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How Secular is India Today

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2014-03-18 12:03:45 - The Constitution of free India declares India to be a “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic”. The term secular was incorporated in the Preamble to the Indian constitution by the 42nd Amendment act in 1976. The dictionary meaning of the term “secular” is “not concerned with or related to religion” Thus, with and despite its communal and religious diversity, India formally came to be a secular country.

Historically too our country has had a history of religious and cultural tolerance. In ancient times, monarchs like Ashoka and Harsha were open-minded about all existing religions. In fact, an inscription in one of the Ashokan edicts says “There should not be honour of one’s own (religious) sect and condemnation of others without any grounds.”

As we progressed in time, through the medieval ages and on to the modern era, our social composition grew more complex with a desire for social dominance gradually emerging. This probably first took birth in the hearts of the ruling class and from them eventually crept into the minds of the common mass, slowly but steadily transforming a liberal social ethos into a narrow-minded one.

India is

essentially a land of immense diversity. To preserve unity in this amazing diversity, I think, secularism became a necessity for the Indian state. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation is believed to have said once “If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern!” So ideally religion should be totally diverse from politics, as is also evident from the way of functioning of various secular constitutions of many non theocratic countries of the world. But, it’s not so in India.

India is a country where religion is the life blood of the people. Most of them are over passionate about their own religious beliefs. But it just does not stop there. Together with this over- zealous attitude towards one’s own religious beliefs there has come to dwell in the hearts of the people a lack of understanding and acceptance for the beliefs of other religions. This blatant attitude of “only I am right” is due on one hand to the growing aggression of the age and on the other due to constant fanning of religious fanaticism by a certain class for their own vested interests. Actually what was begun in the medieval age continues to happen even today. The ruling class continues to use the common man and the mass of India who should be the power wielders continue to allow themselves to be used.

Secularism in India means that India has no State religion and this of course is true. And, I think this is the only thing that is true about us being a secular nation. Secularism in India also means that state will treat all religions equally. It is this meaning of secularism which has taken the maximum bashing. It is actually the crudest joke on us, the Indian masses. Our very strength has been converted into our biggest weakness because somewhere down the way we stopped using our brains and became easy prey for vote bank politics. Different political groups have recognised their strong holds in the public and brazenly use communalism, casteism, linguism to create schisms so that they can garner more and more votes and hence more power. More power for what purpose? To create further schisms till we the people of secular India stand totally fragmented on communal grounds or on as many other grounds as the power hungry can think of. So what are we left with holding our religious fanaticisms-small fragmented pieces bereft of all the beauty and power that any cohesive whole possesses- bereft of the all changing power that we have, the power of a whole community of enlightened voters. Can a mirror shattered into innumerable, tiny pieces show us the image of “the fairest of all”?

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