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Approach:

  1. Introduction – crisis of secularism.
  2. Mention the factors that constrain the notion of secularism.
  3. Argue if secularism is a failed concept ?
  4. Conclusion – must finally state that secularism has not lost its ground, and should be defended.

Indian secularism appears to be in a crisis. The high incidents of communal violence do not enthuse confidence in the working of a secular nation like ours.

The constrains to the idea of secularism are:

  • Communalism: Communalism is associated with religious affiliation It unites people of a particular religious faith for secular causes and uses religion for political purposes. It arises from a perceived or even a concocted threat from other religious groups. It creates in-group solidarity by creating negative stereotypes about the out-group. It expresses itself in violent tensions designed to hurt the other party.
  • Casteism: The roots of the caste system are very deep. The ancient ‘varna’ scheme is supposed to be the basis of the caste system.
  • The policies in India, especially at the state level, cannot be understood without the study of the caste. There are some political parties which are organized to represent castesinterests. Thus, caste consciousness has become the very core of the Indian polities and it has become the greatest roadblock to the furtherance of secularism in our polity.
  • Party Politics: Some of the political parties in India are organized on communal lines. These parties represent the interests of a particular region. They play communal politics for achieving and safeguarding their political interests. It has been remarked, that the known secular parties are not very secular in terms of composition and working.
  • Obscurantism: Obscurantism is one of the obstacles of the Indian secularism. In all the religions, there are obscurantist elements which create obstacles in the way of evolution of humane & dynamic social order. It is because of obscurantism, that the people give importance to customs and traditions rather than reason.

Is Secularism a failed concept ?:

If Indian Secularism has indeed been such a failure, why has India continued to pay lip-service to it ? The possible argument lies in the imperatives of nationalism – first in the need to unite India behind the nationalist leadership, and later, in the need to invent a legal and political framework in which “national unity” might be realized.

These imperatives pushed even those who had little real commitment to genuine secularism to proclaim publicly their adherence to secular values. Thus, there has always been a gap between the true meaning of secularism and the variant of secularism as espoused in India.

If secularization is to be understood as a process in which ties of religion, casteist and ethnic particularisms are gradually transcended, in which the politics is defined on rationalist and ideological lines, and in which religion, caste and ethnicity are confined to the sphere of ‘private” life, then its reverse has occurred in India. Communal politicians have successfully used the economics of inequality, uneven development and under-development to reinforce their stranglehold over the society.

Secularism is relevant to and appropriate for India. The argument, that it has failed is not well-supported. There is no proof of how the State would have benefited had the Indian republic been a more religion-oriented one. Secularism provides a check on the tyranny of the majority that is a natural part of any democratic society. It must, therefore, be defended.

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