The majority of the Indian population deems India as a secular country. However, in the present circumstances of communal hostility, the secularity status of the country is questioned brutally.
But is India actually secular? It was in 1976, with the 42nd amendment that the term ‘secular’ was added to the constitution. Originally, the preamble maintained that nation to be a sovereign, democratic, and republic. The terms secular and socialist were added during the emergency period in 1976 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for self-interests. Therefore, it raises questions on the secular status as it was not originally instated in the 1949 preamble.
Secular literally means not giving priority to any one religion. However, India is quite far from being a secular state. In the past few years, there have been several instances of religious communities getting involved in conflicts leading to fragmentation of the country on the basis of religion, thereby undermining the secularity of the state.
All the religions in India, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and so on have been given the freedom to practice their own religion. However, the secularity of the nation is objected to when the leaders of the nation publicly practice their religion as per the radical religious groups.
Simultaneously, at the grassroots level, the situation is not much different. In a multi-religious nation like India, the communities attempt to influence one another in order to improve their respective places in the ecosystem's power struggle.
Several people argue that when India was divided on the basis of religion in 1947, then why is India not agree to be a Hindu-dominant nation? There are terms like religious polarization, radical Hinduism, extremist religious groups, and so on that have created an atmosphere of tension.
But is it not right to assume that India is a Hindu state as over 80% of the population are Hindus. However, India has been a secular state since the beginning inhabiting multiple religious communities regardless of the constitutional values. In the mid-1900s, India consisted of a majority of the Hindu population, followed by Muslims and other religious minorities such as Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and other minorities. To the present day, Hindus are in majority, with significant minorities of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and so on.
Ideally, in a macro society with several micro societies, individuals are expected to respect different communities. However, there are several instances where the limits of religious peace were broken. According to the Pakistan Hindu Council and the National Commission of Justice and Peace, some 1000 Christian and Hindu minority women are forcedly converted to Islam before being wed o
ff to kidnappers or rapists.
Yes, by definition, India is a secular country. However, there are various practices and actives that prove otherwise. The Hajj pilgrimage was funded by the government for decades. It was in 2018 that the subsidy was ended and was directed towards the education of females. While the other religious processions are not subsidised by the government.
Similarly, while the Hindu temples are under the government’s control, non-Hindu religious places are not. The state governments have the authority to seize control of Hindu temples and their assets, appoint members of temple committees, and remove donations and hundi collections for use in non-Hindu endeavours. For example, a grandiose marketing eve
nt conducted at a seven-star hotel to discuss how to promote temples as tourist attractions cost the government-appointed trustees of this temple nearly Rs. 24 lakhs in two days.
While the government provides grants or financial aid to several minority schools and they are also not required to follow the RTE's rules. Even when the RTE applies to all schools, even privately owned institutions that do not receive government funding including Hindu schools. Does it not challenge the secularity status of the country?
Every religion has a separate set of beliefs and laws. The personal laws of Islam apply to Muslims, whereas the laws of Christianity apply to Christians. Similarly, the Hindu Code Bills and the Hindu Succession Act apply to all Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus. This fragmentation of the society often collides with each other which leads to conflicts, riots, lynches, protests, and much more violence as these religious groups often try to assert their dominance over others by exploiting the secular status of the country.
India may foster several religious groups, however, it is far from being secular. These groups are trying to assert force over each other over decades old conflicts. Therefore, why are certain religions being criticised for trying to protect their religion from other aggressive religious societies?
It can be believed that if the elected government has no say or interferes in any religious affairs, India as a country will prosper. However, will it not lead to further chaos as religion has a major impact on a country like India? The government’s agenda should be the welfare of the country and not appease the predominant groups in the country. But, alas, this idea is and possibly, for a long time, will remain utopian.