The concept of secularism in India is based on the principle of “Sarvadharma Samabhava,” which means all religions have equal status.
It does not aim to be anti-religious or irreligious, but it allows all religions to flourish, with the state taking a neutral stance on all religious activities.
Essay on Secularism in India
Encyclopedia Britannica defines secularism as a non-spiritual concept that does not involve religion or spiritual matters. There are three main schools of thought regarding secularism: Western, Indian, and Communist. The Western concept aims to separate the church from the state, allowing the state to be neutral towards any religion while the church does not interfere in the state’s workings. In contrast, the Indian concept of secularism is different due to India’s unique socio-historical heritage.
In India, secularism is based on the principle of “Sarvadharma Samabhava,” which means all religions have equal status. It does not aim to be anti-religious or irreligious, but it allows all religions to flourish, with the state taking a neutral stance on all religious activities. Gandhiji and Ambedkar believed in secularism as the state not imposing any religion on its citizens.
Secularism in India means rejecting quasi-theocracy and embracing non-religion based on democracy. It recognizes religion as a personal matter and promotes equality among citizens, irrespective of their religion, caste, or creed. Indian culture values equal respect and tolerance towards all religions. On the other hand, Communist secularism is based on Marx’s view that religion is a response to oppression and serves as the opium of the people.
Secularism is of great importance in India and is enshrined in the Constitution. In 1976, the word ‘Secularism’ was added to the Preamble through the 42nd Amendment. Articles 25 to 30 protect the rights of minorities and ensure freedom of religion. Furthermore, Article 16 (2) prohibits discrimination based on faith, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, for any office under the state.
Articles 25 to 28 clearly establish the nature of secularism in India. There can be no state religion, and the state cannot show any special favor to any particular religion. No citizen can be compelled to pay taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any religion. There can be no religious instruction in any institution that is maintained by out-of-state funds. Every citizen is guaranteed freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice, and propagate their own religion. The Directive Principles ensure equality for all, and Article 44 aims to establish a uniform civil code.
Despite these provisions, Indian secularism faces several challenges. During the pre-independence era, the national movement brought together people of all classes to oppose British rule. However, the British policy of ‘divide and rule’ created intolerance among Indians and prevented the emergence of a united nationalism that transcended religious barriers. The British saw the emergence of nationalism as a threat to their power over India.
The British were responsible for creating and widening the gap between Hindus and Muslims, which led to the formation of the Muslim League and ultimately the partition of the country. Moonis Raza believes that Pakistan is an Islamic theocratic state, while India represents various religious theocracies.
To strengthen secularism in India, it is necessary to foster brotherhood and friendliness among the people. The constitution’s architects aimed to instill secular ideals, but achieving true secularization and democratization of society is a difficult task.
Developing positive secularism in India requires a humanistic and scientific approach. A secular state can only be created by cultivating a secular mindset, and building an inclusive and accommodating society. Harmony among religious communities is crucial to the country’s progress. Eradicating poverty, illiteracy, and feudal values is necessary to achieve secularism.
To prevent religious influence in politics, justice, and public administration, those holding positions in religious institutions should not be allowed to hold office in those areas. Political parties should not be allowed to use religion, caste, language, or sect to appeal to voters. Media should provide impartial information. Social reforms should be promoted to combat communalism and fundamentalism.
Secularization and democratization should start from the bottom levels of society. The secular force should work towards a society based on humanism and tolerance. The semi-feudal and semi-capitalistic structure of Indian society must change.
India’s unity is based on accepting its diversity. Through centuries of tolerance towards each religion, India has become a diverse and culturally rich conglomeration. The Indian ethos, culture, and history are rooted in communal harmony that cannot be destroyed by a few. Secularism promotes tolerance, social justice, and economic welfare.
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