Secularism in India
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India is a secular country as per the declaration in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. It prohibits discrimination against members of a particular religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The Indian notion for the term secularism is different from the French notion for the term.
The word secular was inserted into the preamble by the 42nd Amendment.(1976) It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance & respect. India, therefore does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in front of law. No religious instruction is imparted in government or government-aided schools. Nevertheless, general information about all established world religions is imparted as part of the course in Sociology, without giving any importance to any one religion or the others. The content presents the basic/fundamental information with regards to the fundamental beliefs, social values and main practices and festivals of each established world religions. The Supreme Court in S.R Bommai v. Union of India held that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the constitution.
Religions of India are known to have co-existed and evolved together for many centuries predating Republic of India. Indian civilization is among the oldest and living civilizations of the modern world. India is a country where religion is very central to the life of many people. India’s age-old philosophy as expounded in Hindu scriptures called Upanishads is sarva dharma samabhava, which means respect for all belief systems. This basic trait of Sanatan dharma is what keeps India together despite the fact that India has not been a mono-religious country for over two millennium. A Hindu Nationalist school of thought also proclaims that with Sanatan Dharma being the spirit of India, the very concept of western secularism is redundant and badly imposed.
Some researchers believe that the history of Indian secularism begin with the protest movements in the 5th century BC. The three main protest movements were by the Charvakas (a secularistic and materialistic philosophical movement), Buddhism, and Jainism. All three of them rejected the authority of the Vedas and any importance of belief in a deity.
Secularism in Feudal India 
Under feudal system there was no competition between different religious traditions as authority resided in sword and generally there were no inter-religious tensions among the people of different religions. They co-existed in peace and harmony though at times inter-religious controversies did arise. There was also tradition of tolerance between religions due to state policies of various kings since time immemorial from Gupta Kings to Ashoka and Akbar. Many religious sects and practices kept away from rigid intolerant forms. But, instances of forced conversions to Islam during tyrant rule of Aurangzeb and other rulers, and imposition of Religious tax, Jizya are also known.
Secularism in the Caste System 
India is one country where caste rigidity and concept of untouchability evolved and still plays a major role in religious, social and cultural matters. Nevertheless, the modern understanding of Caste System suggests that the phenomenon is more widespread than initially believed. Caste dynamics in Indian life, even in Christian and Islamic societies, plays larger than life role. Since most of the conversions to Christianity and Islam took place from lower caste Hindus, these two world religions also developed caste structure. There are lower caste churches in several places.(citation needed)
Secularism in British India 
In the 18th century, when the British East India Company began to gain total control over India that ideas of secularism began to have impact on the Indian mind. Until then, religion was considered to be inseparable from political and social life. On the other hand, the British codified laws pertaining to practices within religions on the sub-continents. To this effect they instituted separate laws for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and others as part of their divide-and-rule policy. In doing so they laid the foundation for a nonuniform civil code which remains largely unchanged to date. This is a major grouse for Hindu politicians who insist that there should be a uniform civil code for all citizens. For example, believers of all faiths other than Islam are legally bound to be monogamous while those who practice or convert to Islam are permitted up to four marriages, which is therefore not uniform behavior.
In India, right from the British period, main contradiction was not between religious and secular but it was between secular and communal. In the western world main struggle was between church and state and church and civil society but in India neither Hinduism nor Islam had any church-like structure and hence there never was any such struggle between secular and religious power structure. The main struggle was between secularism and communalism. The communal forces from among Hindus and Muslims mainly fought for share in power though they used their respective religions for their struggle for power.
The Indian National Congress at the time of independence from British Raj adopted secularism, not as this worldly philosophy but more as a political arrangement. As power-sharing arrangement could not be satisfactorily worked out between the Hindu and Muslim elite the country was divided into two independent states of India and Pakistan, Muslim majority areas of North-West going to Pakistan.
Secularism in Modern India 
After independence and partition, a large body of Muslims were left in India and hence leaders like Gandhi and Nehru preferred to keep India secular in the sense that the Republic of India shall have no national religion and the people of India shall be free both in any individual and corporate sense to follow any religion of their choice. Thus India remained politically secular and its people continued to passionately practise their religions.
Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India was a supporter of secularism and secular politics. Theoretically speaking the Congress Party was also committed to secularism. However, the Congress Party consisted of several members and leaders whose secular political principles are doubtable. But it was due to Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and B.R.Ambedkar that India committed itself to secularism and its Constitution was drafted on secular lines.
Secularism in India, as pointed out before, emphasised upon the principles of equal respect for all religions and cultures and non-interference of religion in the government affairs. Also, according to the Indian Constitution no discrimination shall be made on the basis of caste, creed, gender and class. Similarly all citizens of India irrespective of one's religion, caste or gender have right to vote. According to articles 14 to 21 all will enjoy same rights without any discrimination on any ground.
According to Article 25 all those who reside in India are free to confess, practice and propagate religion of one’s choice subject of course to social health and law and order. Thus even conversion to any religion of ones choice is a fundamental right.
In fact, in India an overwhelming majority of people are religious but are tolerant and respect other religions and are thus ‘secular’ in the Indian context. Even Sufis and Bhakti Saints are considered quite secular in that sense.
The word secularism has had multiple interpretations, namely: an agnostic interpretation and a pluralistic interpretation. While Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Subhas Chandra Bose subscribed to the agnostic interpretation of Secularism, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and others believed in pluralistic interpretation of Secularism.
The Preamble to the Constitution of India grants "liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship" immediately after proclaiming that India is a "SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC." This reading of the constitution suggests that the Constitution of India has a pluralistic interpretation of Secularism. Also, religious belief governs the application of laws in India (Indian law), which indicates a pluralistic interpretation of the term Secularism in the Indian legal system. The science of the concept of legal pluralism and the study of legal pluralism as it has naturally existed in India is on-going.
There are some atheists and secularists who reject religion in its entirety but such people are extremely few. Though there are no census figures available but one can safely say that there are less than 0.1% in India. Also, there are extremely orthodox people who exhibit rigidity and intolerance towards other faiths though of course not on communal grounds but on the grounds of religious orthodoxy but they too are in minuscule minority. Tolerance in India among people of all religions is widely prevalent. It is perhaps due to influence of ancient Vedic doctrine that truth is one but is manifested in different forms.
Thus the real spirit of secularism in India is all inclusiveness, religious pluralism and peaceful co-existence. However, it is politics, which proved to be divisive and not religion. It is not religious leaders by and large (with few exceptions) who divide but politicians who seek to mobilise votes on grounds of divisive identities like religion, caste and ethnicity.
In a multi-religious society, if politics is not based on issues but on identities, it can prove highly divisive. Politicians are tempted to appeal to such identities rather than to solve problems. The former case proves much easier. The medieval society in India was thus more religiously tolerant as it was non-competitive. The modern Indian society, on the other hand, has proved to be more divisive as it is based on competition.
Religious Laws 
As the Shah Bano case demonstrated, successive governments have failed to enact a uniform civil code as regards to marriages, and in this case, the dissolution thereof. A significant observation from this case was that despite a direct ruling from the Supreme Court of India, the Rajiv Gandhi government, in pandering to the Minority vote bank[dubious ] not only failed to protect the interests of a divorced female in a secular and even handed manner (Shah Bano was 62 and a mother five when her husband divorced her), the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 was enacted.
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While the pluralist view of Mahatma Gandhi, that all religions are equal, has a strong impact, there are movements like those of the dalits (depressed classes) and the communists who have criticized such a view. Gandhi himself was a devout man and instilled devotion in the Independence Struggle. But still he was killed by a religious fanatic for his adherence to minority appeasement calling it secular principles.
However, there is obvious difference between secularism practised in India and elsewhere. The western model of secularism means that religion and politics are separate from each other (Caesar and God theory). In other words, polity does not enter in religious affairs and religion in political affairs. This also means that political mechanism cannot correct problems inside a religious group. However, Indian society being a mixture of religions, is always prone to dominance and conflicts. Moreover, the issues such as casteism is particularly of religious origin. In order to mitigate the harmful effects of casteism and other source of conflicts and human right violations arising out of religions, it is necessary that polity/government be able to meddle with religious affairs. As a result of several year's efforts to detoxify the religions, Government has been able to reduce the effects of casteism and modernize the Hindu personal laws[clarification needed]. However, the country is far from having a common civil code. As far as other religions are concerned, government has only limited success in correcting human right violations such as atrocities against women in Islam[clarification needed].
However, ability of Government to indulge in religious affairs also boomeranged. Religions and castes increased their influence on political parties. As a result, politico-religio-regional chauvinism is becoming more common in contemporary Indian Politics. Thus, practising the Indian Brand of secularism (mutual tolerance instead of mutual respect) in the last 60 years, failed to produce communal harmony and trust. Liberhann Commission which investigated the Babri Masjid Incident, has recommended that religion be delinked from politics and that Politicians must not garner votes preaching religion or caste. The Indian experiment on secularism is here to continue.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume criticizes Indian "Secularism" as a fraud and a failure, since it isn't really "secularism" as it is understood in the western world (as separation of religion and state) but more along the lines of religious appeasement. He writes that the flawed understanding of secularism among India's left wing intelligentsia has led Indian politicians to pander to religious leaders and preachers including Zakir Naik, and has led India to take a soft stand against Islamic terrorism, religious militancy and communal disharmony in general.
Similar views have also been expressed by noted Indian LGBT rights activist Ashok Row Kavi in the wake of attempts by some ultra-orthodox Hindus to scuttle the gay rights movement in India by intimidation and violence. Kavi writes that extremist groups like Shiv Sena get too much credibility in the mainstream, which "displays the ridiculousness of the Indian concept of secularism". He also cites attempts by Islamist sympathizers to whitewash history books concerning Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent as another example of India's "secularism".
In India, blaming Kashmiri Pundits for their own ethnic cleansing from ancestral lands since time immemorial is passed off as secularism. So is blaming pilgrims, like in Godhra massacre, for their own massacre.
Others, particularly historian Ronald Inden, have also observed that the Indian government is not really "secular", but one that selectively discriminates against Hindu communities while superficially appeasing Muslim leaders (without actually providing any community or theological benefits to regular Muslims in India). He writes that poorly educated Indian so-called "intelligentsia" identify Indian "secularism" with anti-Hinduism and even a tacit Islamophobia. He also cites that often, leftist governments in India (such as in the Indian state of West Bengal) covertly support madrassa curricula for Muslims, helping traditional Islamic scholarship and teaching fundamentalism in "Islamic" disguise. He writes
|“||Nehru's India was supposed to be committed to 'secularism'. The idea here in its weaker publicly reiterated form was that the government would not interfere in 'personal' religious matters and would create circumstances in which people of all religions could live in harmony. The idea in its stronger, unofficially stated form was that in order to modernize, India would have to set aside centuries of traditional religious ignorance and superstition and eventually eliminate Hinduism and Islam from people's lives altogether. After Independence, governments implemented secularism mostly by refusing to recognize the religious pasts of Indian nationalism, whether Hindu or Muslim, and at the same time (inconsistently) by retaining Muslim 'personal law'.||”|
See also 
- ""A skewed secularism?" by Christophe Jaffrelot". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- "The Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act, 1976". Government of India. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
- Sanatan Dharma and Secularism>
- Domenic Marbaniang, Secularism in India: Historical Outline:
- Perspectives on Indian Secularism by Domenic Marbaniang
- Preamble to the Constitution of India
- LEGAL PLURALISM IN INDIA : AN INTRODUCTION
- Thomas R. Metcalf (2002). A concise history of India. Cambridge University Press. p. 257. ISBN 0-521-63974-3, 9780521639743 Check
|isbn=value (help). "Rajiv Gandhi cared little about the Shah Bano case himself, and no doubt would have preferred a common civil code; nevertheless he saw in the opposition to this supreme court decision a heaven-sent opportunity to draw Minority voters to the Congress cause."
- Arvind Rajagopal (2001). Politics After Television. Cambridge University Press. p. 290. ISBN 0-521-64839-4, 9780521648394 Check
|isbn=value (help). "When it became clear that Muslim leaders were steering votes away from the Congress, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made an about face and supported a February 1986 bill favoring Islamic Law rather than the Criminal Procedure Code for divorced Muslim women. The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Arif Mohammed Khan, resigned in protest at the government's volte-face."
- Dhume, Sadanand (June 20, 2010). "The Trouble with Dr. Zakir Naik". The Wall Street Journal.
- Imagining India, by Ronald Inden. Indiana University Press. 2000. p.xii.
14.Secular India, A Historical Quest by Sanjeev Tare (1991) published by Anmol Publications, New Delhi. 230 pages. English. It's a sketch of the Indian statehood's secular development through the ages. It traces the development of state from India's more than 5000 year old secular state up to 1965. Importantly, this book was written at the height of the Raamjanmabhoomi movement and was published in period of the Somanaath to Ayodhyaa Rathayaatraa.
- Domenic Marbaniang, Indian Secularism
- Domenic Marbaniang, Secularism in India
- Secularism in India: A Historical Analysis
- Secularism In India