of religion under Indian Constitution: –

 The constitution of India guarantees to its citizens “the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”.

 Other articles include-

Article 14 talks about ‘equality before law and equal protection of law’. All the people are treated equal by law and all the laws are treated equally.

Article 15 and 16 prohibits any discrimination on the ground of religion, caste, creed, sex etc.

 Article 19to21 guarantees fundamental freedoms to its citizens.

 Article 25 to 28 gives right to profess and propagate any religion Article 267 of Indian constitution Article 44 of Indian constitution provides for fundamental duty of the state to enact uniform civil laws treating all the citizens equally.

Debates on Religious Secularism: –

There had been various debates on secularism. It had been a propaganda for decades. The issues have been arising in past few years due to political interference in secularism. All political leaders have different perspective on secularism. The constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the constituent assembly of India. The word secular in preamble was enacted after 27 years of adoption on Indian constitution. Pakistan was divided on the basis of religion i.e., Islam. India’s foundation was never led on the basis of religion. Few questions arose related to this amendment: –

Why the word ‘secular’ was enacted after 27 years during the time of emergency?

What was the need to adopt the word ‘secular’ in the year 1976?

What was the idea behind enacting the word ‘secular’ in preamble?

To combat the loopholes in Indian society the need to enact ‘secular’ arose. India has over 134cr population and various diverse cultures and religions so to maintain peace and harmony among all the religions and the word ‘secular’ was added to preamble The word ‘secular’ was added so that it gives a clear picture in the minds of people about religious freedom so that they maintain the code and conduct of the state and does not violate laws in the name of religion. The word secular was added during the time of emergency imposed by the then PM Indira Gandhi by 42nd amendment and all most all the part of constitution was changed with this amendment. The constitutional amendment act was also known as mini-constitution. Nehru and the chairman of the drafting committee strongly opposed the idea of adding the word secularism in preamble. The 1st prime minister of the country in a debate in constituent assembly said, “we have only done something which every country does, except for a few misguided and backward countries”. In a recent debate in 2017, A.K. Antulay, Rajya Sabha member of Congress party participated and answered the question that why the constitution makers had not included the word ‘secular’ in original constitution. He said, “maybe, the conditions and circumstances, then prevailing, were not favourable. The split in the Congress in the wake of partition and immediately after independence the country could not afford to perhaps the newly won independence would have been lost. Pandit Nehru himself a personification of secularism and himself of specialist conviction must have sensed that……split within the Congress over socialist and secular lines, immediately after partition, immediately after independence, would have meant the loss of independence, perhaps”.

IS INDIA A SECULAR NATION?

India is one of the largest democracies in the world. The government of India and the parliament has made various provisions to ensure that any kind of discrimination does not affect the rights of its citizens. To combat the inter-religious domination the word ‘secular’ was added to the preamble by 42nd amendment in the constitution in the year 1976. So, the answer to this question can be- yes, India is a secular nation as it does not discriminate its citizens on the basis of religion. India’s population includes people of diverse religions. The constitution of India does not discriminate between naturalized citizen and citizen by birth.

 Failure of Secularism in India: –

Shah Bano’s case was the decline to the secularism in India. Where on the one hand SC gave the judgement in favour of Bano on the other hand Muslim community especially the ulma opposed the judgement. Government then passed the bill ensuring that Muslim men need not pay the maintenance after the period of iddat to Muslim women.

Conclusion: –

 Secularism is the only way to harmonize relations between all the religions. Every concept has the other side of the coin. It is not only the duty of the state but also the duty of citizens to stand by the declaration of word ‘secular’ in the preamble. Educational institution has to take the initiative to secularize the students of the country so that they can evolve few ideas to combat religious dominations and make the country a welfare state. The concept has to be imparted in the minds of people properly so that they can abide by the provisions made by the state with respect to keeping harmony and fighting the religious conflicts among various religious communities.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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