The preamble to the constitution of India, describes India as a sovereign, secular, democratic and republic state. According to the Constitution therefore, India is a state that holds its own integrity and is free from any foreign control, it is a republic in the sense that the government of the state is only a representative of the people and people possess the right to elect members to the Parliament and change representatives with the help of elections.
Similarly India is also a secular state. This implies that each and every citizen of India has the right to practice, profess and propagate any religion of their own choice. They can worship any god, and follow any religion of their own choice without having to worry about societal barriers.
It also states that India does not identify itself with any particular religion, nor does it encourage any particular religion. India is tolerant towards each and every religion and the country as mentioned in the law of the state does not discriminate between individuals on the grounds of religion or place of birth.
Secularism also includes that people belonging to all religions are subjected to equal rights and are welcome in every public place. Communal riots can only be avoided in countries like India, if the people maintain secularism and religious tolerance. The spirit of fraternity should be maintained in society and people should consider others belonging to a different religious community as their equals and their brothers.
42nd Amendment Act 1976 aimed at incorporating the terms “sovereign” and “secular” in the Constitution of India. It was a necessary step towards supporting the thriving growth of all religious communities in the country. It also allowed people from the minority communities such as Anglo-Indians to be a recognisable part of the nation. As Freedom to Religion has been incorporated as a Fundamental Right under Part III of the Indian Constitution, any discrimination based on religion is punishable by law.
Violation of Secularism
In recent times in various states in India, secular ideals are being violated on a daily basis due to orthodox mentalities. Mob lynching is very common in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra , Uttar Pradesh etc. Lynching is the of murdering people without a legal trial. Lynching due to religious dissimilarities is very common in these states.
These states are primarily Hindu states where people after the rise of BJP as the ruling party have ceremoniously started revolting against people of Islamic origin living in these states. There have various incidents that have been recorded in the recent years of such scenarios.
Various celebrities such as Anupam Roy, Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap to name a few have written letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, making him aware about the alarmingly growing rates of lynching on the grounds of religious disparity.
There have also been allegations regarding the use of the slogan “Jai Shree Ram” which is being allegedly used as a war cry. Since Ram is considered to be sacred for the Hindus, using the name of god as a political propaganda has been considered as unethical.
A recent case of lynching was heard in Jharkhand where a young Muslim man was murdered by a mob. This shook the nation regarding as it signalled towards the slow eradication of secularism from the country. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, namely Yogi Adityanath recently changed named of Ahmedabad to Tyagraj and Faizabad to Ayodhya since these were Islamic names. These have in turned encouraged religious intolerance and have made the country unsafe for certain communities of people.
Certain incidents such as the Kathua Rape Case of a 8 year old Muslim girl Asifa, belonging to the Bakarwal community in Kathua, near Srinagar in Kashmir was also blown out of proportion as a religiously driven incident by a group of orthodox Hindu men trying to take revenge on the Bakarwals by kidnapping, gang-raping and subsequently murdering the child.
Due to religious controversies the incident that had taken place in the 2018 did not see the light of justice until 2019. Finally in 2019, 6 out of the 7 main men associated with the shameful crime, were convicted after much investigation. The motive of the heinous crime was recognised as an attempt to drive out the nomadic Muslim community of the Bakarwals from Hiranagar Tehsil.
The delay in investigation and conviction was due to protests in favour of the accused by several local parties , one of which was attended by two ministers of BJP, both of whom resigned later. The incident caught huge media attention and questions were raised regarding the rising threat to secularism in the country.
Origin of Secularism in India
Indian Secularism did not start post independence. Rather It predates the Constitution, the freedom movement, the Moghuls, the Turks, the Mauryas and the Ashoka’s time periods. It predates the known and written history of India. It is part of the spiritual conviction of this country as expressed in the Vedas and Upanishads whose dates cannot be accurately speculated even today. Theology and not theocracy is the Hindu tradition.
No king other than Ashoka the Great declared a State religion in this country. But Ashoka is still regarded as the model for peace and tolerance throughout the world. India is a canvas of diverse religions, races and cultures. Ever since the dawn of time, India has been receptive and very tolerant to different beliefs and nurtured both the native Dravidians and the invading Aryans providing them with the same resources to thrive and grow alongside the Dravidians and consider India their homeland.
Even the Tatars, the Turks, the Mughals and the Europeans left their imprint in the land by intermarrying with the locals of the country. The blending of culture of natives and foreign elements led to development of composite culture and not any religious culture hence there has been a sort of unity with multiple diversities.
The geographical location of the sub-continent has also acted as catalytic agent to promote unity. The people of India, from heterogeneous groups had obviously very little in common to develop a homogeneous identity. They differed in physique as well as in ideology and culture. The social order founded on caste system forced them to live in caste-compartment. Each temple, mosque, church, gurudwara, and vihar had its own place of inspire its believers.
Sometimes, the religious texts of each denomination shared certain values but very often differed. This resulted in conflict, isolation and subjugation of certain groups. This gave rise to classes, castes and class wars and caste conflicts. However despite those conflicts India succeeded in maintaining communal harmony.
The rate of communal discrimination in India has been on the rise. Discrimination based of religion has been rampant in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Iraq , Israel and such nations. Most terrorist attacks are driven by men who are delusional regarding their religious beliefs.
As religion might bring communities together, it can also destroy communities if faith is placed in the wrong direction. Therefore, keeping a secular attitude is the primary step towards building a harmonious society and a protecting the rights and interest of everyone. It promotes unity and strengthens the nation as a whole.