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An Insight Into The Pseudo-Secularism In India

According to a Pew Research Center poll from 2017, almost one-third of Indians (37%) consider communal relations to be a very serious problem in their country, while another third (31%) consider it to be a moderately serious issue. However, a larger percentage of Indian adults cited crime, terrorism, corruption, a lack of job opportunities, rising costs, and other difficulties as key national challenges. This paper delves into the belief system of Indian people, their tolerance, religious history and the need for the inclusion of the word 'Secular' in the Preamble.

What does it mean to be secular?

Strictly speaking, secularism entails the complete separation of Religion and State.

The government must steer away from anything religious in a secular country. Isn't it strange that the word secular was not included in the Indian Constitution's Preamble when it was first adopted?

Why was such a crucial word overlooked? The omission was more or less intentional. What's more astonishing is that the two men who oversaw the drafting of the Constitution's preamble were BR Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru, both of whom had impeccable secular credentials.

The Indian state would have had to remain fully out of the religious realm in order to be truly secular. This, at that point of time was almost inconceivable.

How could Indian courts, while purporting to be secular, recognise Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law? If the federal and state governments were secular, how could they take over the operation of Hindu temples? How could a secular government grant financial help to religiously run educational institutions? How could a secular government codify and amend Hindu personal law? If the government were secular, how could it extend existing caste-based reservations to minority religions? These and many more such actions were clearly outside the purview of a secular state. The authors of the Preamble realised that it was preferable to avoid using the term than to do it in a false manner.

India, which is popularly known to be religiously pluralistic and a multiethnic democracy is home to 1.4 billion people. It is both horrifying and surprising at the same time that India accommodates about one-sixth of the World population consisting not only of a vast majority of Hindus, but also a sizeable population of Muslims, standing 2nd to Indonesia.[1] It is a country where the social milieu is marked by equal parts of multicultural variety and inter-religious hostility, and religion which has repeatedly constituted the bone of socio-political controversy.

Despite the fact that the terms "Secularism" and "Secular" were not present in the Constitution at the time of its inception, it still granted and guaranteed freedom and equality to different faiths and religions. The spirit of equality of faiths, religious tolerance and religious freedom were instilled in the Constitution right from the start. The Right to Freedom of Religion falls under Part-III of the Constitution which forms its basic structure. It can be emphatically said that Secularism is an inalienable aspect of the Constitution. Repeated emphasis has been laid on this fact by the Judiciary. However, the term "Secular" was finally incorporated in the Constitution through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.

What Is Secularism?

The concept of Secularism in its literal sense means separation of the Nation from religious institutions. In other words, there should not be a State imposed religion and the State should in no way turn into a theocratic one. When the Constituent Assembly debated upon the Preamble to the Constitution, the integration of secularism took up a significant amount of time.[2]

According to the late author Khushwant Singh, Secularism has two meanings: the Western notion distinguishes between state functions (which include politics), and religious functions, that are limited to public or private houses of worship. This is the philosophy that Nehru embraced, preached, and lived by. The other premise was that all religions should be treated equally. This was taught and observed by men like Mahatama Gandhi and Maulana Azad, and it lasted as long as the two men were alive.

Following that, it devolved into a show of religion. To demonstrate one's secularism, a faithful Hindu would visit a Muslim Dargah or throw an Iftar party. You celebrated Diwali with your Hindu friends if you were a Muslim. Secularism has been reduced to a charade. In terms of secularism, time has proven that Nehru was right; Gandhi and Azad were wrong.[3]

Religious History

What Does Hindu Mean?
People outside of the tradition (especially the Greeks and Persians) coined the name "Hindu" to refer to people who lived beyond the Indus/Sindhu River. Hindus today worship a variety of deities and have developed complex social structures. Hindu beliefs are similar in that they believe the Brahma, or Divine, is omnipresent in many forms, that self-realization takes many lifetimes, and that one's acts will contribute to the soul's journey in the next incarnation. Only in the nineteenth century did the term "Hinduism" become popular.[4] As a result, the term Hindu initially had a geographical rather than a religious connotation. It meant that you lived in a specific geographical region. The term 'Hindu' has lost its geographical relevance today.

Hinduism has a long history, with many of its key religious and philosophical literature dating back to the first millennium BC. Around the middle of the first millennium, Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, and Buddha, founder of Buddhism, presented two new faiths. Buddhism benefited from the royal sponsorship of the first great Hindu empire, the Maurya dynasty, which ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent under Ashoka in the third century BC. With the rise of Hinduism again during the Gupta dynasty in the 4th century AD, Buddhism began to fade. Meanwhile, by the 15th century in Punjab, another religion had emerged as the religion of the Sikhs.

Advent of Islam in India
The first Arab Muslims began arriving in the towns on the Indian coast in the last half of the 7th century," writes H G Rawlinson in his book "Ancient and Medieval History of India." They were treated with dignity, were allowed to promote their faith and married Indian women. By the 8th and 9th centuries, according to B P Sahu, head of Delhi University's department of History, Arab Muslims had established themselves in prominent positions in the places where they had landed.

In truth, the county's first mosque was built in 629 AD by an Arab trader in Kodungallur, Kerala. Interestingly, Prophet Mohammed was alive at the time, and this mosque in India would have been one of the first few mosques in the world, demonstrating Islam's presence in India long before Muslim subjugators arrived.[5]

With the Arab conquest of Sind in the lower Indus valley in 712 AD, Islam in a more profound manner was brought to the Indian subcontinent. The Muslim invasion of northern India, on the other hand, began in 1001 when Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkish-Afghan warrior chief, attacked Punjab. During the 12th century, Muhammad Ghuri expanded Muslim control, leading to the foundation of the Sultanate of Delhi in 1206. The city of Delhi was thereafter ruled by five Muslim dynasties until the Mughal emperor Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526 and established a new empire.

Babur (1526-1530 AD), Humayun (1530-1556 AD), Akbar (1556-1605 AD), Jahangir (1605-1627 AD), and Shah Jahan (1627-1658 AD) built a vast, strong, and prosperous empire over northern India, governing in conjunction with powerful Hindu Rajput kings. While a significant number of people converted to Islam, the vast majority of people remained to practise Hinduism.

However, Shah Jahan's successor, an orthodox Sunni Muslim Aurangzeb (1658-1707 AD), alienated the Rajputs by ending his predecessors' policy of treating Hindus with dignity. In 1675 AD, he oppressed Sikhs and executed the then Sikh leader Guru Tegh Bahadur. His long wars against the Sikhs and Hindu Marathas helped to deplete his treasury as he went out to capture the remaining autonomous Hindu kingdoms of the Deccan, the southern upland plateau of peninsular India, in 1681 AD. After the death of Aurengzeb's son, Bahadur Shah I, in 1712 AD, the Mughal Empire began to decline.

Christianity in India
Christianity is followed by around 28 million Indians, accounting for 2.3 percent of the country's population. Thomas the Apostle is said to have brought Christianity to India in AD 52, when he landed in Muziris, Kerala, and went along the coast to Goa, preaching the gospel.[6] With the advent of the Portuguese in the late 15th century, Christianity gained a large number of converts, and this process of conversion continued with the entry of the Dutch, English, and French. A large number of Indians were also converted to Christianity under the British rule. At the time of the British rule, both Hindus and Muslims were frequently enraged by Christian missionary activities.

Judaism in India
In the mediaeval period, Jewish merchants from Europe journeyed to India for trading purposes, but it is unclear if they established permanent communities in the region. The oldest convincing evidence of Jews in India dates back to the early eleventh century. The initial Jewish colonies were almost certainly concentrated along the western coast. Unfortunately, Abraham ibn Daud's mention to Indian Jews in the 12th century is imprecise, and we don't have any other references to Indian Jews until several centuries later.

Jews from Persia, Afghanistan, and Characin (Central Asia) established significant communities in northern India and Kashmir throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Bombay had grown to be India's largest Jewish population by the late 18th century. Bombay was home to Bene Israel Jews, as well as Iraqi and Persian Jews. India's Jewish population is in the contemporary times estimated to be around 5,000 people.[7]

Towards Independence
The Congress had started to demand independence for a united, democratic, and secular India by 1928 AD, led by MK Gandhi and Motilal Nehru. However, as the prospect of independence loomed, notably following the provincial elections of 1937, several in the Muslim minority claimed that the Muslims' position would be compromised without British control. Meanwhile, some Hindus refused to accept the Indian National Congress's objective of a totally secular country after independence. They preferred to accord Hinduism official status in the new nation, comparable to that which Islam enjoys in Pakistan. They believed that gaining independence from the United Kingdom was insufficient.[8]

Indian Constitution And Secularism

At the time of its inception, the Indian Constitution did not directly address the concept of secularism. However, various sections in Part III (Articles 14, 15, 16, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29,30), Part IV (Article 44), and IVA (Article 51A (e)) of the Indian Constitution demonstrate the existence of secularism. The combined reading of all of these Articles reveals that the founding fathers' goal was neither to condemn religion nor to foster cultural rationalism. The 42nd (Amendment) Act, 1976, which went into force on January 3rd, 1977, was the first time the word "secular" was introduced in the Preamble of the Constitution.

According to the 42nd Constitutional (Amendment) Act of 1976, "secular" refers to a republic in which all religions are treated equally. Despite the unambiguous letter of the legislation, the Supreme Court has interpreted it on a number of occasions through distinct opinions. However, it should be noted that secularism, as defined by the Indian Constitution, does not imply anti-God or atheism. Instead, it implies that the state should be devoid of religion.

The relationship between the state, society, and religion in India is not well defined in accordance with the Indian idea of secularism. Religions have different personal laws. Religious minority' precarious situation and political forms' linkages with religious fundamentalists offer serious hurdles to Indian secularism's viability and destiny. It is true that secularism in India today is overly politicized, and it is vital to find measures to depoliticize secularism and bring it closer to civil society.[9]

In the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi v Raj Narain, the Supreme Court of India held that secularism means that the state has no religion of its own and that all citizens of the country have the same right to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate any religion.[10]

If we look at the circumstances prior to 1976, we can see that individuals of all religions in India enjoy equal rights and are not discriminated against. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees everyone equal treatment before the law and equal protection under the law. However, a plausible classification can be made, and they should all be treated the same way. The Indian Constitution prevents the government from discriminating against citizens solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, or any combination of these factors.

15th Article (1) Article 15(2) emphasizes that no citizen shall be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction, or condition relating to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, and places of public entertainment, as well as the use of wells, tanks, and other facilities that are wholly or partly maintained with state funds or are dedicated to the general public, on any of the foregoing grounds.

Article 16(1) establishes a basic rule that all citizens have equal access to work opportunities in government offices. Article 16(2) of the Constitution, is an expansion of Article 16(1), states that no citizen should be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or position of the State solely on the basis of religion, race, or ethnicity (Article 16 (2).These regulations ensure that citizens of all religions are treated equally.

India is a multi-religious and pluralistic nation, which is why the Constitution's founders established the notion of religious neutrality and granted religious freedom to various religious organizations. In the spirit of our secularism, religious tolerance and equitable respect for all religious groups is essential. With some exceptions, the Indian Constitution accepted the concept of non-interference in religious matters. Articles 25 to 28 of the Indian Constitution state that everyone residing in India has the right to freely practice their religion as long as they follow the common law of the land.

In India, Article 25, a repository of religious rights and secularism, specifies when and how religious freedom is granted, as well as when and how it is limited. Every person has the freedom to freely profess, practice, and propagate his or her religion under this Article. The word 'any person' appears in Article 25, implying that voluntary conversion from one religion to another is permissible because a person is free to believe in any religion. Conversion by force, fraud, or seduction, on the other hand, is not legal because it may disrupt public order.

In addition, Article 25 gives the government the authority to impose restrictions in the name of public order. Article 25(1) defines "public order" as "anything that disrupts the flow of community life and does not impact only individuals." The situation will be considered a disturbance of public order if it disrupts the current life of the community.[11]

The government will be unable to regulate religious activity since it will not intervene in religious concerns. A secular activity related with religious matters, on the other hand, may be regulated by the state (Article 25 (2)). If an activity is considered a necessary aspect of religion, it will be classified as religious. If it is not considered a required part of religion, it will be classified as secular. The practise of Talaq-e-biddat, also known as Triple Talaq, has been declared unconstitutional, as it is not protected by Article 25 of the Constitution on the grounds of it not being a necessary religious practice.[12]

In addition, the state has the authority to intervene in religious rituals for the purpose of social reform in specific circumstances. This social reform should be brought about by the rationalization process. No coercive legal power should be used to achieve such social improvement. However, in some cases, the State is forced to utilize legal compulsion to effect urgent social reform.

For example, a law prohibiting polygamy among Hindus was upheld as legitimate because polygamy was not an essential and integral component of Hindu religion. Similarly, the Hindu Sati and Devdasi systems, as well as Muslims' 'Triple Talaq,' have been abolished as social problems rather than intrinsic parts of their religions. Polygamy is still legal among Indian Muslims, despite the fact that it is not legal in many other Muslim countries. This shows that polygamy is not an essential aspect of Islam. As a result, the Uniform Civil Code, as permitted by the Constitution of India can be used for social welfare, social change, and the national interest.

Indian Judiciary's Impact On Secularism

The term secular is dynamic rather than static. There can't be a single point of view on this topic that will stand the test of time. The Court gives different meanings to words from time to time. It promotes secularism and puts it into practice. In the case of Sardar Taheruddin Syedna Sahib v. State of Bombay (AIR 1962 SC 853).[13]The Supreme Court of India declared that 'Articles 25 and 26 serve to accentuate the Indian democracy's secular nature, which the founding fathers saw as important to the Constitution's core foundation.

The Supreme Court declared in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (AIR 1973 SC1461) that secularism was a component of the Constitution's essential stricture.[14] The Constitution's secular element, according to Chief Justice Sikri, is its essence. The fundamental parts of the basic framework, according to Justice Shelatand and Justice Grover, are the Constitution's secular and federal nature. "Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship could not be changed at any cost because they were part of the Constitution's core elements," Justice Jaganmohan Reddy said.

In the case of Bommai v Union of India, the Supreme Court of India expounded on the meaning of secularism. According to the Court, secularism entails treating all religions equally. The Supreme Court ruled that the word "secular," which was added to the Constitution's Preamble by the 42nd Amendment, emphasizes the fundamental liberties protected in Articles 25-28. The Court further stated that if religion is exploited for political reasons and any political party uses religion to attain a political aim, the State's neutrality will be infringed.[15]

Politics and religion should never be intermingled. Although a secular state does not interfere in religious concerns, this does not rule out the possibility of the state having a say in all religious topics. The state can enact legislation to govern the secular business of religious institutions. In the case of Ismail Faruqi v Union of India, the Court agreed, ruling that any property belonging to a religious community could be acquired by the State through eminent domain.[16] In the case of Aruna Roy v Union of India, the Supreme Court of India decided that the essence of secularism is that the state does not discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs.[17]

The Court was asked in the matter of Abhiram Singh v. C D Commachem whether secularism entails complete separation of religion and politics. The Court ruled that secularism does not imply that the government should ignore religion; rather, it should treat all religions equally. Religion and caste are important aspects of our society, and they cannot be separated from politics entirely. The Supreme Court ruled that secularism is the foundation of the Constitution and so cannot be changed.

Secularism is based on the cultural value of tolerance and ensures that all religions are treated equally. In India, no religion will be endangered since the government would not be connected with any faith. The Court also stated that there is a fundamental link between secularism and democracy, and that if we want democracy to work effectively and for marginalized groups to benefit, we need a secular state.[18] While Indian Democracy has always functioned as Secular democracy, its credibility to a certain extent is still debatable. In some instances it has been felt that the State favours a particular religion against the concept of Secularism.

The Reality Of Indian Secularism

Secularism only makes sense in a free democracy when equality is a key principle. There will be no commitment to democracy unless there is a commitment to equality. India is a secular state, which means it does not favour any religion and instead defends and preserves the country's inherent pluralism. This makes us question as to why are special provisions in Articles 29 (Articles 29(1) & 29(2)) and 30 (Articles 30(1)) of the Constitution in place to protect minorities' language script and culture?

Also, if India was a secular state even before 1976 (before the word "secular" was added to the Preamble), as gauranteed by Articles 25 to 28, why was it deemed necessary to pass the 42ndConstitutional (Amendment) Act, 1976 and add the word "secular" to the Preamble? This, as well as the manner in which the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, is a point of contention because, at that time, many opposition leaders were either in jail or in hiding.

As a result, opposition MPs in Parliament were hardly present due to the national emergency. Rather than introducing the word secular in the Preamble through this Amendment, it would have been preferable to clarify the concept of secularism. Another point of contention is why, if a secular state is fully divorced from religion, and its legislation is similarly secular, why do multiple personal laws exist in the country? Why isn't there only one law, such as the Uniform Civil Code?

Why does the government have power over many temples but not mosques and churches in a secular country where the state will not discriminate between religions? The Indian Constitution forbids the collection of taxes on religious expenses (Article 27). Despite such provisions, the Ministry of Minority Affairs was established for the welfare of minorities and to implement various initiatives to provide financial aid to minority religions.

In contrast to the Haj subsidy, which was only available to Muslims, other religions were not eligible for subsidies. This subsidy has since been discontinued; prior to this, the state practiced discrimination, which was contrary to the principle of secularism. There should have never been a distinction of majority and minority in a secular state because all citizens are citizens of the same country. As a result, India's secularism differs from that of several European countries. Without a doubt, there is no theocracy in India, but there is hypocrisy.

Citizenship Amendment Act (Caa), 2019

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) is a contentious issue; one side claims that it breaches the Constitution since it contradicts the concept of secularism, while the Indian government claims that it is constitutional. The opponents of the CAA argue that it violates the concept of secularism because it grants citizenship to migrants from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, and Parsi communities who arrived in the country on or before December 31, 2014 from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, but excludes Muslims.

It is also argued to be discriminatory in character, as it violates both Article 14 and Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution declares unequivocally that the state shall not refuse any individual within India's territory equality before the law or equal treatment under the law. According to Article 15(1), the state shall not discriminate against any person solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, or any combination of these factors. It has been claimed that because the word "person" is employed in this article, it protects both citizens and non-citizens.

The position put out by the Central Government is that granting citizenship to anyone is a political matter that is neither anti-secular nor discriminatory. In the case of State of West Bengal vs Anwar Ali Sarkar, the Supreme Court of India declared that while Article 14 bans discrimination, it allows for fair categorization. However, the classification should be based on intelligible differentia, and the classification should aim for a nexus.[19]

The CAA is a law that protects persons in three bordering nations from religious persecution: Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan all of which are Islamic states where radicalization is on the rise, and Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians endure religious persecution. As a result, there is a discernible difference between Muslims and other religions.

The Central Government has also maintained that Article 15(1) of the Constitution bans discrimination among Indian citizens, and that because Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh are not Indian citizens, they are not protected by Article 15(1) of the Constitution. The Indian government has stated that the CAA does not affect any existing rights that may have existed prior to the amendment's enactment, and that no Indian citizen's legal, democratic, or secular rights will be compromised. Despite the fact that the CAA's constitutionality has been called into question by India's Supreme Court, the debate in general continues.

Can Secularism Continue To Be India's Defining Ideology?

While Hindu nationalists were almost entirely missing from the Constituent Assembly, which was tasked with creating the country's constitution, Hindu traditionalists, who made up the right wing of the ruling Congress Party, were strongly represented. Despite the pressure, Nehru and B. R. Ambedkar, the head of the assembly's drafting committee, successfully argued in favour of a sort of "composite culture" known in India as "secularism." [20] In the most basic terms, supporters of the secular style of Indian nationalism define the nation as a political entity made up of those who live in sovereign India where all residents are treated equally.

Although the term "communalism" is not frequently used in India's political lexicon, it was commonly used during the Nehru years to describe ideological forces that tried to divide India along religious lines. Nehru believed that Indian secularism was vital since he had experienced firsthand how Muslim communalism led to the country's partition (into India and Pakistan) in 1947. According to him, the subcontinent's partition had not only separated Indian domain but also a civilization.

India's secular approach performed pretty effectively between the 1950s and the 1970s. In the country's elected assemblies, religious minorities, particularly Muslims, remained well-represented. [21] Moreover, communal riots were uncommon at the time; in order to combat communalism, Nehru wanted to prohibit Indian politicians from exploiting religion for political benefit and sanctioned those who fostered religious divisiveness. Section-123 of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, which governs the conduct of elections in India, prohibits politicians from campaigning on religious themes for this reason, despite the fact that it has been inconsistently enforced. [22]

Notably, Nehru opposed all types of communalism (whether Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh) rather than religion itself. This is demonstrated by the fact that he never wanted to separate politics and religion, as was the case in the strongholds of lacit� (a form of secularism that firmly prohibits government engagement in religious affairs), such as France and Atat�rk's Turkey. In 1961, Nehru stated his position on the matter, saying, "We talk about a secular state in India when even finding an appropriate Hindi word for 'secular' is probably difficult. Some people believe it means something anti-religious. Obviously, this is incorrect. It signifies that it is a state that respects all religions equally and provides them with equal possibilities." [23]

However, Nehru's use of the word "equally" in the preceding sentence is rather deceptive, because the state has not maintained a definite equidistance with each religious minority. This is why Bhargava refers to India's secular approach as "principled distance" rather than "equidistance." [24]Indeed, the government has applied different rules to various religious sects on occasion. For example, under a series of new Hindu code bills, the state modified Hindu personal rules without imposing equivalent changes on religious minorities. Muslims, for example, were permitted to keep Sharia law.

Similarly, the Indian government subsidizes various religious pilgrimages (though not all to the same amount), including Sikh pilgrimages to Pakistan, Hindu pilgrimages to the Amarnath Cave in Jammu and Kashmir, and Muslims pilgrimages to Mecca for the Hajj. The state also provides financial assistance to significant religious events such as the Hindu Kumbh Mela, which cost 1.2 billion rupees (about $25 million) in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh in 2001.[25]The Bihar State government received Rupees 10,000,000 from the Prime Minister to commemorate Guru Gobind Singh Ji's 350th birth anniversary with fervor.[26] In practice, principled distance has not meant that the state interferes equally in all religions, to the same extent, or in the same way in all circumstances.

Since the 1980s, India's secularism has been under mounting pressure. As a result of the Congress Party's opportunistic pandering to one religious community after another, India's secularism was severely harmed. To begin with, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi attempted to profit from religious divisions in a variety of blatantly cynical ways. She designated Aligarh Muslim University as a minority institution,[27] backed secessionist Sikhs like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in an attempt to destabilise the Akali Dal, a rival political party in Punjab, and inaugurated the Bharat Mata Mandir, a temple built with the support of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), also known as the World Hindu Council, in 1983.

When Indira Gandhi's son, Rajiv Gandhi, became Prime Minister after his mother died in 1984, he added oil to the fire. He tried to justify the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.[28] He attempted to appease Indian Muslims by citing Sharia as the model for Muslim communal law in India when handling the contentious Shah Bano case. [29] This political strategy allowed Hindu nationalists to accuse the Congress Party of practicing pseudo-secularism, a derogatory phrase for minority appeasement. Indira and Rajiv Gandhi damaged India's secular culture as a result of their acts, allowing Hindu nationalism to achieve greater political prominence.

Secularism has been challenged not by personal faith or religion, but by religious organizations vying for power. Because rejection of secularism catapults problems regarding citizenship rights and privileges, and highlights the intersections between religion and lack of voice, inadequate distribution of goods, and acknowledgement of unique diversity of groups, it also poses a challenge to democracy.[30]

Finally, it is difficult to reconcile religious identification with democratic politics. Between religious and secular languages, there is, perhaps, a fundamental difference. Religion provides believers with "thick" or complete ideas of the good that aid in making sense of the world, organizing their lives, and relating to others. In comparison, the idea of secularism is "thin" in the sense that it offers methods for determining what place religion has in the public sphere, how diverse groups should interact, and how justice and democracy can be ensured.

Indian Secularism Vs Western Secularism

The word "saecularis" was used in ecclesiastical Latin to denote the materialistic, the profane, the base, and the lowly, in contrast to the church, which represented lofty goals, the godly, the holy, the otherworldly, and selflessness. However, it did not imply freedom from "relegere," independence from the church, or independence from sects.

It was frequently used to degrade a subject, a person, or an ideology, whereas the church stood for pure and superior human characteristics. In short, saecularis was mostly a derogatory phrase that referred to "materialists" whereas the church represented idealists. It came to symbolise oppressed people's protest movements over time.

The term was popular in pre-capitalist Europe until the 17th century, when it was replaced by secular and secularisation, the latter of which came into use in European languages at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, where it was used to describe the transfer of territories previously under ecclesiastical control to the dominion of political authorities. The term came to be associated with a process that was not only separate from or unrelated to the church, but also unrelated to religion.

This trend manifested itself in two ways: first, the state became independent of the church and religion, and second, the person became religiously neutral and independent of the church in the public arena. This procedure was novel and distinct from previous ones. Despite the diverse cultures of the continent's constituent countries, it took centuries for classical liberalism, which had laid the philosophical-political foundations of secularism in Europe, to battle against the continent's intolerant past. Its fight against the church and critique of religion aided the rise of civil society, religious tolerance, and secularism, all of which were aided by the emergence and expansion of capitalism, which created the space for and aided the growth of individual liberty.[31]

Only when the political domination of British colonial capitalism was established in India did the imprint of European ideas, both practical and theoretical, of liberals or Marx, begin to be felt in a large degree in most sections of the country. In essence, by restricting the public domain of religion, their religious modernity boosted individual liberty. Religion became a personal matter, and it was no longer able to compel the society to act in a uniform/unilinear manner.

Its function in public mobilization was reduced, or it ceased to provide a platform for public participation, which was then taken over by politics. To put it another way, religious modernism has pushed religion's political function to the background. Religious tolerance, at least within Hinduism, improved as this process advanced. The "Renaissance" men in India and their political heirs - the moderates of the Congress - fought a long and painful battle for the secularisation of Indian minds, much like the classical liberals of Europe. However, it was a war between the elite and popular culture; elite secularism was pitted against popular faith.

Another school of liberalism was represented by "nationalists" such as Vivekananda, Tilak, and Aurobindo, who succeeded the first reformers and were no longer "dazed" and "surprised" by the differences in British governance compared to pre-colonial rulers. They didn't believe in appealing to the British, and they certainly didn't believe in persuading them either. As a result, this second school maintained that India's future was fully in the hands of Indians.

They would be free of foreigners if they realized their own strength. They had to seek refuge in its own higher civilization for this, abandoning foreign products, customs, dress and manners, and education. People needed to assert their national identity. To adopt the dharma of another is harmful, they reasoned, "since it deprives the man or the nation of its secret of life and energy, and it substitutes an unnatural and stunted growth for nature's free, large, and organic development."[32] They insisted on self-regeneration or reforms from inside the Indian political system, rather than imposing them from the outside.

Their emphasis on learning from India's past and from Indian society according to the needs and temperament of the people, as opposed to India's reliance on learning from Europe, categorized them as revivalists. However, they never intended to translate vedic/ancient Indian society into modern times, nor were they interested in a theocratic state or monarchical society. They were also not anti-industrialization and anti-democracy.

The British rule in India brought new research methods, led to the discovery of India's "hidden" civilisation, and supplied new perspectives on history. It pushed for social reforms and a break with the past's degeneracy. At the near end of colonialism these processes were speeded up by the Constituent Assembly that envisaged an idealised capitalist modernisation of post-colonial India.

Its basic tenets were a non-theocratic state, uniform criminal laws, political/ constitutional safeguards for religious minorities and uniform civil (excluding marriage and succession) laws. Both had arisen from the same intellectual base in the west; however, it did not fructify in India, at least not in the political domain, as evidenced by ideological debate and legislative enactment. While standard personal laws were left to future legislators to codify, the majority of the assembly agreed that the state in India should not be fully divorced from religion, nor should it be anti-religious. The state, on the other hand, would treat all religions equally, highlighting two major distinctions between Indian and Western secularism.

While the revolutionary masses in classical western secularism separated religion and state, the ties between them remained intact in India, despite the fact that the state was non-theocratic. Second, unlike India, religious minorities in the West did not develop as a distinct constitutional group with its own set of rights and laws. These two contrasts had their own set of consequences.

While a segment of the radical bourgeoisie in the west became anti-religionist, they uniformly refuted it in India; in the second situation, while the west established a uniform civil code, it was not codified in India. Marriage/succession/property connections were still governed by old mediaeval ecclesiastical regulations. The constituent assembly authorised these measures to be implemented as part of governance, which were later acknowledged as an Indian type of secularism, rejecting the previous pre-Tilakite Congress beliefs that opposed the formation of religious minorities.

Hindu Rashtra: Myth Or A Reality?

When one questions the recent developments in the country in regard to religious tolerance amongst Hindus and the notion of Secularism, one must consider the changing religious, cultural and political demography around. As per the 1941 Census of India, the Muslim made up 15% (42.4 million) of the population of Undivided India, which included the present day Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Hindus (including the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains) made up the remaining 85% (238.3 million).

In comparison, as per the 2011 Census, Muslims account for 15% India's population. While Hindus account for 1.60% of Pakistan's population.[33] On the other hand Hindus in Bangladesh account for 10% of its population while Muslims make up the remaining 90%.[34]

If we look at the larger picture and do some simple Math, as per the data provided by World Population Review, there are about 200 million Muslims in India, about 153 million Muslims in Bangladesh and about 212 million Muslims in Pakistan.[35] While the Hindu population in the 3 abovementioned countries is about 966 million, 12 million, and 2 million respectively.
The total sum of Muslim population in the 3 countries is about 565 million. While the total sum of Hindu population in the 3 countries is about 980 million.

If we look at the numbers of the 3 countries as a whole, we observe that Muslims account for 36% of the population while Hindus make up approximately 63%.

So, on one hand the Muslim population which was pegged at about 15% in 1941 in the abovementioned 3 countries has increased to 36%. On the other hand, the Hindu population which was pegged at about 85% has now reduced to 63%.

As a result, it irritates the average Hindu when people on the left of the ideological spectrum challenge India's inclusiveness and go far and beyond by calling Hindus fanatics and intolerant.

Is Hinduism In Itself Secular?

If we set aside what our English education taught us for a moment and study what Hindu intellectuals believed of their homeland. The Rajya, or state, was made up of the king, who had three basic responsibilities.

He had to defend the kingdom's boundaries, preserve his citizens' lives and property, and pick a capable Yuvaraj or successor, who wasn't necessarily his son. King Bharat, the Kurus' forefather, had seven sons, but he ignored them all since they were incompetent. And he anointed Bhumanyu, who backed up his decision. It was up to the king to go beyond these three responsibilities if he so desired.

The Vedic ethos was popular in that era, and the elite adhered to Sanatan dharma, or eternal faith, whose cornerstone was karma leading to bhagya, or cause and effect. There was no such thing as religion or its hierarchy, as there is in Christianity, for example. It was not a difficulty when Lord Mahavira propagated his Jainism doctrine. When Emperor Chandragupta Maurya decided to retire, he converted to Jainism and lived the rest of his life in Shravanbelagola, which is now part of Karnataka. There was a level of acceptance for this alternative way of life.[36]

Tensions arose as a result of Emperor Ashoka's acceptance of Buddhism as his faith and its ability to function as an organised religion. Especially when he took the lead in propagating Buddhism, sending his daughter Sanghamitra and son Mahendra to Sri Lanka, for example. They and their organisation converted a vast number of people to Buddhism, resulting in the Sinhala people. Ashoka dispatched his emissaries to a variety of locations, including Tibet and the Asian countries east of India.

The act of a Hindu monarch becoming a proselytizer was frowned upon and met with opposition. In the eighth century, Adi Shankaracharya, a famous saint, led the opposition to proselytization. This was the first battle between Hinduism and Indic tolerance in European terminology. An amalgamation of governance and religious teaching was too much for India at the time.

When Islam originally arrived in India, it was restricted to Sindh, where Muhammad-bin-Qasim conquered some land, erected a few mosques, and converted a few people. Nonetheless, it appeared to be a one-off incident, especially in those days when communication was limited. When we consider it in the modern context, we realize that a Hindu grows up believing that his salvation is in his personal karma and self-actualization.

His Muslim counterpart, on the other hand, grows up seeing animals' necks chopped as the Kalima is recited to make his flesh Halal (permissible). Furthermore, as a man, he is taught that his redemption resides in serving his people, and that the best way to do so is to die in a jihad for the sake of his civilization. A shaheed or such a martyr enters heaven right away, without having to wait years for Qayamat or apocalypse. All living beings, on the other hand, are considered members of the Hindu family. As a result, when he kills, he is taking part in the homicide of a relative, no matter how distant.

Dr. BR Ambedkar accepts M.A. Jinnah's plan for partition of undivided India in his 1941 book, Thoughts on Pakistan. His key point was that having the enemy outside one's boundaries is preferable to having them inside. Without going into detail, it was clear that the two cultures were not naturally compatible and that they would be better off living in different nations. Jinnah and seven of his Muslim League colleagues had advocated for a population swap. They wanted Muslims to congregate in Pakistan by migrating as needed. Similarly, non-Muslims should leave Pakistan's territory.[37]

The East, unlike Europe and America, has no natural sense of the word 'secular.' There is no equivalent word for 'secular' in, Arabic, Persian, or Urdu. Individual or collective, societal or political, religious or otherwise, Islam is an all-encompassing prescription for life. Separation of any of them is not a consideration. In contrast, Hindu State has never had anything to do with priests, worship, or temples. Tolerance is one synonym for Hinduism, whereas secularism is another.

How Parsi Refugees From Yesterday Became Citizens of Today
The distinct Parsi Community in India may now be woven into the colourful tapestry of India's minorities, but they were originally refugees who, like today's Syrians, fled their nation on boats and ships. A group of Zoroastrians sought shelter from religious persecution on the western coastlines of India after the Sassanian Empire (which had adopted Zoroastrianism as the national religion) fell to Arab Muslims in Iran in 642 CE.

When the refugees first arrived on the shores of Sanjan, the local monarch Jadi Rana of welcomed them with a full glass of milk, according to Qissa-i-Sanjan (Story of Sanjan), a 16th century literature on the life of the early Zoroastrian settlers in India. It was a metaphor intended to convey the notion that there was no room for newcomers. The Zoroastrians reacted by putting a teaspoon of sugar in the milk, illustrating that they would be 'like sugar in a full cup of milk, providing sweetness but without causing it to overflow.'

After consenting to a few of Jadi Rana's terms, they were allowed to live and practice their faith: they would explain their faith to him, acquire the local language, the women would wear sarees, and weddings would be held after sundown. This deliberate assimilation is what differentiates Parsis from their Zoroastrian contemporaries who remained in Iran.

The Qissa of Zoroastrians demonstrates primarily two points: the Indian subcontinent has always welcomed people from all over the world, and faiths only endure when they adjust to the demands of the time. Religion, like any other cultural activity, must be open to change at all times if it is to exist. That does not, however, suggest that you must abandon your own culture and identity. The Parsis selective assimilation demonstrated incorporation into a host country while maintaining their uniqueness.

Although there have been several disagreements about the legitimacy of its content because it was written centuries after their arrival based on oral tradition, the tale is essential in understanding how Parsis themselves viewed their immigration and settlement in a strange nation.

Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the various groups of Zoroastrians that arrived in India at various times throughout history were never turned back. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that many groups of Zoroastrians who landed in India at various times throughout history were never turned back. The community has a distinct place in today's society, despite its modest size and the fear of dwindling numbers.

This is the community that brought us revolutionary heroes such as Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhikaiji Cama, visionaries such as Jamsetji Tata, Nuclear Physicists like as Homi J Bhabha, and Legal practioners such as Fali Nariman. Despite accounting for less than 0.6 percent of the Indian population, Parsis have also held command of the Indian Armed Forces' three defence wings.[38]

Tibetan Refugees in India
The Tibetan resistance movement and violent uprisings against China began in the late 1950s, culminating in the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, which murdered thousands of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama and some officials of the Tibetan administration escaped to India, followed by 80,000 Tibetans within a year.

The Dalai Lama and other Tibetans were allowed to settle in India by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who established the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), a "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala.[39]

India's profound sympathy for the Tibetan people was turned into concrete care for Tibetan refugees. It's worth noting that the host population did not seem to have any issues with them. Despite their dissatisfaction with the fact that their land was handed to the refugees, these workers benefited from the new jobs that were established. Tibetan refugees worked alongside members of the host population in a variety of fields.

Now, the third-generation Tibetans have higher hopes and prefer to live rather than subsist. The imposition of several identities on the young frequently irritates them. They are told to stay committed to the 'Free Tibet' cause and to preserve their culture's uniqueness in the midst of a sea of natives. On the other hand, they proclaim their belonging and commitment to India because they grew up here and consider it their home. Despite the fact that they have the ability to seek for citizenship, they nearly never do so.[40]

Hinduism is one of the few pre-Bronze Age cultures that has endured to the present day. Do you see Zoroastrianism still flourishing in Iran? What happened to the Roman Mithraic cults? What happened to the Egyptian gods Ra, Osiris, and Horus? What happened to the Greek gods Zeus, Apollo, and Athena? What happened to Australia's aboriginal peoples' tribal belief systems and languages? Most pagan religious systems and cultures were destroyed by Abrahamic ideology, yet Hinduism due to its tolerant and all-accepting character triumphed despite all odds.

India is recognized around the world as a secular country. Secularism is a form of government in which the state is meant to be impartial in religious affairs and not favour one religion over another. However, certain provisions in the Constitution have been made to protect the interests of minorities, which indirectly shows that special discriminatory measures have been made in the Constitution. The majority and minority should be treated equally under a secular state. Apart from the aforesaid, whenever the term "minority" was used by the government, it was solely used to religious minorities, notwithstanding the Constitution's provision for "religious and linguistic minorities."

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, was introduced in 2019 by the Central Government to protect the interests of six religions facing religious persecution in three neighbouring Islamic countries, but it was met with strong opposition from various groups who claimed that its exclusion of Muslims was discriminatory and went against the concept of secularism, which is the foundation of India's Constitution.

The Indian Government, however maintains its stand that granting citizenship to anyone is a political matter that is neither anti-secular nor discriminatory. Furthermore, India's fundamental structure cannot be altered. However, it is important to remember that the basic structure theory was formulated by the Supreme Court of India as a curb on Parliament's ability to change the Constitution. Normally, a law that is enacted cannot be contested for breaking the basic structure.

Indian secularism isn't just a product of the country's post-1947 political leadership; it has a long and illustrious history in Indian civilization. Some Emperors have supported the coexistence of India's religious communities for millennia. Despite his fanatical dedication to Buddhism, even Emperor Ashoka did so, and Mughal Emperor Akbar went much further by establishing a syncretic creed-a legacy that culminated into Gandhism.

In reality, as renowned literary figure Nayantara Sahgal recently observed, Indian secularism is a by-product of a vast civilization:
"We are unique in the world in the sense that we are enriched by so many cultures and religions." They now seek to meld our cultures into one. As a result, this is a perilous period. We don't want to be deprived of our wealth. We don't want to lose anything... everything that Islam has given us, all that Christianity has given us, all that Sikhism has given us. Why should we throw away what we've worked so hard for? Although we are not all Hindus, we are all Hindustanis."[41]

When one questions the recent developments in the country in regard to religious tolerance amongst Hindus and the notion of Secularism, one must consider the changing religious, cultural and political demography around. What does one see when one studies the demographics of South Asia? Hindus made about 15% of the population when Pakistan was founded in 1947, but reduced to a bare 1.6 percent in 1998.

In Bangladesh Hindus made up 29.4 percent of the population in 1931, but now make up fewer than 9.5 percent. Compare this to India's Muslim population, which was 9.9% in 1951 and had grown to 14.2% by 2011. As a result, it irritates the average Hindu when people on the left of the ideological spectrum challenge India's inclusiveness.[42]

Islamisation eventually takes hold in most Muslim-majority countries. If we take a look at the 49 Muslim-majority countries around the world and we realize that the only way to keep secularism alive is to keep Hindu syncretism alive.

Some people mistakenly view Hindu revivalism through the lens of Narendra Modi and the BJP. To understand the underlying conflict between Abrahamic and Dharmic thought, one must return to the fundamental conflict between Abrahamic and Dharmic thought. Dharmic philosophy is basically plural in nature. It embraces a variety of truths. A total of 33 million deities can be classified as members of the same family. The Buddha can be absorbed as an avatar of Vishnu and Jesus Christ can be incorporated on the fa�ade of a Hindu temple.

Sadly, Abrahamic theology tries to impose a single truth on a multifaceted world. If you are evil, there is only one true God who will punish you. However, if you keep his word and follow his dictates to the letter, you may be able to avoid the hellfires of damnation. When that absolutism is combined with expansionist and proselytising tendencies, the recipe for war is complete. The implications have been severe in India. Ghazni, Aibak, Khilji, Timur, Lodhi, Aurangzeb, and Tipu all launched frontal attacks against Hindus and Hinduism that were simply too cruel to be forgotten.

We cannot hold today's Muslims and Christians liable for atrocities committed in the past that they had no part in. In fact, many of today's Muslims and Christians have descended from those who were persecuted and converted at the point of a sword years ago.

The Australian government has recently apologised to the aboriginal people for the crimes committed against them. Apartheid has been acknowledged by the South African government. Japan has expressed regret for its war crimes in Asia. The Germans have apologised for the Holocaust to the Jews. Boris Yeltsin, too, expressed regret over the Bolshevik Revolution. But who should Hindus seek apologies from? From the ones who gave us Muhammad bin Qasim, the Arabs?

Or can we expect from the Afghans who gave us Mahmud Ghazni? Who better than the Turks to give us Qutb Al-din Aibak? Or the ones who brought us Aurangzeb, the Turko-Mongols? Or from the people who brought us Aleixo Diaz Falcao, the Portuguese? Or from the English for the brutality of Reginald Dyer?

Hindus do not expect anyone to apologise to them. Also, Hindus will not apologise simply for being Hindu. It is sickening to observe that one has to prove how secular one is on a daily basis. This Fire-test has to come to an end. If one truly wants to preserve India's secular status, then it is essential to protect and preserve its Hindu ethos.[43]

  1. 5 Facts about Religion in India, Pew Research Center,, (last viewed on 09.10.21)
  2. Secularism: Why Nehru dropped and Indira inserted the S-word in the Constitution, (last viewed on 09.10.21)
  3. The End of India, Khushwant Singh, Penguin Books India 2003
  4. What Does "Hindu" Mean?, The Pluralism Project , Harvard University,\ (last viewed on 09.10.21)
  5. Trade, not invasion brought Islam to India, The Times of India, (last viewed on (09.10.21)
  6. History of Christianity in India: Seven Churches established by St. Thomas in Kerala India, Soul Winners India, (visited on 14.10.21)
  7. India Virtual Jewish History Tour, , (visited on 14.10.21)
  8. Religious History of India, Hindustan Times, (last viewed on 09.10.21)
  9. Myth and Reality of Secularism in India: An Analysis, Arun Kumar Singh, , (last viewed on 09.10.21)
  10. Indira Nehru Gandhi v Raj Narain ,1975 (Supplement) SCC1
  11. Stainislaus vs State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors, 1977 AIR 908, 1977 SCR (2) 611
  12. Shayara Bano v/s Union of India (2017) 9 SCC 1
  13. Sardar Taheruddin Syedna Sahib v. State of Bombay (AIR 1962 SC 853)
  14. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (AIR 1973 SC1461)
  15. Bommai v Union of India (1994), 3SCC 1
  16. Ismail Faruqi v Union of India (1994) 6SCC 3176
  17. Aruna Roy v Union of India (2002) & SSC 368,
  18. Abhiram Singh v. C D Commachem (2017)10 SCC 1
  19. State of West Bengal v Anwar Ali Sarkar (AIR 1952 SC 52)
  20. Christophe Jaffrelot, "Composite Culture Is Not Multiculturalism: A Study of the Indian Constituent Assembly Debates," in Ashutosh Varshney, ed., India and the Politics of Developing Countries: Essays in Memory of Myron Weiner (New Delhi: Sage, 2004): 126-149.
  21. Christophe Jaffrelot and Sanjay Kumar, Rise of the Plebeians?: The Changing Face of the Indian Legislative Assemblies (New Delhi: Routledge, 2009).
  22. The Representation of the People Act, 1951, Government of India, Ministry of Law and Justice, Legislative Department,
  23. Sarvepalli Gopal, ed., Jawaharlal Nehru: An Anthology (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1980): 330.
  24. Rajeev Bhargava, "What Is Secularism For?" in Rajeev Bhargava, ed., Secularism and Its Critics (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988).
  25. Praveen Swami, "Salman Rushdie and India's New Theocracy," Hindu, January 21, 2012, , (visited on 10.10.21)
  26. Narendra Modi to attend 350th birthday celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Patna Sahib, Sikhs24, (visited on 14.10.21)
  27. Abdul Shaban's, ed., Lives of Muslims in India: Politics, Exclusion, and Violence, second edition, (New Delhi: Routledge, 2018).
  28. Watch: Rajiv Gandhi's speech justifying 1984 anti-Sikh riots, , (visited on 14.10.21)
  29. The Fate of Secularism in India, Christophe Jaffrelot, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, , (visited on 10.10.2021)
  30. Secularism is caught in a crisis, The Indian Express, , (visited on 11.10.21)
  31. Western Secularism and Colonial Legacy in India, Himanshu Roy, Economin&Political Weekly,
    Western Secularism and Colonial Legacy in India , visited on (11.10.21)
  32. Aurobindo Ghosh in S V Desikachar (ed), op cit, pp 325-26. 2 Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Ibid, pp 323-24. 3 M K Gandhi was reacting to a question asked by a Christian Missionary
  33. Population by Religion,
  34. Bangladeshi Culture, Culture Atlas, (visited on 14.10.21)
  35. World Population Review, , (visited on 14.10.21)
  36. Hindu Secularism, Prafull Goradia, The Statesman, , (visited on 12.10.21)
  37. Thoughts on Pakistan BR Ambedkar, Thacker and Company Limited Rampart Row 1941
  38. How Parsi Refugees From Yesterday Became Citizens of Today, Amulya B, The Better India Community, ,(visited on 13.10.21)
  39. Background on Tibetan Refugees, Tibetan Innovation Challenge, (visited on 13.10.21)
  40. World's Most Successful Refugee Community - The Case of Tibetan Refugees in India, Manan Mehra, CJP, (visited on 13.10.21)
  41. We Should Not Lose Our Hindustaniyat, Says Nayantara Sahgal, Indian Express, January 30, 2019, (visited on 13.10.21)
  42. Want to preserve secularism in India? Well, preserve the Hindu ethos first, Ashwin Sanghi, The Print, (visited on 13.10.21)
  43. Ibid.

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