Is India a Truly Secular Nation?

Secularism means that the state will have no official religion. Moreover, the citizens of India can practise, profess and propagate the religion of their choice. It is the equal treatment of all religions by the state. The word, ‘secular’ was not in the Preamble of the Constitution from its inception, rather it was added by the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976, and since then the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation.

Secularism is important to India as the partition of the country was on the basis of religion and therefore to accommodate the diversity in India, it is essential for there to be no discrimination of religion. However, the state protects the rights of cultural minorities which is different from Western Secularism. Moreover, India is a diversity rich country with people from all walks of life. But has ‘unity in diversity’ survived through the ages?

There is an ongoing crisis with relation to secularism which has uprooted the peace and harmony between different religions. The case of the ‘Godra’ riots in Gujarat in 2002 prove that religion based discrimination was prominent. Muslims in Gujarat were brutally killed and their homes were lit on fire. It was because of this that there was a severe tension among the people. Following was the incident of the demolition of the Babri Masjid to build the Ram Mandir which was believed to be there before. The Congress party which was ruling that time did not oppose this and remained silent on this issue. It clearly sought the ‘favouritism’ in politics. The ‘Sangh Parivar’ is said to be involved in the demolition.

Many people contest that there should be a Uniform Civil Code, however the Muslim personal laws have some special status that allow Triple Talaq and Polygamy which are bigotry and are prejudiced against women. The Shah Bano case also depicts the strong hold of the Muslim Personal Law Board which despite the Congress Party’s effort did not support Shah Bano. She was subsequently denied the alimony when the Indian Parliament reversed the judgement under pressure from Islamic orthodoxy.

The most recent case of Pseudo Secularism has been that of killing of 50-year-old Mohd Akhlaque who had eaten beef and thereby hurt Hindu sentiments. To avenge the rumoured death of a cow, a human being was done to death. The mob bashed him to death. In another instance, there has been injustice in the name of secularism where a group of college students in Kerala were man-handled and threatened inside a movie theatre in Chennai allegedly because they didn’t stand when the national anthem was playing. The students have been charged with insulting the national anthem – which carries a three-year jail term.

Similar was the case where there were Anti-Sikh riots in 1984. The Operation Bluestar hurt the sentiments of the Sikh as it damaged the holiness of the Golden Temple. This in turn led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh body guards. This all turned into a national uproar against the Sikh minorities where they were massacred on the streets.

This goes onto show the façade of secularism and the ongoing debate about whether state sponsored secularism should be stopped as Pseudo Secularism is being practised.

 

By Saumya Rastogi (Editor, Fiction)

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