What is Secularism, and what is a secular State? As far as India is concerned, it seems that these definitions are even not much clear to the Government itself, or, it is trying to maintain the enigma that secularism is, what the Government wants it to be. As far as the general knowledge about the word is that, all religions must get an equal status in a country, and that, there should be no differentiation on the single basis of religion. A secular state is one that has no state religion, and all religions are allowed to develop in their own way, without any interference from the State. This, in a nutshell should mean that the State has nothing to do with religion. This is to be an absolutely personal affair of each individual in the country. However, what makes it an issue in India, enough to play havoc, is the misinterpretation of Secularism in India.
In the last fifty years of India’s Independent existence, our leaders heading Government has made a mess of the very essence and message of Secularism. Our Constitution states very clearly its secular perception of religion – Art – 25 says that, “all persons are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess practice and propagate religion. “However, this right to religious freedom is subject to certain restrictions, and the State may regulate it in the interests of public order, morality and health. The important point to be noted here is that, this right to religious freedom has been subjected to norms of social reforms. Finally there is a provision in the Constitution regarding attending religious institutions. Art – 28 says that, “no religious instructions should be provided in any educational institutions, wholly maintained out of State funds. “Besides this, the Constitution very clearly states what religious education means. For instance, teaching the philosophy of Gur Nanak or Vivekanand cannot be considered as religious instruction. Religious instruction is what “is imparted for inculcating the tenets, the rituals …………. Of a particular sect”.
Even as the Constitution is very clear on the subject regarding its secular nature – the Government of the last fifty years have made an absolute and complete mess of the tenets of the Constitution. The tenets have not been strictly followed yet, the music from housetops of the secular nature of the State has been loud and clear. When the Government has not to do anything with any religion, it is not understood why do Governmental authorities encourage or rather involve themselves in functions that pertain to any religion. There can be grand celebrations at Rashtrapati Bhavan, but, why in the name of Diwali, Id or Christmas? Even in this, the Government is not being truly loyal to the tenets of the Constitution. When the Government is not to consider any religion, why does it celebrate religious festivals in the Government premises, and that also on Government account.
Art – 25 is openly flouted and the professing propagating of any religion is not taken cognizance of, as it should be. Art – 28 is again flouted as, in all missionary schools Christianity is taught, and in all Madrasas Islamic tenets are taught. May be some of these institutions and not State aided but, when some are doing it, all others also follow suit.
In reality, the biggest hassle created about religion in India is by the politician and the Government itself. The politicians for their own political gains have been, through these years pampering a few minor religious sects., and that also ironically in the name of religion only, which is supposed to be taboo for the Government. Religion which should not at all be the concern of the Government, has been the main plank on which the previous Governments have survived. So, secularism in India has been very conveniently distorted to suit and benefit the politician in his game. The cajoling of the minorities on the very basis of religion has completely destroyed the political fabric of the country. It has left the common man wondering what the magic word of Secular really implies. On the one hand there is a loud talk of being secular and on the other, in the same breath, the same tool – religion is used to place the politician in a comfortable position. Thus, in India at least, Secularism is a farce, a tool and a convenient handmaid of the politician just to be used for his political gains. Wherever possible this religion is used to concoct issues to the benefit of the people who matter.