Secularism is the detachment of religious affairs from the operation of political, economical and social activities in a state. This principle denotes that religion and state share no nexus with one another.
In simple words, Secularism is a principle which ensures that the political decisions of a state are not influenced by religious institutions. This principle also ensures that no religion is considered superior and all religions are given equal status. Every country exercises its own form of Secularism in a different way. In a nutshell, Secularism has two sides, one is positive and the other is negative.
Today we’ll learn about, what is Secularism in India? And how it is different from the secularism in other countries?
Indian Definition of Secularism
“We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN…..and to secure to all its citizens…LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship……adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution.”
These are the very first words of Indian Constitution. The Preamble which is called the mirror of our constitution declares India to be a Secular State, a state which respects all religions and give them their freedom of religion. India has adopted the positive side of Secularism i.e. the state neither supports the religion nor opposes the religion; it stays neutral, when it comes to religion.
In India, every religion is treated equally, and every person is provided the freedom to Practice, Profess or Propagate his religion.
In the case of St. Xavier’s College v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1974, the Supreme Court explained Indian Secularism as- “Secularism is neither anti god not pro god, it treats devotees, antagonist and atheist in the same manner. It removes religion from the state matters and ensures that no one is discriminated on the ground of religion.”
Therefore, India practices that form of Secularism, where the religious and political lines do not cross each other. The state favors no religion but respects every religion.
Why India is Secular?
Technically the word ‘Secularism’ was inserted in the Constitution by way of 42nd Amendment in 1976. However, secularism was in the roots of this country way before this amendment. We often ask that why India is Secular? Well! Let’s discuss the answer in the following points-
- The Forty Second Amendment- This amendment was brought in year 1976 when it added three new words to the preamble. One of these words was “Secularism”. This step ensured a constitutional significance of the fact, that there is no state religion in India and every religion is equal in India.
- Article 14- this article enshrines that “every person shall enjoy equality before law and equal protection of laws” within India. This is the ideal principle ensuring Secularism because it provides that no one shall be treated unequally. As per this article, every religion in India is equal before law.
- Freedom of Religion-Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India provides that every citizen shall have a Right to Freedom of Religion. these articles denote the secular character of India-
- Article 25 provides ‘Freedom of Conscience’ and ‘the Right to freely practice, profess and propagate religion’. Basically, this article grants every citizen the freedom to worship his god in the manner he likes.
- Article 26 provides that every religious group has a right- to establish and maintain religious institutions, to manage its own religious affairs and to own movable and immovable property. This article ensures the economic and administrative freedom of religious groups in India.
- Article 27 provides that no one shall be compelled to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any religion. This article denotes secularism because it also makes sure that the money collected by way of tax will not be spent by the state for the promotion of any religion.
- Article 28 provides that if any educational institution is managed by state funds, no religious activity would take place in that institution. This article prohibits influence of religion over educational activities.
- Article 15- This article provides that no one shall be discriminated on the basis of religion. No restrictions or conditions shall be placed upon any person on the ground of Religion.
- Article 16- this article ensures that every citizen is provided equal opportunity in public employment irrespective of his religious or spiritual orientation.
- Directive Principles of State Policy- The part IV of the Constitution deals with the DPSPs. There are provisions ensuring religious harmony and spirit of brotherhood in this part. These principles are widely refereed to, when the legislative makes any legislation. Therefore, these principles reflect in the laws of the country.
Indian Secularism v/s Western Secularism
India follows the positive concept of Secularism, whereas the West follows the negative concept.
- In West, state and religion are completely separate and they do no interfere in the functioning of the other. However, in India state is not completely ignorant towards religion, it stays neutral for every religion and intervenes when required.
- In West, a single uniform code of law is used for all regions, but in India we have the law which is equal for everyone, but we have personal laws for religions.
- In West, a wall that separates region and state exists, but in India, both the state and religion can interact with each other by lawful means.
- In Western Countries, the state does not offer any aid or economical help to religions, however in India; state does help of religious minorities and groups for their betterment.
- Western Countries do not interfere in the religious affairs, unless they violate any law, but in India, the state can interfere in religious matters to stop them from doing any evil. For example- India has abolished- triple talaq, sati, animal sacrifice etc from religions.
Indian Secularism can be understood with an example of Solar System. Like every planet in solar system has its own place and they do not interfere with the sun or with other planers similarly all religions mutually exist in their sphere without any state interference. Secularism is the basic structure of Indian Constitution that cannot be altered or removed. This principle connotes the basic moral and social value that we, as Indian possess. There is no religion in India that is treated as superior to others. However like every right, this principle also has some limitations. You can wave your hand in the air freely until you injure someone’s nose. Every religion has right to exercise their freedom until and unless they interfere with the freedom of any other religion.