ARE WE SECULAR?
India is a Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic pledged tosecure to all its citizens justice, liberty and equality, and to promoteamong them all fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual andthe unity of the nation. This is stated in the Preamble of theConstitution itself. Actually, while the word “secularism” is rathervague, and was introduced by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, Articles25 to 30 of the Constitution relating to the freedom of religion andfreedom to manage religious affairs are more specific. They contain theclear directive that “no religious instruction shall be provided in anyeducational institution wholly maintained out of State funds”. There is also the further provision in Article 28(3) that no personattending any educational institution recognised by the State orreceiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in anyreligious instruction that may be imparted in such institution, or toattend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institutionor in any premises attached thereto, unless such person or, if suchperson is a minor, his guardian, has given his consent there to. Thus, complete religious freedom, with the absence of anycompulsion whatsoever in religious matters, is legally guaranteed bythe supreme law of the land. India is, therefore, rightly described as asecular country in which the State has no religion, nor does it seek topromote or discourage any religion or religious belief. It is obvious thatthe Government and people of India are secular, that is, there is noofficial religion. That is the legal position. The State stands committedto a policy of non-interference in religious matters. Religion is a matterof personal beliefs and convictions.In January, 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of secularism thus: “Weshall proceed on secular and national lines in keeping with the powerfultrends towards internationalism ... India will be a land, as in the past, of many faiths equally honored and respected, but of one nationaloutlook, not, I hope, a narrow nationalism living in its own shell butrather the tolerant, creative nationalism which, believing in itself andthe genius of the people, takes full part in the establishment of aninternational order.”