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Strengthen Secularism, Save the Republic

Context

India, as a state can survive only as a secular state – where the state has no religion and does not promote any religion.

Relevance

GS-II: Indian Constitution — Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Political Dimensions
  • A Moral Framework
  • Religion vs State: A Separation
  • Issues of a Theocracy
  • Way Forward

Political Dimensions

  • Hijab Issue reflects the rising intolerance and religious animosity in the society today.
  • This is uncharacteristic of the majority community in India.
  • India has welcomed the other religions with open arms.
  • Despite proselytizing religion gaining some following largely the majority community has maintained its character.
  • We can’t ignore the political involvement in this rising intolerance.

A Moral Framework

  • Tolerance and compassion towards fellow beings became an integral part of the India’s traditions.
  • This has been because of Lord Buddha.
  • He gave the moral framework to shape our exchanges with the fellow beings.
  • But today’s transformation is outside this moral framework.
  • Founding fathers of India enshrined this moral framework in the constitution.
  • Therefore, Indian Constitution provides for freedom of religion and conscience on one hand and secularism for the governance of the country on the other.

Religion vs State: A Separation

  • In Indian Constitution too there is separation of state and religion as in Europe.
  • Essence of Secularism in India is that the state has no religion.
  • This is enshrined in Article 27 and 28 of the Constitution.
  • Article 27 says that no tax can be levied for promoting any particular religion and hence public revenue can’t be spent for promotion of any religion.
  • Article 28 says that no religious instruction is permitted in an institution wholly maintained out of state funds, The same article says that no educational institutions recognized or aided by the state shall compel any person to attend religious classes or worship therein.
  • Article 25(2) (a) empowers the state to regulate secular activities associated with religious practice.
  • Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
  • Freedom of Religion is subjected to reasonable restrictions on the grounds of public order, morality and health. Therefore freedom of religion does not enjoy the same status as other fundamental rights.
  • Supreme Court in the Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Shri Raj Narain and Others said: “The State shall have no religion of its own.”

Issues of a Theocracy

  • Too much religiosity has changed the meaning of secularism into “Sarv Dharma Sambhava” which could lead to majoritarianism and ultimately the making of a theocratic state.
  • A theocratic state with the majority religion as the state religion is an unworkable proposition due to recognition of the minority religion.
  • A theocratic state works on religious laws which would mean the Dharma Shastras which would create hierarchies, oppressive and inegalitarian societal structures.
  • A theocratic state in India would likely deny equality before law and equal protection of law and create inequalities.

Way Forward

Secularism as the foundation principle was chosen to keep the nation united. Enlightened citizens must realize that if Secularism is given up, the hard-won national unity will be endangered. We must maintain the positive nature of Secularism and promote it in the society.

Source – The Hindu

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October 2022
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