Thus, and the individual (Citizenship); the State and

Thus, the conception of a secular state on closer examination involves three distinct but inter-related sets of relationships: Religion and the individual (Freedom of religion); the State and the individual (Citizenship); the State and religion (Separation of State and religion). The secular state in India does not exist simply as an abstract ideal. As the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said, “We chose secularism not as a denial of religion but as an affirmation of the sacredness of all religions. To give the fullest freedom to our people and to have the maximum popular participation in the affairs of the nation, we chose democracy as our political base. To transform equality from a constitutional term into a reality, we chose socialism as the direction of economic growth and laid special emphasis on raising and helping the most exploited and down-trodden.

” The idea of secularism is not a few decades old in our nation. It has been a part of all culture and creed since time immemorial. India has been the land of confluence of many races, religions, cultures and civilisations. Rabindranath Tagore has given eloquent expression of this historical fact in one of the couplets of his poem ‘Bharta Tiratha “The Aryan, Non-Aryan, Dravidian; the Hoons, the Pathan and the Mughals-they all have merged here into one body.” In ancient times, the state followed a tolerant policy towards all religions and faiths. The King always helped followers of other religions to build houses of worship and preach their religions. The policy of tolerance, which constituted a historical basis of secularism, has its roots in Vedas.

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In Arthashastra, the separation between politics and theology has been clearly defined. Its author, Kautilya, has classified polity as a separate branch of science. The seeds of modern day secularism can be traced back to Ashoka’s period, who in his 12th Rock Edict stressed the need for toleration of all religious sects so that all could flourish equally. This secular tradition has flowed down in all periods of Indian History. Though we have mentions of religious fanaticism shown by some distinguished rulers like Tughlaqs, Aurangzeb an

He guaranteed religious liberty and abolished Jizya in 1564. The new faith, Din-e-Illahi, started by him drew liberal elements from all religions. The contemporary Hindu rulers like Shivaji, though waged wars against Aurangzeb these wars however never had a religious tinge. The British government also took steps, which contributed to the development of a secular state, like uniform criminal law, a uniform system of education replacing “Mathas” and “Madrasahs It was only after 1857 war, the Britishers finding threat to their political supremacy, let loose the communal element. The policy adopted by the British slowly introduced rift into otherwise unified society. The biggest evidence of Indians having secular credentials is shown by the 1857 rebellion, when Muslims and Hindus joined hands against the foreign power.

The efforts of Britishers to create a feeling of separateness among Muslims paid great dividends to their political ends. The result has been enmity, hatred and bloodshed. The separatist attitude that was steadily built up culminated in the vivisection of country and creation of Pakistan. The degree of hatred is visible even in a cricket match when the two teams of India and Pakistan play. It is taken as a war and the win carries a great prestige.

The feeling of separatism is responsible for the growing communal tensions in our country. The concept of secularism holds the answer, which could be cornerstone of an egalitarian, forward-looking society with religious pluralism, full civil liberties and equal opportunities. It is the only possible social cement for a modern community with religious feelings and the only way of making certain that one’s religion doesn’t lead automatically to one being treated as a second-class citizen. With all this in background, the makers of our constitution clearly could recognize the need of secularism as an adhesive for the hydra-headed Indian society. Our Constitution has made definite provisions for a secular state. The Articles 15, 16 and 290 of Constitution debar discrimination on the basis of religion. The word ‘Secular’ was included into Preamble of our Constitution by its 42nd Amendment.

Article 35 makes sure the freedom to profess, propagate and practice any religion. Thus, a fact which is centuries old has, been explicitly included in the Indian Constitution. Despite the sincere effort of the Founding Fathers, the concept has not seen its establishment on rock-like foundations. Many factors are responsible for this: the vacillation of Nehru, the proximity of Pakistan and its belligerent attitude especially towards Jammu and Kashmir.

The Hindu revivalism after Partition and the subsequent religious conflict could not be wished away by a paper commitment to divorce religion from politics. Our political leaders though show themselves as committed secularists, but when it comes to actions, they start showing weakening signs. Nehru’s weakness in ordering his colleagues in the provinces to do the right thing was accentuated by his own hesitancy in other matters. The resolution of Constituent Assembly in 1948 calling for ban of communal political parties could not be enforced due to legal difficulties. Above all, in his desire to appease Muslims, who remained in India after Partition, he failed to promulgate a common civil law for all Indian women. But there is no room in a so-called secular society for inequalities, which claim religious sanction. The result has been, despite Nehru’s stand, a gradual strengthening of communal feeling on the part of both Hindus and Muslims.

Purushottamdas Tandon, who believed that the Muslims in India should adopt the Hindu culture, was elected Congress President in 1950. Nehru forced Tandon to resign and compelled the reluctant party to adopt a secular policy. The next year, the President of India, Rajendra Prasad, despite Nehru’s opposition, inaugurated the rebuilding of Somnath temple, which had been destroyed centuries earlier by Muslim freebooters.” Many years later in December, 1992, long after Nehru’s death, Babri Masjid, was demolished by religious hooligans. Dr. Radha Krishnan used to say, “It is in the name of religion that most un-religious acts are done”.

Has secularism in free India lost its meaning? It seems as if secularism, now—a-days, may well be entering into its last throes. The political parties of India are using word ‘secularism’ as propaganda just to assume high offices of the State. Take the case of the present union coalition government. Do they really have an understanding of ‘secular’ state when they denounce a particular party? Aren’t they using this word as a bogey just to take Congress support? Secularism doesn’t mean that you neglect interests of some and appease others.

Is it secularism that you subsidise Haj yatra arid don’t do any such thing for Hemkund Sahib yatra or Kailashnath yatra? The secularism means keeping distance from religion for state affairs and giving respect to all religions equally. It is high time that we give a serious thought to this issue. The efforts to promote it have not been a success. The right vision and the correct approach have not been there.

India has a tradition of religion and there is erroneous yet widely spread impression that secularism means irreligion. The socialist leader, M.N. Roy, wrote, “It is neither a philosopher nor a moralist who has become the idol of Indian people. The masses pay their homage to a mahatma, a source of revealed religion and an agency of supernatural power. Here, in India, we have a very old and longstanding tradition of living and letting others live in peace without interference, without in any way doing any harm to others, simply because they choose to follow another path. It was on this basis that secularism was conceived, and will ultimately survive.


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