The word ‘secular’ is derived from the Latin word ‘saeculum’ which means a generation or an age or span of a century. The term arose from the European context of politics and derived from the attempt to prohibit the State and its property from the control of Church. A religious element was embedded in the meaning of word secular. In the Europe and other regions, secularism was closely related to the theory of progress. Over time the meaning of secularism has evolved and now the term secular means being ‘separate’ from religion, or having no religious bias. For many years the word ‘secular’ or ‘secularism’ was nowhere to be found in India (even though all the religions co-existed in harmony since ancient times). The foundation of Indian morality has been core unity, forbearance and even inter-weaving of religion. It is a definite fact that large population of Indians is associated to diverse religion lived in compassion. Slogans like – “Hindu Muslim Sikh Isaai, aapas mein hai bhai bhai” (Hindus Muslims Sikhs and Christians all are brothers) are resonated down on the streets of India and binds us to moments of fraternity. This slogan expresses the essence of ‘secularism’. In year 1976 (after independence) the word ‘secular’ was added in the Preamble of the Constitution by 42nd Amendment Act. When the hon’ble Supreme Court declared the preamble as the basic structure of the Constitution of India, the word ‘secularism’ acquired a whole new status. Hence the Indian constitution stands for a secular state (there is no official religion of our country).
What is Secularism?
Secularism is a normative doctrine which seeks to realise a secular society. It is free from inter-religious and intra religious domination. It promotes freedom to practice their religion and equality between religions as well as within religions. As secularism is opposed to all forms of institutionalized religious domination, it challenges not merely interreligious but also intra-religious domination. The idea of secularism possesses a normative doctrine which seeks to realise a secular society, i.e., one devoid of either inter-religious or intra-religious domination. Put positively, it promotes freedom within religions, and equality between, as well as within, religions.
Secularism is something which is argued since past and persist. Due to its direct relation with religion it is prevalent, pervasive and persuasive in community and human life. Society and culture of country evolves creating new issues and
Current Situation in India
The idea of Secularism assumes an essential job in India. Secularism here binds every one of the nexus following religion. Indian secularism remarks the connotation of godly and devout sentiment in life of human. It expects and hopes that no other religion has the confining or constraining framework of reflective knowledge; it allows all religions to discharge their scope under their true words.
The Constitution of India explicitly recognized Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Parsis as different societies each with individual and free culture, pious activities and special laws. Treating the acknowledged religious societies as equals meant that they would enjoy more or less the same level of religious liberty. While religious practices and activities of religious societies were subject to few limits, it was said that the religious liberty of each of these societies would be equally conserved and defended.
India is known for its multiculturality as for its language and religion. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four major world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. According to reported 2011 census data, 79.80% of the population of India is Hindu, 14.23% Muslim, 2.30% Christian, 1.72% Sikh, 0.70% Buddhist, and 0.37% Jain. Hereby, Hindus (inclusive of Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists) establish the majority and Muslims create a minority.
IS SECULARISM LIMITED TO HINDU-MUSLIM!?
Hindu- Muslim fights has taken place during historic period in India and are still continuing (Communal riots due to Aurangzeb’s religious policy in 17th Century and now the riots and protests against Citizenship Ammendment Act). Some major ones such as Bombay riots of 1993 and Gujarat riots of 2002 has led to death of 1500+ people across the country.
Extensive issue between both the religions has always been Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, in 1992 which was claimed by Hindus that the mosque was erected over the birthplace of the archaic god Rama. Tens of Thousands people were evicted from their homes and there was tremendous annihilation of lives and casualties in the country due to this before the Supreme Court passed a neutral and satisfactory judgement in November 2019 in the case: M. Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors.
Today, considerable controversy on secularism is Anti CAA protests and riots in several states of the country. This Act seeks to grant Indian Citizenship to persons affiliated to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities on the ground of religious minorities persecution in states of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. As these countries have Muslim majority, they weren’t given citizenship under the Act. The enactment of such law of government was criticised by many and led to bisection of society on the basis of religion. Also the protests have led to the deaths of quite a few rioters, casualty to protesters and police personnel, harm and loss to public and private property, the confinement of hundreds of people, and termination of local internet and phone connectivity in specified areas. The Central Government in a preliminary affidavit point by-point replied to the criticism against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and pronounced India is constitutionally secular, and also notified the Supreme Court that the CAA does not infringe any fundamental right and provisions of the constitution and therefore, the query of infringement of constitutional morality does not have to originate.
Both of these religions has been and are engaged in a vicious cycle of gaining advantage or predominance over the other. In other words, both Hindus and Muslims have developed animosity and hostility against each other which is leading to antagonistic behaviour of people. Therefore, in order to maintain better circumstances in the religion based society of ours, further steps are taken such as proscription of practices of both the religions (untouchability, triple talaq, beef ban, proselytization etc.) which is a hefty secular normative attack on both the religions.
Indian secularism has two distinct and conflicting aspects, one is complete detachment between government and religion and the other that strongly appeal government to treat each religion without discrimination. Rajeev Bhargava has explained what secularism in the Indian setting calls for is the maintenance of a “principled distance” between state and religion. This does not mean that the state cannot intervene in religion and its affairs, but that any intervention should be within the limitations prescribed by the Constitution. Sometimes this might even call for differential treatment across religions, which would be valid so long as such differentiation, as Mr. Bhargava explains, can be justified on the grounds that it “promotes freedom, equality, or any other value integral to secularism.” But Indian state i.e. government has total intervention into the matters of religion through communal politics. In other words, vote bank politics is followed by the government and the political parties in the race to form the government. Even this has led to inundation of discrete political bodies for Hindu and Muslim community, be it Bhartiya Janta Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Indian National Congress etc. whoever is instigating the idea of ‘hindutva’ and so on.
Indian secularism is the by-product of a whole civilization, as a senior literary figure, Nayantara Sahgal, remarked recently: “We are unique in the world that we are enriched by so many cultures, religions. Now they want to squash us into one culture. So it is a dangerous time. We do not want to lose our richness. We do not want to lose anything . . . all that Islam has brought us, what Christianity has brought us, what Sikhism has brought us. Why should we lose all this? We are not all Hindus but we are all Hindustani.” As mentioned above it is important for us to understand that we all are Indians and not just only a Hindu, Muslim or Christian. A sense of brotherhood is important to ensure development and growth of our country. Otherwise if religious violence continues then for sure our country will be doomed.
Categories: India, social issues