Essay on India as a Secular State

India is a country of religions. There exist multifarious reli­gious groups in the country but, in spite of this the constitution stands for secular state of India and declares India as a "Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic." There is no state-recognized church or religion. Several fundamental rights guarantee a freedom of worship and religion as well as outlaw discrimination on the ground of religion. No one is disabled to hold any office on the ground of religion. There is only one electoral roll on which are borne the names of all those who are qualified to vote under the law. In the words of Chief Justice Gajendragadkar—"The essential basis of the Indian constitution is that all citizens are equal and this basic equality (guaranteed by Art. 14) obviously proclaims that the religion of a citizen is entirely irrelevant in the matter of his funda­mental rights.

The state does not owe loyalty to any particular reli­gion as suck; it is not irreligious or anti-religion; it gives equal freedom for all religions and holds that the religion of the citizen has nothing to do in the matter of socio-economic problems Thai is the essential characteristic of secularism which is writ large in all the provisions of the Indian Constitution", and further "though the Indian Constitution is secular and does not interfere with religious freedom, it does not allow religion to impinge, adversely on the secular lights of citizens or the power of the state to regulate socio-economic relations."

India is a secular state, which means that there is no official religion in India. The great Indian leaders like Gandhi and Nehru did not accept this ideology of official religion. They declared India as a secular state, which is the common Home of the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and all other citizens. The result of this secularism is that in India all posts are open to members of all communities. Muslims, though a 31 percent minority, have been Presidents of Indian Republic. Dr. Zakir Hussain was one such president and Sri Fakhruddin AH Ahmad was another. In India, the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Jains and members of all mino­rity communities have been ministers, governors and ambassadors without any distinction of caste and creed. In India politics is sepa­rated from religion.

Pakistan is a theocratic state. It calls itself an Islamic state. Islam is the official religion. The Muslims are the favored commu­nity. They alone can hold high or even low offices. Though there were about a crore of Hindus in what was then East Pakistan, yet they were regarded as second-class citizens and a permanent tirade was kept up against them. In Pakistan Hindus, in such high places, cannot even be imagined. Pakistan's constitution provides that the head of the state must be a Muslim. This is communalism, pure and unadulterated.

Article is prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste etc. Articles 25 to 28 confer certain rights relating to freedom of religion on ail persons in India. These rights are not confined merely to citizens. The religious freedom guaranteed by these cons­titutional provisions extends not only to individuals but even to reli­gious groups. India being a secular state, there is no state or preferred religion as such and all religions enjoy the same constitutional pro­tection without any favor or discrimination. Article 25(i) guarantees to every person, subject to public order, healthy, morality and other provisions relating to the Fundamental Rights, the freedom of conscience and right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

The state is not, however, prevented from making any law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular acti­vity which may be associated, with religious practices. The state is empowered to regulate secular activities associated with religious practices. Art, 26 lays down that subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or a section of it has the right —(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property, and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law.

To maintain the secular character of the Indian polity, not only does the constitution guarantee freedom of religion to indi­viduals and to groups, but it is also against the general policy of the constitution that any money be paid out of the public funds for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. Accordingly Art. 27 lays down that no person "shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifi­cally appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion on religious denomination.

According to Act. 28 (i) no religious education is to be provided in any educational institution which is wholly maintained out of state funds. Under Art, 28 (ii) this restriction would not apply to an educational institution which, though administered by the State, has been established under an 'endowment of trust' requiring the reli­gious instruction should be imparted in such as institution, in state recognized educational institutions, religious education can be imparted, on a voluntary basis. According to Art, 28 (iii) no person attending an educational institution recognized by the State or receiving aid from the Stale funds, can be required to participate in any religious infraction imported in the institution or to attend any religions worship conducted in the institution or any premises attacked thereto. Unless he consents to do voluntarily or-, if a minor, his guardian gives his consent for the same.

For India, secularism is a practical proposition. If India had accepted Jinnah's suggestion and decided herself a Hindu State as Pakistan declared itself Muslim State, the position of 6 Crore Muslims, would have been untenable. They would have remained a rebellious minority, unwilling to join the national mainstream. A Hindu India would have had no claim on Kashmir, which has 90 per cent Muslim population. In that case, our relations with Muslim unifies like Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.A.R., Jordan and the rest of the Muslim world would have been much worse than they are now. Even as it is, these countries have been riding with. Pakistan over Kashmir and in all its war against India, even though India has consistently supported the cause of the Arabs against Israel. India would have gained nothing by inviting the hostility of these oil-rich Arab nations. In our secular states, the Hindu though constituting 83.51% of the population has no special rights and the privileges and Muslims and others have no disabilities. All are equal in the eyes of law. Any discrimination on the basis of caste or creed is illegal.

There is a difference between Gandhiji's concept of secularism and that of Mr. Nehru. In Gandhiji’s view, secularism stands for equal respects for all religions. At his prayer meetings, holy texts were recited from Gita, Quran, Zend Avesta, Granth Sahib and Bible, According to him, all religions are equally true and each scripture is worthy of respect. Nehru's idea of secularism was equal indifference to all religion and bothering about none of them. Under this ideology he wrote a special article in our constitution, banning religious instruction in any educational institution maintained by government. Such secularism, which means the rejection of all religions, is contrary to our culture and tradition and can do harm instead of good. This way equates religion with communalism, fanaticism; narrow-mindedness, anti scientific outlook and blind super­stition.

Though we profess secularism, that does not mean we arc rid of evils of communalism and casteism. Caste still rules the roost at the time of elections. Even now we have communal riots. People still think in terms of their communities and move in communal groups. Religion that was meant to unite divides the people.

In the name of secularism, many undesirable tendencies have crept into our national life. India is a Secular State for Muslims and Christians only. For Hindus, India is not a Secular State but only a Non-religious State. The deeds of the Congress Government will be written in black letters by coming historians while debating upon this aspect of national life. Daring the last forty-one years, the congress has exerted its utmost efforts to pollute and corrupt the Hindu religion in order to please the minority communities with a view to winning their votes. By undermining Hindus culture and religion the Congress has kept itself in power. This naked fact is known to all. In free India, the Muslims have enjoyed full liberty in the matter of religion.

Christians have been provided all possible facilities to propagate their religion. When the Hindus assemble at a place and talk loudly over their religion, they are branded as communalists and they are denied facilities by the government, but when Muslims and Christians assemble with this intention, they are provided all facilities by the government and they are not commu­nalists. This is not Secularism but moral bankruptcy. The Indian Parliament could have audacity to enact the Hindu Code Bill but the same Parliament cannot think of any change in the cultural life of Muslims.

Under the family planning scheme, male citizens of India arc required to undergo the vasectomy operation. Statistics will reveal the fact that while the Hindus are taking full advantage of the scheme or they are following the commands of the government, the Muslims have disregarded the family planning in the name of reli­gion. The government cannot ask them to get themselves sterilized because India is a Secular State. The growth of Muslim population will some day pose a serious problem of another Pakistan. Our blind government is not realizing the impending danger and is still preaching secularism foolishly in order to keep itself in power. Ail the restrictions in free India are imposed on Hindus in the matters of marriages, religion and other activities. Muslims and Christians have been given full religious freedom because India is a Secular State. It is in fact, a travesty of secularism.

It is wrong to oust religion from the life of man or of the nation Gandhiji was the great apostle of secularism, yet he was also the great man of God and religion. Communalism and the theocratic state based on religion are medieval tuitions. Secularism is modern, progressive and forward looking India has always be­lieved in the universal brotherhood of man and does not divide humanity into watertight compartments on the basis of religion, race, country or nation, The whole human race is one large family. Poet Coleridge's words are relevant—"He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth will proceed by loving his own sect or Church better than Christianity find end by loving himself better than all."