You are on page 1of 6

Secularism in India


Secularism in India
The Preamble to the Constitution of India declares that India is a secular state. The original preamble did not mention the word "secular". It was added later by 42nd amendment in 1976.[1] The term secularism in politics refers to the governmental practice of indifference towards religion. Though such bifurcation is not totally possible, still, secular politics attempt to prevent religious philosophies or bodies from influencing governmental policies. The philosophy that the Indian constitution upholds is a kind of secular humanism made relevant through a historical development of the ideology within the context of religious pluralism in India.

Indian concept of secularism takes is colour from Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), Article 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion), and Article 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs). These are among the list of Fundamental Rights of citizens. It is interesting to note that Indian Constitution merely states the behaviour of the State in terms of what it will not do (i.e. not discriminate based on religion). It does not say that the State has or has not a religion. It does not say whether State can or cannot participate in religion. It does not say whether State can or cannot spend public money on religious activities. Even so, India recognizes laws based on religion. Hindus, Muslims, and Christians are governed by their own religious laws. Thus, India does not really fit into any text book definition of Secularism. It has, in fact, created its own brand of Secularism. Indeed, Supreme Court of India observed the same thing in the case of Aruna Roy vs. Union of India (SC AIR 2002), when it said Indian Secularism means ”sarva dhrama samabhav” and not “sarva dharma abhav” ( meaning, "equal feeling for all religions" and not "no feeling for any religion").

Buddhist monks at the Sera Monastery during a festival. The monastery was granted asylum by the India and relocated to Mysore after the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Secularism in India has very different meaning and implications. The word secularism has never been used in Indian context in the sense in which it has been used in Western countries i.e. in the sense of atheism or purely this worldly approach, rejecting the other-worldly beliefs. India is a country where religion is very central to the life of people. India’s age-old philosophy as expounded in Hindu scriptures called Upanishad is sarva dharma samabhava, which means equal respect for all religions. The reason behind this approach is the fact that India has never been a mono-religious country. India is one country where caste rigidity and concept of untouchability evolved and still plays a major role in religious, social and cultural matters. Caste dynamics in Indian life, even in Christian and Islamic societies, plays larger than life role. Since most of the conversions to Christianity and Islam took place from lower caste Hindus, these two world religions also developed caste structure. There are lower caste churches and mosques in several places. Under feudal system there was no competition between different religious traditions as authority resided in sword and generally there were no inter-religious tensions among the people of different religions. They co-existed in peace and harmony though at times inter-religious controversies did arise. However, there never took place bloodshed in the name of religion.

The Indian National Congress at the time of independence from British Raj adopted secularism. Many religious sects and practices kept away from rigid intolerant forms. Similarly all citizens of India irrespective of ones religion. Thus India remained politically secular but otherwise its people continued to be deeply religious. religious pluralism and peaceful co-existence. not as this worldly philosophy but more as a political arrangement. Also.Secularism in India There was also tradition of tolerance between religions due to state policies of various kings since time immemorial from Gupta Kings to Ashoka and Akbar. According to articles 14 to 21 all will enjoy same rights without any discrimination on any ground. Tolerance in India among people of all religions is widely prevalent. There are some rationalists and secularists who reject religion in its entirety but such rationalists or secularists are extremely few. Thus even conversion to any religion of ones choice is a fundamental right. 2 . It is not religious leaders by and large (with few exceptions) who divide but politicians who seek to mobilise votes on grounds of primordial identities like religion.1% in India. which proved to be divisive and not religion. As power-sharing arrangement could not be satisfactorily worked out between the Hindu and Muslim elite the country was divided into two independent states of India and Pakistan. In India right from the British period main contradiction was not between religious and secular but it was between secular and communal. Jawahar Lal Nehru. Muslim majority areas of North-West going to Pakistan. the first Prime Minister of India was great champion of secularism and secular politics. there are extremely orthodox people who exhibit rigidity and intolerance towards other faiths though of course not on communal grounds but on the grounds of religious orthodoxy but they too are in minuscule minority. Secularism in India.Ambedkar that India committed itself to secularism and its Constitution was drafted on secular lines. Budhism. However. It is perhaps due to influence of ancient Indian doctrine that truth is one but is manifested in different forms. gender and class. as pointed out before. Even Sufis and Bhakti Saints are considered quite secular in that sense. The main struggle was between secularism and communalism. creed. according to the Indian Constitution no discrimination will be made on the basis of caste. it is politics. one cannot say how many are believers and how many unbelievers? On the contrary in Indian context what it means how many people are against people of minority religions like Islam and Christianity and how many people respect them. The communal forces from among Hindus and Muslims mainly fought for share in power though they used their respective religions for their struggle for power. According to Article 25 all those who reside in India are free to confess. Though there are no census figures available but one can safely say they are less than 0.R. Thus the real spirit of secularism in India is all inclusiveness. But it was due to Mahatma Gandhi. In the western world main struggle was between church and state and church and civil society but in India neither Hinduism nor Islam had any church-like structure and hence there never was any such struggle between secular and religious power structure. Nehru. etc. practice and propagate religion of one’s choice subject of course to social health and law and order. However. Sikhism. After independence and partition a large body of Muslims were left in India and hence the leaders like Gandhi and Nehru preferred to keep India secular in the sense that Indian state will have no religion though people of India will be free both in individual and corporate sense to follow any religion of their birth or adoption. as also described in various other reigions like Islam. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and B. Jew ism. Also. Christianity. the Congress Party consisted of several members and leaders whose secularism was in doubt. SECULAR AND UNSECULAR PEOPLE Now question arises how many Indian people are secular and how many unsecular? Since secularism does not mean being this worldly in India. meant equal respect for all religions and cultures and non-interference of religion in the government affairs. In fact in India an overwhelming majority of people are religious but tolerant and respect other religions and are thus ‘secular’ in Indian context. caste or gender have right to vote. Theoretically speaking the Congress Party was also committed to secularism. Jainism.

As a result of several year's . which is therefore not uniform behavior. The medieval society in India was thus more religiously tolerant as it was non-competitive. is always prone to dominance and conflicts. In other words. if politics is not based on issues but on identities. The former case proves much easier. A significant observation from this case was that despite a direct ruling from the Supreme Court of India. The modern Indian society. and Jainism. This also means that political mechanism cannot correct problems inside a religious group. Muslims. Views While the pluralist view of Mahatma Gandhi. For example. the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act. The three main protest movements were by the Charvakas (a secularistic and materialistic philosophical movement). has proved to be more divisive as it is based on competition. In order to mitigate the harmful effects of casteism and other source of conflicts and human right violations arising out of religions.[2] However. Until then. Sikhs. However. it was in the 18th century. in pandering to the Muslim vote bank[3] not only failed to protect the interests of a divorced female in a secular and even handed manner (Shah Bano was 62 and a mother five when her husband divorced her). Indian society being a mixture of religions. Buddhism. religion was considered to be inseparable from political and social life. the issues such as casteism is particularly of religious origin. and in this case. believers of all faiths other than Islam are legally bound to be monogamous while those who practice or convert to Islam are permitted up to four marriages. the British codified laws pertaining to practices within religions on the sub-continents. To this effect they instituted separate laws for Hindus. successive governments have failed to enact a uniform civil code as regards to marriages. has a strong impact. when the British East India Company began to gain total control over India that ideas of secularism began to have impact on the Indian mind. All three of them rejected the authority of the Vedas and any importance of belief in a deity. there is obvious difference between secularism practised in India and elsewhere. that all religions are equal. the Rajiv Gandhi government. Moreover. there are movements like those of the dalits (depressed classes) and the communists who have criticized such a view. it can prove highly divisive. On the other hand. Politicians are tempted to appeal to primordial identities rather than to solve problems. 1986 was enacted. The western model of secularism means that religion and politics are separate from each other (Caesar and God theory). But still he was killed by a religious person for his adherence to minority appeasement calling it secular principles.[4] Here the common civil code is not being taken by the Islam (organization in INDIA) as they have different faith than just law.C. This is a major grouse for Hindu politicians who insist that there should be a uniform civil code for all citizens. Christians. the dissolution thereof. Parsis and others as part of their divide-and-rule policy. on the other hand. Here the common civil code of the secular country & the Islam law collides. In doing so they laid the foundation for a nonuniform civil code which remains largely unchanged to date. further exacerbating Muslim women's plight.Secularism in India caste and ethnicity. polity does not enter in religious affairs and religion in political affairs. In a multi-religious society. 3 Religious laws On marriage As the Shah Bano case demonstrated. However. Gandhi himself was a devout man and instilled devotion in the Independence Struggle. it is necessary that polity/government be able to meddle with religious affairs. (Secular Perspective) « The history of Indian secularism begin with the protest movements in the 5th century B. Thus in case of India one can say by and large it is secular in as much as it is religiously plural and tolerant but there are politically divisive forces quite active and create communal pressure and widen the gap between religious community thus bringing Indian secularism under threat.

[7] He writes 4 “ Nehru's India was supposed to be committed to 'secularism'. undermining traditional Islamic scholarship and instead teaching Marxism in "Islamic" disguise. the country is far from having a common civil code. have also observed that the Indian government is not really "secular". religious militancy and communal disharmony in general. for their own massacre. practising the Indian Brand of secularism (mutual tolerance instead of mutual respect) in the last 60 years. Thus. The idea here in its weaker publicly reiterated form was that the government would not interfere in 'personal' religious matters and would create circumstances in which people of all religions could live in harmony. particularly historian Ronald Inden. He writes that the flawed understanding of secularism has led India to take a soft stand against Islamic terrorism . government has only limited success in correcting human right violations such as atrocities against women in Islam. After Independence. He also cites that often. which "displays the ridiculousness of the Indian concept of secularism". As far as other religions are concerned. However. He also cites attempts by Islamist sympathizers to whitewash history books concerning Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent as another example of India's "secularism". right-wingSadanand Dhume criticizes Indian "Secularism" as a fraud and a failure. So is blaming pilgrims. Government has been able to reduce the effects of casteism and modernize the Hindu personal laws. Liberhann Commission which investigated the Babri Masjid Incident. The idea in its stronger. governments implemented secularism mostly by refusing to recognize the religious pasts of Indian nationalism. Others. but one that selectively discriminates against Hindu communities while superficially appeasing Muslim leaders (without actually providing any community or theological benefits to regular Muslims in India). unofficially stated form was that in order to modernize.Secularism in India efforts to detoxify the religions. since it isn't really "secularism" as it is understood in the western world (as separation of religion and state) but more along the lines of religious appeasement. India would have to set aside centuries of traditional religious ignorance and superstition and eventually eliminate Hinduism and Islam from people's lives altogether. ” . As a result. Writing in the Wall Street Journal. He writes that poorly educated Indian so-called "intelligentsia" identify Indian "secularism" with anti-Hinduism and even a tacit Islamophobia. politico-religio-regional chauvinism is becoming more common in contemporary Indian Politics.[6] In India. failed to produce communal harmony and trust. whether Hindu or Muslim. However.[5] Similar views have also been expressed by noted Indian LGBT rights activist Ashok Row Kavi in the wake of attempts by some ultra-orthodox Hindus to scuttle the gay rights movement in India by intimidation and violence. Kavi writes that extremist groups like Shiv Sena get too much credibility in the mainstream. leftist governments in India (such as in the Indian state of West Bengal) covertly control madrassa curricula for Muslims. has recommended that religion be delinked from politics and that Politicians must not garner votes preaching religion or caste. like in Godhra massacre. ability of Government to indulge in religious affairs also boomeranged. blaming Kashmiri Pundits for their own ethnic cleansing from ancestral lands since time immemorial is passed off as secularism. The Indian experiment on secularism is here to continue. and at the same [7] time (inconsistently) by retaining Muslim 'personal law'. Religions and castes increased their influence on political parties.

this book was written at the height of the Raamjanmabhoomi movement and was published in period of the Somanaath to Ayodhyaa Rathayaatraa. resigned in protest at the government's volte-face. Sadanand (June 20. Secular India. google. The Wall Street Journal. It's a sketch of the Indian statehood's secular development through the ages. Secularism in India ( printsec=frontcover/) • Secularism in India: A Historical Analysis (Unabridged Edition) (http://www. com/ books?id=WHQ2M1lLGVcC& printsec=frontcover/ ) [3] Thomas printsec=frontcover/) • Domenic Marbaniang. com/ article/ html. A Historical Quest by Sanjeev Tare (1991) published by Anmol Publications. rediff.scribd. Zakir Naik" (http:/ / online.” by Ronald Inden. and no doubt would have preferred a common civil code. English. 230 pages. com/ articles/ . Secularism in India: Historical Outline: (http:/ / books. p." [4] Arvind Rajagopal (2001). Metcalf (2002).com/doc/54833879/ Secularism-in-India-Unabridged) • Panthnirpeksh (http://sify. Indian Secularism (http://books. p.) • Secularism In India (http://hanumant. "Rajiv Gandhi cared little about the Shah Bano case himself. Politics After Television. nevertheless he saw in the opposition to this supreme court decision a heaven-sent opportunity to draw Muslim voters to the Congress cause. html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopBucket). "The Trouble with Dr. htm) [7] “Imagining India.Secularism in India 5 References [1] http:/ / www. legalserviceindia. 9780521648394. then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made an about face and supported a February 1986 bill favoring Islamic law rather than the Criminal Procedure Code for divorced Muslim women. 2010). Indiana University Press. 257. 9780521639743. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521639743. htm [2] Domenic Marbaniang. [6] (http:/ / www. . A concise history of India." [5] Dhume. 2000. wsj. Importantly. The Minister of State for Home Affairs. New Delhi. ISBN 0521648394. 290. "When it became clear that Muslim leaders were steering votes away from the Congress. Cambridge University Press.xii. Arif Mohammed Khan. It traces the development of state from India's more than 5000 year old secular state up to 1965. External links • Domenic Marbaniang. com/ news/ 1998/ dec/

Article Sources and Contributors 6 Article Sources and Contributors Secularism in India  Source: http://en. Utcursch. Soman. Nshuks7.aditya. Phantomsteve. Weboma. Ip09. ParvinN. Siddiqui. TwoHorned. Anirvan. Licenses and Contributors Image:39785485 defdee2cdc o(2). Viscious81. Ikonoblast. Goethean. Wwmargera. Signalhead. Aravind V R. Kyuss. Drm 1976. Groupsinpieces. Nemesis of Reason. Kmanoj.0 Unported http:/ / creativecommons. I. Bobo192. Nihar S. NiteSensor23. Hmains. Fram. Szhaider.php?oldid=429955754  Contributors: Abecedare. Bearcat. Mackan79. Gaius Cornelius. Dhanu86. Doorvery far. Msiev. Sahadad. Woohookitty. Platonic Guardian. Redtigerxyz. Skapur. Atomicfunctional.wikipedia. Bhagwad. Skier Dude. Aksi great. 0/ . Bondego. Shaliya waya. Subramanya.php?title=File:39785485_defdee2cdc_o(2). Wiki-uk.jpg  License: Creative Commons Attribution 2. Gamesmasterg9.wikipedia.0  Contributors: evanosherow License Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3. Emperor Genius. Relata refero. org/ licenses/ by-sa/ 3. Ganeshas 123.jpg  Source: http://en. Eggman64. 100 anonymous edits Image Sources. Rmky87. VBGFscJUn3. Bachrach44. Anilkt. Sidhu Jyatha. Saravask. Hanumantd.